So this is it, the first blog post from my newly refurbished online home. I must admit I feel a little sad to leave the old blog behind, but it makes sense to have everything here in one place. And there's plenty to look forward to, with 3 new books publishing in 2014. If you've not previously dipped in and out of my blog before, welcome aboard and if you were a regular follower I thank you for your support.
Spring has finally sprung here in York, the daffodils are out and so is my new board book Hooray For Hoppy! Following on from my other two concept books, WOW! Said The Owl, a first book of colours and TIP TAP Went The Crab, a first book of counting, it's a book that encourages young children to spot the first signs of spring through use of the five main senses.
Readers join Hoppy as he hops down the hill in search of spring. The colour palette is suitably spring-like: I was inspired by the pretty boxes of macaroons Bettys teashop sells here in York. A paperback edition will be published in spring 2015. A US hardback edition is also planned for 2015. Hooray!
Hello! This is the new place to keep an eye on all things Hoppable.
So what have you learnt this week that you didn't know before? Well, as it happens quite a lot! Last week was Week ONE of the Northern Childrens Book Festival. This year the festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary, which is quite an achievement considering the political backdrop of major spending cuts throughout the North East.
The festival aims to bring authors and illustrators to as many schools and libraries throughout the region as possible. During the course of the week I spoke to well over 700 children and visited Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, Durham and North Tyneside. I was out and about reading my new book BIG (Picture Corgi) and because it's a book all about growing bigger, I incorporated some measuring into my events.
Did you know that most 6 year olds are between 18 and 22 cream crackers tall? And that your average 5 year old is 88 popcorns tall? And the majority of teachers I met last week were 5.5 pizzas tall. Do you know how tall you are in the alphabet? Most of the children I met were between P and V, although one lad did make it way past Z!
So what did the children I met learn about me? Amongst other things,they learnt that as an author/illustrator I have two desks, (each 40 paperclips long) one for writing and one for drawing. They learnt that the only certificate I ever won at school was for 100% attendance (or a failure to catch chickenpox!) and that my career as a picture book creator started by my writing a note to myself which read 'STOP WATCHING EASTENDERS'. Seven years on, 12 books published and I've not watched an episode since.
What a difference a little sunshine can make. I felt inspired to do some BRIGHT prints, because here in England we don't get many days like these..
Woebegone! It's not a word that crops up very often and certainly not in picture books. And how about lugubrious? that's another word that rarely sees the light of day. But you'll find both of these words in Joyce Dunbar's new book 'Twinkle, Twinkle Squiglet Pig'. Quite fitting I think for a story that is set at the bottom of the ocean in almost complete darkness. It's also a story full of weird and wonderful fish, all of which are based on real deep sea creatures. I know some may feel that words like woebegone and lugubrious don't belong in a picture book, because they're not words that children will instantly understand and adults will need to explain their meaning. Other words would do: why not use miserable or sad? they're far more child-friendly. But woebegone rolls around on your tongue, it's so much more expressive than miserable. And how exciting to discover a new word like lugubrious. It's fun to learn how to get your mouth around new words and make new sounds. Try saying lugubrious out loud and you'll be doing a fine impression of a fish!
New words are all part of sharing a good bedtime read. So hooray for Joyce for introducing us to some unfamiliar words and to some unfamiliar creatures too!
Joyce Dunbar's new book Twinkle, Twinkle, Squiglet Pig is out tomorrow! It's my first collaboration with another author. I must admit I was a little apprehensive about illustrating someone else's story having only ever illustrated my own, but I couldn't resist Squiglet Pig's optimism and charm!
One of the things I loved about this project was the dark, underwater world where the story is set. It's quite unusual to have a picture book set entirely in the dark! Vibrant colourful artwork is what publishers usually want to see. I was really keen to create backgrounds that were as dark as possible, so the colour in the book (and don't worry,there is plenty!) is provided by an array of quirky colourful fishy characters. Some are tiny, but set against the dark backgrounds they shine out like precious jewels.
I should also mention Ulla Valentiner, the designer of the book. Ulla certainly had her work cut out for her on this project. It was a big challenge making sure the type remained legible throughout while keeping the backgrounds rich and dark. Thank you Ulla!
On Thursday July 4th, Joyce and I will be at The Book Hive in Norwich for the official launch of Twinkle, Twinkle, Squiglet Pig so if you're in the area do pop along (6.30 - 8.30 pm) and say hello.
My new book BIG! is inspired by memories of growing taller as a child. You know the sort of thing: like the first time you spot yourself in the bathroom mirror without having to stand on a stool or a chair and it’s not because someone’s been going round the house lowering mirrors and light-switches. YOU'VE GROWN! And when you’re small, suddenly growing 2cm can completely change your view of the world: things that were once out of sight are now in full view, like the biscuit tin.
BIG! is about finding your place in the world. You may be the smallest in your family, you may be the smallest in your school, but compared with an ant you’re a GINORMOUS giant! And who knows, if you keep on growing you may end up taller than your mum or dad...now imagine that!
BIG! is a celebration of all things that grow. There’s nothing quite as fascinating for a child as planting a small seed and watching it grow up, Up UP! And if that seed just happens to be a sunflower seed, the transformation can be truly astonishing.
To celebrate RECORD STORE DAY 2013 I've put together a list of some my favourite lines from my vinyl collection. Like many others I used to spend hours reading album covers, even studying the codes on the actual vinyl looking for clues, hungry for more information on my favourite bands and artists. Oh how times have changed!