The Crystal Prison | Illustration Nominations

Aufwader’s Pick:

‘A Meeting At Midnight’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1989

Mr Kempe is one of my favourite side-characters in the Deptford Mice Trilogy. He’s jovial and irreverent and has probably seen some remarkable things in his time as a travelling trademouse. To me he seems not quite ‘Property of Robin Jarvis’, but more like the kind of archetypal character who could turn up in any talking-animal story. Who knows, perhaps Mr Kempe’s travels extend outside the realms of the Deptford Mice entirely. Maybe he passes by Toad Hall every summer. Maybe Mrs Frisby’s children pester him for new toys. Maybe the folk of Mossflower Wood know him by another name. No matter where he strays in his wanderings, however, his true home is in a cosy nook between the pages of The Crystal Prison.


‘Hunters in the Night’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1989

I had a hard time choosing another illustration from this book – they’re all so good, it was really difficult! This one won out over both the grizzled Starwife on her throne in Chapter 2, and the one of Twit in a similar life-threatening situation as shown here (which, by the way, beautifully echoes the cover). Congratulations, Jenkin! What I love about this piece is the sense of movement and urgency. It’s like a moment trapped in time; the young mouse dashing past; the murderer in pursuit; the golden field become a dark horror-film forest. There’s also something that you can find in almost all of Mr Jarvis’ illustrations, but put to especially good use here; the breaking of the frame. The corn dolly seems to leap out at us as if nothing, not even the sides of the page, can contain it.


Matt’s Pick: 

‘The Bargain’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1989

Look at the characterisations on this one. I know Robin describes his characters in the text, but the image of the Starwife visually reinforces her character. Her face is hard and set – is it the physical pain of old age? Is it meanness? It’s ambiguous as to what exactly drives her, but there is a hardness and weathering of her features that speaks to her age and mental toughness straight away. Contrast this with Twit – who, in my opinion, wins the award across the trilogy for Mouse of Great Character. He has a stance that says he’s not sure what is going on, but will trust the Starwife to do the best by his sick friend.

‘Fennywolde’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1989

And this one is just brilliant because of the sheer savagery of the whole thing. The owl with the mouse in its claws would be terrifying enough just on its own, but when you throw in the third element of Akkikuyu furiously ripping its feathers out, it just crackles. It also is an interesting different take of Akkikuyu. Normally, she is described as physically big and awkward – thumping along, not fitting in places. But going head-t0-head with Mahooot, she finds this hidden strength and agility (and violence!) that we don’t normally see in her. She must have grown tough in her younger years!




5 thoughts on “The Crystal Prison | Illustration Nominations

  1. Regarding the cover, is that really Twit who has found himself cornered as the cruel and twisted claws of Brud reach out to steal his life away? I always figured it to be Young Whortle since there are wisps of mist swirling around the corn-stalks behind him…

    Okay, you asked for it! Here are my own favorite illustration which add so much to the unnerving atmosphere of The Crystal Prison!

    The Hall Of Corn: Most of the illustrations our leading lady graces with her radiant presence have a large place reserved for them in my heart, and this one is no exception. No sir and no ma’am. So much is happening in this picture. In the foreground, Audrey’s paws are weaving a corn dolly while in the background, the local mice are hard at work constructing their Summer nests. My, my, my. Quite the hive of activity. I love the little detail of how Audrey has her eyes closed in the hot climate she’s so unaccustomed to. The townmouse truly is a stranger in a strange land. A most beautiful stranger and a most beautiful land.

    A Witch And A Fool: It is said that a picture says a thousand words and I’m here to tell you that this is so true. As Twit and Audrey keel on the ground together, waiting to be pronounced mouse and mousewife, their faces are twin portraits of sorrow. Even if you look at the illustration without any knowledge of what’s happening, you just know that the unhappy pair are victims of fate, their lives moments away from being changed forever. And above the forlorn figures of two young mice whose lives have been ruined looms the terrifying figure of a zealot whose face is thunderous as he condemns his victims to a life-sentence.

    Say Matt and Aufwader! Do we have a date for when we’ll put on our hats, scarfs and mittens to tackle the prologue and opening chapter of The Final Reckoning?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, you’re right, Aron. I always just assumed it was Twit on the cover because he has such a pivotal role in the story, but now that I look closer, the mouse has the Anti-Owl Charm, which a quick check confirmed to be Young Whortle’s brass! My apologies if I misled anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No need for apologies, Aufwader. None of us is clad in enchanted armor which guards us from making the occasional mistake. But what an everlasting pity it is that Whorty didn’t receive the Anti-Brud charm…

        By the way, my hungry eyes were feasting themselves upon the illustration of The Green Mouse in all his unbridled majesty when they happened upon something they never had until then. A particular detail which had eluded their sight for twenty years. Clinging to a tree-branch is a mouse whose mouth had dropped open in sheer awe at the spectacle looming before him. Oh. My. Gosh. Twenty years. Twenty whole years and I never ever spotted him there because my eyes were always drawn to either the Mouse In The Green above or the adoring crowd below. What an astonishing thing. These wonderful, wonderful books are still finding new ways to surprise me after so many years.


  2. The Starwife: This is a perfect illustration of the Handmaiden of Orion sitting regally and imposingly upon the Oaken Throne. She is clearly an infinitely wise, powerful figure who fills you with awe in spite of her great age.

    The Hall of Corn: Audrey looks graceful and beautiful as she constructs the corn dolly. She is every bit the “fairy mouse” she is described to be in this illustration.

    The Sacrifice: Madame Akkikuyu is horrified and bewildered to find she is changing into a cat, while the tattooed face on her ear looks at her with a cruel smile. I’ve always found this image to be quite effectively creepy.

    Liked by 2 people

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