Thursday, 10 August 2017

How did they come from Zabalooloo? Behind the scenes with Sean Taylor

We are friends on epic adventure to Planet Earth! We got space ship! OOH LA LA!
From Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley comes a wildly inventive, contemporary picture book comedy about aliens. Boron, Bazoo and Zob are three extra-terrestrials on a mission. They’re going to get a 'big-sized thing' from Earth and bring it back to their home planet, Zabalooloo! Something like … an enormous elephant! 
But this goofy, giddy trio are simply too overexcited – they’re never going to catch anything if they keep wiggle-woggle dancing, taking selfies and shouting, “Ooh la la!”.

Behind the scenes with Sean Taylor

We’re excited to welcome Sean Taylor to the Picture Book Party blog for a behind-the-scenes on the making of They Came from Planet Zabalooloo!

Like lots of interesting creations, the plot for They Came from Planet Zabalooloo! started when two unconnected things met.
First, I had a story in my head. The title was: THEY CAME BY SPACE BICYCLES! Here’s my scribbled plan for that story:
If you can read any of that, you’ll see it’s a plan for a story about a group aliens arriving on planet Earth. Armies, fire brigades and TV reporters assume they are dangerous invaders. But it turns out they’re only after something they don’t have on their planet: rock’n’roll records

I knew this wouldn’t make a good picture book story. Alien planet-invasion is a big theme for a small book. Rock’n’roll records may mean something to old codgers like me, but they won’t mean and awful lot to 3-6 year-old picture book readers. So, this scribbled plan lay around on the floor in my studio, going nowhere fast (by space bicycle.)
Then one tea-time, our son Rafa (now seven…then five) decided he’d entertain us by acting out something his teacher, Mr Hewitt, had got his class to do. It was a piece of fun where the teacher calls out the names of different kinds of beans, and the children strike particular poses. ‘FROZEN BEANS!’ means you wrap your arms around yourself and shiver. ‘RUNNER BEANS!’ means you run on the spot. And so on.

It’s a fairly well-known game. But Rafa, being a naturally hilarious performer, managed to give the different beans all sorts of extra life. And he especially delighted in the ‘FRENCH BEANS!’ pose. For this you put one hand on your hip, one hand on your ribs and say, “Ooh la la!” He had us falling about laughing. So “Ooh la la!  was repeated rather a lot. And, actually, every time it seemed to make us laugh more.

I’ve published over 25 picture books and so I’m forever collecting potential ingredients for picture book stories. So I scribbled, Characters who love saying ‘Ooh la la!’ pic book? into my notebook.

Then the meeting of two unconnected things happened. The story of aliens on a mission to get something from planet Earth bumped into the possibility of Characters who love saying ‘Ooh la la!’ And a proper picture book story was born.
I imagined aliens who say, “Ooh la la!” They were small, young and excitable. They liked disco music and silly dancing. They wanted to get a ‘big-size thing’ from Earth to take back to their planet. How about an elephant?

What was blurry, came into focus. And when a blurry story comes into focus it almost always becomes more straightforward. The alien transport simplified to a space ship (with a party area.) One character would be bossy. One would be strong. One would be a bit zany. And once I could picture these little aliens, the voice of the narrator (with his comical alien lilt) came to me…

We come from planet Zabalooloo.

I am Zoron. Very clever.

There is Bazoo. He is SO strong.

That one is Zob. He gets overexcited and does
crazy wiggle-woggle dancing, but we love him.

We are brave friends on epic adventure to planet Earth…

I wrote the book quite speedily, the next day. Here’s a page of that first hand-written draft. Perhaps you can see the enjoyment in my messy writing!
I still quite like the ‘space bicycles’ idea. Perhaps I’ll scribble out some fresh plan involving them. Then maybe I’ll leave it lying about until it bumps into an unconnected idea that brings it to life…

Pick up a copy of They Came From Planet Zabalooloo! at your local bookshop. Plus, take a look at this brilliant animated trailer!

Sean Taylor has written more than 40 books for young readers. These include picture books such as Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, illustrated by Jean Jullien, Where the Bugaboo Lives, illustrated by Neal Layton, The World Champion of Staying Awake, illustrated by Jimmy Liao, and Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh!, illustrated by Kate Hindley. Find Sean online at and on Twitter as @seantstories.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Win the Picture Book of the Month, Goodnight Everyone

From the multi award-winning picture book maker of A Bit Lost, Oh No, George! and Shh! We Have a Plan, comes the ultimate bedtime book.

In this stunningly illustrated bedtime book, perfect for the end of the day, a series of exquisitely coloured cut pages of increasing size introduce woodland families – bears, deer, rabbits and teeny, tiny mice – who are all beginning to feel really ... rather ... tired ... YAWN! "Dear me," says Great Big Bear, "it must be time for bed!" But Little Bear is certainly not sleepy – he's wide awake! (For now...) With sublime, starry night time scenes and an infectious yawny "Good night" refrain, Chris Haughton creates a lulling bedtime read, perfect for parents and children to share together.

"A richly coloured, hypnotic ode to sleep; this perfect starlit bedtime book will have parents yawning dangerously alongside their offspring" Guardian


We have five copies of Goodnight Everyone and limited edition prints to give away! To enter, just  email 
your name and address to with ‘Goodnight Everyone' in the subject line for your chance to win. Competition closes on 7th September 2017. Terms and conditions apply.

Pick up a copy of Goodnight Everyone in your local bookshop!

Chris Haughton is an Irish designer and illustrator. His debut picture book, A Bit Lost, is published into 21 different languages worldwide and has won 13 awards in nine countries, including the Dutch Picture Book of the Year and CBI Book of the Year. His second title, Oh No, George! won the Junior Design Award and was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Award. His third picture book, Shh! We Have a Plan, won the Specsavers Irish Children's Book of the Year Junior Award 2014 as well as the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award in the US. Chris was also listed in TIME magazine's DESIGN 100 for his work with the fair trade company People Tree and he co-founded NODE, a fair trade social business, in 2012. Find Chris online at and on Twitter as @chrishaughton.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Top new picture books from Walker Books

This month we have a selection of gorgeous picture books from some of the best author's and illustrators of children's books.

From the award-winning creator of Hug, Tall and Yes comes another classic picture book for the very youngest children. Using only a handful of words, Jez Alborough skilfully tells the bedtime tale of Bobo the chimp. The sun is still up and this little chimp wants to play with his jungle friends, but then the sun goes down and he’s all alone… The perfect bedtime read for every playful little monkey!

Rhythmic language, visual humour and a bounty of delectable food make this a tale that is sure to whet little appetites for story time. When Baby and Mama go to market, baby is so adorable that the banana seller gives him six bananas. Baby eats one and puts five in the basket, but Mama doesn't notice. As Mama and Baby wind their way through the market stalls, cheeky Baby collects five juicy oranges, four sugary chin-chin biscuits, three roasted sweetcorn, two pieces of coconut ... until Mama notices that her basket is getting very heavy. Poor Baby, she thinks – he must be very hungry by now!

A funny, read-aloud farmyard tale that teaches colours and days of the week from award-winning illustrator Petr Horacek. Goat has had enough of eating grass. She wants to try something different – the dog’s food, the pig’s potatoes and even the farmer’s pants. But things go wrong in this hilarious, but cautionary, farmyard tale from the Kate Greenaway-Medal shortlisted illustrator described by the Washington Post as "the thinking tot's Eric Carle".

This charming collection of four classic stories by much-loved illustrator Shirley Hughes is perfect for sharing at the end of a busy day. Chatting with friends or talking on the phone, hiding in the house or the garden, bouncing on the sofa or on Grandpa's knee, giving a present or a kiss: there are so many things you can join in with during the day!

Learning how to count and your ABC is fun and easy in with Katie and her baby brother, Olly. Join them as they explore their friendly and familiar world and all it contains in this charming first look at numbers and letters. At home, at the park, in the library or at playgroup – there's always a chance to practise. Share and explore every wonderful experience in their simple yet enchanting world ! You can listen to Shirley talk about her books on Women’s Hour by following this link

Pick up a copy of these fantastic picture books at your local bookshop!

Friday, 14 July 2017

The making of Pink Lion by Jane Porter

A bold and colourful picture book with a heart-warming story about always being yourself.

Arnold blends right in with his bright pink flamingo family. Then a growling gang of lions stops by and tells Arnold he should be more lion-like, just like them. 

Poor Arnold tries but misses his old life. But then his flamingo family are threatened by an unwelcome visitor. Is this the moment when Arnold will find his roar?

Behind the scenes with Jane Porter

We’re excited to welcome Jane to the Picture Book Party blog for a behind-the-scenes on the making of Pink Lion

This is the story of how Pink Lion came into being…

Once a week I run an art class for under 5s. It’s a great joy to watch the creativity of young children – and a constant source of inspiration to me. This was never more true than the week we made robots. After constructing our shiny cardboard creations, I asked the group what they thought the story might be about today. “A pink lion,” said one boy, without hesitation.

That was the spark that set me pondering, scribbling and scouring museums for stone lions (the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has a particularly fine one in pink granite). Brainstorming pink things put flamingoes in my mind, and I liked the idea that a pink lion might be adopted by pink birds and live an idyllic life with jelly for tea every day. For some reason it seemed natural to call him Arnold.
This didn’t offer much drama, however, which is where the growling gang of yellow lions comes in. When they meet Arnold they send into a state of confusion about his identity – the story was starting to have some direction. I made a series of small dummy books with all sorts of endings – in one, Arnold raced round making cold drinks with curly straws for the lazy lions, in another he went home to find the flamingoes had formed a stunt motorbike troupe.

I took the latest version on a camping trip to Wales, and one wet afternoon when there wasn’t much else to do I read it out to a friend’s little boy. His feedback was concise, and pinpointed the problem with dazzling accuracy – “It needs more roaring”. And that’s when the very nasty crocodile came in, putting flamingoes in peril and letting Arnold discover his inner roar.
The story was coming together – now for the artwork. “Make it look as if it took five minutes,” said my editors – good advice but so hard to achieve! It seemed to take about two years to make it look as if it took five minutes. I tried every material under the sun – coloured pencil, collage, gouache, ink. None of the pinks felt right, and they seemed to clash with the yellows horribly. Then one day I was browsing a book about Picasso, and noticed ‘household emulsion’ in the list of materials he used. That’s when it clicked – I bought a sack of tester pots from Homebase, with delightful names like Yellow Submarine and Berry Smoothie. I applied them with the worst brushes I could find, added a scribble of pastel pencil, then pen and Indian Ink for the details – and finally I had something I was happy with.

Now the book is finished. I’ll be visiting bookshops to do some storytelling and craft activities – and it’s the first time I will have done this without an author. So I’ve made myself someone to travel with: a pink velvet soft toy version of Arnold – he’s a proper luxury lion with THREE types of pink velvet from his inner ears to his paw pads, and raspberry mohair for his scribble cheeks. I’ve stitched little bags of baking beans into his paws, which gives him just the right amount of weight to be able to sit up on his own. We are looking forward to touring together! Although our family cat is rather jealous.

Pick up a copy of Pink Lion at your local bookshop. Plus take a look at the brilliant animated trailer that the talented Jane has created!

Jane Porter is an illustrator specializing in work both for and with children. Her work ranges from picture and novelty books to children’s maps, murals and hand-made books suitable for outreach work. She has worked for a number of organizations, including the National Trust, English Heritage, London Zoo, the Corporation of London, Historic Royal Palaces and the National Health Service. When she's not working, Jane is often to be found out on the River Thames in a coracle or skiff, looking out for passing bats, cormorants and wagtails. Jane will be making book shop visits, you can find details below.

Sheen Bookshop on Friday 28th July, 10.30-12.30 

Waterstones Clapham Junction on Saturday 5th August, 3pm

Heffers in Cambridge on Saturday 19th August, 2-4

The Apple Store in Regent’s Street on Saturday 26th August at 2pm

Tales on Moon Lane, Herne Hill in the afternoon on Monday 23rd October.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

PLAY - an Illustrated journey from the Idea to the finished book

Bobo the chimp is back in this perfect picture book for every little monkey that doesn't want to go to bed yet!

From the award-winning creator of Hug, Tall and Yes comes another classic picture book for the very youngest children. Using only a handful of words, Jez Alborough skilfully tells the bedtime tale of Bobo the chimp in Play

The sun is still up and this little chimp wants to play with his jungle friends, but then the sun goes down and he’s all alone… The perfect bedtime read for every playful little monkey!

Behind the scenes with Jez Alborough

We’re excited to welcome Jez to the Picture Book Party blog for a behind-the-scenes on the making of Play

As a young child I heard the myth that babies arrive in the world fully formed, brought in the beaks of storks. Some people think that this is how books arrive in the minds of authors: appearing as fully formed ideas that only need to be transcribed onto the page to turn them into a book. This is not the case in my experience.

My new picture book, PLAY had an especially long gestation period: I first tried the idea out about ten years ago. It started with the idea of Bobo being put to bed by his Mum and wondering where the sun goes at night while he sleeps. This sets him off on a long journey chasing the sun around the world, trying to catch up with it to find an answer to his question. This is a long trip for a baby chimpanzee to take, so I thought Bobo would need some help from his friends along the way. The pencil drawing above shows Bobo getting a lift in the beak of a Pelican, below you can see him being carried across the ocean on the back of friendly whale. (Everyone wants to help Bobo; wouldn’t you?) 

I like drawing in black and white, your brain magically converts shapes and textures into a visual language of dashes, squiggles and dots. Here you can see Bobo arriving on the other side of the ocean, meeting the Pelican who’ll take him further on his journey.

Once I feel confident with the layout of each scene I work them up a little using colour. At this stage my sketches are only about three inches wide. Drawing small stops me getting caught up in details; it boils the picture down to its essential elements of shapes, colour, light and shade.

You might be wondering why the idea took ten years to turn into a book, especially as the idea is so simple. Simplicity is actually part of the answer: I find that the simpler the story, the harder it is to make it work. When I showed my sketches to an editor the response I received was: “Nice pictures, but the story’s not quite working.” As much as it pained me to admit it, I had to agree. The overall premise of the chase after the sun was strong but somehow I couldn’t quite translate it into a satisfying story. It was frustrating; I had the title (‘SUN’), I had the pictures, but no satisfying story to tie them together.

As time passed and I worked on other books those Bobo sketches niggled me. I felt in my bones there was a book in them somewhere, waiting to be discovered. About seven years later I pulled them out of a drawer in my studio marked ‘SUN,’ re-entered the world of Bobo and gave the idea another try.

Here’s a photo of my studio around this time; strewn across my desk you can see the pages of the dummy I was trying out. I make small-scale dummies at this stage (about a quarter of the size of the final book) because everything is in flux and rather than adapting a drawing that I need to change, I can just as easily start a new one. Working like this engenders a relaxed attitude in which nothing is sacred; by letting go of what’s not working and starting again I have more chance of finding what does work.

These new efforts found me a new editor who could see the potential in the story; she also saw the problem in it, but thankfully she was able to identify what that problem was. The other books in the Bobo series stayed in the reality of Bobo’s world: for example in ‘HUG’ he was looking for his Mum, but that search was in locations he could feasibly walk to. In my new idea, Bobo’s journey after the sun meant he travelled around the world. This afforded wonderful opportunities for illustrations but it didn’t quite fit with the convention of the series.

I tried to resolve this problem of stylistic incongruity by having Bobo fall asleep: this allowed him to make his epic journey around the world in a dream. Although this addressed the problem of believability, my dream sequence simultaneously created a new issue in that it would alienate my target audience. Bobo stories are written with the very young in mind and three year olds haven’t yet grasped the idea of what dreams are. If a story confuses your audience, obviously it’s not going to work, so the dream idea had to be abandoned.

My editor came up with the solution: it was all a matter of scale. She suggested that Bobo didn’t need to go round the world to chase the sun; he could simply travel to the other side of the lake and up a hill, because that was the limit of his world. (I drew the sketch below to illustrate the limits of Bobo’s world). It’s interesting how every story has its own world and a logic which fits that world.

Sometimes, in order to crack the story you have to make conscious what that logic is. It’s like when you play a game, you have to know the rules within which the game operates: only then does the game make any sense. With this guiding principle of ‘keeping within Bobo’s world’ in place, I could finally get stuck into the mechanics of my story and make it work. In the process some of my initial ideas fell away to reveal a much simpler story. For example, there was a shift of emphasis; the story no longer focussed primarily on Bobo chasing the sun; now it was more about him wanting to play. The sun only comes into the story because when it sets and the jungle gets dark, Bobo has to stop playing and go to bed. (With this change of focus the title naturally shifted from ‘SUN’ to ‘PLAY’). I realised that Bobo didn’t need to find out where the sun goes at night (when you think about it, that’s rather a big question for someone so little!) – all he needs to know is that when the sun sets behind the hill and everything gets dark, it’s ok because Mummy is there to look after him.

I made one more small dummy to check the new version of the story was working – you can never really tell until you see it played out on the page. In the example above you can see Bobo getting a lift from the pelican, looking back on the journey he’s made across the lake to the hill on the other side. (The reference to the moon was cut: in a book featuring the sun as a character it seemed like a complication which didn’t add anything to the story.)

At last I was ready to produce a final, full-sized dummy: this is where I really get to grips with how the pictures are going to look. Once I’ve determined the size of each panel and I know what needs to fit into it the job is all about laying the story out. It’s a bit like a puzzle; I just keep moving those shapes of the characters, trees, hills and rocks around until the relationships between them feels natural. Next I start working into the picture more, adding texture, light and shade. Below is a sketch of Bobo sleeping with his Mummy; the pose of the feet clasped together was taken from a reference photo of a chimpanzee.

Colouring the drawings is the last stage; it’s a very important job because if I choose the wrong colour it can ruin a perfectly good drawing. How do I know what’s the right colour? Trial and error. I have hundreds of bits of paper with colour washes on and I hold them up to my drawing and see how the colour fits with what’s already laid down. The colours that come in the bottles are rarely the exact colour that I’m looking for, so most of these washes consist of two or more colours mixed together. Here’s how the finished illustration of Bobo and his Mum sleeping turned out.

I’m often asked how long it takes for me to create a picture book; in the case of PLAY it was ten years! Most of that time the idea was shelved in a drawer, in between I would occasionally take it out and have another attempt at making it work. The actual artwork took six months to complete.
It’s ten years since my last Bobo book (‘YES’) was published. I hope you think it was worth the wait.

WIN Play
To celebrate the launch of Play we’ve got five copies of the book to give away! To enter just answer this question:

In Jez's new book what is the name of the little chimp?

a)       Bobo
b)       Nono
c)       Soso

To enter, just email with 'PLAY' in the subject line, before 10th August 2017. Terms and conditions apply.

Join in the fun and download our free Play activity sheets.

Pick up a copy of Play at your local bookshop. You can find more fun and activities on Jez's website at

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Celebrating Independent Bookshop Week with Maisy

It’ll be no surprise to learn that Walker’s Maisy team have always loved bookshops. We asked the Editors to share some of their favourite childhood memories from browsing the shelves for their favourite stories.

Mara – Senior Editor, Character Publishing

Every year, my grandparents would come to look after my brother, my sister and I for a week. One of the first things we always did was drive to our local bookshop – Aunt Louise’s Bookshop – where each of us was allowed to pick out our very own book!

I was very lucky to grow up near a wonderful library, where I spent many afternoons… but still there was something so special about choosing my own book – to keep!
Like Maisy, I would start by wandering down the aisles, perusing the books and reading about hippos and ducklings and caterpillars. I gave all the potential candidates to my grandmother to hold, and then I would plonk myself down on the cosy beanbag chairs while sorting into piles of “yes” and “maybe next time”. When my brother and sister and I had finally chosen that one special book, we would snuggle up and read our new books together over and over again. Just as Maisy and her friends do!

This year for Independent Bookshop Week, I plan to go to my lovely local bookshop The Alligator’s Mouth, where I will be found meandering among the bookcases and up and down the stairs until I find that one special book to take home with me!

Ruby – Assistant Editor, Character Publishing

I have a big, busy and very loud family, so reading books when I was younger was always an opportunity to escape the noise and enter into my own world. Going to bookshops meant getting to choose where to escape to next… A pirate ship! A fairy castle! An alien planet! The choices were endless. Just like Maisy, I spent a lot of time dreaming up new places to explore and things to be with my friends.

I still get the same rush of excitement when I go into a bookshop today: that feeling that anything is possible. There must be some magic spell that all bookshop owners are in on, because I think no matter where you are or where you go, bookshops have this wonderful mix of tweed and fairy dust in the air. You walk in, and you feel immediately like you’ve entered a secret treasure cave, or the hallowed halls of some ancient place of learning. And then you dive in! I could – and have – got lost between the stacks for hours, torn between giant tomes of bizarre historical goings on and beautiful, bright picture books. That’s why I love Independent Bookshop Week so much; it’s the perfect excuse to explore some of the world’s most magical shops, new and old, and find my next favourite story. Just like Maisy does.

Visit the bookshop with Maisy and her friends in Maisy Goes to the Bookshop – out now! And don’t forget to look for Maisy events at your local bookshop for Independent Bookshop Week.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Top picture book picks for summer

We've officially reached summer, so what better way to celebrate than by telling you all about our lovely picture books out this month, all delightful summer reads. 

Ellie and Lump's Very Busy Day

In this big-hearted and bouncy read-aloud story about a special day in the life of two adorable elephants, Ellie and Lump are bubbling with energy from the moment they wake up – they’re just ready to explode! There’s a lot to do: boing-boing-bouncing on beds, split-splatting eggs for breakfast, whizz-whooshing around on supermarket trollies and blowing up balloons. They’re planning a big birthday surprise … but who is it for? Illustrator Becky Palmer captures the joy and excitement of a day out with mum and the thrills of planning a party, while the read-aloud text with wonderfully rhythmical sound effects makes this a fizzy first reading experience perfect for sharing with toddlers.

A Brave Bear

In this joyful story about children and their parents from the author of Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, a daddy bear and a baby bear spend a very special day together. It's as hot as hot can be, and Dad Bear says, "I think a pair of hot bears is probably the hottest thing in the world." So Little Bear suggests that they go to the river to cool down. But what will happen when Little Bear tries to impress his dad by doing a big jump across the rocks? The perfect present for Daddy Bear and Baby Bears alike, all readers will rejoice in the gorgeous characterization, the warmth of the storytelling and the deliciously detailed artwork of illustration star, Emily Hughes.

Elsie Piddock Skips in her Sleep

Elsie Piddock is a born skipper. By the age of seven, news of her skipping talents has reached the fairies and they invite her to Mount Caburn for lessons. The High Skip, the Slow Skip, the Skip Double-Double, the Long Skip, the Strong Skip, the Skip Against Trouble… Elsie Piddock learns them all, and soon there’s not a mortal or fairy to touch her. Many, many years later, a greedy Lord buys Mount Caburn and threatens to build factories on its land. Can Elsie Piddock save the skipping ground for the next generation? Sparkling with charm and a liberal sprinkling of fairy dust, Elsie Piddock's story is one to be cherished.

All in One Piece

"If you are not familiar with these stories, you really have not lived ... you just couldn't get better" Guardian 
A hilarious tale of family life, this is a beautiful new edition of a modern picture book classic in the Large Family series, Mr and Mrs Large the elephants are putting on their best suit and dress – they're going to a dinner-dance! But, with Lester, Laura, Luke and the baby determined to help Mum and Dad get ready, will they make it out all in one piece? With a foreword and gorgeous foil lettering on the cover and spine, this is a beautiful book to treasure.

Mr Large in Charge 

The perfect Father's Day gift! Mrs Large isn't feeling too good. So Mr Large sends her back to bed. "I'll take charge," he says. Mrs Large settles down for a nice rest while Mr Large and the children get busy hoovering, dusting and tidying. But Mrs Large's day doesn't turn out to be quite as restful as she had first hoped! With a foreword and gorgeous foil lettering on the cover and spine, this is a beautiful book to treasure.

Pick up a copy of all these books iyour local bookshop.

Join in the fun and download our free A Brave Bear and Mrs, Mole, I'm Home! activity sheets.