Nick Sharratt and Jacqueline Wilson: Celebrating a Partnership of Thirty Years
Last month the news broke that after thirty years of working together, author Jaqueline Wilson and illustrator Nick Sharratt would be ending their creative partnership. British illustrator Nick Sharratt has illustrated almost 250 books to date, including perhaps his most notable work in collaboration with Jacqueline Wilson, The Story of Tracy Beaker. According to Sharratt’s website, the fifty Jacqueline Wilson books that Sharratt has provided illustrations for have gone on to sell “over 40 million copies,” and, from the years 2000–2010, The Story of Tracy Beaker was “the most lent library book in the UK.”
Sharratt’s work has transcended book illustration, with his illustrations featuring in the animated series Tracy Beaker Returns which aired on CBBC. They have also been used on various merchandise, including colouring books, monthly magazines and Jacqueline Wilson annuals – a testament to the wider cultural reach of the Tracy Beaker stories and their artwork.
Puffin recently made the announcement that the last book of Wilson and Sharratt’s thirty-year partnership, The Runaway Girls, will be published in March of next year, after which Sharratt will be moving on to pursue other illustration projects.
In response to this news, we decided to ask our fellow Publishing Post contributors to anonymously send in their thoughts and reactions. We received an outpouring of messages recognising Nick Sharratt’s work and the Jacqueline Wilson books as a whole. The sheer passion evident in many of the reactions received is telling of the relationship between text and image, and the way that illustrations can capture the imagination of readers, leaving a lasting impression across generations.
In many of the responses, there was also a resounding sense of excitement for the baton to be passed on to a new illustrator, bringing with it the potential for the artwork to be updated to reflect new trends and the current world we live in. They felt that a new style could help Jacqueline Wilson’s writing to reach a new generation, allowing her stories to continue to comfort and inspire young readers.
Here are some of the reactions from the team at The Publishing Post:
“I remember growing up that it was always Jacqueline Wilson’s books with the longest waiting list in the library. Everyone at my school wanted to get their hands on her latest books, and Nick Sharratt’s iconic cover illustrations certainly played a part in this, making the books stand out on the shelf and bringing to life characters like the infamous Tracy Beaker on the page to the point that the illustrations are immediately recognisable for those that grew up with the books.”
“Initially, I was so shocked and sad to hear the news that Nick Sharratt would no longer be doing Jacqueline Wilson’s illustrations because, to me, it is his drawings that I see in my head when I think of her books! His illustrations are iconic and truly make the brand what it is, but I’m excited to see her new characters brought to life in a different way.”
“For me, Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt are synonymous, and Wilson’s books are instantly recognisable from their distinctive illustrations. Sharratt’s illustrations added an extra dimension to the stories and helped bring them to life – how can we ever picture Tracy Beaker any other way? It will be interesting to see if a change of illustrator will have any bearing on Wilson’s storytelling style, as the two have been so closely interwoven for so long. I’m really excited to see what projects each of them will be working on in the future!”
“Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt were such a childhood pairing that made her stories so distinctive to me. I don’t think I would have read so many without Nick Sharratt’s distinctive art style. I worry I would not like them anymore – like when Lemony Snicket changed his illustrator. However, there could be a new pairing that will inspire a new generation of avid readers so I can’t wait for what the future holds.”
“The books as a whole were a good escapism into other people’s problems and the illustrations made it feel more real.”
“For nostalgia reasons it feels sad, but you have got to keep up with the trends so I can see the call for a new style and, from an artistic point of view, it will be interesting to see what art direction the illustrations will take going forwards.”
“It’s a pairing much like Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake that really brought the stories to life and helped me imagine the characters going through the books. It will be very interesting to see how a new artist adapts and brings something else to the table!”