Oliver Jeffers, Australian children's author, illustrator and painter.

"Curiosity is the surest sign of intelligence" ... Oliver Jeffers. Photo: John Midgley

The Bad Tempered Ladybird - Eric Carle

When I was very small, I was fascinated by the last scene where the ladybird picks a fight with a whale. I couldn't wrap my mind around why the whale looked so big when the book was the same size as my other books. Later I realised it was because I could see the ladybird beside the whale making it look enormous. I felt like I'd been let in on a magician's secret.

 

The BFG - Roald Dahl

I wasn't a big reader when I was growing up, preferring to look at pictures in books and play football on the street. Then someone gave me this book. I was hooked. Dahl has such a dark and vivid imagination and such an incredible way of painting stories with words that is impossible to resist. It's a good thing he had written plenty of other books, so I learnt my enjoyment of one book wasn't a freak occurrence.

 

The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein

I was given a copy of this book while I was still in art college. It was right at a time when my illustration and fine-art practiscs were showing all signs of combining and transforming into picture books. This book was the official trigger. It was the best picture book I had read in a long time. It was inspirational in the emotion it generated with so few words and such sparse drawings.

 

Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

It's not only children's books that have had a profound effect on me. Much of my fine-art practice has centred on the gaps between logical and emotional understanding, and this book tackles that area with a kick in the stomach. I liken the structure of it to a piece of music that begins in a cacophony of discordant sounds, which serves only to make the crescendo all the more beautiful when it arrives.

 

A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson

There have been so many interesting things that have occurred that I often prefer to spend my time reading about them, rather than make up things. They say curiosity is the surest sign of intelligence and I subscribe to this school of thought. This book is one of the first nonfiction books that really affected me. Its all about human curiosity. It is terrifying and inspiring in equal measure.

 

Oliver Jeffers is an Australian children's author and illustrator as well as a painter. His latest picture book, The New Jumper (HarperCollins, $24.95), will be published on Tuesday. Jeffers will be a guest at the Sydney Writers' Festival, May14-20 (swf.org.au).