Friday, 26 November 2021

Frindleswylde - Q&A with Natalia & Lauren O'Hara

Can you feel a tremble in the wind? The sun grows pale. The wild things hide. Frindleswylde is coming!


When the mysterious boy Frindleswylde enters Cora and Grandma's house in the woods, he steals the light from their lantern. Without it, Grandma will not be able to return home after work in the dark. Cora is determined to get the light back, but first, she must follow Frindleswylde down a hole in the pond that leads to his magical frozen kingdom, where he sets her three Impossible Tasks. Reminiscent of The Snow Queen, beautifully written and sumptuously illustrated, Frindleswylde is a classic in the making.


Q&A with Natalia & Lauren O'Hara


Can you tell us about your writing and illustrating process?

Lauren: Natalia comes up with the idea and begins her research. At the same time, we start a Pinterest board and pin reference together – it's kind of a visual conversation that lets us find the atmosphere and world.

While she's drafting, I work on characters and decide what materials to use. As she's redrafting, I'm usually doing final art. We've been told that we work more like a single author-illustrator than a duo, with our work evolving in tandem.




What was the inspiration for Frindleswylde?
 
Natalia: The story was inspired by a frosty, regal little boy Lauren painted in 2019 for fun. She posted him on Instagram, and I called right away to say I wanted to write a book about him. She said, "That's the Snow Queen".

 
Do you have a favourite spread in the story?

Lauren: The Queen of Winter spread. There's the little blue-and-white image of Cora tossing away a nut on the left and the Queen in her full regalia on the right. It's beautiful and eerie and turns the plot in an unexpected way.


Can you tell us about your journey into the world of children's books? 

Natalia: It started when I was six and Lauren was three. If anyone asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would say I wanted to write books, and Lauren would add that she'd draw the pictures. It took us a while to get started ­– Lauren was 27, and I was 30 – due to self-doubt. But that actually gave us the subject for our first book, Hortense and the Shadow. We found it hard getting signed, but once we had an agent (Angharad Kowal-Stannus), our first book was immediately picked up by Penguin. Lauren came to Walker Books a few years ago to do Sophie Dahl's Madame Badobedah and liked the creativity and freedom here so much that I followed her.


What are your favourite picture books, both older and more recent? 

Lauren: As children, we loved Andersen's Tales illustrated by Jiří Trnka and a 1970s Naomi Lewis and Errol le Cain version of The Snow Queen. Both those books were big influences on Frindleswylde – they have a dreamy, enchanted quality and embrace the innocence and darkness in Andersen.
Some more recent favourites are Shaun Tan's The Arrival, Carson Ellis's Du Iz Tak, and Jessica Love's Julian is a Mermaid


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A special thanks to our guests this week, Natalia & Lauren O'Hara!
Frindleswylde is now available from all good booksellers.

Monday, 22 November 2021

Cat Problems by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith

Today we're talking about Cat Problems, the new picture book from Jory John and Lane Smith, the creators of Penguin Problems and Giraffe Problems. This brand-new story is sure to tickle every feline fan and owner! 



Just like most cats, this cat lives an extremely comfortable life. But he has his problems, too...



The sunspot he's trying to bathe in just won't stop moving. 
The nosy neighbour squirrel just can't seem to mind its own business.


And don't even get him 
started on the hoover! It's an absolute menace! Will this cat ever find the silver lining?

A relatable tale for all cat owners! Cat Problems is available from all good booksellers; make sure to watch our purr-fect animation below:

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Sticky McStickStick by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Tony Ross

This month we celebrate the publication of Michael Rosen's Sticky McStickStick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again, illustrated by Tony Ross.



After being admitted to hospital in 2020 with coronavirus, Michael Rosen had to learn to walk again. With the support of doctors and nurses and a walking stick he names "Sticky McStickstick", he manages to embark on the slow steps to recovery. 


This moving picture book from the former Children's Laureate, with illustrations from Tony Ross, tells a story of perseverance and hope, and is a testament to the importance of overcoming fear and learning to accept help.

Watch our video with Michael Rosen himself below, and hear him talk about his experiences as well as this brand new picture book:




Michael Rosen's Sticky McStickStick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again is available to purchase here

New November Picture Book Releases

 Check out a selection of our new releases this November!

The Worst Sleepover in the World
by Sophie Dahl and illustrated by Luciano Lozano


Ramona is having her best friend Gracie to stay the night. It’s their first ever sleepover and she wants to make a den, read stories, dance like a wild thing, stay up all night and have a midnight feast. It'll be the BEST SLEEPOVER IN HISTORY. But nothing quite goes to plan. Will Gracie, Ramona and her little sister Ruby be able to solve their problems and still be friends in the morning?

Click here for The Worst Sleepover in the World activity sheets.


Frindleswylde
by Natalia & Lauren O'Hara


When the mysterious boy Frindleswylde enters Cora and Grandma's house in the woods, he steals the light from their lantern. Without it, Grandma will not be able to return home after work in the dark. Cora is determined to get the light back, but first she must follow Frindleswylde down a hole in the pond that leads to his magical frozen kingdom, where he sets her three Impossible Tasks. Reminiscent of The Snow Queen, beautifully written and sumptuously illustrated, Frindleswylde is a classic in the making.

Click here for our Q&A with Natalia & Lauren O'Hara.


Michael Rosen's Sticky McStickstick
by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Tony Ross


After being admitted to hospital in 2020 with coronavirus, Michael Rosen had to learn to walk again. With the support of doctors and nurses and a walking stick he names "Sticky McStickstick", he manages to embark on the slow steps to recovery. This moving picture book from the former Children's Laureate, with illustrations from Tony Ross, tells a story of perseverance and hope, and is a testament to the importance of overcoming fear and learning to accept help.


My Pet Goldfish
by Catherine Rayner


“Catherine Rayner has a marvellous gift for capturing the souls of animals in a few, rich washes of colour.” Daily Telegraph

My Pet Goldfish is a delightful picture book with facts by the Greenaway Medal-winning author-illustrator Catherine Rayner. The child narrating this story has been given their first ever pet: a tiny fish with shimmering scales and bright beady eyes… Their very own goldfish! Sitting alongside the gentle narrative and dynamic illustrations, the subtext introduces facts about goldfish and their care – some gentle, some funny, some fascinating – making this a perfect choice for first-time owners.

Let's Save the Amazon
by Catherine Barr and illustrated by Jean Claude


Bursting with all kinds of life, the Amazon is one of the most incredible places on Earth. This richly illustrated picture book brings to life this extraordinary region for young children, exploring its tropical rainforest and scenic landscapes. It showcases the lush wildlife, diverse communities and life-saving medicines that can all be found there and therefore why it is so important that we act to protect this special part of the planet from the impact of climate change.

Cat Problems
by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith


Just like most cats, this cat lives an extremely comfortable life. But he has his problems, too...

The sun spot he's trying to bathe in just won't stop moving. The nosy neighbour squirrel just can't seem to mind its own business. And don't even get him started on the hoover! It's an absolute menace! Will this cat ever find the silver lining?

From picture book superstars Jory John and Lane Smith, the creators of Penguin Problems and Giraffe Problems, comes a brand-new, hilarious collaboration sure to tickle every feline fan and owner!


Super Duper Penguin Slide
by Leonie Lord


The penguin family are off on an adventure! Travelling by bus, train and even by cable car, the persistent pals keep on going, through rain or shine, sleet or snow. Finally, they soar through the wispy clouds and – yes, there it is! – their long-awaited destination is ahead, atop a frosty, snow-capped mountain…

A playful, happy read-aloud, which features a jolly family of big and little penguins, and all the noisy modes of transport that little ones love.

There's a Dodo on the Wedding Cake
by Wade Bradford and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes


Mr. Snore returns to the wacky Sharemore Hotel to play his violin at a fancy wedding. As he waits for the ceremony to begin, he notices a certain uninvited guest ogling the towering wedding cake. It’s hard to tell who’s a guest and who's a pest, but Mr. Snore is going to do his heroic best to save the cake from sure disaster!

Dogs Love Cars
by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Paul Meisel


From the yard to the park, from school to the market, from one end of the day to the next, dogs are full of joy. Ears flapping out the car window! Tug of war with a rope toy! Sprawling out on the sofa! Getting those “good dog” treats! Wherever they go, whatever they see, dogs love it all. But what do they love most? Guess! This delightfully chaotic book from Leda Schubert and Paul Meisel portrays dogs of all shapes and colours in a laugh-out-loud celebration of our very best friends.

The House by the Lake
by Sophie Dahl and illustrated by Luciano Lozano


"The incredible story of how a house was witness to German history" Telegraph

"An atmospheric and ultimately uplifting tale with delicate, ethereal images" The Financial Times

"A touching picturebook which shows children that large events can have repercussions even in small and unheralded places" Wall Street Journal

Thomas Harding first shared this remarkable story in his Costa-shortlisted biography The House by the Lake – now he has rendered it into a deeply moving picture book for young readers. On the outskirts of Berlin, a wooden cottage stands on the shore of a lake. Over the course of a century, this little house played host to a loving Jewish family, a renowned Nazi composer, wartime refugees and a Stasi informant; in that time, a world war came and went, and the Berlin Wall was built a stone's throw from the cottage's back door. With words that read like a haunting fairy tale, and magnificent illustrations by Britta Teckentrup, this is the astonishing true story of the house by the lake.

Click here to read out Q&A with Thomas Harding and click here for our Q&A with Britta Teckentrup.

Now out in paperback.

The Tale of the Valiant Ninja Frog
by Alaistair Chisholm and illustrated by Jez Tuya


Jamie and Abby are camping with Dad and they tell a bedtime story together. This story will star their favourites: a prince, a witch, a thief and some bears. "And the frog!" says Abby. This time there's a terrible giant who's stolen all the keys to the kingdom. No one can get into their homes! No one can start their horses! It's a real mess. Our heroes must sneak into the giant's castle and retrieve the keys. But when it comes to the crunch, only a tiny froggy hero, who's also a NINJA, can defeat the mighty giant!

Now out in paperback.

A Polar Bear in the Snow
by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Shawn Harris


Follow a magnificent polar bear through a fantastic world of snow and shockingly blue sea. Over the ice, through the water, past Arctic animals and even a human ... where is he going? What does he want? Acclaimed author Mac Barnett’s narration deftly balances suspense and emotion, as well as poignant, subtle themes, compelling us to follow the bear with each page turn. Artist Shawn Harris’s striking torn-paper illustrations layer white-on-white hues, with bolts of blue and an interplay of shadow and light, for a gorgeous view of a stark yet beautiful landscape. Simple and thought-provoking, illuminating and intriguing, this engaging picture book will have readers pondering the answer to its final question long after the polar bear has continued on his way.

Now out in paperback.

Ella's Night Lights
by Lucy Fleming


Ella has always dreamed of seeing the sunrise. But with her delicate gossamer wings, she can only come out at night. So, when the moon is high, she collects as many shimmering beams of light she can find – a twinkle from a star, the glow from a lamp post. With her light, she guides lost and lonely animals and finds friendship in Fox and Owl. And, together, Ella’s animal friends know just how to return her kindness...

A gentle, tender storybook about friendship and the power of kindness now out in paperback.

In the Half Room
by Carson Ellis


The half room is full of half things. A half chair, a half cat, even half shoes – all just as nice and weird and friendly as whole things. When half a knock comes on half a door, who in the world could it be? With her trademark touch of magic and whimsy, Caldecott Honor winner Carson Ellis explores halves and wholes in an ingenious and thought-provoking picture book. The lightly rhyming text is soothing yet spirited, revealing the many absurdities and possibilities to be discovered in this irresistibly fanciful home. Ink and gouache illustrations featuring wry detail and velvety textures conjure a dreamlike mood while leaving space for imagining. A celebration of the surreal and the serendipitous, and the beauty of the two together, this brilliant picture book will have readers seeing the joys of halves with whole new eyes.

Now out in paperback.


All of our November releases are now available from all good booksellers.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Witch in Training - Q&A with illustrator Briony May Smith

Today we welcome Briony May Smith onto Picture Book Party to talk about her new picture book, Witch in Training, written by Michelle Robinson!


 Betty is brewing her first-ever potion! And potions need ingredients – ingredients that can only be found in the WILD. So Betty, with her mum by her side, soars off into the magical, moonlight night to bravely gather her wicked and wonderful supplies: vampire fangs, fairy dust, werewolf whiskers, and more. The only problem is, she might have to come face-to-face with a few monsters – a few treacherous monsters! – along the way...


With rollicking read-aloud rhymes from Michelle Robinson and spellbinding art from Briony May Smith, this is a funny, edge-of-your-broomstick adventure for aspiring witches and wizards everywhere.

Q&A with Briony May Smith


Can you tell us more about your journey into illustration?
 
I always loved drawing and making up games and stories as a child, playing with my younger sister and brother. I never put the pencil down and decided to pursue illustration in the hopes of working in the children’s book world. I studied Illustration at Falmouth University and built up a portfolio of artwork. I have been very lucky to work with some of my favourite authors writing today, and Witch in Training was an exciting venture into books with a Halloween bent! Witch in Training is the second book I’ve illustrated with author Michelle Robinson. Our first book, Tooth Fairy in Training follows fairy sisters as the littlest sibling starts her first night as a tooth fairy.


How did you begin illustrating Witch in Training?

I started with the home and characters of Witch in Training. Betty and her mum go collecting ingredients for cauldron training - all the spooky, witchy, magical places a young potion maker might need to visit would be a fun exploration on each spread, but the start and finish are in their home. I used this as an opportunity to build a house best suited for witches, with broomstick parking, an adjoining potions room, and a witchy weathervane, all in one wonky stone and timber home. I experimented with a few character designs and settled on a traditional-looking witch green skin and a mane of purple hair, wanting to mirror the Tooth Fairy’s bright colours from mine and Michelle’s first collaboration. I had a lot of fun designing their clothing too.



What was your favourite spread to illustrate in Witch in Training?

I think my favourite spread to illustrate in the book was the opening spread. It was a lot of fun to introduce the world, the time of day, and Betty and her cat, Pumpkin Patch, to the reader, and play with the lighting and composition.


 What are your favourite picture books, both older and more recent?

Growing up my three favourite picture books were:

The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base

The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker

Portly’s Hat by Lucy Cousins

They are all very different - Base’s story is an intensely detailed and clever tale of a birthday party full of intrigue and puzzles, things to be found on every page and a code to break at the end. Cicely Mary Barker’s fairies are like a field guide to the fairy world and enriched our games based in fairyland. Portly’s Hat is extremely charming and funny and bold and like The Eleventh Hour, one that I have very fond memories of being read to us when we were little, giggling at the same parts that make me smile now.

These three are still my favourites and sit on my bookshelf in my studio.

As a grown-up, I’ve added some more favourites.

I saw My Little Hen by Alice and Martin Provensen at a friend’s house and ordered my own copy. I love chickens and straw hats and the two unite beautifully in this picture book. There are many books illustrated by Aurelia Fronty that I love, possibly my favourites are Fil de Fee (Fairy Threads) or Tristan e Iseo (Tristan snd Iseult) written by Beatrice Fontanel. I also love Helen Stephens’s work, her books have a beautiful bold palette and charm.

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A special thanks to our guest this week, Briony May Smith!
Witch in Training is now available from all good booksellers.

Witch in Training - Q&A with author Michelle Robinson

Today we welcome Michelle Robinson onto Picture Book Party to talk about her new picture book, Witch in Training, illustrated by Briony May Smith!


 Betty is brewing her first-ever potion! And potions need ingredients – ingredients that can only be found in the WILD. So Betty, with her mum by her side, soars off into the magical, moonlight night to bravely gather her wicked and wonderful supplies: vampire fangs, fairy dust, werewolf whiskers, and more. The only problem is, she might have to come face-to-face with a few monsters – a few treacherous monsters! – along the way...

With rollicking read-aloud rhymes from Michelle Robinson and spellbinding art from Briony May Smith, this is a funny, edge-of-your-broomstick adventure for aspiring witches and wizards everywhere.

Q&A with Michelle Robinson

What was the inspiration behind writing Witch in Training?

I have always desperately wanted to be a witch. The late Jill Murphy has been one of my favourite writers and illustrators since I was young. I find Mildred Hubble, The Worst Witch, very relatable. As a child, I used to make my own ‘potions’ out of anything I could find in the kitchen, bathroom and garden. As a writer, I love the idea of spell books and I particularly like spells that rhyme. The idea of chanting words aloud, stirring a concoction of special ingredients and magicking something into being is just so appealing. It seems only natural that any young witch would need to learn the ropes along the way.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your writing process?

I try and write something most days, even if it’s just for fun. My favourite time to write is very early in the morning before the rest of my family are awake. I find my mind is still in dream mode. The birds are just finding their voices, I haven’t started worrying about any admin, chores or personal troubles, and I can write freely without my critical mind clicking into gear. I work anywhere I can sit comfortably, which is most often in an armchair or on the sofa. I find sitting at a desk makes writing feel like serious business. Of course, I take my work seriously, but I like to feel relaxed when I’m writing. I don’t actually own a desk or an office chair.
 
Can you tell us more about your journey into the world of childrens books? 

Writing is part of who I am. I have written pretty much every day for the last twenty-odd years. I get anxious and muddle-headed when life gets in the way of work. Before becoming a full-time author I spent ten years working as an advertising creative, writing copy and conceiving ads all day, every day, for very long hours. I hated it, but it was a good training ground for learning to accept criticism and how to identify strong ideas. I had always wanted to write for children, and I started to give it a try in every spare hour outside work. My first attempts weren’t great, but I stuck at it and put myself on some courses with the Arvon Foundation. Eventually, my stories improved and I was taken on by the Catchpole Agency, who I’m still delighted to be represented by.


What was it like seeing Brionys illustrations for the first time?

Briony’s work is so special it honestly feels like very real magic whenever I look at it. I know it must be very hard work to create illustrations of such a high standard, but Briony makes it look easy. Beautiful, charming pictures seem to flow from her fingertips. The light and dappled shade she creates wows me every time. I particularly love how her characters manage to have a dreamlike appeal while also being realistic. Briony is one of the finest illustrators the industry has. I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be making books with her.
 
Do you have a favourite spread in the story?

Honestly: every single one of them. The house on the first page is so inviting, I want to move in. I particularly like how Briony included the characters from our previous book in one scene — I’ll let readers hunt that one out. If I was forced to pick, I adore the sea monster. The light filtering through the water and highlighting its scales is amazing, and I love how it shows Betty’s fearless character. I always try and make my writing as pithy as possible to leave more space for the art. It’s wonderful to have images like this to lose yourself in and feel awestruck by the moment.


What are your favourite picture books, both older and more recent?

Tough question! My favourites always seem to vanish from my brain whenever I’m asked. I love The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway, which has an absurd premise and is excellent fun to read aloud. Silly stories are truly wonderful and I wish they were as appreciated within the industry as they are by the families who devour them. I really love Fred Blunt’s work, like Lionel and Gnome. He has a brilliantly daft sense of humour and his drawings always make me laugh. His latest collaboration with Steve Webb, Cows Go Boo, is super funny too. And of course, I love Whatever Next! by Jill Murphy. My children have long since grown out of it, but I keep a copy on my shelf. If I ever want to remind myself what standard I’m aiming for, Jill’s work is right up there at the top. I’ll keep on trying!

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A special thanks to our guest this week, Michelle Robinson!
Witch in Training is now available from all good booksellers.

The Queen in the Cave by Júlia Sardà - Take Over

Last month we invited the wonderfuJúlia Sardà to take over our @BigPictureBooks Instagram to celebrate the publication of The Queen in the Cave!

Júlia Sardà is a Spanish artist who has illustrated many books for children, including Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey, The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, and a number of classics such as Alice in WonderlandThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 


The Queen in the Cave is Júlia's debut to the Walker list and the first book she has both written and illustrated; she spins an enthralling and evocative tale rich with layers of meaning to be unearthed...

One night, Franca has a dream about a marvellous queen, who lives in a dark cave, deep in the forest. She cannot sit still until she knows if her dream is true! So, together with her younger sisters, Carmela and Tomasina, she ventures into the forest at the end of their garden. As they travel deeper through nettles and thickets, drawing closer and closer to the cave, the world shifts ... everything shrinks and expands at the same time. They are somewhere new now, somewhere different. Here, they meet beasts and creatures that shock and delight them, and escape horrible things that utterly frighten them. They learn how to be brave, to be bold, to face their darkest fears. And what of the queen? Well, what they find in the cave is perhaps the most unexpected thing of all...

You can now follow Julia's takeover here and see a sneak peek below!


 @juliasardaportabella I’ll start by sharing the cover of The Queen in the Cave, my first authored book. It’s the story of three sisters and how one afternoon they decide to run away from home. They follow something they can not name, but somehow it feels more compelling and engrossing than the familiar shelter.


Doing this picture book has been an amazingly long process. It was around 2016 when I got my contract with Walker and started thinking about how I could explain this weird feeling that the memory of childhood gives me. 

The expectations I had, plus the fact that I hadn’t written since long ago and I felt very shy about it, plus the big amount of illustrations that we decided this book would have, made me procrastinate and delay the work that had inevitably to be done. 


In the end, it’s just a matter of doing it but, as we all know, all the demons on our back make it complicated.

Luckily, I had the invaluable help of Maria Tunney and Deirdre McDermott that made everything possible, I felt all the time as if they were teaching me how to walk. Sadia Chowdhury was also a huge help during the painting process, and the most patient.


In this post, you can also see some of the back and forth I did with the cover, some alternative versions of it and a pencil sketch. 

Now I’m very glad the cream option won but, I used to prefer the orange one. I remember I made a try one night at like 12am with my last neuron and sent it to Sadia. Later, I regretted giving them another option because everybody preferred it. 

And even before, I preferred the grey one with the frog that has nothing to do with the story and, as my friend @rosel.david said, looks like a second-hand shop.

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Head over to the @BigPictureBooks Instagram to find out more about Julia's childhood, the inspiration, influences and references in her illustrations, and what this book has meant to her.

The Queen in the Cave is now available from all good booksellers.