October 1st, 2020

What Makes You Smile?

This autumn we're welcoming you back to school with our heart-warming project What Makes You Smile?

We’ve asked ten of the best, prize-winning children’s book illustrators from around the world to illustrate what makes them smile.

Children across the country will have had varied and unique experiences of lockdown and all will need support to reintegrate and to reflect on their experiences, deal with the present challenges of daily life and look ahead to what the future holds. We hope that our project can help a little towards this by providing daily opportunities to discuss, reflect and consider the things which make them smile.

Teachers can choose whether to use the pictures simply as a positive start to each day, providing opportunities for discussion and reflection, or to incorporate them into lesson planning, using the talking points and teaching ideas we have provided below.

We’re also running a competition with Tes where we’d like children to create their own picture of what makes them smile. You can find details on how to enter and the prizes you could win here.


Although we've now come to the end of our What Makes You Smile project, we'd like to leave you with something which prompted our idea of asking illustrators from around the world to send us an illustration: here's Yeats' wonderful poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree. In these dark times, we hope it will give you a little joy, and make you smile too!

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.


Drawing 10 from Jörg Mühle

Born in 1973, Jörg studied at the Hochschule fur Gestaltung Offenbach am Main and the prestigious Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and he has been an author and freelance illustrator since 2000. He is a member of the Labor Ateliergemeinschaft, a studio collective of illustrators, writers and graphic designers. He has written and illustrated the delightful Little Rabbit books for toddlers, as well as illustrated the unmissable hilarious story for older children by Ulrich Hub, Meet at the Ark at Eight. Jörg sent us this very funny picture from his home in Germany.

Find out more about Jörg and his excellent books


Drawing 9 from Marta Altés

Marta Altés is a Spanish award-winning creator of many picture books. She studied graphic design in Barcelona and then an MA in Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art where she now teaches. Her touching story of the relationship between a grandfather and his grandson in her picture book My Grandpa won the Jack Ezra Keats New Illustrator Honour in the USA. Marta is always keen to get people smiling with her stories and illustrations and we think it’s definitely worked with this lovely drawing she sent to us.

Find out more about Marta and her colourful books


Drawing 8 from Jun Takabatake

Jun Takabatake is one of Japan’s best-loved children’s illustrators. He was born in Aichi in Japan in 1948 and his award-winning illustrations have been exhibited throughout the world. He has illustrated over a dozen books. One of our favourites is Megumi Iwasa’s delightful and hilarious story, Yours Sincerely, Giraffe, translated from the Japanese by award-winning translator Cathy Hirano, about an ‘airmail’ (the postman’s a pelican!) correspondence between bored Giraffe, living on the African savanna and Penguin on Whale Point. Jun sent us this brilliant picture entitled ‘The Animal Olympics’ from his home in Japan.

Find out more about Jun and his brilliant books


Drawing 7 from Gitte Spee

Gitte Spee was born on the island of Java in Indonesia and moved to The Netherlands when she was eleven. At first, she found it strange and cold but now she would not want to live anywhere else. She studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and at St Martin’s School of Art in London. At first Gitte illustrated books for lots of other writers but after a while she started to write herself. She is most well known for her books Mr. Big, Monkey and Mole and the Inspector Gordon series written by Ulf Nilsson. Gitte sent us this beautiful collection of illustrations from her home in The Netherlands.

Find out more about Gitte and her charming books


Drawing 6 from François Place

François Place is one of France’s best-loved children’s book authors and illustrators. He was born in 1957 in France, and he studied Graphic Art at the École Estienne in Paris. Some of his first published books were non-fiction, but then in 1992, he published his first children’s book, the prize-winning Les Derniers Géants about an intrepid explorer who discovers a forgotten tribe of giants. He lives amongst them for 10 months, but on returning to his own country makes the fatal mistake of revealing his discovery to the world… François sent us this utterly delightful, smile-inducing watercolour from his home near Paris.

Find out more about François and his brilliant books


Drawing 5 from Mikel Valverde

Mikel Valverde, prize-winning writer and illustrator, was born in Vitoria-Gasteiz in Northern Spain and studied Fine Arts and Graphic Techniques at the University of the Basque Country. There he started creating comics and illustrations for his own stories. One day he happened to meet author Bernardo Atxaga in his local neighbourhood, and this led to Mikel illustrating Bernardo’s glorious triumph of short stories, The Adventures of Shola. Mikel’s witty illustrations of the small dog wonderfully capture her character and adventures. Mikel sent us this charming illustration from his home in Spain. Bookshops always make us smile!

Find out more about Mikel and his brilliant books


Drawing 4 from Victoria Semykina

Victoria Semykina was born in Moscow in Russia. She studied painting for six years at the Art Academy there. She is fond of travelling around the world and is currently living in Italy (where she studied at Bologna Academy of Arts). In between illustration projects, she loves observing people, travelling and riding her red bicycle. We adore her book The Real Boat, written by Marina Aromshtam, and translated from Russian by Olga Varshaver, which beautifully demonstrates Victoria’s passion for ships and all things nautical. Victoria sent us this fun and quirky illustration from her home in Bologna, Italy.

Find out more about Victoria and her beautiful books


Drawing 3 from Viviane Schwarz

Viviane Schwarz was born in Germany, but moved to the UK in her twenties. As a child she spent a lot of time inventing and making things with her family, and now her job is to make books, comics and games. Viviane has written and illustrated over a dozen picture books – always hilarious! – we especially love How to Find Gold, and A Place to Call Home. Viviane also lectures in illustration and game design at university level. We’re delighted that Viviane found the time to send us this drawing from her home in London.

Find out more about Viviane and her lovely books


Drawing 2 from Ulla Saar

Ulla Saar is one of Estonia’s most talented illustrators. Ulla has illustrated more than 20 children’s books and is the Director of Foreign Relations at the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre. She has illustrated Lift, a delightfully quirky picture book which has as its protagonist – a lift! Lift has been translated from Estonian into Italian, German and Lithuanian, and is awaiting an English edition. Ulla lives in a little wooden house in Estonia with her son and her cat, and has sent us this delightful picture.

Find out more about Ulla and her lovely books


Drawing 1 from Satoshi Kitamura

Satoshi Kitamura was born in Japan, and as a child enjoyed reading comics and illustrated novels. After starting his career in advertising, he moved to London and started to write and illustrate his own picture books. His work is beautifully detailed and full of colour and interesting characters. We love Millie's Marvellous Hat and his latest picture book, The Smile Shop is a title that links beautifully to our project! Satoshi sent us this striking image from his home in Kobe, Japan.

Find out more about Satoshi and his brilliant books


Teaching Resources

Download the teaching ideas that accompany the project by clicking below:

Download Teaching Ideas
Download Talking points
Download Picture Talk Grid

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