Ones to Watch: Illustration trio Collins, Davies and Low make their mark alongside author duo

Ones to Watch: Illustration trio Collins, Davies and Low make their mark alongside author duo

Little Tiger UK's brand director Lauren Ace picks five Welsh creatives to watch out for.

1. Max Low illustrated a book by the awesome Nicola Davies, Bee Boy and the Moonflowers (an illustration from this is pictured below), and has since written and illustrated his own series, Ceri & Deri, which is quite different in style. The eponymous heroes, a cat and a dog, are completely charming and I was delighted by the introduction of a character called Dai the Duck, which is peak Welsh. I love Low’s limited but bright palette and his bold, simple line; it’s a style that feels fresh and is totally his own. There is a real sense of playfulness in his work, both in the art and the text, which is once again very much in evidence in his upcoming picture book My Friends. I would love to see these books reach a wider audience outside Wales.

2. I grew up on the coast in South Wales, so I’m a sucker for a book about the sea—particularly if it has a mysterious, atmospheric edge. Eloise Williams clearly has sea air in her lungs and saltwater in her blood too, as her Middle Grade novel, Seaglass, is a gripping ghost story that makes evocative use of its seaside setting. Williams has received great recognition in Wales—her previous novel, Gaslight, won Wales Arts Review Young People’s Book of the Year in 2017—and among her contemporaries, with fellow writer Emma Carroll calling Gaslight "a darkly delicious romp". Williams is beginning to break out further afield, and I hope we will see her profile grow as a result.

3. I don’t wish to further the idea that Wales is a small place where everyone knows each other, but Nathan Collins did study illustration at Swansea College of Art, which is at the bottom of the hill I grew up on. He has illustrated Anthology of Amazing Women by Sandra Lawrence and covers for The House with a Clock in its Walls and the rest of the series of novels by John Bellairs, and clearly has a flair for interpreting characters and—in many ways, more challenging—creating compelling likenesses of real people. I would love to see how his style might develop in a picture book, or perhaps a collection of fairytales. He uses colour and texture wonderfully, and I can imagine him creating really rich and full scenes.

4. The proliferation of beautifully produced and illustrated non-fiction has been one of the most welcome publishing developments of recent years. There were fears the internet would be the death of non-fiction, but thankfully the abundance of misinformation has driven people back to carefully compiled books which parents and children can trust. Templar’s Big Picture Press has been a key player in this area and its Meet the... (Ancient Greeks, et al) is one of my favourite ranges. This is in no small part down to James Davies’ illustrations, which are dynamic and engaging, making their subjects really accessible and fun to learn about. His first picture book, Long Dog, reveals his whimsical sense of humour. I’d love to see Davies turn his hand to illustrating young fiction.

5. In many ways, I’m sure Sophie Anderson needs no introduction: her début Middle Grade novel, The House with Chicken Legs, was a big hit last year, securing the coveted Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month slot and earning her a place on the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlist. But it was only recently that I discovered we share a hometown, so I’m eager to claim her as not only a Welsh author everyone should know about, but a Swansea author everyone should know about. Anderson is still waiting to find out if she will be the recipient of this year’s CILIP Carnegie Medal and there is much anticipation around her second novel, The Girl Who Speaks Bear, with Usborne going all-out with hand-stamped proofs. I think we can expect her star to rise even higher in the coming years.

Lauren Ace is also the author of The Girls (Little Tiger), the winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize Illustrated Book of the Year 2019. It is illustrated by Jenny Løvlie.

This piece is part of The Bookseller's country focus on Wales. For more in the series, click here.