sophie blackall’s picture book life



Sophie Blackall is an illustrator extraordinaire and I’m so glad she’s lent her talents to picture books.

Non-picture book people may know her from her book, Missed Connections. It’s an extraordinary compilation of Craigslist yearnings illustrated as only she could illustrate them. (You can buy prints of those goodies in her etsy shop.)

Or you may know her from her NYC Subway poster. The elementary school set certainly knows her from the series Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows with artwork by, you guessed it, Sophie Blackall. Lastly, she’s partnered with organizations trying to eradicate measles and rubella in children.

For our purposes, it’s all about those PICTURE BOOKS. She’s been a part of, like, dozens of them.






Blackall lives in Brooklyn by way of Australia. She uses Chinese ink and watercolor. Her PEOPLE are expressive, exaggerated, whimsical yet realistic.  And one thing to love about her work is how diverse it is in terms of the people she portrays. All kinds!




Her use of PATTERNS is wonderfully bonkers.








Over time, it seems to me, her illustrations have gotten more and more honed: the people and action without distraction of context. But she puts all the perfect, engaging details in there! A shark puppet here, a butterfly backpack there; a knit tea cozy, a jade bowl. MINIMAL, YET DETAILED. Yeah, she’s good.





And boy does she know how to dress characters! Everybody looks awesome in her work. Dapper and FASHIONABLE, always. (Even if you’re a wild boar, your clothes will be pretty nice—albeit dirty.)







Finally, Blackall plays with SCALE in a way that makes picture books really shine. Big then small. Zoomed out, then in.




jumpy jack 9780805080667.IN07

And I must mention her masterful POLKA-DOTS! Easy to spot in almost every book. (She also hides a whale in most books, another fun thing to spot!)





Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2002).




Are You Awake? by Sophie Blackall (2011).



The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall (2014).



And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst, pictures by Sophie Blackall (2014).



The Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall (2013).



Meet Wild Boars by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall (2005).


pecan-pie-babyPecan Pie Baby written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2010).


RED-BUTTERFLY-PICTURE-BOOKRed Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk out of China by Deborah Noyes, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2007).



Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2010).



Jumpy Jack and Googily by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall (2008).



“Illustration is one of the oldest and most enduring forms of communication.

Our ancestors drew on walls to record triumphs and tragedies, to leave messages and to tell stories. We have photography and film now to document reality, but DRAWING IS MAGIC.

Take out a marker and begin to draw in a rowdy kindergarten class, and children will fall silent, mesmerized.”

                                        —Sophie Blackall

And if you’re looking to be more inspired, read her whole post on Why Picture Books Matter.


Oh, and by some magical happenstance, she’s got a new book out TODAY! A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins.

21 Responses to sophie blackall’s picture book life

  1. I love her work! Her missed connections prints have been on my wish list for a few years now. One of these days I’m going to gift myself with one. 🙂

  2. Sara O'Leary says:

    I love everything about this post and am such a fan of Sophie Blackall’s work!

  3. Sarah M says:

    Oh my goodness, I’ve read so many of these and haven’t realized it’s the same illustrator, they are all so attractive! I picked up Ruby’s Wish at a library book sale years ago because of the beautiful pictures–I hadn’t even read the story! 🙂
    Sarah M

  4. Amélie says:

    Oh man, I’m in love with her colorful illustrations. There are several that I’m off to hunt for now…great post, thanks!

  5. I’m drooling. Talk about my dream illustrator!

    The kids in her classroom look just like the kids at my son’s school. So good to see. Clearly, she’s on the avant-garde of the “We Need Diverse Books” campaign. Yay!

  6. Sighing at all the loveliness!
    And HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY for her latest amazing creation: A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, illus. by Sophie Blackall (Schwartz & Wade). I have a review copy in my hands at this very moment and I can’t wait to gush about it!

  7. Danzel says:

    Sophie Blackall is one of my very favorites! We started seeking her out when they girls got into Ivy & Bean a few years ago. I love all the ones listed. Her illustrations for Spinster Goose by Lisa Wheeler are fabulous, too.

  8. I loved Missed Connections. I found it after I read The Baby Tree. Really love her work.

  9. I adore Sophie Blackall’s work!!! Still think The Mighty Lalouche deserved more attention, but glad to see her getting so many kudos for the Baby Tree. She is undeniably talented!

  10. Kristin Gray says:

    I LOVE Sophie’s work and never knew about the whale! Off to look through my collection now.

  11. Lovely to her Ms. Blackall on your blog, Danielle! I admire her so much. A great artist and writer, and friendly person to boot.

  12. mmmmmmmm. Just delicious.

  13. Bonnie Eng says:

    Chinese ink and watercolor! I’m completely blown away by these illustrations Danielle! Will definitely be checking out her books…beautiful post. 🙂

    • Now that I think of it, her work has a Bonnie-esque feel to it. Something about how clear and joyful they are. Maybe we can collaborate on one of her books in the future! Her new one, A FINE DESSERT, is about food!

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