Fiction Ed’s Blog: Illustrating Our ‘Fireside Book’ Poetry

This week, I thought we might look at how the poetry in our lovely little ‘Fireside Book’ is illustrated.

Poetry In “The Fireside Book”

Poetry Editor, Abbie, is on the lookout for ‘Fireside’ poetry all year round.

Abbie sources 15 poems for each season – so sixty in total. The poems are a mix of themes – seasonal, general, and based around special days and events, such as Christmas.

Once the poems are gathered together, Abbie sends them over to Illustrations Editor, Manon.

Artwork: Manon Gandiolle

The Artwork

To make sure the styles of illustration are varied throughout the book, Manon divides the artwork for the poems between herself and “Friend” illustrator, Mandy Dixon.

In each season, one person is given all the odd numbers to illustrate, and the other has all the ‘evens’ – so thirty each, in total.

Artwork: Manon Gandiolle

The Beauty Of The Poems

“The beauty of the poems is that they all are inspiring”, Manon says.

“I like illustrating them, because it’s not about drawing something very precise, it’s about trying to depict an emotion. Kind of like painting a blurry dream.”

Artwork: Mandy Dixon


Artwork: Mandy Dixon

The Practical Side Of Illustrating

“We have to make sure that the illustration works well as a background, complementing the poem, and leave enough “empty space” so the designer can place the text without hiding any important elements.

“I try to give Mandy a head start, and only start my illustrations when I have received a few of hers, so I can make sure that mine aren’t too similar in style and colours, especially with the adjacent one.”

Artwork: Manon Gandiolle

“The Fireside Book”

“The Fireside Book” was first published in 1968 as “The Fireside Book Of David Hope”, and originally featured poetry from inspirational poet, Douglas Jamieson Fraser.

“Friend” Archivist, Barry Sullivan, had a look through our Archive and found the first three original covers.

The first ‘Fireside Book’, 1968

The Fireside Book 1969

The Fireside Book 1970

The Fireside Book 2022 is available now.


Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 150 years of 'Friend' fiction!