The Great Orlando is the latest book illustrated by my very clever sister Helen Taylor. Helen has been illustrating books for years now and has a large number of titles to her credit. Most of them she has done in partnership with writer Ben Brown but a couple have been done with other authors and two books she has both written and illustrated. I am so proud of her!
One of Helen and Ben’s books – A Booming in the Night (about a love-struck Takahe) won the Picture-book of the Year in New Zealand’s premiere children’s book awards a few years ago. As well as illustrating books Helen is an artist with paintings in a number of private collections and her work is currently being exhibited at The Little River Art Gallery.
The Great Orlando is quite different from anything Helen and Ben have ever done before – most of their previous books have been about New Zealand birds – and I think it’s one of their best. It’s quite a dark little story – dealing with themes of loneliness, loss and neglect – but it’s beautifully written and, of course, gorgeously illustrated. It’s about a young boy called Sunday Jones whose mother has recently died and whose father is a nasty piece of work. Then one day a talent show is announced at his school and Sunday decides to transform himself into a magician called The Great Orlando and from that point on the reader is taken on a strange and slightly surreal journey where nothing is quite what it seems and nothing turns out quite as you would expect.