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Niamh Sharkey, Illustrator
One day, when they have no food left, Jack's mom sends him to market to sell Daisy the cow. On the way, Jack bumps into a funny little man wearing a big, baggy jacket with big, baggy pockets. In the pockets lie six bewitched beans. Author, Richard Walker's gleeful retellilng of this much loved faily tale dances hand-in-hand with Niamh Sharkey's off-beat and original artwork. Here's a treat...vintage Jack and the Giant

It is said that Tolstoy was the first to tell this story about the turnnip that grows to a collossal size and won't budge. It doesn't matter. Children will be delighted with this telling and the artwork that brings the farmer, his wife and their cavalcade of animals to unearth this GIGANTIC turnip.

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Niamh Sharkey graduated in 1994 with First Class Honors from the College of Marketing and Design, Dublin, Ireland. She was also chosen as “Student of the Year” in the Graphics category by the Society of Designers in Ireland.She has been quick to establish her reputation as an exceptional picture book illustrator with Tales of Wisdom & Wonder (1998), and The Gigantic Turnip (1999) and is currently working on an anthology of Irish stories.

An Interview with Niamh Sharkey

Q. What prompted you to embark on a career as an illustrator?

A. I have been drawing since I was a child and I always had my head “stuck in a book”! I was at my happiest drawing and reading. Illustrating children’s books is a chance for me to combine my two passions.

Q. What do you think are your main influences?

A. I grew up on a mixture of Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Sesame Street and The Muppets, Dennis the Menace, The Wizard of Oz, Walt Disney, Mother Goose and any other books that found their way into my hands. I love everything about books: the look, the smell, the touch, the words.

Q. Your work has a very distinctive depth and richness. How do you achieve this effect?

A. I work in oils on a gessoed textured background. This is a slow process, as each layer of paint must be allowed to dry before another layer can be added, but it produces a richness of color that other mediums would not allow.

Q. What do you find the most challenging aspects of picture book illustration?

A. The major challenge is translating the imagery in my head onto the page. I am always looking for a different perspective, a new way of looking at the world. So it is a little daunting sitting down in front of a blank canvas, and making the first mark!

Q. Do you have a dream project that you would like to develop in the future?

A. I lived and traveled in Australia and the Indian subcontinent during this time. I illustrated Tales of Wisdom & Wonder when I was living in a house at the foot of Mount Wellington in Hobart, Tasmania. I am sure that I have been influenced by my travels. The colors and places and people that I met are stored away in my memory. I expect that many of them will pop up in my paintings in the future.