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Jessica grew up in East London. Her parents were descended from Russian Jewish immigrants, and one of her books The Little, Little House includes a 'wise woman' character that is based on her great-great-aunt. Before she became a writer and illustrator, Jessica was a puppeteer. She made shadow puppets and, together with her puppet company Mme Souhami and Co., she travelled around the country bringing to life some of the stories that people have been telling one another for hundreds, and even thousands, of years. Her puppets were very popular and even appeared on television, including Watch (BBC), Seeing and Doing (Thames TV) and Playschool (BBC).
In the early 1990s Jessica stopped touring. She still wanted to tell stories but now she wanted to do it through books. Her first book was called The Leopard's Drum, a story from West Africa. Jessica's shadow puppets, however, did not entirely go away; you can see their influence on her artwork style. Jessica creates her pictures using a collage technique, and one of the first things she decides is what colours to use. Each book has its own unique palette of colours that best captures the mood of the story. Once she has decided on this colour palette, Jessica paints sheets of paper that she can then cut up to form the figures and landscapes of her stories. The characters in the books leap, run or saunter across the pages, just as the shadow puppets would have moved across the screen.
Jessica's latest picture book, Honk, Honk! Hold Tight! tells the traditional and very funny folktale of the princess who will not laugh. Her new picture book Please, Mr Magic Fish will be published by Otter-Barry Books in 2018.
Foxy! (Frances Lincoln)
No Dinner (Frances Lincoln)
Sausages (Frances Lincoln)
The Leopard’s Drum (Frances Lincoln)
Rama and the Demon King (Frances Lincoln)
King Pom and the Fox (Frances Lincoln)
The Sticky Doll Trap (Frances Lincoln)
Mrs. McCool and the Giant Củchulainn (Frances Lincoln)
Baba Yaga and the Stolen Baby, by Alison Lurie (Frances Lincoln)
Little, Little House (Frances Lincoln)
Piglet's Picnic (Frances Lincoln)
Sausages (Frances Lincoln)
The Strongest Boy in the World (Frances Lincoln)
Honk, Honk! Hold Tight! (Frances Lincoln)
"There is vivid colour and detail besides strong silhouette: strength, action, vigour, expressiveness all shine through."
The School Librarian
"The pictures are big and bold, like the giants. This dramatic retelling will entertain six to nine-year-olds.
Times Educational Supplement
"Souhami's boldly distinctive illustrative style uses minimalism to great effect - soft pencil on stylised collage shapes against a plain background reflect the freshness and vigour of the storytelling with no extraneous frills. A treat!"
Books for Keeps