Dr. Belle Alderman in The Storyteller’s Manual

KBR is a long-standing enthusiastic supporter of the National Center for Australian Children’s Literature, an institution that maintains timely databases of children’s books that introduce Australia’s culturally diverse population.

Illustrated books for older readers it is a collection that they are currently lovingly compiling, already amassing over 350 titles with the help of 12 contributors and numerous contributors in Australia who help fund the database. The early release of The Illustrated Book Database for Older Readers it is around June – July 2023. As additions were made, Dr. Belle Alderman AM, Emeritus Professor of Children’s Literature and Director of the National Center for Australian Children’s Literature Inc., noted the absence of reviews for a very special book, The Storyteller’s Handbook by the magnificently talented Elise Hurst. To make amends, we present Belle’s personal reflections on this unique and imaginative bedtime read. Enjoy!

The jacket cover decorated with foil invites the viewer to The Storyteller’s Handbook. Here, viewers experience a wordless picture book that features highly detailed ink shading and watercolors. These fill 128 double-page spreads with 52 fantastically unrelated images. Hurst reveals that he wanted to “mix up the world, get things out of their normal place and play with size and expectations.” I also love that things interact in weird ways.

The saying, ‘the more you look, the more you see’ is an apt description here. Each page features a juxtaposition of humans, animals, and fantasy creatures performing activities in unusual places, perhaps underwater, in the skies, or on the streets. Each page offers another unexpected sight, like a duck in an art gallery looking at portraits of bears and alligators. The creator, Elise Hurst, says that she created narrative illustrations such as ‘a door to go through.


Six short stand-alone statements (known as breakouts) invite you to think about the stories that can come up. There are many fantastic elements in the illustrations where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Creatures can be realistic, imaginary, or anthropomorphic, while settings are often a mix. Characteristics of familiar animals such as bears, lions, foxes, rabbits, fish and birds along with mollusks and an armadillo, while often inappropriately sized, out of place, partially imaginary, and exist in oceans, cities and streets that mix fantasy and reality.

The cream colored pages are the perfect background for the intricate, often highly detailed line art and minimal color that surprises, provokes and invites close examination.. The Storyteller’s Handbook attracts multiple views and rewards rereads.

More resources, links and information can be found through these links:

The Storyteller’s Handbook: Go Behind the Scenes with Elise Hurst, YouTube, from her studio Elise Hurst briefly describes her goals with this book.

Elise Hurst’s website, ‘How It Began: Beginnings of The Storytellers Handbook by Elise Hurst’, here Hurst talks about her sketchbooks and offers a question and answer session between her and Neil Gaiman, who wrote a foreword for this book.

Elise Hurst is a beautiful Australian artist, illustrator and author, specializing in children’s books. Her most recent books were the award-winning Hard by Kobi Yamada, the illustrated edition of The ocean at the end of the road by Neil Gaiman, and girl on wire by Lucy Stella.

He lives in a house full of books and paintings. From her study, where black pens and oil paints spill onto the desk, magical worlds spring into existence. Like something out of Beatrix Potter or Narnia, her friends are rabbits and bears, lions and tigers, and they all have a story to share.

Title: The Storyteller’s Handbook
Author / Illustrator: Elise Hurst
Preface: Neil Gaiman
Editor: US Compendium, $45.00
Publication date: june 2022
Format: Hard-cover
ISBN: 9781970147766
By ages: 4 – 8
Write: wordless picture book

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