What was it like illustrating the cover for Five On A Treasure Island?


When I was asked to do it, I wasn't familiar with Enid Blyton. I knew her name, of course, but I was not acquainted with her work. So, for me, there was a special pleasure in discovering her for the first time. It was nice, because I could relax and read the book and know that I was really working at the same time.

What’s interesting about having five different illustrators each doing a book cover?

The task of an illustrator is to imagine what a character created by an author looks like, and make them seem real. We’ve all set about doing the same thing, but have each taken our own, slightly different approach.

Children love to read about children having adventures – and the fact that they were written 70 years ago doesn’t seem to matter a bit.

How did you decide what to draw for the cover?

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I read the book very carefully, taking in all the details. There’s an exciting bit where the children discover a ship that has been wrecked. I decided it would be nice to draw the children just before the discovery is made, to have them in a boat rowing towards something. I wanted to create a sense of suspense and excitement, as though something were about to happen.

Why do you think the Famous Five Books have such enduring appeal?

Children love to read about children having adventures – and the fact that they were written 70 years ago doesn’t seem to matter a bit. The children are off in a world of their own, away from the adults, and they all look after each other, and that’s an idea that appeals. And with four (human) characters in the group, children might well be drawn to one character in particular who they identify with – they might think so-and-so, he or she is a bit like me.

The Famous Five Book

What kinds of adventures did you get up to when you were young?

When I was a child, the Second World War broke out and so there were a lot of adventures going on around me. I was evacuated twice. And where I lived in Sidcup, in Kent, I used to go out to the fields with my friends to look for shrapnel.

The books are being sold in aid of charity the House Of Illustration. Why do you think the work of the charity is so important?

At the moment, the House of Illustration exists as a collection but does not have a home that members of the public can visit. There are plans to open a physical House Of Illustration in the King’s Cross area – we just need to raise the funds. It would be marvellous if people could access a huge bank of images. If someone describes a tasty morsel of food to you, you might think, “I could fancy that”. But if you were to see it in front of you, you’d know straight away that you wanted it. It’s like that with drawing. Seeing different images inspires you to draw yourself.

When did you discover your own love of drawing?

It was when I was at secondary school that I seriously got into drawing. I got in touch with Punch magazine when I was 14 to ask if I could draw for them. I went to their office to meet the art director and someone showed me into a waiting area. The funny thing was, the art director had gone home by the time they realised I was here to see him – I’d been mistaken for someone’s nephew I looked so young. And in the end I did have some of my work published in Punch, which was enormously exciting.

What’s your top tip for a budding illustrator?

Start drawing, and don’t stop. Draw wherever you are. You’ll never get tired of it. I’ve been doing it for a long time and it never gets boring.


{Image: Quentin Blake photographed in the books department at Christie’s auction house in London by Jude Edginton}

>> READ MORE:Want to learn how to draw like Quentin? See our Quentin Blake sketching lesson here...