|Ann’s book illustrations are noted for their sparkling wit, detail and humour. Her first picture book was A Pet for Mrs Arbuckle, written by Gwenda Smyth, published in 1980. Since then she has collaborated with many authors and publishers, using a wide variety of approaches. The quirky illustrations and layout for the offbeat Penny Pollard series by Robin Klein established Ann’s reputation for approaching each project with a fresh eye.
Various books she has illustrated have won awards, including Bernice Knows Best, by Max Dann, CBC Junior Book of the Year, 1984. Hannah Plus One by Libby Gleeson won the same award in 1997. The same year The Midnight Gang, by Margaret Wild, was an Honour Book in the Picture Book of the Year, and went on to win three Children’s Choice awards around Australia. Books short-listed in the CBC Awards included Dog In, Cat Out, by Gillian Rubinstein; Hannah and the Tomorrow Room, by Libby Gleeson; Looking Out for Sampson, by Libby Hathorn; and Penny Pollard’s Diary and Penny Pollard’s Letters by Robin Klein.
Ann has written and illustrated two picture books, Finding Jack and One Day, both for the very young.
A former art teacher, she enjoys experimenting with different media—from photography to collage. But she is probably best-known for her ink drawings with watercolour, and the smudgy, bright chalks for the babies of the night in The Midnight Gang and its sequel The Midnight Feast. Ann’s pets feature as characters in many of her books. Ollie is the true-life star of Janeen Brian’s Dog Star, and you can meet her cats in A Coat of Cats by Jeri Kroll. Her next two books feature chooks - Libby Gleeson’s Shutting the Chooks In and Margaret Wild’s Big Red Hen. In 1988 Ann and partner Ann Haddon established Books Illustrated, a unique gallery for book illustration and a children’s book shop. Visitors to Books Illustrated are sure to meet both Ollie the spaniel and Kip the kelpie or can meet them on their website (listed below).
Ann and Ann collaborated to produce Making Pictures: Techniques for Illustrating Children’s Books, to inspire artists of all ages to experiment. They continue to promote their passion, the picture book, at this unique centre for children’s literature in Melbourne.
In 2000 both Anns were awarded the Pixie O’Harris Award for Distinguished Service to Australian Children’s Literature.
Ann James was recieved the 2002 Dromkeen Medal which is awarded annually to an Australian citizen for work that ‘makes a significant contribution to the appreciation and development of children’s literature’.
Ann says, ‘Illustration in its narrative way is a most accessible art form. It’s an especially good vehicle to introduce aspects of art to children’.