Pictured Books

pictures of books in picture books

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A Lion In The Meadow

A Lion In The Meadow by Margaret Mahy is a classic despite, or because of, its irony and ambiguity about the truth of stories. A mother reproves her little boy for making up stories, but her own story also seems to change what the little boy sees happening.

Lion in the Meadow

The version which I borrowed from our local library and photographed (Puffin, 1989) ends with the mother reading a bedtime story which is clearly identifiable from the picture of the dragon as, of course, A Lion In The Meadow. The last line is “So the lion in the meadow became a house lion and lived in the broom cupboard, and when the little boy had apples, stories and a goodnight hug, the lion had apples, stories and a goodnight hug as well.”

To my surprise, it turns out that Mahy had changed the ending in 1986, when the book was republished with new pictures by the original illustrator, Jenny Williams. In the original edition, from 1969, the little boy points out a picture of a lion in his alphabet book while the ‘real’ lion lies at the mother’s feet. The last line is either brutal or mystical, depending whether you think stories need to be invented: “The mother never ever made up a story again.”

Lion in the Meadow (from Bloomfield and Rolfe)

Original ending, photographed by Jenny Bloomfield 


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Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon (1)

It might be apparent from the curved edges that our copy of this classic American bedtime story is a board book, so I don’t know whether there is a version where the artwork is larger and more details are visible. Nonetheless, it can be seen that “In the great green room”, on the bedside table, there is a copy of Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, pictures by Clement Hurd (Campbell, 2001, copyright 1947).

Goodnight Moon (2)

Scott Mitchell has written a short blog post identifying self-referential features in Goodnight Moon.

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Mine! (cover)

Mine! (inside)Let me share Mine!, written by Nicola Baxter and illustrated by Jan Lewis (Armadillo, 2002). It’s part of the Toddler Talk series, together with Yuk! and No!

Barney the bunny doesn’t want to share his toys, but after being denied ice cream he is persuaded to bring out “his favourite book”, which contains a picture of Barney bringing out his favourite book.

And it all ends well: “Then Barney and the twins snuggle up to Mummy while she reads them a story.” Mummy reinforces the lesson by reading them their own story.

Mine! (self-referential)

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The Library

Here’s the centre spread of The Library by Roderick Hunt and Alex Brychta (Oxford University Press, 1991), part of Stage 1 in the Oxford Reading Tree, and a book without words – at least, without words intended for a child to read. There are words throughout, on the covers of the books in the library. Some are real (the page before this shows Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins and The Trouble With Mum by Babette Cole) and some apparently aren’t (The Oxford Reading Tree Book of Animals on the cover).


Five real children’s books are shelved face out: Oscar Got The Blame and I’m Coming To Get You! by Tony Ross, Hello, Goodbye by David Lloyd and Louise Voce, Mouse Trouble by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake, and Snuff by Quentin Blake.


… and in the pile of books that Kipper tries to borrow are Wishwhat by Alex Brychta and The Bunburys by Jan Brychta.

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I’m Coming To Get You!


I’m Coming To Get You! by Tony Ross (Puffin, 1986) is a scary story about an alien attacking Earth, and in particular, Tommy Brown’s house. Here is a detail of the floor of Tommy Brown’s untidy bedroom:


As well as a cricket bat, a mouse riding a train, a sheep and a tank, there’s what looks like a book – perhaps a library book, or an annual – with King Rollo on the back. The creator of King Rollo, David McKee, has often collaborated with Tony Ross, and his King Rollo Films has animated several of Tony Ross’s stories.

See also The Library.