Thursday, 17 October 2019

Finding the Perfect Illustrator for 'Pick a Pumpkin' with Patricia Toht

Patricia Toht, author of the brand new Pick a Pumpkin, wanted to tell our Picture Book Party readers a little about the process of choosing an illustrator for a story and how Jarvis was the perfect fit for her:

Friends and relatives who are unfamiliar with publishing are frequently surprised to discover that, as a picture book author, I don’t choose an illustrator – instead, the editor and art director choose someone whose style fits the story. When I add that I’ve never even met my illustrators, they usually ask the same question:

“Then how do you tell them what pictures to make?”

“I don’t,” I answer. “The illustrator reads my text and draws what those words inspire.”

More than a few are perplexed by this arrangement.

“What if they make a mistake? What if you don’t like what they draw?”

I’m happy to tell them that I’ve been amazed and delighted by the illustrations for my books. The words and pictures meld to create something beautiful.

Two of my books, Pick a Pine Tree and Pick a Pumpkin, are illustrated by Jarvis. His illustrations evoke the warmth and nostalgia of family traditions. They are so lovely!

The day an illustrated proof arrives is always a special one. I pour over the illustrations, soaking up every detail. But I had a unique experience the first time I turned the pages of Pick a Pumpkin. It was as if Jarvis had accessed our family photos! Sure, I drew upon our family’s experiences when writing the text, but those illustrations – they were my memories.

How could he know that the wagon being pulled through the farm not only contained pumpkins, but also a little boy with a pumpkin in his arms? 

Why did he choose a girl to clean the pumpkin, with buckets in the background… 

…and a little boy in blue, standing on newspaper, pulling out the guts?  

There is no way Jarvis could know that my youngest child always cut a hole in the bottom of his pumpkin so he could sport it on his head on Halloween. So how could it be that a pumpkin-headed child appears at the end of the pumpkin carving scenes? (And note that both pumpkins have triangle eyes, triangle noses, and a two-toothed grin!)

Authors and illustrators have a unique bond, one built on trust and confidence in each other’s talents. My task is to write the best text I can and then get out of the way as the illustrator takes over.

The combination leads to transformation – picture book magic!

Pick a Pumpkin is available to buy now! 

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Illustrating 'Madame Badobedah' - with Lauren O'Hara

Sophie Dahl's first picture book, Madame Badobedah, has been out in the world for just over a week now, and illustrator Lauren O'Hara joins us to talk about bringing curious Mabel, mysterious Madame Badobedah, and The Mermaid Hotel to life on the page:

What was it like to illustrate Madame Badobedah?

Madame Badobedah was a delight of a book to illustrate. Sophie created a world so full of joy, humour and tenderness I was hooked from the first page. I was itching to bring her world into full and colourful life.

How did you come up with the designs for the main characters? 

From the first sketches, Mabel seemed to spring to life fully formed. Her grumpy little face and suspicious glances often made me laugh as I sketched. Madame B was more challenging.  After a lot of attempts, she ended up looking rather like my grandmother who was an elegant and formidable redhead with a passion for antique jewellery and Bichons. Sophie described Madame Badobedah's flamboyance and I had great fun designing costumes by watching old Marlene Dietrich and Gloria Swanson movies and sketching feather boas and gold lame leggings.

And what about the Mermaid Hotel, and the many fabulous locations imagined by Mabel?

The world of the book is gorgeous. I enjoyed switching between Mabel's home in a little English Bed and Breakfast by the sea, and Madame Badobedah's past as an emigre and later a young ballerina in New York. I used two colour palettes to show these worlds: Buttercup yellow, cadmium blue and peppermint green for Mabel's world and a darker, more subdued palette of maroon, navy and gold for Madame B."

To celebrate the publication of Madame Badobedah, Lauren painted a beautiful window for London-based independent bookshop, Ottie and the Bea:

Our Picture Book Party competition to WIN a signed copy of Madame Badobedah, a signed print and even a toy tortoise is still open. Click here to enter!

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Top new picture books from Walker Books this October!

Madame Badobedah

Mabel lives with her parents in The Mermaid Hotel, by the sea. Mabel likes to keep an eye on the comings and goings of all the guests. Then one day a particularly interesting old lady comes to stay. There is something very suspicious about her, with her growly voice and her heavy trunks and her beady-eyed tortoise. And why does no one know her REAL name? There can only be one answer, Mabel decides ... this guest is a SUPERVILLAIN. But even supervillains have a soft side, and as an unlikely friendship grows between the pair, their fantastical exploits take them well beyond the corridors of their seaside home.

Pick a Pumpkin

It’s Halloween! Which means it's time to dangle cobwebs and bats from the windows, put on costumes, and – most important of all – visit the pumpkin patch and pick out that perfect pumpkin! Then cart it home, scoop out the insides, carve a scary face, and finally light a candle inside, transforming it into a one-of-a-kind, glowing jack-o’-lantern...With warm, autumnal art, this is the perfect book to share by flickering candlelight on the spookiest night of the year.

Beast Feast
Beast has found a tasty dinner, and he's written to all his friends to invite them to a feast. Unfortunately, Dinner is a child who very much does not want to be eaten. As Beast's friends send their instructions for cooking Dinner, is there any way Dinner can convince Beast to change his menu? A vibrant and charming interactive book with hilarious letters to open.

A Child of Books

In this inspiring, lyrical tale about the rewards of reading and sharing stories, a little girl sails her raft "across a sea of words" to arrive at the house of a small boy. There she invites him to come away with her on an adventure. Through forests of fairy tales and across mountains of make-believe, the two travel together on a fantastical journey that unlocks the boy’s imagination. Now a lifetime of magic lies ahead of him… But who will be next?

Hat Box

The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. A fish has stolen a hat – will he get away with it? Two turtles have found one hat, but the hat looks good on both of them... Jon Klassen’s deliciously deadpan hat tales continue to surprise and delight readers of all ages, and they are all now available in one beautiful boxed set along with an exclusive frameable print.

Just Because 
It might be time for bed, but one child is too full of questions about the world to go to sleep just yet. Little ones and their parents will be charmed and delighted as a patient father offers up increasingly creative responses to his child’s night-time wonderings. Any child who has ever asked “Why?” – and any parent who has attempted an explanation – will recognize themselves in this sweet storybook for dreamers who are looking for answers beyond “Just because”.

Pick up copies of all these books at your local bookshop!

Thursday, 3 October 2019

WIN our October Book of the Month - Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl

Madame Badobedah

We’re delighted to introduce you to Madame Badobedah, a timeless story celebrating friendship and imagination from Sophie Dahl. 

Mabel lives with her parents in The Mermaid Hotel, by the sea. Mabel likes to keep an eye on the comings and goings of all the guests. Then one day a particularly interesting old lady comes to stay. 

There is something very suspicious about her, with her growly voice and her heavy trunks and her beady-eyed tortoise. And why does no one know her REAL name? There can only be one answer, Mabel decides ... this guest is a SUPERVILLAIN.

But even supervillains have a soft side, and as an unlikely friendship grows between the pair, their fantastical exploits take them well beyond the corridors of their seaside home.

"A tale of fantastical exploits and unlikely friendship, with stylish, whimsical art from rising star O'Hara." - The Bookseller, Children's Previews

We are delighted to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a signed copy of Madame Badobedah, plus a Schleich tortoise toy and a framed, signed print!

Are you under 13? If so please do NOT provide your details. Please ask your parent or guardian to enter using their email address.

By entering this competition you confirm that you accept our terms and conditions of entry.



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Friday, 27 September 2019

25 years of 'So Much' by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury

A special 25th-anniversary edition of a multiple award-winning story; So Much is a celebration of family life.

"Eulogizes urban Afro-Caribbean home life through tenderness and humour... A book to savour." The Times

“Written with warmth and humour, this portrait of family life is complemented by Helen Oxenbury’s striking gouache illustrations of a joyful occasion.” Amnesty

Mum and baby are home alone when – DING DONG! – Auntie and then Uncle and Nannie and Gran-Gran and the cousins come to visit. And they all want to hug and kiss and squeeze and eat the baby right up ... because everybody loves the baby SO MUCH!

Helen Oxenbury's characteristically warm, funny illustrations, paired with Trish Cooke's rhythmic, cumulative story capture the joy of being a baby in a large extended family – a baby who knows that he is absolutely, utterly adored.

With a foreword and gorgeous golden foil on the cover and spine, this edition is one to share and treasure.

EVENT: Trish and Helen will be appearing at this year's Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday 13th October. Tickets are available here

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Q&A with Marcia Williams

Children Who Changed the World by Marcia Williams

From the heroes familiar to everyone, such as Malala Yousafzai, to the amazing activists you might not have heard of, like Baruani Ndume, the teenager who gave a voice to fellow refugee children in Tanzania, discover the incredible true stories of child activists in Marcia Williams' Children Who Changed The World.

Celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Rights of the Child and the amazing children who have stood up for them all over the world. Author-Illustrator extraordinaire Marcia Williams answered some questions for us in this behind-the-scenes feature:

1. What initially sparked the idea for the book?
Initially, it was reading about Eglantybe Jebb who founded the organisation ‘Save the Children’ and wrote the first 5 rights for children in 1923. Until I read her story I didn’t even know that children had special rights, but there are 54 articles of the Convention on Rights of the Child now, and they have been signed up to by the leaders of 196 countries. 

Marcia is known for her accessible comic-strip illustration style. Here is the page on the world-famous Malala

2. Can you tell us a bit about both your writing and illustrating process?

I always start by researching and then I will create a vague outline for the book and write an initial draft of the text. Once this is done I can start putting the words and pictures together, at which point much of the text will change or become unnecessary as the pictures and bubble text develop. Although, this book proved more tricky than most in terms of creating a clear layout that would not confuse the reader!

Some early illustrations...

A behind-the-scenes shot from Marcia's studio

3. What was the most interesting fact you discovered whilst writing the book?

That’s a tricky one as almost everything I discovered while writing the book was amazingly interesting and inspiring! Perhaps the most interesting, apart from the 54 rights themselves, was the fact that even small gestures can have a vast impact. I realised that you don’t have to always move a mountain to change the world. I think it is the passion to make a difference that counts, which is encouraging because it means we all have the potential to be world changers!

4. Are there any particular stories that affected you whilst researching?

Oh, what a question! I wept over the pages many times - how could I not. Children’s courage, often in dire circumstances, never ceases to amaze me and then when their luck changes the compassion they show to others really breaks your heart. I can honestly say that the story of every child in the book affected me - some of the children in the book are very young, one is only 4 years old - to show such empathy and compassion at that young age and the persistence needed to make a difference is truly affecting!

Baruani Ndume, an activist in Tanzania known for reuniting children with their families with his radio show

5. Are there any children right now who you think are or will change our world?

Oh definitely, I could name many but you only have to look on the Kidsrights website and the winners and nominees for the International Children’s Peace Prize to see the difference children are making to our world. It is fantastic, they are fantastic - they are making the change!

At the back of the book there is a two-page spread detailing each and every right of the child

Children Who Changed The World is available in all good bookshops! 

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Top new picture books from Walker Books this September!

The Child of Dreams

A little girl wants to know where she came from and why she doesn’t have a father. When her mother cannot tell her, the girl decides to find out for herself. Her journey leads her on a quest through the woods, tracing her own story back to its source with the help of the animals she meets, until she discovers what truly matters in making a family. A beautiful, timeless story with sumptuous illustrations, this classic gift book from acclaimed screenwriter Irena Brignull and exciting illustrator Richard Jones will be shared and treasured by all families whatever their shape or size.

This is Not My Hat (Board Book)

A tiny fish proudly wears a blue hat. It fits him perfectly. Problem is, trouble could be following close behind... So it's a good thing that the enormous fish he took it from won't wake up. And even if he does, it's not as though he'll ever know what happened, right?

Jon Klassen for the smallest hands! A board book edition of the bestselling, multiple award-winning cautionary tale.

“There is character and narrative drive, suspense, menace, morality and a twist” The Sunday Times

Small in the City

Being small can be overwhelming in a city. People don't see you. The loud sounds of the sirens and cyclists can be scary. And the streets are so busy it can make your brain feel like there's too much stuff in it. But if you know where to find good hiding places, warm dryer vents that blow out hot steam that smells like summer, music to listen to or friends to say hi to, there can be comfort in the city, too. We follow our little protagonist, who knows all about what its like to be small in the city, as he gives his best advice for surviving there. As we turn the pages, winner of the 2017 Kate Greenaway Medal, Sydney Smith's masterful storytelling allows us to glimpse exactly who this advice is for, leading us to a powerful, heart-rending realization...

"[...] exceptional picture book." - The Times, Children's Book of the Week

"[a] warm, sweet tale..." - The Observer

Tiny and Teeny

Deep down, in between the blades of grass, lives Tiny with her best friend Teeny. Can you see them? Keep looking … closer still … squint a bit … yes, there they are! Tiny and Teeny keep very busy in the buzzing place of Glengadget. Every day of the week, they have a different neighbour to meet – they do some gardening for Mandy Small, read to Bitsy McGee and give Minkin a hand with her lively twins. But when disaster strikes, Tiny and Teeny find their teeny-tiny world turned upside down… 

Handa's Noisy Night

When Handa has a sleepover with her friend Akeyo, the girls are allowed to spend the night in a little hut near the house. They’re excited to be on their own, but as they get ready for bed, Handa feels more and more nervous. She keeps hearing things – strange snorts, chitter chattering, a big thud. Akeyo says it’s only her noisy family, but on the opposite page the reader sees the nocturnal animals who are really making the noise – and while some of them are familiar, others are very peculiar-looking indeed!

The latest installment from acclaimed author-illustrator, Eileen Browne, the creator of best-selling, Handa's Surprise.

Pick up copies of all these books at your local bookshop!