Quentin Blake's magical art inspiring Book Bus children to read

Book Bus Patron Sir Quentin Blake

“It’s a real privilege to be associated with the Book Bus promoting literacy in Africa and South America,” declared world-renowned children’s illustrator and Book Bus Patron, Sir Quentin Blake in a recent interview with us at the Book Bus.

“I think that the Book Bus does amazing work, introducing books to children in remote areas of the world where there are few or no books at all. Can you imagine that? Growing up in a world without books?” asked Quentin.

The children welcome Book Bus Charlie

Our Book Bus mobile libraries are a central part of our literacy programme, sharing books and other literacy resources with children, schools and communities in remote areas of Ecuador, Malawi and Zambia. Quentin’s illustrations adorn each of our Book Buses ensuring they make a huge visual impact with children as they roll into schools, open areas in the African bush and along mountain roads in South America.

“One day the founder of the Book Bus and my then editor, Tom Maschler, asked if I could illustrate the very first Book Bus,” continued Quentin. “I had been creating illustrations for books for years but nothing as large as a bus. I was delighted to contribute to such a magnificent project.”

“It was such a brilliant idea to decorate the Book Buses,” exclaimed Quentin. “I realised that many children probably didn’t have access to books so I wanted to create illustrations that would ignite their imagination, be fun and colourful and convey the pleasure of reading.”

And he certainly achieved that. Quentin created an array of spectacular colourful illustrations to decorate our 5 Book Buses, George, Matilda, Alfie, Tiger and Charlie named after Roald Dahl characters. Each piece conveys movement, gestures, atmosphere and a great sense of fun. It’s almost as if each character has their own story to tell.

Quentin’s illustrations include a book cart packed full of children engrossed in reading, a young child lost in the adventure of their book as they hitch a ride on an elephant and a young girl reading a story with an inquisitive lion sitting behind her (is he listening to her story or eyeing up his lunch the children ask when they study the illustrations on the side of their Book Bus!).

As we rolled out our additional literacy programme in Ecuador, Quentin created new illustrations including a giant tortoise and an Alpaca.

Quentin continued: “No one starts their lives being able to read, but very quickly as children we make sense of the world around us by looking at shapes and colours.”

Sir Quentin’s illustrations spark imaginations

“If you can get children engaged first in illustrations, their curiosity will lead them to then enquire about the words. Reading comes very soon after this.”

“What struck me about the with the Book Bus and its supporters,” added Quentin “is that they are providing books to children to help them develop essential literacy skills. They are sowing an extraordinary crop that is going to have a harvest that will go on and on for these children for the rest of their lives. It’s providing much more than just literacy – it’s opening a door to the future in an incredible way.”

“Once you spark curiosity – well that’s like a machine that creates its own energy and if you can get books to these children, sit with them, talk to them, read with them and develop that enthusiasm for reading, then you really don’t know what wonders that will lead to in the future,” Quentin added.

“I’m so proud of the work the Book Bus does and I’m deeply touched to be involved with this wonderful project. It’s been around for more than 10 years now and I have no doubt it will be around for many more years. The effects of the Book Bus does, and will last much longer and go much, much further that even we can imagine” Quentin concluded.

In 2016 Sir Quentin launched our latest and boldest literacy project I am a Reader. We want to get 10,000 children in Malawi and Zambia reading by 2020. If you believe that all children should have an opportunity to learn how to read, join our campaign.