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Graeme Base - Children's Author Extrordinaire

Updated on September 25, 2014

How would you like to immerse yourself and your children in entrancing tales, creative pictures, mysteries, and puzzles every time you sit down to read?  Australian children's author Graeme Base takes you there with his innovative stories and picture books that almost always involve layer upon layer of images and meaning.

Get To Know Graeme Base

Graeme Rowland Base, born 6 April 1958, is a well known Illustrator extraordinaire, author, composer, musician, singer, playwright, television producer and most significantly, problem solver. He received inspiraton for his work starting at a young age as he was always attracted by the complex, the clever, the weird and wonderful. Not only would he invent complicated puzzles and games, he would immerse himself in the bizarre worlds of Alice In Wonderland and later The Lord Of The Rings, and relish the witty verse of Edward Lear or comedy duo Flanders and Swann.

Somehow he is able to draw animals that are both cartoony and lifelike at the same time. Rich colors and intricate details imbue every scene, on every page, in every book, to the point of wonder. He is perhaps best known for his second book, Animalia published in 1986, and third book The Eleventh Hour which was released in 1989.

He was born in Amersham, England but moved to Australia with his family at the age of eight where he attended Box Hill High School and Melbourne High School in Melbourne, and then studied a Diploma of Art (Graphic Design) for three years at Swinburne University of Technology at Prahran.

He worked in advertising for two years and then began illustrating children's books. Eventually he began to wirte them as well. His very first book, My Grandma lived in Gooligulch, was accepted by the first publisher he sent it to in 1983.

Base acknowledges his blessed life has been the product of hard work but also a good dose of luck. Now aged 50 with three teenage children from his 28-year marriage to Robyn, he shows no sign of slowing down. "I'm never short of an idea" he says. "I've done 12 books in 25 years and I have another 12 books instantly in my head."

photo source:


This was the very first book by Graeme Base I purchased when my son was just an infant and probably Graeme Bases most popular book, it has sold over 3 million copies.

Its an alphabet book but far from your ordinary alphabet book. Each page representing each letter of the alphabet is filled with illustrations that all begin with that same letter. Immediately I was mesmerized by the illustrations - the art work is both creative and inspired. One could easily spend hours pouring over one single page trying to identify everything possible, they are so filled and imaginative.

What I like most is that Graeme Base strives to include absolutely everything, from mythological creatures, to Christian symbols, to different types of animals and people in different types of styles and clothing within the artwork. This allows for many, many teachable moments for your children. Animalia, like all of his books is layered, a habit that has become his niche in children's publishing, so that they hold appeal for readers of all ages.

Animalia review of this book says - Base leaves us stunned and amazed, painting reflections into the oddest surfaces and driving the urge to page-turn. This wonderful picture book works for 2-year-olds, 5-year-olds, and adults alike--something few other alphabet books can manage.


Searching Animalia

Reading Animalia and still looking for all the things on each page that begin with the highlighted letter?

Animalia The TV Show

When Graeme Base wrote Animalia, the technology needed to turn it into a television show didn't exist, but word of Base's achievements with it and subsequent books such as The Eleventh Hour did reach Hollywood and finally, after many years in the making, a television show based on the book was produced and first aired in 2007.

The show, made with the participation of of the Ten Network, the BBC, PBS in America and CBC in Canada has characters with accents from all over the world creating a show that's international rather than American or Australian.

The show has a subtle message about culture, diversity, and difference.

The Animalia Website

The website, based on the popular book and television series is just as impressive as the book with amazing illustrations and activities for children.

On the Animalia website, students are introduced to the characters of Animalia, the goal of the Animalia site, Animalia news, and games and activities. The Animalia site brings students on a wonderful adventure where their goal is to collect all of the "core spores" to restore the Core of Animalia. Students collect the core spores by going on several adventures where they will play learning games, discover, and follow directions.

Games and activities include logic puzzles, memory skills, code cracking, map reading, and listening skills. The listening game is called Toucan Talk and asks students to listen to a message in the wrong order, and change the order of words or sounds so that the message makes sense. The site is extremely interactive. Students will love becoming part of the adventure.

The Water Hole

Who can resist the allure of the hidden wilderness water hole? With his usual elaborate detail, Graeme Base, presents a one-of-a-kind counting book with the water hole. Naturally, LIke his other books you will linger over every page, first counting the highlighted animals, then the colorful cartoon frogs, and finally the silhouetted creatures around the borders hidden subtly within the illustration. You also enjoy the diminishing size of the die-cut hole in the pond.

Something else to note is that the images in the background of the various landscapes help pinpoint the country or continent in focus which is different for each page. (e.g., Mount Rushmore is visible through the trees that flank five North American moose lapping up water and the Great Wall of China looms behind seven thirsty pandas). The final beautifully drawn panorama reveals all the species gathered back peacefully at one much larger water hole, bringing the story to a cheery close.

The Water Hole
The Water Hole

Every time I read this book with my son, who absolutely loves it, we find something new to look at and talk about, now thats a book worth having. Ages 4-8.


"I don't actually shy away from [the] suggestion that my work is self-centred. Every artist has to have this core of a need to do something which is personal and which does represent an outpouring of one's self and one's own view of the world and one's needs. How others react to that is the next tier of how the art should operate." Graeme Base

The Eleventh Hour

Another beautifully illustrated book, this one geared for the older child, is a mystery to be solved. Someone has stolen the birthday feast and clues are to be found on each page as to who done it. It took my husband and I longer than I care to admit to solve the mystery, searching through the cryptic messages in Egyptian hieroglyphics, anagrams, and even Morse code. There's even a clue hidden in musical notes. We sure had fun with this one!

The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery
The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery

The simple story and wonderful illustrations will delight younger children while older children who love puzzles and putting things together will be engrosed in trying to solve the mystery. It takes a sharp mind, patience and some logical thinking skills, qualities we would all like to see our children develop.


Sign Of The Seahorse

The Sign of the Seahorse, first published in 1992, follows the members of Reeftown in their journey to protect their beloved coral reef against the greed of an evil grouper and his croniess. Base originally designed the story to become a narrated concert, and it was adapted as an opera with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2001. The high-minded ecological story is composed of two acts, each set with high adventure, romance, and intrigue, a hero and villain, and an eventual triumph of "good over evil". Like much of Base's work, The Sign of the Seahorse is written in rhyming couplets organized into four line stanzas. Of course, like all of his other books, the book is filled with vibrant illustrations and hidden pictures children of all ages delight in finding, including 42 hidden sea horses.

The Sign of the Seahorse: A Tale of Greed and High Adventure in Two Acts (Picture Puffins)
The Sign of the Seahorse: A Tale of Greed and High Adventure in Two Acts (Picture Puffins)

Cleverly written and beautifully illustrated and as with all of Graeme Base books, you will spend hours pouring over each page.


The Art Of Graeme Base

This unique book, lavishly illustrated with original art and offers never before seen photographs and art. It is an evocative look at the life and work of Graeme Base.

This book goes beyond his children’s book legacy to offer a candid peek into the mind of a creative genius. Beginning with Base’s own storybook childhood in England, we see how his imagination was fed by his family’s love of music, literature, and nature; and how his talent was enriched by travel, teachers, friends, and his wife and their three children.

From Base’s earliest drawings, pop-up cards, and homemade board games, through his years as a teenager and rock musician, and through a quarter-century of published books, we learn about the artists, musicians, writers, and humorists who inspired him, and witness the working of one artist’s extraordinary mind.

The Art of Graeme Base
The Art of Graeme Base

This book traces the inspiration and creation of each of Base's books, supplying publishing anecdotes as well as information about accompanying musical and cinematic works, such as the television series based on Animalia. Throughout, integrated quotes by the illustrator deepen the text, as do his often-witty captions for the visuals.


Graeme's Latest Work - Enigma

Book review adapted from the Montreal Gazette (Oct 2008)

His latest volume - Enigma: A Magical Mystery - is reminiscent of The Eleventh Hour in that it is something of a whodunit, and uses such familiar illustrative elements as detailed and eye-catching frames for the double-page spreads, as well as clues to follow in solving the mystery. This time around, we're looking for the culprit who absconded with various magical props belonging to various magicians living in a special retirement home.

As is the case in every Base book, the characters are anthropomorphic animals. In this case, a young badger named Bertie and his grandfather, a retired magician once known as Gadzooks the Great, are central to the story, which is named for Grandpa's magic bunny: Enigma.

Enigma ("a puzzling, perplexing or unexplained thing," according to the Canadian Oxford dictionary) says it all - maybe not for the average 8- or 9-year-old, but certainly for the adult reading this text aloud. It's just one example of Base's ability to cross generations and make his books appealing to all ages. Even if you're not wild about a text written in verse, you'll admire the way he works in rhythms and sounds that show off the English language at its best.

Describing Bertie's Grandpa, for example, Base writes:

From London to the Spanish Steps, from Prague to Kathmandu,

Then on to the Antipodes and back through Timbuktu,

For fifty years he'd wowed the crowds and roundly been admired,

But now he lived a quiet life - Gadzooks the Great (Retired).

Enigma marks the solution for a problem that "had been bugging me half my life" Base says- namely: how to reseal the key to solving a mystery.

In The Eleventh Hour, the key is contained in pages that are sealed shut (although, Base admitted, you could cheat by squeezing those pages just so). Once that seal is broken, however, some of the fun is lost to other readers of that particular book. How to reseal became the question that plagued the author/illustrator.

With evident delight, he said he finally solved it. Turning to the back of the new book, you see curtain-like flaps which expose a section that contains three ingenious dials and a coded alphabet. "When you've worked it out, you can spin these dials like a bike lock," he announced triumphantly. And voilà! The next reader is faced with an unsolved mystery.

The publisher aims this book at ages 4 to 8. Given my own pitiful performance as a sleuth, I suspect that range is kind of low and that the book is better in the hands of 6- to 10-year-olds.


Like all of Bases work the story is engaging and entertaining, filled with puzzles, problems hidden codes and pictures to be found. The story has young Bertie Badger going from room-to-room in the Entertainers' retirement home to solve the mystery of the missing props. Each page and each entertainer, represtents a different country. Like Animalia, like The Waterhole, like so many of Base's other books, the details of the backdrops add significantly to the richness and the texture of the tale he weaves. The added feature of a moving panel in the back cover that reveals a secret code is super fun and the dials must be turned in just the right setting before it can be moved

Enigma: A Magical Mystery
Enigma: A Magical Mystery

Young magicians and puzzle-lovers alike will be thoroughly engaged, Another Graeme Base must have. Grades 2-4


More Books By Graeme Base - All well worth the read

Jungle Drums
Jungle Drums

An oversized book for the younger child, Jungle Drums once again offers Graeme Bases witty text and famous illustrations to engage both children and those who read to them. In this book, lushly detailed paintings of long-lashed warthogs, a blushing zebra, a bearded wildebeest, and other creatures invite kids to look closely and often. Children will have a great deal of fun figuring out whose parts belong to whom after Ngiri's drumming causes the animals' features to transfer from one critter to another. An afterword by Base will send everyone back through the pages yet again in search of the wise wildebeest that is hidden in every picture. Most of the time he's relatively easy to spot; occasionally however, kids will need patience and a keen eye to find him.

The Discovery of Dragons: New Research Revealed
The Discovery of Dragons: New Research Revealed

The Discovery of Dragons: New Research Revealed is a revised edition of Graeme Base's original 1996 release. The original Discovery of Dragons featured the letters of three fictional explorers as they discovered various dragon species in Europe, Asia, and the tropics. This updated edition introduces a new explorer, as he travels through North America. the artwork is entrancing, the storyline is original and humorous and the book is geared to older children ages 9 - 12

Uno's Garden
Uno's Garden

This book, for grades 2-5 is a great starting point for a discussion about conservation. Children will enjoy searching the pictures, counting the plants and animals, and finding the elusive Snortlepig. It also has some great math lessons along the way

Worst Band in the Universe
Worst Band in the Universe

With relentless rhyme this imaginative story includes - deliriously detailed panoramas,smooth-skinned, bug-eyed creatures of endless variety. It even includes a fun CD recording of the band competition.


Thanks For Visiting - I would love to hear from you

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Please relaunch your jigsaw puzzles from your Animalia book I loved doing them so much .

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      You don't have the book Truck Dogs

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great selection of Graeme Base books for children!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      8 years ago from United States

      These all look wonderful!

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice lens - and he's a fantastic artist! I remember his books. Blessed by an angel.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      8 years ago from USA

      These books look interesting! Nice work.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Looks like a really great series of children's books. Very nice lens.

    • ZenandChic profile image


      8 years ago

      Wonderful lens!


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