The Charm of Magpies

The Charm of Magpies by Nick Wonham (Incline Press, 2018) 

Introduced by Nick Wonham

I spent 2011 working on the illustrations for my book The Charm of Magpies. For a year my head was full of magpies; I would spot them all over the place and notice the way they arranged and positioned themselves.

Initially, once I had the idea to illustrate the traditional magpie counting poem, I envisaged it simply as a growing number of magpies perched in leafless trees with a blue sky background. I quickly realised this would make a dull book and began to think of different structures and colours I could use. This then led me to think of how the colours and structures could symbolically reflect the words of the rhyme. So ‘1 for sorrow’ is situated on a barbed wire fence with a sombre blue background colour, while ‘2 for joy’ has the magpies in their natural environment with bright yellow. I also wanted the colours to contrast and compliment each other as the reader goes through the book.

Some of the structures are based on photographs taken close to home. ‘4 for a boy’ shows a telegraph pole in the countryside near where we go on regular walks; ‘5 for silver’ pictures a silver birch tree from my back garden; ‘7 for a secret never to be told’ features CCTV and speed cameras from my regular commute down Seven Sisters Road. Once I was happy with the abstracted composition, formed by the structure, I would then populate the image with magpies. The exception is ’10 for a bird you must not miss’ where the pattern of the magpie’s plumage creates the abstracted design.

The Charm of Magpies is letterpress published by Incline Press in a limited edition of 160 copies and the illustrations are printed directly from the lino blocks.


The Charm of Magpies was launched at The Story of Books at 20, Castle Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5DF on Saturday 24 November 2018. Thank you to all who joined us for this event.






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Next Saturday 24 November at The Story of Books: Winter Wayzgoose 10am-3pm also two new exhibitions: #NoWords – celebration of wordless picture books, 250 Years of John Murray – the story of a publishing house. Then at 6pm drinks and launch of ‘The Charm of Magpies’ from Incline Press, and the Rhona Muirhead Prize for printing.
Free entry. All welcome.


More details at
The Story of Books – where stories are told and books are made
20, Castle Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5DF



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