Sunday, September 30, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007


It's big socks o-clock in Atlas Mews. And I can't quite work out how to make the heating come on...

So, last night was fun. I didn't win but you can't have everything (where would you put it?) I actually knew, as soon as I saw that Polly Dunbar's Penguin was on the same shortlist, that she was sure to win. It's a great book, and she is a wonderful illustrator and author. She had the best shoes in the building last night, too. It really isn't quite fair. There are interviews with several of the shortlisters here, (including me, but you may have just read it here anyway...)

I did get champagne in the post yesterday for my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory work though.

I was more disappointed that Viviane Schwarz didn't win her category, actually. As much as I like Emily Gravett's book. She's already winning things left right and centre. Still, The shortlists were full of genuinely great books. Emma Chichester Clark has made some of my favourite recent picture books and Neil Layton is a genius, and a really nice person to boot (I mean as well, I did not, in fact, enjoy booting him. Or even boot him at all, that I remember. Oh dear, I'm full of dreadful jokes this morning).

And Michael Rosen was there, and I've gone on and on about how great he is so I won't any more. But it was lovely to talk to him, and make plans a little more for the book that I really must be getting a move on with.

Today I have to colour in a different book, a bit relentlessly, or there will be trouble. There's so much talk around at the moment about terrible slumps in UK children's books, and frightening trends in education (It's very good to have Michael and The Big Picture on the case). Yet I have so much work on and I'm still procrastinating like crazy, or looking from one project to another and slumping down dizzy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I am not a number!

Well, not yet anyway, but after a million pages of forms and instructions and at least four weeks of waiting I may well yet become one. Wow, US tax documents are unbelievably complicated (I have a book to do direct for the US). I need a new passport too. And, and...
My desk (Now I'm back in London) is covered in forms and bills and other quite depressing documents.

But there's my invitation to the Booktrust Early Years awards on there, too. So I'll be out on the town tonight.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I wrote a happy birthday tune for someone, and played it very badly here:


I think said birthday will have arrived just about now, even if it won't get here for an hour...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Raises eyebrows

I don't know whether to feel proud, or deeply embarrassed, mildly freaked out, or perhaps legally infringed by this.
I'm sometimes nervous of my reading aloud capabilities, but that makes me feel like one of the world's great communicators by comparison...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Down south

I'm in cornwall visiting my mother and my grandfather. Also working, except I'm using my sore throat as an excuse not to do so much of that as I'd originally intended (bank account says don't keep this up).

My mother owns a painting by Joy Wolfenden Brown and so I am always reminded to go and look at her work when I'm here, I like some of it very much, (click the 'view all image' button on the top right of that link to see a good range).

Today I learned my first whole fiddle tune from written music, and I'm quite proud of that. Enrico. Thomas Hardy's favourite tune. Oh, wait, I've forgotten it...

I did a short e-mail interview for today. Prepare to have heard it all before, unless you haven't. I wanted to say more interesting things about influences and then plumped for my usual. True though:

> Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie and Shark and Lobster’s Amazing Undersea Adventure both have comic book elements, with text appearing in speech bubbles and several different scenes on one page; is this a genre that has influenced you?

Yes, I loved comics as a child, and there are still some that are important to me now. But I am as much influenced by picture book makers who have used these elements. Edward Ardizzone, Sendak, etc. I don't know why these languages are divided up by people though, really. Obviously some things are confusing for the youngest of children, but people often underestimate children's understanding of pictures and graphics.
> You’ve illustrated both your own books and also the work of other authors such as Viviane Schwarz, Malachy Doyle and Roald Dahl; which do you prefer doing?

It's very different. I do like only having to concentrate on visual ideas, and having a springboard that doesn't come only from me. And then each writer is different to work with too. I like doing both, but I do notice recently that I get a better reaction to work that is all mine. And it is beautiful to find children taking things just the way I meant them. Particularly with Dexter Bexley. And I hope also with the forthcoming Addis Berner Bear Forgets. I like to undercut and play with a piece of text, and I do this with my own writing as well as others. And then some of my own writing starts with drawing in the first place. It's mixed up. I'm mixed up.
> You studied at Falmouth College of Art, did you always plan to illustrate picture books and do you feel that today’s art students are encouraged to think of picture book illustration as a viable career option?
I don't know yet if it is a viable career option (laughs), though I've managed ok for seven years... They are certainly encouraged to think it at college though, and that helps I guess. Illustration is still sometimes frowned at by fine art departments, but then I think that a lot of illustration is worth frowning at. So is a lot of fine art. {Edit: I just noticed that I didn't answer all of this question. No I didn't expressly plan to illustrate picture books when I began studying. I didn't not though, either}.

> What materials do you prefer to work with when illustrating?

Oh, I change all the time. From very traditional media to entirely digital, and mostly a mixture of the two. Drawing and spontaneity is the thing though. That I am always striving for, and missing often in finished work.
> Your latest book The Trouble With Wenlocks is an illustrated chapter book; will you be writing any more books for older readers?

Yes, I am just now working on the second draft of the next book in the sequence, or case-book or whatever it is. My, but it is hard for me. All that writing. But very rewarding (not financially, you understand, it certainly isn't that). I don't feel like an author at all, but I think that is self defense of some kind. It's obviously what I am to a degree.
> Which children’s authors and illustrators did you like as a child and who do you admire now?

Sendak was very important to me, and Eric Carle. And also Quentin Blake, who I now know a little (beams with pride). These days I love Edward Ardizzone, Lisbeth Zwerger, Wolf Erlbruch, and lots of others. But I find that I look to my own drawing and sketching now, and also fine art painting, printmaking and drawing, as much as anything. There is still not an author or illustrator that I admire more than Tove Jansson. And I loved the Moomin books as a child. Amazing woman.

After I'd sent the interview off the interviewer sent me this link to an article about Tove.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007