Can you think of a better title for this weekly post?*
This is the first of a weekly post I will be doing each Tuesday.
So much of our lives can be spent virtually – online, in the digital ether. But so much of what I do and what I love have the seeds of inspiration within the treasured books on my inspiration-bookshelf. You know, that part of your book collection you can always go to to fill your soul up with beauty and creativity and fantasy.
Now, I’m not that big of a reader – these days if I am actually reading a book it will be non-fiction; how to stitch this and that, or self improvement or whatevs. But I do love a story picture-book. I’ve done a good job of keeping my faves with me for many years. So here I will share with you some of my most adored books, that I have had since I was a little child.
I have been known to peak early in some events (birthday surprises being one area that springs to mind), and this first book I am showing you is pretty spectacular. Get ready.
The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast by Alan Aldridge (illustrations) and William Plomer (verse). First published in 1973 by Jonathan Cape Ltd. Based on William Roscoe’s 1807 poem, but was inspired when Aldridge read that John Tenniel had told Lewis Carroll it was impossible to draw a wasp in a wig.
It is the story, in verse, of all the insects and animals invited to the annual Butterfly Ball and Grasshopper’s Feast. Each verse has Aldridge’s fabulous full colour plate accompanying it.
I was OBSESSED with this book when I was little. Never that fussed about the words (although now I realise what a philistine I was because they are quite the most charming thing ever), but I can still now see the marks in the pages where I tried over and over to trace the gorgeous pictures, desperate as I was to create something so beautiful.
Each plate is so super saturated with 70s colour, so detailed, they have a richness to them that is stunning. Aldridge nicknamed himself The Man with the Kaleidoscope Eyes after the song by The Beatles, and was the artist behind much of their artwork and for Apple Corps. (as in records not ipod) in the late 60s.
Each little character is so perfectly detailed, to an insane level. This spider’s hairbrush, for example even has a teeny little illustrated back to it, of some kind of insect shepherd, I deduce.
There is a darkness too here, a sinister angle to some of the creatures which I love. These are real Bats and Foxes and Hornets, and they do eat things, even with nice velvet frock coats on. Toward the back of the book, there are even field notes about each of the creatures featured, written in a lovely familiar prose.
When we finally get to the feast, again you can see the 60s psychedelia Aldridge was fluent in, with an optical illusion lent by the magic mushrooms in this plate. And this isn’t just any ball, it is a masked ball, and the little insects with animal masks on, and mini harlequin outfits is just too amazing.