Review: The Tolkien Years of the Brothers Hildebrandt, Greg Hildebrandt Jr

Title: The Tolkien Years of the Brothers Hildebrandt (Goodreads)
Author:  Greg Hildebrandt Jr

Rating: ★★★★★

The million- selling Lord of the Rings calendars created during the ’70s by renowned fantasy artists Greg and Tim Hildebrandt are now considered artistic masterpieces. This coffee table art book, “The Tolkien Years of the Brothers Hildebrandt,” collects all that fantastic art, while telling the untold story behind the creation of those cherished illustrations. A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the work of two renowned fantasy artists, written through the eyes of their closest family member, providing Tolkien-lovers with a fantastic treasury of Lord of the Rings art.


Series: Stand alone
Genre: Non-fiction Fantasy artwork collection
Published: Dynamite Entertainment, October 16, 2012
Pages: 144
My copy: From the publisher via Netgalley

Paper copies: • • Book Depository • Barnes & Noble
Not available for e-readers.


During the 1970s Tim and Greg Hildebrandt, twins and fantasy illustrators, produced three calendars for Ballantine Books featuring paintings inspired by The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien.

This coffee-table collection gathers all the art pieces for those calendars, along with a variety of sketches and photographs used in the creation of the paintings. These are accompanied by a delightful commentary written by Greg’s son, Greg Junior, who was the chief model for the hobbits featured in the artworks. Greg Jr was only between five and seven years old at the time the calendar art was being created and he shares a child’s delight and sometimes terror at living in a house with two rather eccentric artists, who he believed were friends with wizards and with Tom Bombadil.

When I was small, I remember reading over and over my parents’ copy of David Day’s Tolkien Beastiary, with its horrible monsters and beautiful places and creatures. I feel the Brothers Hildebrandt’s collection could be another of those – a book to be admired and pored over by dreamers of all ages.

The book contains 134 full colour images covering all the artwork for the three calendars, plus 100 black and white images. Forget the pre-conceived pictures in your mind from the LotR movies – these paintings were produced well before that and show an often quite different interpretation of Tolkien’s world. The images are beautiful – using real-life models and armour and props the Hildebrandts designed and built themselves allowed the brothers to paint with an amazing level of realism. Each picture is finely detailed and I think you might find new hidden things each time you look at them! This review e-copy only contained a selection of the paintings and none of the photos so I’m going to have to get my hands on a real copy soon so that I can admire the full complement. Christmas is coming, after all!

I can’t post any of the artworks here, but you can see a small selection of the Tolkien-inspired paintings at the brothers’ website.

This book will be sure to be enjoyed by all fans of Middle Earth, new or old.

Warnings: None, this is squeaky clean.

Five For Friday: Beautiful Children’s Books

It’s Friday!

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post a Friday Five. I visited the library this morning with my little boy and found a couple of the most beautiful children’s books that I wanted to share. If you have any favourites that I haven’t mentioned, please add them in the comments! I’d love to hear some suggestions.

This week:

Five Beautiful Children’s Books

1. Varmints, Helen Ward & Marc Craste • • Book Depository

The most overlooked threat in the world is the loss of peace and quiet. Can someone find the time and space to stop, think and plant the seeds of change?

There aren’t many words in this book, but the pictures are each a work of art. I could spend hours just looking at each page.

After looking this book up I found out that Helen Ward wrote this story for the filmmaker Marc Craste to make into a thirty-minute film.

Here is the trailer:


2. The Man in the Moon, William Joyce • • Book Depository

The Man in the Moon, William Joyce

Up there in the sky. Don’t you see him? No, not the moon. The Man in the Moon. He wasn’t always a man. Nor was he always on the moon. He was once a child. Like you. Until a battle, a shooting star, and a lost balloon sent him on a quest. Meet the very first guardian of childhood. MiM, the Man in the Moon.

The Man in the Moon is another book with beautiful illustrations. I didn’t get a chance to read all of this one at the library (my son likes to pull all the other books off the shelves), but once he’s a bit older I’ll have to borrow this one out for a proper read. Apparently this book is a prequel of sorts to William Joyce’s other books for slightly older children, such as Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, so perhaps this would be a great gateway book into other fantasy for children.


3. Dinotopia, James Gurney • • Book Depository

Dinotopia, James Gurney

In the year 1860, biologist and explorer Arthur Denison and his son, Will, set out on a sea voyage of discovery and adventure. When a powerful typhoon wrecks the ship in uncharted waters, Arthur and Will are the sole survivors. Washed ashore on a strange island called Dinotopia, they are amazed to find a breathtaking world where cities are built on waterfalls, people have found new ways to fly, and humans and dinosaurs live together in harmony.

We had a copy of Dinotopia when I was small and I remember poring over the beautiful illustrations way after I was too old to be reading picture books. An imaginative world where sentient dinosaurs live and work with humans?  Yes please! At 160 pages, this book is slightly longer and might appeal more to the 7-10 age group.

Dinotopia was made into a mini-series for television in 2002. There are also plenty more books and computer games about Dinotopia!


4. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury • Book Depository

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one! I’m not scared! What a beautiful day…

My mum used to sing We’re Going on a Bear Hunt to us when my siblings and I were little. I was so happy to find this book version of it, complete with beautiful watercolours for each obstacle the bear hunters face! It’s a catchy rhyme, too (even if the subject material of pretending to hunt bears is a little dubious).


5. The Gruffalo & The Gruffalo’s Child, Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler • Book Depository

The Gruffalo said that no gruffalo should
Ever set foot in the deep dark wood.
“Why not, why not?” “Because if you do,
The Big Bad Mouse will be after you!”

These two books are new to our family, but my son loves to look at the beautiful pictures. The rhyming stories in each book are gorgeous – they have great rhythm and are lovely to read aloud. Sadly, they’re a little too wordy for my little one just yet! I’m sure he’ll appreciate it a little more once he understands the stories, but they’re already favourites around here.

The ABC (in Australia) recently screened a half-hour animated version of The Gruffalo’s Child. It was brilliant! Voiced by the likes of Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane, it might be slightly scary for the very little ones but I thought it was gorgeous. If you get a chance to see it, do!


Do you have any favourite beautiful childrens books? Please, share!


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