Jan Pienkowski

The Odyssey

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The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus and his ten year journey home after the Trojan War. Confronted by threat after threat and adventure after adventure, Odysseus’s courage and cunning are tested to the full before he reaches his homeland. This beautifully illustrated version is the perfect introduction to this ancient classic tale.

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This seemed the perfect book for today as Jan Pienkowski has just been awarded the 2019 BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award. Here at JAB HQ, we are huge fans of his work and have used his books regularly over the years to inspire art work, to encourage writing and for the love of reading so we are delighted by this news and offer our congratulations along with everyone else!

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Each stage of Odysseus’s journey is introduced by a short rhyme, adding to the story telling feel which the story maintains. Vivid, engaging illustrations bring each episode to life, matching the evocative language of the text. The original story has been simplified sympathetically, losing none of the power of the original and a guide at the end of the book explains how the Greek names should be pronounced. This is a brilliant introduction to the adventures of Odysseus which can be enjoyed by everyone.

The Odyssey Jan Pienkowski and David Walser

Puffin ISBN: 978-0241298794

You can read our review of ‘The Glass Mountain’ here.

You can read out review of more books illustrated by Jan Pienkowski here.

A Necklace of Raindrops


Born this day in 1924, Joan Aiken was the author of many children's books, including The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series and the Arabel and Mortimer series. However, my favourite is 'A Necklace of Raindrops', a collection of eight brilliantly imaginative stories. Each is a short, magical tale, beautifully told, perfect for sharing.


This collection has been re-released and illustrated by others, but my version is full of the glorious silhouette pictures of Jan Pienkowski which add a touch of magic. 

The stories offer lots of opportunities for discussion and for developing re-tellings, puppet shows, art work inspired by the pictures in this version and for creating original tales. 


Joan Aiken wrote so many wonderful stories, offering something to appeal to everyone. 'A Necklace of Raindrops' is just one of many to enjoy.

A Necklace of Raindrops   Jan Aiken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski

Puffin   ISBN: 978-0140307542

The Glass Mountain


All the features of traditional tales can be found in this lovely collection of folk tales from Poland.

Told to Jan Pienkowski by the lady who lived next door to him when a child, he in turn told them to David Walser. In the best tradition of folk tales, David Walser has then added his own imaginings and details to these stories, making them his own.

Paper-cutting is a form of traditional folk art and the introduction shares how Jan Pienkowski learned these skills in his childhood. The book is full of these distinctive and bold illustrations that help to bring the stories to life. 

The result is a collection of pacey and well told tales that would be great for using with older children. There is a darker element to many of the tales which would compare well to some of the original Grimm stories and contrast well with modern versions, provoking much discussion about style and genre.  

Children could write their own versions of the tales, experimenting with changing the endings/ characters etc. There is also a very helpful pronunciation guide at the beginning; this would be excellent for encouraging children from Polish backgrounds to help others pronounce the words correctly whilst looking at the stories would value their culture and heritage. 

A great resource for those of us who love to share tales from around the world, 'The Glass Mountain' is a must-have for class and school libraries.


The Glass Mountain: Tales from Poland

Retold by David Walser, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski

Walker Books   ISBN:  978-1406348651