Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 22 Mar 2016

Alan Aldridge

As an illustrator, Alan Aldridge personifies the British late Sixties hippie and underground. His boldly coloured, psychadelic drawing style made him a favourite with the alternative rock scene and he created many of the album sleeves from that period. However, his reputation really took off when he was commissioned by The Beatles to help illustrate their Yellow Submarine and Magical Mystery Tour period work.


He was also picked-up by Penguin to do a range of book jackets and became synonymous with the dedicated science fiction Penguin imprint where his dream and nightmare drawings perfectly matched the market. By the early 1970s there were very few student houses or student uion bars that didn't have Aldridge posters on the walls but, although his style was instantly recognisable, his name was never as well known.

In 1973 he branched off in yet another direction when, working with the poet William Plomer, he illustrated The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper Feast. His drawing style proved to be perfect for these children's books that were also widely read by adults. The colours remained vivid and deep but the psychadelic distortion gave way to an almost three-dimensional realism and detail that made the characters he created almost tangible and their stories fascinating.


Aldridge was happy to acknowledge his debt to Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel when it came to creating his anthropomorphic animals but in the series of books that followed - The Ship's Cat, The Peacock's Party and The Lion's Cavalcade - he created a style and a world that was uniquely his own.


Quite a lot of these books find their way onto the second hand market and they aren't hugely expensive. What is more difficult is finding them in good condition because children love these drawing and love handling the pages - so it's not unusal to find them covered in sticky finger prints or scribbled on in felt tip pen. If you see any of them in very good condition, I'd advise you to buy them while you can.

Terry Potter

March 2016