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8 December 2012 ·

The Selfish Giant lives again – the Art of Ritva Voutila

This is one of the most stunning picture books I’ve ever seen. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since Ritva used the winter picture on the invitation as an e-Christmas card last year. And despite having been to Melbourne on Monday and Tuesday, and my horror of going there more than once a week (or once a month!) there was no way I was going to miss the launch – I wanted to see those paintings ‘live.’ They were as wonderful as I’d expected from that sneak peek, but the book is even better. It’s beautiful not just to see, but to hold; everything about it is beautifully crafted: the binding, paper quality, design…  The words, of course, are Oscar Wilde’s, so they’re hard to improve on, but the paintings have added further depth – and I love how she’s humanised the giant. He looks an 18th century country gentleman, just oversized. Reading the story unillustrated, I’ve always pictured a Jack the Giant Killer type of giant – this version makes much more sense.
The exhibition, at Melbourne Art Rooms, 418 Bay St, Port Melbourne, is up till 20 December. And if you can’t buy any of the paintings (those that weren’t sold last night!), you can get them all inside the book. (That was what I decided to do.)  The book is published by Allen & Unwin Australia and should be available in all good bookshops.
 I also admit that seeing the exhibition made me feel lucky all over again that Ritva illustrated one of my books, Poppy’s Path, years ago. It was a little chapter book, so they were black and white line drawings: fantastical, perfect, showing definite traits of Ritva’s northern European background (Finland)   –  and totally unique. 
All of her art is worth looking at, and The Selfish Giant and its exhibition are a great opportunity. 

Art from Poppy’s Path


  1. Jill in a Box Great recommendations, thank you! I love Wilde, so it will be great to enjoy him with my children. The illustrations are stunning. What age group would you recommend Poppy's Path for? I love the sound of the story and the illustrations are wonderful. Can it still be bought from you direct? Do you think I could get it before Christmas?
    December 9, 2012 at 7:45 am · Reply
  2. Wendy Orr Thanks Jill. I do still have a few spare copies of Poppy's Path - $10 + postage. I think it's probably for ages 6 to 10, or maybe even 11 & 12 if they enjoy that slightly more fairy tale-folk tale type of book - I'm never very good at deciding age groups! I'll post a slightly longer excerpt so you can decide. If you email me at wendyorr1(at) I can send you payment details and get it off to you in the next couple of days, so it'll easily get there by Christmas. Let me know who you'd like it signed for.
    December 9, 2012 at 10:11 am · Reply
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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio