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Jenny Cooper

Jenny Cooper’s Biography

Last Updated:
14/05/2019, 2:17 pm
Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award 2015
Picture book illustrations nurture imagination. They are integral to story-telling. Illustrations provide a multi-sensory learning experience that aids an in depth understanding of an otherwise complex medium. As celebrated Russian illustrator Esphyr Slobodkina believed ‘these aesthetic impressions, just like the moral teachings of early childhood, remain indelible’ and may influence children for the rest of their lives.

Following the sale of Mallinson Rendel Independent Book Publishing Company, Ann Mallinson wanted to continue to support and celebrate the skill of New Zealand’s top picture book illustrators, and so, in 2011, thanks to a generous donation, the Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award was established. On alternate years, a voluntary panel convene to select an illustrator whose work is published and is of a very high standard. David Elliot was the first to receive the non-strings attached award, followed by Gavin Bishop in 2013. Christchurch based artist Jenny Cooper is this year’s Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award recipient.

Jenny has been a freelance illustrator for the past twenty-five years and has worked on over seventy picture books, including the very successful Topp Twins series of books, plus a number of wonderful World War One books in collaboration with Glyn Harper.

Whether a pencil sketch or a realistic, photographic based style, Jenny’s illustrations jump out of the page with an invigorating spirit. Her work has been influenced by the three years she spent living in Western Samoa where she taught at Samoa High School. Jenny continues to work on books that are relevant to very young and Maori and Pacific children.

‘Each new book is completely different and a new adventure. I love developing the different characters for each book, and I begin each one thinking it will be my best, although illustration is a complicated art and there is always a huge gap between what I see in my head and what I produce on the page. I particularly love drawing animals of all sorts, although I am in fact scared of almost all large animals, which makes my research difficult.'

Cooper won the 1998 New Zealand Post Student Stamp Design award and the 1998 Telecom New Zealand White Pages Art Award. She has been short-listed twice in the LIANZA Russell Clark Illustration Awards, for The Pipi and the Mussels by Dot Meharry (Reed, 2001) and Down in the Forest by Yvonne Morrison (Scholastic, 2004). The Mad Tadpole Adventure (Scholastic, 2007), by Melanie Drewery and illustrated by Cooper, was nominated in the junior fiction category for the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was listed as a 2008 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.

Her other awards include: the Storylines Notable Books 2000 Picture Book list for The Wooden Fish, the Storylines Notable Books 2002 Junior Fiction list for The Great Pavlova Cover-up, the Storylines Notable Books 2003 Picture Book list for Duck Walk, the Storylines Notable Books 2008 Junior Fiction list for The Mad Tadpole Adventure, the Storylines Notable Books 2008 Picture Book list Special Mention for The Illustrated Myths & Legends of the Pacific, the Storylines Notable Books 2011 Picture Book list for Ria the Reckless Wrybill, and in 2015 two Storylines Notable Book Awards- for A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children (edited by Paula Green) and Jim's Letters (written by Glyn Harper). Also in 2015, Jenny won the coveted New Zealand Book Award, picture book category, for Jim’s Letters.

“Jenny is a greatly admired and very experienced artist who has illustrated a large number of picture books. Her work is always of the highest standard. She can tackle any subject, and if it requires more than her wonderful imagination, she will do thorough research. She is still in mid-career, and is a perfect recipient for this Award.” - Ann Mallinson