Betty Goes Bananas by Steve Antony

It gives me great pleasure to be reviewing Steve Antony’s second picture book, for it was Steve who inspired me to take my blog in a new direction and focus it on my passion – picture books.

Steve sent me a copy of his debut book The Queen’s Hat. It was the first picture book I reviewed on Magpie That. Since then the blog has taken on a life of its own & I have been sent some truly wonderful books by some wonderful authors, illustrators and publishers. But it was his picture book that made me realise it was possible.

Steve was also the first person to answer my request for an illustrator to draw me a magpie mascot/logo/avatar for the blog …and what a magpie he is!

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Since then I’ve been sent 48 others from the likes of Peter Brown, Benji Davies, Calef Brown, Jim Field & Steve Light. Again, I have Steve to be thankful for, for believing in my blog & taking time out of his busy day to help me out, he started the ball rolling.

Betty Goes Bananas

Who would have thought a banana could cause such a drama?

Betty, the toddler gorilla, makes a meal out of eating a banana, pardon the pun.

Toddler tantrums fill me with terror! I look at the cover of this picture book and imagine my twins faces in a years’ time staring out at me with the words Reggie & Chloe go Bananas! Simultaneously!

If you’ve got kids, teach kids, have looked after someone else’s kids, sat on public transport near kids, been in a supermarket and observed kids, you’ll be able to relate to the story. We’ve all witnessed it. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all be guilty of it. Some of us still are, I know I was yesterday, when the postman tried to ram a book through the letter box as I was attempting to open the door. Nothing causes me to have a tantrum quite like a preventable dent in the spine of a new picture book.

The story is packed full of laughs, the colours are bold and the illustrations are gorgeous. Betty oozes personality, her face is full of expression. Expressions that change as quick as the English weather, sunshine to downpour before you can straighten the picnic blanket.

A wonderful book by an exciting new talent.

Steve very kindly agreed to answer a few questions for me. Enjoy!

Your illustration style is beautiful in a way that feels classical yet contemporary. Can you describe the media you use and why?

Thanks! I mainly use soft pencils and graphite sticks. I also use Photoshop to alter colours. I sometimes use Photoshop to create a ‘screen print’ effect by layering drawings.

I almost always stick to a limited palette. I often choose colours that I think will compliment and strengthen the story. In ‘Betty Goes Bananas’ I use colours to emphasise Betty’s emotional roller coaster of ups, downs and somewhere-inbetweens.

My style for each book can sometimes vary too, especially if I feel that a slightly different approach will benefit the story. For example, I experimented with banana paper for the very first time with ‘Betty’, and I drew Betty in a bold, expressive way to match her big personality.

What were the last 5 picture books you bought?

Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
Letter of Thanks by Manghanita Kempadoo and Helen Oxonbury
Hilda and the Black Hound by Luke Pearson (though that probably wouldn’t fall under ‘picture books’)
Mr Wuffles by David Wiesner

If you could have a gathering of illustrators, past and present, who would they be and where would you host it? Fictional or non fictional.

I’d love to meet Ezra Jack Keats. I once wrote an essay on his book, The Snowy Day, which was the first mainstream picture book to feature an African American as a main character. He was a trail blazer and a picture book pioneer. I can’t think of anybody else off hand. In which case, I wouldn’t host a party. We could just sit on a park bench, talk and people watch.

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