Illustration Nominations | Thomas

Aufwader’s Pick: 

The Betrayal of Hara (c) Robin Jarvis, 1995

I think this is probably my favourite Robin Jarvis illustration ever. I like it so much that I have a print of it framed on my wall. Everything about it is so cinematic and evocative, but I don’t need to say that, it’s loudly apparent in every pen-stroke. Every time I see it, it inspires me to improve my own artwork and challenge myself, and maybe talon a few Harans in the name of the Dark Despoiler.

one o the boys
The Black Temple (c) Robin Jarvis, 1995

Predictable? Yes. But honestly aren’t Sarpy and His High Priest photogenic together? Look at them and just try to stop your heart melting in a puddle of black goo.


Matt’s Pick: 


Simoon (c) Robin Jarvis, 1995

Many of the illustrations in this book are stunning, but I think I’m going to have to spring for the two most ‘spiritual’ characters. First up, Simoon, who I feel is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the Javis world. You underestimate him at first, but he has a lot more power up his sleeve than you at first realise. (And also, like Obi-Wan, he was a survivor of a great massacre.) The swirling abstract pattern repeated on the rug and in the background also lends him an extra air of mystery. 

The Holy One (c) Robin Jarvis, 1995

And I feel like the loris here is the Yoda of the piece, but that’s not quite fair – he’s never a figure of comedy, and is much more haunted. I’m not even sure why I like this one, but there’s just something about his eyes and his mouth. Also the fact that his only possession is a key. There’s something so minimalist about it, that it makes you realise how much of ordinary life he has given up in order to guard the fragment for Hara.

Illustration Nominations | The Whitby Child

Aufwader’s Pick: 

‘The Whitby Witches’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1994

I was momentarily peeved when someone mentioned the ‘bonus content’ in this image in Chapter 4, as I had planned to wait until this post to go ‘Look everybody! There’s copies of The Dark Portal and The Crystal Prison up on that shelf in the top right!’ and we would’ve been all excited about it and it would’ve been great. However, my vexation was soothed when I remembered that I’d already posted about it on Silvering Sea years ago, so I’ve had my fun. Anyway I love this piece, and I love the idea that Miriam Gower, owner of The Whitby Bookshop and werewitch on the weekends, is a secretly a huge Deptford Mice fan.

‘The Horngarth’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1994

I really just enjoy this one for Tarr’s face. I mean my goodness, what a grizzled and care-worn rumple of a visage! It was only when I got to this image while reading that I realised that male aufwaders have such large ears, and I find it interesting that they do bear some resemblance to the ears of Robin’s rats. I also love Tarr’s makeshift throne – now that I look at it, it has an almost ‘clockpunk’ feel, a fun coincidence for those of you who’re reading the Witching Legacy at the moment.

Matt’s Pick: 

‘The Fledgling’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1994

Again, here’s an illustration that shows a lighter side of Mr Jarvis’ illustration skills. Jennet and Pear are having fun, they’re laughing. There are no sinister things in sight. In short, it instantly makes our hearts break for the friendship they might have had. It’s the set-up for the tragedy.

‘A Bargain Sealed with Blood’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1994

And this I love because it’s just awesome. Alice Boston’s determined face, the gypsy costume of the werewolf, claws poised to strike. I almost feel like Miss Boston is about to twist her walking stick and pull out a sword, but it’s possible that a conveniently located walking stick/sword would be too OTT even for Robin Jarvis. Still, of the whole trilogy, this right here is the scene I would love to see moving and alive on a screen, and this photo brings it to life.

Illustration Nominations | The Oaken Throne

Aufwader’s Pick:

‘In the Orchard of Duir’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1993

Well it’s unlike me to be nominating goody-goody Green Mouser scenes, but there you are. I assure you all I will make up for this momentary lapse when we get to the last of the Deptford Histories in September. In the meantime, just look at this lovely piece of work! There’s so much depth there, and it shows off one of my favourite Robiny art motifs – symbolic blossom in the foreground.

If I’m recalling correctly, we also see these in Chapter 2 of The Dark Portal, and I have a vague idea that they show up at some point in The Crystal Prison, possibly when Oswald is ill? It seems that they are connected to the presence of the Green, and are a herald of miracles and visions. In the middle-ground, we have Ysabelle at her most 80s-fantasy-heroine-ish, framed by her fellow travellers, and in the background, a glorious echo of the Deptford Mice box-set cover with the eyes of the Green, himself. My favourite thing about this whole composition, however, is the dramatic stripes of light and shade slicing down to give the scene an almost livid glow. It doesn’t matter that it’s only black ink on white paper, I can still feel the shifting greens and golds of eternal summer.


‘The Furze Cat’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1993

The Ancient is one of the most fascinating figures in the Deptford universe as a whole. We know he has a part to play in the future of that world, and we know of his significance as a being of legend for the bats, but in many ways he is still mysterious. I chose this piece because, like Ysabelle’s confrontation with Hobb, it is a mirror of something in the original Deptford Mice Trilogy, in this case the Altar of Jupiter. Here we have a sacred parallel to the profane lair of the Lord of All, with flaring flames and a pair of shining eyes, but the gaze of the Ancient is as benevolent as that of the Green, and no artifice cloaks him from the faithful.

Matt’s Pick:

ot (2)
‘Within the Ruis Chest’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1993

Which sort of leaves me loving all the blood and thunder illustrations towards the end of the book. I think I love this one because it’s a) set in a tunnel and b) has a number of nasty villains with fangs. In other words, it makes me nostalgic for all those chase scenes through the sewers of Deptford from The Dark Portal. In fact, looking at it, there’s a sense in which Ysabelle’s passing herself off as the High Priest (she being the right height to do so) is a foreshadowing (or vice versa) of Oswald passing himself off as a rat.

‘At the King of Trees’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1993

And this one just because this is a classic Jarvis ‘battle’ illustration (a little bit like the fight to the bitter end on the Cutty Sark in The Final Reckoning). It’s super-dense, so you can’t get a feeling for how big the battle is, but it’s hand-to-hand and it’s vicious. Also, there are just some things I don’t remember reading about, that look great in the illustration. (Like the rampant squirrel on the shield in the bottom right.)


Illustration Nominations | A Warlock in Whitby

Aufwader’s Pick: 

‘At The Church of St Mary’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1992

This one is a piece that I clearly recall from the first time I read this book in full – I was so startled by how malevolent and scheming Nathaniel looks here. His expression as he interrogates the guardian is captured in a wonderfully lifelike manner, and I have to speculate whether his appearance was based on a real actor?  You really can see that his ‘charm’ is quite phoney and fake, and that in reality, he is a somewhat gaunt, rather shoddily-dressed crook with ideas above his talents. Winner of the Most Shoddily-Dressed Magic User Award, indeed.



‘The Rising of Morgawrus’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1992

I love everything about this, but especially the fact that it looks like a still from a 1990s television series. Look at that set! I can imagine it sparkling turquoise, blue, and violet, and hear the ear-splitting shrieks of the last Mallykin as it flees for its life. (I also love the tiny spirals of curling dust in the top right. That technique is one I picked up from Mr Jarvis and have used to good effect before.)

Matt’s Pick: 

‘The Demon and the Dog’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1992

Maybe I’ve been missing it in earlier books, but I’ve noticed that Robin was really starting to play with some odd ‘camera angles’ in his illustrations for this book. So you look at this one, where we’re sort of staring over the shoulder of the transforming Deacon. It’s brilliant because we’ve got that terrifying claw in the foreground, a look of terror on Miss Boston’s face (and we all know she’s not an easy woman to scare) and, best of all, a dangerous feeling of distance between that railing and the ground below. It feels tense and terrifying – but also a nod to classic black and white monster movies as well.

‘Blotmonath’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1992

One word: Mirror. I love the mirror effect here. We only have Ben and Crozier in the frame, so we can only see Jennet in the mirror. For me, it’s the combination of Ben’s haircut (which reinforces how young he is) and the Mallykin on the floor that make this one brilliant.

I was lamenting a little bit that there is no picture of Morgawrus to be found in this book but, you know what? There are some things that are probably better left to the imagination.

Illustration Nominations | The Alchymist’s Cat

Aufwader’s Pick:

‘Where Dreams and Nightmares Mingle’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1994

After all the rodents in the Deptford Mice books, it’s very interesting to see some people in this universe. We’ve seen Mr Jarvis’ skill with human facial expression already in The Whitby Witches, but the early illustrations in this book show off what he can do with ink. One detail I really like is how solid this picture is – Mr Balker’s hands on the wooden table top look how a 17th Century miller’s hands would have looked, and his and Will’s drinks look heavy in their tankards. Will’s hair seems realistically in need of a wash, and the posture of the little group even suggests a cramped, dingy space. Plus, we have our first and only depiction of Peggy Blister. Is it just me or do her flying ribbons remind anyone else of Mabb’s headdress?

‘At the Southwake Mission’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1994

I really hope Mr Jarvis was referencing the many depictions of Florence Nightingale with this picture. Even though we are in 1665 here, the whole thing has the look and feel of a Victorian tableau, or even an engraving. So atmospheric, and so macabre.

Matt’s Pick:



‘Lord Have Mercy On Us’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1994

There’s something totally surreal about the old plague doctor’s uniforms. It’s never stated in the books, but when you see Molly in uniform, she looks something like a cross between The Fly and an alien stork. Also, the picture appears (at least in my edition) a few pages earlier than the moment when Spittle looks out the window and spots her. So from that perspective, the picture gives us a foreshadowing of what it is that Spittle is seeing. It also marks the turning point where the Black Death has arrived and we realise how dark this story is going to get.

‘Of Reckoning and Destiny’ (c) Robin Jarvis,1994

And as for this one, what is there not to like? First of all, it’s epic Jupiter, in his absolute prime, breathing fire. What I also love is that we’ve lost all sense of the real world in this one. We know from the book that all of this is taking place in the apothecary’s downstairs room, but there is no sign of furniture or walls to give us any sense of place. So the battle visually takes on a bigger scale than just two magical peeps having a go at each other in a small wooden room. I love it.

The Whitby Witches | Illustration Nominations

Aufwader’s Pick: 

whitby_0005 - Copy
‘The Aufwader’ (c) Robin Jarvis 1991

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!

whitby_0015 - Copy
‘Empress of the Dark’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1991

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.


Matt’s Pick:

whitby_0001 - Copy
‘Difficult Cases’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1991

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.

whitby_0008 - Copy
‘Cream Cakes and Death’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1991

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.

The Final Reckoning | Illustration Nominations

Aufwader’s Pick:

‘Hunted’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

I have a faint memory of this illustration being on the inside cover for the cassette of this book, but my tape of The Final Reckoning is being lent out to a friend at the moment, so I’ll get back to you all on that. Anyway, what an image! Those empty-eyed, ice-spear-wielding spectres are enough to give anybody the heebie-jeebies. No wonder the mice turned and fled!

‘Battle on Board’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

There’s a lot to appreciate about this. It’s a fantastically cinematic action sequence, it’s got depth and movement and bats falling to their deaths and ghostly claws reaching and Thomas cutting a swathe through the foe. I love Oswald up in the corner there, chucking bits of the Book of Hrethel and dodging ice spears.

Matt’s Pick:


‘Duel in the Storm’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

I mean – just look at this illustration! Piccadilly, looking more savage than you’ll ever see him and Morgan, looking more vulnerable than you’ll ever see him. The details are just awesome: the snow angling down, the knife poised over Morgan’s throat, which Piccadilly has bared by pushing Morgan’s head back, the famous anti-cat charm that did away with Jupiter the first time.

‘The Final Reckoning’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1990

We kind of know that Jupiter is a lot larger than a regular cat this time around, but it really hits home when you see this picture of his immense gullet and the tiny silhouette of Audrey standing in front of him. There’s only one word for this one: Apocalyptic. I can still dream that maybe one day we’ll all have beautiful cloth-bound editions of these books complete with illustrations to take us back to our childhoods.



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!



The Dark Portal | Illustration Nominations

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!

Aufwader’s Pick: 

‘Magic on the Heath’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1989

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 Dark Portal’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1989

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:

‘Three in the Dark’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1989

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.

‘Hot Milk and Honey’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1989

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?