Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cartwright the Creepy

The Beast!
Short post for now. I’d looked before at the artwork of Stephen Cartwright in the children’s book Dragons  (Rawson, 1979), and its early influence on my appreciation for the worlds of fantasy here. There are five more books in the same series that I plan on talking about in the future, each with Cartwright’s humorous and idiosyncratic watercolor artwork. However, while ransacking the library at work for books to stock my classroom, I came upon another volume illustrated by him and thought I’d shared some of the pictures with you. Interestingly, although I was aware of some of Cartwright's other work (Roxbee Cox, 2004), I'd never seen this book before.

The Usborne Book of Creepy Poems (Emery & Cartwright, 1990) features an anthology of disturbing poetry, although disappointingly given the subject matter, a lot of Cartwright’s art is a little mundane. There are however a few wonderful gems, where both the poem and the accompanying image form a satisfyingly gruesome blend.

First up we have the Beast, from Tell Me It Isn’t by Trevor Millum, which you can see at the top of this blog. I really like this creature – colour, pose and expression are all simple but very effective:

        Tell me – the movement I saw
        Behind the door…
        It wasn’t a paw
        It wasn’t a claw
        It wasn’t the Beast
        About to roar
        And pounce and gnaw – WAS IT??
        (Emery & Cartwright, 1990, p. 2)

The Mary Celeste...

Next is Mary Celeste by Stanley Cook. Cartwright’s picture is gloomily evocative, based of course on a true story, but the poem itself isn’t up to much snuff:

        On the Atlantic Ocean
        The light winds blow
        And the abandoned ship
        Tacks crazily to and fro.
        (p. 6)

The Dusk Jockey rides again!

Then we meet my second-most favourite, Dusk Jockey by Vernon Scanell, a ghoulish combination of DJ and nightmare. The picture is awesome, particularly the look of determination on the face of the Dusk Jockey's steed. This one concludes with:

        And then I’ve got to go, before the blind
        Of total night comes down. But don’t believe I’m through:
        Dusk is the time I find most work to do.
        I’ve got to groom my mount while there’s still light;
        I’ll ride my mare into your sleep tonight.
        (pp. 22-23)

Beware the Thing behind you!

The final poem in the book features a nameless thing in It’s Behind You by David Harmer, which would be more amusing if it weren’t for the rather disturbing image of a boy having his head torn from his shoulders by what looks like a giant green lizard. The final stanza:
        Oh what a shame!
I thought you’d make it
        To the door. Hard luck.
        I still think it means no harm        
        I expect it bites all its friends.
        (p. 31)

March of the Zombies! (from Dusk Jockey)


Emery, H. & Cartwright, S. (1990). The Usborne Book of Creepy Poems. London: Usborne Publishing.

Rawson, C. (1979). DragonsLondon: Usborne Publishing.

Roxbee Cox, P. (2004, February 21). Obituary: Steven Cartwright. Accessed from


  1. Great post, Andrew. I liked Tell Me It Isn't. :).

  2. It's a weird little book. I'm planning on some more of these strange childhood book influences soon...