22 Aug 2009

Peg Maltby

I wish I could tell you that Pepita's Party was a must-have Australian Living Book.

It's not.

Peg Maltby's skill was in illustration, not writing, and her short rather twee stories were written to tie together her beautiful illustrations rather than the other way around. That said, Pepita's Party is better than many of her stories, and her lovely pictures, massed with detail, are just exquisite. Set around Christmas time, our copy has found a happy home in the Christmas basket, where it will be reread with pleasure, if not the anticipation that accompanies some of the better written treasures contained therein.

Peg Maltby was born in England, and you'll see a significant British influence in her work. The woodland animals and gentle countryside are much more evident in her illustrations than in May Gibbs', for example, although some of her later work shows a large contribution from Gibbs herself with kookaburras and even nut babies.

Peg's Fairy Book is the book to look out for. Its five editions sold more than 180,000 copies and it certainly contains much of her best work. It was republished by Angus and Robertson in 1975, and you can occasionally find a copy of this newer edition at a reasonable price, although Peg Maltby's books are never cheap, mainly because of the option of individually framing the prints. This book firmly established her as one of the greats of Australian children's illustration, and I am surprised at her lack of web presence. There is not even a Wikipedia entry for her!

Peg's magical world of fairies and elves, mice and hedgehogs, robins and wrens guarantees that her work will be popular with young girls, and Jemimah just loves her.

Do keep a look out when you're browsing through the shelves of your local secondhand bookstore - you may come out with a treasure!!


  1. Hi Jeanne,
    What beautiful illustrations they are, too!

    I have an award waiting for you on my blog. ☺


  2. Thank you for you sharing! Certainly looks like a book my dd would read over and over! Pity I am not near second hand books shops very often! x

  3. I have an award waiting for you at my blog.
    May the lord bless you and yours.

  4. Jeanne! I just blogged about her fairy book not realising Pepita's Party was by the same author. Her illustrations are exquisite, aren't they?! I know why I own these things [used to be a children's librarian]...what's your excuse? ☺

  5. As a child my Grandparent's had a Holiday House next door to Peg Maltby's Studio in Olinda. Somewhere packed away in a box I have some of her Books and my Siblings and myself all had paintings done by Peg, which later on adorned our Children's Rooms!! Alas I think that was the end of them, not sure where they ended up!!
    Have memories of visiting her Studio whenever I went to Olinda with my Grandparent's - those were the days!!!


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