First Icelander to win the New York Times Best Illustrated Chldren's Book Skip to content

First Icelander to win the New York Times Best Illustrated Chldren’s Book

An Icelandic artist, who says the saga of the Icelandic people inspires her, has received rave reviews in the US for her illustrations in a children’s book about Icelandic women and chicken.

“The Problem with Chickens”, a children’s book written by Bruce McMillan, illustrated by Icelandic artist Gunnella, was recently selected as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book. The book has also been selected by Publishers Weekly as a Best Illustrated Children’s Book and received “starred reviews” in both the School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.

“It is enjoyable how well received the book has been – I didn’t expect it,” Gunnella told Morgunbladid.

According to Gunnella, the renowned children’s writer Bruce McMillan walked into her art exhibition in 2003, and asked her if he could photograph her paintings and write a book around them.

“Gunnella’s paintings have a narrative quality about them, and people always smile when viewing her art at an exhibition. I saw a book in them. With so many paintings with chickens I knew I could develop a story, I did and Gunnella liked it. Then Gunnella filled in the few gaps where we needed new art. Though humor fills her art, Gunnella is a serious painter, perhaps one of Iceland’s finest present day artists, and I am honored that she has gone forward with our book,” said McMillan.

Gunnella says she gets her ideas from old photos, “especially photos that show the daily lives of people at the beginning of the last century…the Saga of the Icelandic people is quite amazing. It was so very difficult to survive here on this rocky Iceland in the north.”

Gunnella said that she’s been told that her paintings show that women can do whatever they want, “I like that.”

According to the book’s description “When the ladies in a small Icelandic village have no eggs for cooking, they solve their problem by getting some chickens. But when the chickens stop laying eggs, the ladies have to hatch a very clever plan to solve the problem with the chickens. This original tale featuring Icelandic culture and traditions is sure to leave you smiling with admiration for these clever Icelandic ladies.”

This is McMillan’s 44th book children’s and Gunnella’s first.

To read reviews for “The Problem with Chickens” reviews and view Gunnella’s art please click here.

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