Graeme Base was born in England, but has lived most of his life in Australia. When Base was 8 he wrote his first book, A Book of Monsters, filled with illustrations done in colored pencil. Base describes himself as a having a typical reading attitude as a thirteen-year-old boy: “Books were at best a brief diversion, at worst a necessary evil. Reading for pleasure wasn’t something I did or understood” (Coady & Johannessen, 2006, p.18). His attitude changed when he read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and realized that a book “could do more than help you pass an exam, it could lift you up and sweep you away” (p. 19).
Because of a desire to be an artist, Base attended Swinburne College of Technology after high school. After college he worked in advertising for two years before deciding it wasn’t a good fit. He then decided to use a different type of artistic talent and joined the band Rikitikitavi. While in the band, his first book My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch was published. Base married Rikitikitavi lead singer, Robyn. They have three children.
Graeme Base produces colorful picture books with elaborate spreads which often involve fantastical depictions of wildlife. Although the characters are animals, Base says he creates them as “characters you can relate to with a human personality” (RIF Interview). Base sometimes touches on environmental issues although he has expressed: “But to say that we need to save the planet might be a stretch. It does not need to be saved. We need to save ourselves. The planet can regenerate-we will be the ones who disappear” (McDermott, 2008, p. 24). Hints of his Australian background creep into his writing in examples such as the “shaded State of Queensland on the Australian map on the Q page of Animalia; and the motor registration plates, the cricket match, and the tiny Australian flag flying on the mansion in The Eleventh Hour” as well as “an overtly Australian fantasy romp with Grandma and her bush friends” (Galda & Tobin, 1992, p. 147) in My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch.
Base has often said that he writes books in order to illustrate them. He found illustrating other’s works frustrating because of the limitations. Base uses many techniques to create his illustrations such as watercolors, transparent inks, brushes, pencils, technical drawing pens, airbrush, and a scalpel.
Books of InterestEdit
My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch is Base’s first book. A story of an unusual grandmother with a wide collection of wildlife friends is unrolled as the situations become more incredible. The illustration style in this first book is slightly different then the following books. There is a consistent pattern of a two page spread all in brown with the text and the picture, and then on the next two pages, there is an in depth full color photo with no text. This technique allows the reader to spend more time with the images. Children will likely find this book humorous as the image of this grandmother is contradictory to the typical idea of grandmothers.
Animalia is Base’s most successful book. It is an ABC book as well as an example of alliteration. Each page has a different letter with an alliterative phrase and images to match the letter. The pages are full of pictures for students to discover a variety of items that start with every letter.
The Water Hole is a counting book that starts with one rhino and increases on each page until 10 kangaroos. However, as the number of animals increase, the size of the water hole (a cut out within each page) decreases. The juxtaposition between the increasing number of animals and the decreasing water hole demonstrates the problem of overpopulation. Along with the numbers on each page, there is also an example of onomatopoeia as the animals drink, communicate, and react.
Uno’s Garden is a math book that incorporates many different mathematic concepts such as counting, addition, multiplication, and prime numbers. Many inventive creatures and beings walk the pages.. The illustrations in the book are very elaborate as the creatures are added and multiplied. There is also a very engaging four and a half page spread at the end showing all of the creatures, plants, and homes that have accumulated. The Water Hole and Uno’s Garden could both be used not only in math instruction, but also in social study and science units.
The Eleventh Hour is a mystery book. The mystery comes at the end of the story, and although the story is tied up in the end, the reader is still left with curiosity. In order to solve the mystery, the reader can go back through the pages and search the pictures for clues. A child could spend hours finding all of the clues and hidden pictures within this book.
The Discovery of Dragons: New Research Revealed is written under the pseudonym Rowland W. Greasebeam, B.Sc., and tells the history and describes various species of dragons. The book is written as a series of letters. Each letter details a discovery and has an adjoining picture. The table of contents categorizes dragons according to European, Asiatic, Tropical, and New World. This book may help children better understand geography as various discoverers write about their discoveries on various continents.
Base, G. (1983). My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch. New York: Abrams Books.
Base, G. (1987). Animalia. New York: Abrams Books.
Base, G. (1993). The Eleventh Hour. New York: Abrams Books.
Base, G. (2001). The Water Hole. New York: Abrams Books.
Base, G. (2006). Uno’s Garden. New York: Abrams Books.
Base, G. (2007). The Discovery of Dragons: New Research Revealed. New York: Abrams Books.
Coady, R.J. & Johannessen, J. (2006). The book that changed my life: 71 remarkable writers celebrate the books that matter most to them. New York: Gotham Books.
Galda, L. & Tobin, B. (1992). Dreamtime downunder: Exploring Australian books. The Reading Teacher, 46(2), 146-155
McDermott J.C. (2008, March). Talking with Graeme Base. Book Links, 24-25.