Varmints - Thao Lam
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Something weird and wonderful. Keep reading…

Having seen Marc Craste’s commercial work, Helen Ward set out to write the story of Varmints with him, “I like to think in pictures, so it is very important to me that I know and love the work of the illustrators for whom I write.” Helen tells a story of one small creature’s struggle to preserve a world from being lost forever. Once there was a peaceful civilization where the only sounds were of bees, the whispering of wind and the song of birds in the high blue sky. One day Varmints show up, threatening the loss of peace and quite. They brought tall buildings, grey skies, and lots and lots of noise. There was so much noise that no one could hear themselves think and over time such an environment breeds a mindless civilization. Varmints is a poetic commentary on society’s recklessness and indifference to our surroundings.

Varmints does not look at all like a picture book. It resembles more of an animated short film captured on paper. The illustrations are surreal and haunting. Digitally painted the illustrations have a cinematic quality to them. Both light and darkness play a major role in the creating compositions and setting the tone for each scene. Though it is short, the story is divided into 3 chapters. Vellum pages with cinematic count down icons imprinted on them act as chapter dividers. It is details like this at contribute to the cinematic feel. I felt the illustrations really told the story while the words only filled in the detail. The designer’s choice to set lavender gray text on black background made it really difficult to read. I am not sure if it is intentional but as a reader I felt like I was in the dark and struggling through the story like the small creatures.

Varmints, a children’s book review by Thao Lam

Author Helen Ward

Renowned author and illustrator Helen Ward lives in Gloucestershire, England. From an early age Helen Ward knew she was going to be an illustrator. She spent a lot of her childhood in the library of the college her father taught at, reading and learning to respect books. She attended the Brighton Art School with hopes of continuing her studies of natural history illustration at the Royal College of Art in London but upon graduating she didn’t get the grades she needed to enroll at the College. With a stroke of luck someone from Templar Publishing attended her graduating show and offered her work; she has been with them ever since. In addition to illustrating Helen Ward also writes books for other artists to illustrate.


Illustrator Marc Craste

Marc Craste is a senior animation director for Studio Aka. With a talent for bringing ideas and stories to life; he has worked on numerous award-winning commercials and short films. In 2004 Marc Craste’s short film JoJo in the Stars was awarded first prize at ten international film festivals and went on to win the BAFTA Award (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) for best animated short film.

After illustrating Vermints, Marc Craste and the talent team at Studio Aka went on to making a short film version of the story. It was nominated for a BAFTA and shortlisted for an Oscar, see what all the buzz is about

Just a side note, Studio Aka is the team responsible for bringing Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found story to life in an animated short. Get ready to be dazzled,
. I would love to get a hold of the full-length movie.

I don’t think Marc Craste has a website so I am offering the next best thing, a link to Studio Aka’s wbesite


Publisher Candlewick (March 25, 2008)

ISBN-10 0763637963

ISBN-13 978-0763637965