December 14th, 2020

The Power of Nature

Week Two: Patrick Benson and Philip Gross

Continuing with our theme of Nature, we are celebrating the work of two marvellous artists this week: illustrator Patrick Benson and poet Philip Gross. The connection between them? The snow leopard!

Patrick Benson’s first appearance in The Children’s Bookshow was at the Bluecoat Theatre in Liverpool in 2011, where the children were absolutely rapt in listening to his performance, most especially, how you cover up a drawing when you've made a mistake! We have never forgotten that first one, but all of them have been really good, he absolutely explains his craft. The latest book that Patrick has illustrated, Snow Leopard: Grey Ghost of the Mountain conveys such a sense of quietness and mystery through the exquisite, detailed illustrations - it is a pleasure to look at.

Patrick Benson

Patrick Benson was born in 1956 and educated at Eton College before studying classical drawing in Florence and attending Chelsea Art School and St Martin’s School of Art. A chance meeting with the sister of Walker Books’ founder, Sebastian Walker, led him into a career in illustration In 1984. He is best known for illustrating two modern classics: Owl Babies, written by Martin Waddell, and The Minpins by Roald Dahl.

Patrick's latest book is Snow Leopard: Grey Ghost of the Mountain written by Justin Anderson published by Walker in 2019.

Snow Leopard: Grey Ghost of the Mountain

A spell-binding picture book about one of the most beautiful, elusive and mysterious creatures on our planet: the snow leopard. The book takes you on a journey high into the snowy peaks of the Himalaya to discover the secret world of this rare and utterly majestic animal.

Enjoy looking at these images from inside the book:

Philip Gross

During the last month, over our second lockdown, we have been enjoying exploring the world vicariously through Philip Gross's brilliant poems that take us to the extremes of landscape and nature and explore all the weird and wonderful creatures that populate the earth.

Philip is an award winning poet writing for both children and adults. His 2019 collection The Water Table won the TS Eliot Prize, and his children’s collection Off Road to Everywhere, was awarded the CLPE Poetry Prize in 2011. He has led writing workshops for more than thirty years and has visited schools across the UK working with teachers and young people. He lives in Penarth.
Here is his beautiful poem about the snow leopard.

Snow Leopard by Philip Gross, from his collection of poems Dark Sky Park

...not white like the snow,

more moon-panther or silvery cloud-cat
with her ripple-patterns melting as (oh,

but she’s beautiful) you stare
while valley mist whirls up and blows

between the boulders, or the sun breaks through
and all the edges are a smattering of shadows,

a glint on wet rock. Now she’s still,
crouched. Now… sprung. There she goes

ledge to ledge, bound by bound,
as stones go rattling to the scree below

and wild goats scatter. She has one
marked. That one. (Play the chase scene slow

as films do, as if this might be for ever,
these last moments the poor prey will know.)

But it’s off, the scraggy old big-bottomed
tahr - stumbling, you’d think, falling - no,

think again, as with rubbery fantastic
poise it leaps (there is a half mile drop below)

and catches itself, teeters like a tightrope
clown… leaps, snatching inch-wide footholds

with clattery hooves, down - leaving leopard
stranded, panting, stumped. Why are we so

in love with beauty, with its claws and teeth,
as though this is its story, not our own

and the goat’s - that plucky comedy
played out through centuries

between the sheer drop and the killing snow?

Dark Sky Park Poems from the Edge of Nature

This collection of exciting and dramatic poems that celebrate the extremes of nature on our planet will take you on a journey to discover icy glacier worms, boiling black smokers and microscopic ‘moss piglets’! Imagine living on a vertical cliff edge or deep down at the bottom of the sea and marvel at all the extraordinary and beautiful creatures in the natural world.

Watch Philip reading Dark Sky Park


The Power of Nature

Over the next few weeks we will be focusing on the healing power of nature and exploring our favourite literature and illustration that takes its inspiration from the world around us.

More about The Power of Nature

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