Aufwader here! In these monthly posts, Matt and I will be choosing and discussing two of our favourite illustrations from each of Mr Jarvis’ books, starting today with The Dark Portal. Do describe your favourites in the comments too!
This was a toss-up between Morgan and the scene with Audrey and Madame Akkikuyu in Chapter 3, ‘The Fortune-Teller’. Morgan won in the end because he’s a perfect example of an early Robin Jarvis rat. If you look at the long, gnarled snout and and the sightly lumpy shape of him, he resembles Robin’s early sketchbook work much more closely than later specimens. Plus, the context of this scene! Jupiter calling up the unquiet spectres of the Black Death! The shadows in the background almost seem to writhe and move, and look at the reaching claws of that candle flame. It’s dramatic stuff!
The grand finale! How could I not mention this one. The perspective! Audrey teetering on the brink, her brass sliding under her paw! Oswald down there in the background! Jupiter’s shadow where it looks as if he has horns and shows him without revealing what he truly is! There’s such a sense of scale in only a few small lines! I’d love to see this one in colour honestly.
Matt’s Pick: I must say – I love all of these illustrations. I’m sure there are people who have successfully read the book without them, but they so bring the story to life, that to me, Deptford Mice without pictures would be like Narnia without the Baynes illustrations, Dahl without the Blakes, Milne without the Shephard. (You get the idea!) Oddly enough, Aufwader and I managed to pick two completely different sets of favourites, which is great. So here are mine:
Look at this – Skinner, the rat with a peeler for an arm, is about to take a vicious swipe at Twit. As soon as you see it, you get a number of bits of information straight away. Size differential: rats are much, much bigger than mice. Strength differential: despite having a missing hand, Skinner still looks muscly. By contrast, Twit looks practically fragile. This is not one of those fantasy fights where the good guys and bad guys are evenly matched – these are ordinary creatures up against something much bigger and nastier than themselves.
And this one I like because it’s remarkably human. Arthur looks exactly like a teenager who has just woken up. And there is something remarkably kind in Twit’s eyes. (And we also realise that, even compared to the other mice, he’s a bit of a shorty!) We get a sense of the friendship that exists between the mice.
So which are your favourite illustrations?