HomeCultureBooksMust Reads

Alex Scheffler: Books that changed my life


28th Jun 2021 Must Reads

Alex Scheffler: Books that changed my life

Alex Scheffler is an award-winning illustrator, best known for his work on children's books

This is one of a series of books that I loved as a child growing up in Hamburg in thesixties. I seem to remember getting them sometimes after unpleasant visits to the dentist! The Petzi books described the adventures of a little bear, who wore spotted dungarees and was fond of pancakes, and his exploration of the world together with his friends, a pelican, a penguin and a seal.

I think they may have influenced my way of seeing the world as I still prefer to draw animals with clothes on now! There were also two little characters, a frog and a tortoise, having little extra adventures on the side, which I loved and is something I still try to do in my own picture books - add things to the drawings that are not in the text.

I Am Papa Snap and These Are my Favorite No Such Stories written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer

When I was teenager I discovered cartoonists and illustrators like Edward Gorey, Sempé, Bosc and others, but most of all I loved the art of Tomi Ungerer. A French artist with strong political views - anti-war, anti racist, anti nationalist - Ungerer covered a wide range of styles and subjects, from satirical drawings to picture books.

He was a passionate European, born in an area where German and French cultural influences met, and spoke three languages: none of them perfect he claimed, but then he could draw - a universally understood means of expression! I think he was probably the strongest influence on my own work as an illustrator.

His sense of humour, his love for details and the absurd, and the world he creates in his drawings, all apparent in Papa Snap, I found very appealing. And again, animals with clothes! His books from the seventies still seem very fresh to me.

When I discovered the work of William Steig I was already working as an illustrator. He worked as a cartoonist for the New Yorker all his life and came to writing and illustrating
children's books when he was in his sixties. I love his picture books: Solomon the Rusty Nail, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble , Gorky Rises, Brave Irenemore dressed animals! The wonderful wackiness of his stories and the warmth and emotional precision of his illustrations never fails to touch me.

This book, however, is slightly different as it was published posthumously and contains about 400 unpublished drawings. As the title suggests, it covers nearly all areas of existence and is like a catalogue of life: everything one needs to know is in there. I was delighted when I discovered it in a second hand bookshop on Charing Cross Road.

Pip and Posy goes out on Channel 5's Milkshake! and Sky Kids On Demand

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter

*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.