Tom Barling Illustrations?

A while back I blogged about Thirteen O’Clock by Enid Blyton, illustrated by Tom Barling. There is remarkably little on the Internet about Tom Barling considering how much work he produced.

Perhaps you are knowledgeable about this English illustrator and can tell us whether the following illustrations are indeed by him? We have good reason to believe that they are.

But it would be great to have that confirmed and to know which project they were for. Please get in touch if you know anything about them, or would like to hazard a guess!

In any case, they’re beautifully rendered and deserve to be on the Internet. They remind me a little of Maurice Sendak’s work.

The eyes on this girl are quite unusual.

I think I might get nightmares tonight. She reminds me of a Black Eyed Kid of the urban legend:

Black-eyed children (or black-eyed kids) are an urban legend of supposed paranormal creatures that resemble children between the ages of 6 and 16, with pale skin and black eyes, who are reportedly seen hitchhiking or panhandling, or are encountered on doorsteps of residential homes. Tales of black-eyed children have appeared in pop culture since the late 1990s.

Apparently the paranormal stories started around 1996, but these illustrations look a bit older than that to me. What do you think?

But that smile… That pasted on smile…

Is the horse stylised based on cave drawings? I notice the girl’s eyes are drawn differently here.

Is this a piece of jewellery, or a ninja weapon that you throw at enemies? What better image to put on a shuriken than a black eyed kid and her pasted on smile?

Synoptic Narrative In Picture Books

A synoptic narrative depicts a single scene in which a character or characters are portrayed multiple times within a frame to convey that multiple actions are taking place. Synoptic is the adjective of synopsis.

The sequence of events in synoptic art is unclear.

Synoptic narratives typically provide visual cues that convey the sequence, but still might be difficult to decipher for those unfamiliar with the story.

There are 7 main categories of Narrative art. Narrative art is art which tells a story.

  1. Monoscenic — represents a single scene with no repetition of characters and only one action taking place
  2. Sequential — very much like a continuous narrative with one major difference. The artist makes use of frames. Each frame is a particular scene during a particular moment.
  3. Continuous  Continuous narrative art gives clues, provided by the layout itself, about a sequence. Sequential narrative without the frames.
  4. Synoptic offers the synopsis of a bigger story. You must already know a story before you can make temporal sense of synoptic narrative.
  5. Simultaneous — has very little visually discernible organisation unless the viewer is acquainted with its purpose. There’s an emphasis on repeatable patterns.
  6. Panoptic — depicts multiple scenes and actions without the repetition of characters. Think of the word ‘panorama’. ‘All-seeing’ (pan + optic)
  7. Progressive — a single scene in which characters do not repeat. However, multiple actions are taking place in order to convey a passing of time in the narrative. A progressive narrative is not to be interpreted as a group of simultaneous events but rather a sequence that is dependent on its location. Actions displayed by characters in the narratives compact present and future action into a single image.

Synoptic is the adjectival form of ‘synopsis’, which should give us a clue about what’s going on. Synoptic art = the synopsis of a bigger story.

You can find examples of synoptic art in ancient murals. The viewers of these murals knew the plots of these stories. The art simply triggered their memories of a familiar story. Everyone of the era understood the basic plot of the myths, fables, legends and wars depicted.

This is Mughal painting — a style from South Asia.
This is Mughal painting — a style from South Asia.

(It would be unusual to find a painting like the one above in a modern, Western picture book because the characters are facing the wrong way! In picture books, the action goes toward the page turn, unless there’s some unusual reason to reverse it.)

In picture books the best place to find synoptic artwork is in encyclopaedias and bowdlerised histories. There is a series of Kingfisher encyclopedias featuring synoptic artwork on the covers. Below, the reader has to know the timeline of history before understanding how these pictures relate to each other.

Most versions of children’s Bibles take a single scene and use that as the cover illustration. Noah and Moses are particularly popular. But sometimes the cover artist decides to take a whole bunch of scenes from different periods of Biblical history and amalgamate them into a ‘single’ setting.

Speaking of Noah’s Ark, are we really to believe that Noah marched all of those animals onto the ark at once? I believe the story — and therefore the illustrations of Noah’s ark are themselves synoptic, compressing different scenes: first he put the camels on the ark, the next day he might have put the elephants on… and so on. Yet almost every illustration of Noah’s Ark shows us that all the animals boarded the boat at the same time.

The text on its own doesn’t suggest the animals boarded the ark at once:

“Bring a pair of every kind of animal—a male and a female—into the boat with you to keep them alive during the flood. Pairs of every kind of bird, and every kind of animal, and every kind of small animal that scurries along the ground, will come to you to be kept alive. And be sure to take on board enough food for your family and for all the animals.” (Gen. 6:19-21)

However, when children see illustrations of animals such as that above, we all get the idea that in the story of Noah’s Ark, the animals resembled middle-aged tourists getting onto a cruiser. It’s also worth noting that Noah was never told to gather the animals. He was only commanded to build an ark. It could’ve been people working for him who actually put the animals on the ark.

Whereas I read the story of Noah’s Ark as metaphor, adults hoping to teach children a literal reading of the Bible should take note of the extent to which  illustrators synoptically abbreviate stories in order to create interesting visuals, thereby affecting everyone’s understanding of events.

This cover illustration of a fairytale collection places images from different fairytales together. Each story presumably takes place at a separate time within a fictional history of fairies, but each of these scenes takes place within the same fairytale world.

synoptic fairytale art


Continuous narrative art gives you clues, provided by the layout itself, about the sequence of scenes depicted.

In synoptic narrative art you have to know the story before you can understand the plot sequence.

Synoptic Narrative In Film Noir Posters

In the film noir poster below, you can see synoptic narrative compressed within the smoke of the candle. Unless you’ve seen the film you don’t know the storyline, though presumably afterwards the images make sense. The point of a movie poster is to encourage people to pay for the ticket, which explains why we aren’t given too many clues about the story before going in.

Storybook Farms

Farms in children’s literature are often a kind of utopia. Often these are animal utopias, and the reader is not supposed to even think of what the animals are really there for. Writing of the book Hepzibah Hen, a Children’s Hour favourite from 1926, is described by Margaret Blount as ‘the antithesis of Animal Farm‘, in which

there are a few hints of what a farm is really for, but they seem to relate to a kind of social code — one does not mention the word ‘Christmas’ to a turkey, or ‘Pluck’ to a hen.

Animal Land


Storybook farms require hens. Honestly, hens are the best kind of farm animal. They have the best personalities!

Hepizbah Hen cover farms

The Managing Hen and the Floppy Hound farms

The Tale Of Sally The Hen


The Little Red Hen


This is a tale from the Grimm Brothers. Read it online here.


In Australia, drought is the constant enemy of farms and farmers. Lately, picturebook creators are not shying away from it.


See: Picturebook Study: Two Summers by John Heffernan and Freya Blackwood


A more uplifting Australian picturebook about farming is A Year On Our Farm by Penny Matthews and Andrew McLean.


Uplifting it may be, but this is still no utopian setting — each farming task has its challenges hinted at, even if it’s just “We’ve had some rain!” with the implication that they haven’t had rain for a while. Milking is ‘not as easy as it looks’, and the discovery of a goose egg doesn’t mean it’s a fresh one.




Here we have the ultimate storybook farm, with the rolling green hills, the beautiful stone fences and robins in the foreground. This is set in the 1940s, and subsequent pages show that the farm has a farmer’s wife who provides a reassuring presence, sometimes stepping outside the house, for example to watch the dog show.

This is a healthy farm and these are healthy times. Think of the farming houses you might find neighbouring the mansion in To The Manor Born.

Only One Woof01Only One Woof02

Another in the James Herriot series, Bonny’s Big Day, depicts a farmer who is a bit shabby — we are to assume his farm is a bit run-down, too. Still, as illustrated by Ruth Brown, the farm is picturebook worthy:

Bonny's Big Day farm01 Bonny's Big Day farm02


The Day Patch Stood Guard farm scene



And the big red barns. American big food industry has been particularly adept at exporting the quaint-farm image to consumers.

City Cats, Country Cats from the Road To Reading series from Golden Books
City Cats, Country Cats from the Road To Reading series from Golden Books


Vera Pavlova “The sister at a party”

What Happened To Rosemary Fawcett?

Dirty Beasts cover Rosemary Fawcett

Roald Dahl’s work wasn’t always illustrated by Quentin Blake.

Dirty Beasts, for example, was originally illustrated by a young woman new to the field, Rosemary Fawcett. The edition she illustrated is now out of print. Jeremy Treglown explains the story in his biography of Roald Dahl:

To one British critic, Russell Davies, “the buzz of misanthropy from Roald Dahl grows stronger.” Candida Lycett Green [another British children’s author] rightly said there was nothing new about this mood: she saw the first poem, in which a pig forestalls its destiny by turning on the farmer and eating him, as a version of the macabre, much earlier story “Pig”, in which a boy brought up as a vegetarian ends up in an abattoir. She thought that Dahl’s imagination was well illustrated by Rosemary Fawcett: “The nastiness of her pictures is exceptional.” This was meant as a compliment, but not everyone saw things this way. There couldn’t be a bigger contrast than between Quentin Blake’s benignly funny sketches and the giddying, lurid, surrealistic images Rosemary Fawcett produced. Her cover picture sets the tone: a child in bed with a teddy bear, both of them bug-eyed with terror at the sight of something positioned above and behind the viewer’s head. It is the perspective that is often most violent in these images—that, and the colors. For “The Tummy Beast,” Fawcett threw the greedy child over so that he is somehow flying, upside down, all chubby knees and protruding eyeballs, beneath a gaudy tableful of purple and mauve blacmanges and ice creams. And in “The Porcupine” the reader is made to peer, as if through a keyhole, onto a murky scene, lit by a single lamp, in which a goggling dentist waves his gigantic pointed pincers over the little girl’s much spiked rump.

Fawcett does more than justice to Dahl’s ferocity, but not to his humor or his underlying traditionalism. Dahl himself hated the drawings. He said he couldn’t face giving the book to any of his relations and offered to incinerate all the unsold copies and dance around the bonfire. Many of the British reviews warned that Fawcett’s pictures would give children nightmares, and this was the general opinion in the States, where the children’s librarians were in full squeamish cry: “Sadistic, predictable and unfunny”; “From stem to stern this is a gross, course [sic] unpleasant book.” The edition didn’t sell badly in Britain, but although, according to Murray Pollinger, Tom Maschler swore by Fawcett’s work, the illustrations were unpopular with Continental publishers. Revolting Rhymes, meanwhile, had sold over 100,000 copies in Britain alone. So Fawcett’s Dirty Beasts was eventually allowed to go out of print, and Quentin Blake was brought back in for the new edition.

There’s no doubt about it; they wanted a young woman because she was cheap. Blake was already fetching good money and had a good job as an illustration lecturer. Also in those days — even more than today — men were paid more than women for the same work.


I’m sad to find very little about Rosemary Fawcett on the Internet these days, which may mean, sadly, that when her illustrations were completely replaced by those of Quentin Blake, she may have become too dispirited to pursue in the picturebook industry. (I know that’s how I would have felt, at least for a while.) I can’t find another work illustrated by a Rosemary Fawcett.

Or perhaps she got married and continued an ‘illustrious’ career under another name? This is something I’d love to know. What happened to the talented Rosemary Fawcett, whose wonderful work was ill-suited to Dahl’s creepy rhymes through no fault of her own?

dirtybeastsRosemary Fawcett

dirtybeastsRosemary Fawcett02

dirtybeastsRosemary Fawcett03

Dirty_Beasts_Rosemary Fawcett