Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Drawing Europe Together: 45 illustrators, with a foreward by Axel Scheffler

It's going to be obvious anyway from this post - but I am a staunch Remainer. There. Said it. I think we should stay in the EU for many reasons - think how much time and money we and several other countries would have saved if there had never been a referendum! - but mainly because I love Europe and I really, really want to continue to be a part of it, though I can see now that that's unlikely to happen.




So you can see why a book with this title - Drawing Europe Together - was likely to appeal to me. I came across it in Waterstones a few weeks ago. It's put together by Axel Scheffler, the illustrator of many of Julia Donaldson's books, including the wonderful Gruffalo. He explains in his introduction that "the seed of this book was planted by a German children's book publisher, Marcus Weber at Moritz Verlag, who asked his illustrators to do a 'drawing for Europe'". An exhibition of the drawings eventually came to London, where it was added to by British-based illustrators, many of whom, unsurprisingly, took the opportunity to express their feelings about Brexit. With the creation of this book, the venture was taken a step further.



A lot of the pictures feature Europa, a mythical personage who was kidnapped from what we would now call the Middle East by a god in the shape of a bull, and brought to the place that now bears her name. In Polly Dunbar's image, see the little boy from Britain, who stands apart, looking wistfully back at the other children, one of whom reaches out to him.

It's a sad book in many ways. Axel Scheffler explains his own feelings: "Personally, Britain has been my home for 36 years. I came to study and work here, and that was made possible by the EU. It has enriched my life and I hope that I have enriched the life of this nation in return by creating The Gruffalo and many other popular books together with Julia Donaldson. I've never seen myself as a guest in the UK but it now no longer feels like home to me. The fatal decision of Brexit, which seems to me a tremendous act of national self-harm, fills me with disbelief, pain and anger."

I share his pain and his sadness, and I think it's a dreadful thing that Europeans who have lived here for many years and contributed so much, now feel unwelcome. I too think that we have made a terrible mistake, and I feel angry when I see the posturing and manoeuvering of many of our politicians, who have consistently refused to listen to those derided 'experts' who have tried to warn us. I have often disagreed with government policy, but I have never felt so utterly convinced that the path our country is taking is the wrong one.




Here, Sarah McIntyre presents us with an agitated starling, tied to a stake which keeps him in Britain, while all the other starlings fly free. It's beautifully executed, and its message is clear.

I commend this book to you. There is no anger here, but there is wit, humour, artistry - and considerable sadness. 

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