What to Look for in Winter

18 December 2011
Ben Pentreath

Earlier this morning, I was having a bit of a clean up. And came across this little book… Immediately I was propelled back 30 years or more. When I was about six or seven it was one of my absolute favourites. I loved the ladybird books—interesting to see how (for all of us early 70s children) they have suddenly started appearing at street markets and bookstalls—but of all of them, these Nature series illustrated by Tunnicliffe were ones that I returned to again and again.

Of course, it was only later in life that I learned more about Charles Tunnicliffe and his wonderful illustrations—in both watercolour and wood engraving, and later scraper-board as his eyesight began to fail. When I was young, it was the microcosm within a page that transported me (although I didn’t know it at the time). The book at once brought home the deep chill of the shortest days of midwinter and ended with the optimism of spring.

Looking back now, there is a nostalgia, a poignancy, for the lost countryside of 1959 (when What to Look for in Winter was first published). A few pages here.

Why do I crave a publisher producing books for young children as beautiful, as richly illustrated, and as packed with knowledge, today?

8 comments on this post

Stephanie Maltmansays:

I have these too, all four of them. Utterly beautiful, I think their influence has been enormous for me, they formed an appreciation of the countryside and all of nature that has never gone away. Along with the work of Stanley Badmin, who also illustrated some Ladybird’s, I see Tunicliffe everywhere I look in the countryside at all different times of the year. I am glad that someone else feels the same.

oh thank you so much for sharing those illustrations… what a lovely book!


Lucky you ,I was looking in vain for my copies of Spring,Summer Autumn and Winter just last month in the piles of books in my Mother’s box room; they can’t have been discarded can they?In the mean time I can look at my equally nostalgic print of ‘Tim’s friend Towser’that I treated myself to last week from your enchanting shop.

The Elegant Economistsays:

I too had these when I was a child – I still have them – and yes, it was exactly that sensation of falling into the picture, or of seeing the world through the eyes of the creatures in the foreground, which entranced. I’ve just laid out my copy of ‘Winter’ on a side table!


I had these books when I was a child and those wonderful Tunnicliffe illustrations gave me my love of the English countryside which I have never lost (despite sixteen years of London living) and also a love of watercolour painting. Honestly, to see those Tunnicliffe illustrations created such a huge wave of nostalgia I was transported right back to being a six year old out with my dad on Kent walks. Thank you so much for such a lovely post.


Sarah, thank you. It’s amazing how powerful a little picture can be. Ben

When you look at these pictures you are instantly transported into the heart of winter. The pictures in your book remain as vibrant as when they were printed. Thank you for sharing.

Charlotte Ksays:

So beautiful. Detailed, lavish illustration of ordinary scenes like these always captured my imagination as a child also. I had a reading book in first grade with similar illustrations of American small farm life and I honestly felt as if I could fall into that other world and take up life there. Thank you for sharing these.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.