Honestly, what else could I possibly choose? Personal bias aside, ‘Nelda on the Tomb’ has got to be one of Mr Jarvis’ most iconic illustrations to date. Even if you don’t recall exactly when you last saw it, there’s something about it that sticks. I love how the grassy hill curves away into the sky, and I want to know whose tomb she’s sitting on. One of my minor ambitions is to recreate this illustration in real life on a visit to Whitby – quite by coincidence, Nelda and I share the same fashion sense, so it shouldn’t be too difficult!
The reread of this book has really made me appreciate Rowena as a villain. When I was younger I didn’t think about her that much; she was quickly overshadowed by the ghastly nasties of A Warlock in Whitby and The Whitby Child, and I feel like she deserves more credit than she gets. Art-wise, this trilogy is interesting in that Mr Jarvis chose what looks like graphite, as opposed to the ink of the Deptford Mice. Overall it gives a slightly hazy, slightly grainy effect that’s almost like black-and-white television, and in my opinion it really suits the atmosphere of the series.
I always enjoy watching a master craftsmen when they decide to have a go at doing something different. So we knew from the three mice books that Robin Jarvis could (seemingly) crank out illustrations of anthropomorphic animals in his sleep. And so every picture in those books could – to my eyes – instantly turn into an animated film.
Which then makes the illustrations in The Whitby Witches stand out. First off, as Aufwader mentioned, they have a different texture to them, which renders them different from the fine line drawings of the Mice. But also, they instantly take me into a ‘live action’ world as well. It’s as if the director of animated films is now working with real life actors. So you look at this first picture of the book, of Jennet and Ben on a train, and this is not the kind of cartoonish kids that we’d see in an animated film. The crumpled paper, Ben slumped on one hand, the netting above their heads – it all has a realistic feel to it and I love that turning point.
And this one I love because it’s the quintessential British gothic stuff I loved as a kid (and still love). An old lady, wearing a cardigan, heading down the Whitby steps, with the old houses in the background, looking frightened and there’s fog. Oh yes, fog! It’s Jack the Ripper, it’s Miss Marple, it’s Hound of the Baskervilles, it’s echoes of all that stuff and just dripping with atmosphere. Love it.