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Books that changed my life: David McKee

Books that changed my life: David McKee

David McKee is a celebrated writer and illustrator, once nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. The 30th anniversary edition of Elmer is published by Andersen Press

David McKee and his book Elmer


Winnie the Pooh
by A A Milne


I first heard one of the adventures read to me at school around 1942. Until then, all stories that I’d known were told to me by storytellers, this was the first time a story was read to me from a book—I loved it. There was something about the world of books which was suddenly open and I had to read the rest of the Winnie the Pooh stories. It’s a magic world that I wanted to be part of, and I suppose that later I did become a little part of. If I’m asked, I still say it’s my favourite book.


L’ Arte del XX Secolo e Oltre
by loredana parmesani


Around 1951, when I was in art college, colour printing was taking on a different quality and it was this book of paintings that enlightened me. I would go in to the library practically daily to look at it. You couldn’t take it out of the library, you could only take it out in the reference section and I discovered so many painters through it—people such as Matisse, Duran and Marquez— I discovered the world of colour. Elmer’s Colours is probably related quite directly with that book; colours are very important to me, more important than just if the sky is blue. I’m quite happy to have a red, pink or yellow sky.


Crocodile Tears
by André François

By 1962 I was drawing cartoons for the national press. I drew regularly for Reader’s Digest actually. I looked at other cartoonists, as people do, and the one that I loved was André François, the French artist. He inspired my generation because they weren’t just joke drawings they were art. When I discovered his book, Crocodile Tears, I was already a storyteller with my friends and to myself, but when I read it, I realised that this was a way I could put the stories together and that I could actually be an author. That opened the door for me into picture books, so it was quite influential.