Friday, 14 August 2020

Ride the Wind by Nicola Davies & Salvatore Rubbino - Guest Illustrator Post

We are delighted to invite Salvatore Rubbino onto the Picture Book Party blog to tell us all about the making of his new picture book, Ride the Wind. You can now read the full post below!

“In this beautifully told and emotive picturebook, a motherless boy breaks rules for the sake of an injured albatross and is reconciled with his harsh father. Salvatore Rubbino’s clear, colourful draughtsmanship is deft at evoking the story’s South American setting.” – ‘Watch Out For’, The Sunday Times

Guest Illustrator Post - Salvatore Rubbino

Making a book can sometimes feel like sending a message in a bottle.

During the making of a book, I am saturated with the story, live with the characters and feel their emotions keenly. After an intense period of painting and drawing, the book (with some relief) reaches a conclusion. Then all goes quiet for about a year! 

I move on to other projects and new challenges and almost forget about the hopes I have for the book.

The book is sent off for printing and in the meantime, the wonderful marketeers at Walker Books find a home for the story with bookshops and other distributors. When the book arrives back, it’s the first time I will have seen it in its printed and bound form. The book and its story message is at last ready to meet its readers and continue its journey.

 When the first copies arrive it’s like an old friend I haven’t seen for a long time. There’s a little hesitation too! Did I do a good job? Are the characters believable? Have I managed to communicate the essence of the story after all? Of course, each book is like a stepping stone, a chance to experience and try something new and develop my picture-making a little further.

(character sketches, Tomas the ‘strict’ dad, kind uncle Filipe and Javier, the boy)

I’d certainly never drawn an albatross before I was invited to illustrate Nicola Davies’s wonderful story, ‘Ride the Wind’, set in a small fishing village along the coast of Chile.

I begin a new illustration project with a careful reading of the text then I try to let the story sink in. Before making pictures for the book I try to find tangible examples that resonate with the characters and setting to look at and draw. Most albatrosses, however, live in the Southern Hemisphere, beyond my reach from East London and a trip to Chile just wasn’t practical.

There are fortunately taxidermy examples in museums that helped give a sense of their majestic wingspan and scale, although ‘my’ bird doesn’t open its wings until the end of the story. I was worried that the albatross might look like a large goose so needed other distinguishing features and discovered that they also have large hook-shaped beaks and strong-looking necks. I drew the albatross until I felt I knew it and also other sea birds from museum specimens and gulls whenever I walked along the Thames. 

(early drawings for the albatross and other sea birds)

(practice pictures for the albatross)

I wanted to experience sea weather and salt spray. So, I took the train to Hastings rather than South America, to the ‘Old Town’ where the boats are launched from the beach and winched back in. It meant I could walk in between the boats, observe them closely and also experience something of the daily rhythm of hardy fishing people. Maintaining nets, making repairs, gutting fish, whilst all around, piles of floats, impressive anchors, weathered fishing huts and even a local museum with a model of an albatross which I took as a good sign. 

(location drawings at Hastings)

(the fishing boat arrives back to the village with Javier and the albatross, from the book)

I see characters everywhere! On the London Underground, on the street, in the supermarket queue. I’ve never met a person I haven’t found interesting and we all come with a story. The characters in the book are a composite of relatives from Southern Italy I remembered from my childhood, farmers this time who had also been shaped by the weather and tough physical work. I borrowed attributes from different people; there’s a little of me in the dad and a little of my son in the boy too.

 (sketches for Tomas and Filipe, and Javier with the albatross)

(Javier smuggles the albatross home to help nurse it well again)

I’d found ‘my’ albatross and ‘my’ village and could now begin to populate it and make the story come to life!

 As I write I’m still awaiting the first copies of the book; I look forward to meeting my ‘old friend’ again.

- Salvatore Rubbino

A special thanks to our guest illustrator this week, Salvatore Rubbino!

Ride the Wind is now available to buy from all good booksellers.


Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Ride the Wind by Nicola Davies & Salvatore Rubbino - Guest Author Post


A heartfelt story from the author of King of the Sky and The Promise, with an important point to make about male mental-health:

Javier has a secret. On one of his father’s fishing trips, he finds an albatross caught on the hooks – alive, if only barely. Against his father’s orders, Javier smuggles the bird to safety and begins nursing it back to health. Every day the albatross accepts a little more food, but she shows no sign of wanting to use her wings. And if Javier's new friend refuses to fly, how will she ever find her way home? With words by award-winning author Nicola Davies and dramatic watercolours by Salvatore Rubbino, this is a beautiful story about the power of empathy.

"Nicola Davies is one of the best children's writers in the business." Huffington Post

“In this beautifully told and emotive picturebook, a motherless boy breaks rules for the sake of an injured albatross and is reconciled with his harsh father. Salvatore Rubbino’s clear, colourful draughtsmanship is deft at evoking the story’s South American setting.” – ‘Watch Out For’, The Sunday Times

Guest Author Post - Nicola Davies

Albatrosses are magical birds, adapted to stay on the wing in gales and storms that would drive other birds out of the air. Their vast wings, with spans up to three and a half metres, carry them almost without flapping, over many thousands of miles of ocean. And if that wasn’t enough, they find the way back toting, remote islands to meet their lifelong mates. 

But albatross are in trouble. Longline fishing boats that use thousands of baited hooks on lines miles long, catch sea birds as well as fish. Hundreds of thousands of albatrosses die this way every year. Marry all that with the effects of pollution, causing adult albatross to return to hungry chicks with bellies full of plastic rather than food, and you have 15 of the 22 albatross species on a collision course with extinction.

I’d wanted to write about albatrosses and the threats they face for years but when my daughter was travelling in coastal Chile, that was when a story about them finally landed in my brain. She sent me photos of fishing villages and the long line boats who fish the Humbolt current, right where albatross too search for food. These small fishers, whose lives are hard as those of the seabirds catch sea birds by mistake and drown them, just as the big commercial boats do.

That gave me the setting, but the human diaspora out of South and                Central America gave me the story: like albatross, many South and Central American people, travel far from home to make a living. Families are divided, and sometimes, like pairs of albatross, never reunited. At the time I was writing Ride the Wind, two close friends also had children travelling the world. I think our longing for our wandering offspring made me feel the story of the separated albatross pair more keenly and helped me to make the emotional link between the human family in the story, and the albatross.

I’ve never seen an albatross and I probably never will. But I still want to know that they are there, riding the wind far from land. If you do too please find out more here:

http://www.birdlife.org/news/tag/albatross-task-force

or donate here:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/join-and-donate/donate/appeals/gough-island/

- Nicola Davies

A special thanks to our guest author this week, Nicola Davies!
Ride the Wind is now available to buy from all good booksellers.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Top Picks of the Month for August!

Make sure you keep an eye out in your local bookshops for our top picks in August!

1. Ride the Wind by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

Javier has a secret. On one of his father’s fishing trips, he finds an albatross caught on the hooks – alive, if only barely. Against his father’s orders, Javier smuggles the bird to safety and begins nursing it back to health. Every day the albatross accepts a little more food, but she shows no sign of wanting to use her wings. And if Javier's new friend refuses to fly, how will she ever find her way home? With words by award-winning author Nicola Davies and dramatic watercolours by Salvatore Rubbino, this is a beautiful story about the power of empathy.

2. Red Red Red by Polly Dunbar

Every toddler feels frustrated sometimes, every toddler gets ANGRY. They scream they shout, they see RED RED RED. Now, in her singularly expressive style, the beloved Polly Dunbar brings us the perfect picture storybook to share with those little ones overwhelmed by their emotions; a true-to-life, upbeat story about a toddler tantrum that offers a meditative way to calm them down. “Why not count to ten?” Mum suggests to her son. “One … two … three…”

Now out in paperback.

3. Mr Scruff by Simon James

Polly belongs with Molly, Eric belongs with Derek, Perry belongs with Terry – everyone knows that owners and their dogs belong together in their own unique way. But for Poor Mr Scruff, alone in the dogs' home, there's no one – that is until a very special little boy arrives looking for a friend...
A wonderful, witty and warm story about the true nature of friendship from award-winning author-illustrator Simon James.

Now out in paperback.


4. Handa's Noisy Night by Eileen Browne

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!

Now out in paperback!

Get your copies of our top picks of the month now at your local bookshop!



Friday, 31 July 2020

I Like Trains by Daisy Hirst - Guest Author Post

We were delighted to invite Daisy Hirst onto the Picture Book Party blog to tell us all about the making of her new picture book, I Like Trains. You can now read the full post below!


I Like Trains

I Like Trains is a picture book about a small dog who really, really likes trains. I like trains too, but this character was inspired by some small humans I’ve known who were truly devoted: like small dog they seemed happiest doing railway-related things, from reconfiguring toy train-tracks to driving imaginary engines, and from reading about trains or watching them on TV to seeing them go by under bridges and, of course, catching actual trains for themselves. 

My books usually begin in my sketchbooks and I’ve often shared the doodles that grew into books like The Girl with the Parrot on her Head and ALPHONSE, THAT IS NOT OK TO DO! In the case of I Like Trains, I’m a bit wary of sharing the doodle because practically the whole thing ended up in the book! When I doodled this I’d recently discovered that writing picture books in the first person can unlock something for me. Perhaps it’s because when a character speaks directly to the reader, I worry less about whether it’ll be enough of a story, what it means, or whether it’s SIGNIFICANT. Trains, clearly, could not be more significant to this little dog (or bear, as it was at the doodle stage) so why don’t I just listen for a while?

I took this little heap of stapled scraps of paper in which a small bear talks about liking trains to my Editor and Art Director, Lizzie Sitton and Ben Norland. Not only did they not have me quietly ejected from the building, they said we could make my tiny idea into an actual book!

But how? For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by the very simplest picture-story books – those that have a plot but are short and simple enough to keep a one- or two-year-old engaged. While making I Like Trains, I thought a lot about books like Satoshi Kitamura’s Duck is Dirty (a small work of genius in a chewable format, which Ben introduced me to) and John Burningham’s Little Books (The Blanket, in particular, is perfection, it has everything it needs and nothing more).  I loved these books but I didn’t understand them: how did their authors know how much story was enough? How did they do so much in such a minuscule space (The Blanket has 64 words!)?

I Like Trains is my seventh picturebook but my first for very young readers and resisting the urge to complicate things was difficult and, if I’m honest, scary: there’s nowhere to hide in a book like this. I tried to keep the very small people I knew in mind, to just slow down and enjoy all-things-train. The climax of the story comes when Small Dog catches a real train to visit Granny: expanding my doodle into a full-length picture book enabled me to expand this journey and celebrate some of the things I love best about trains – including the way the world whooshes past outside.

It also meant that small dog and granny could spend more time together (mostly playing trains, obviously).

- Daisy Hirst

A special thanks to our guest author this week, Daisy Hirst!
I Like Trains is now available to buy from all good booksellers.



Tuesday, 7 July 2020

A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies & Emily Sutton

“Spectacular ... Like fish and chips, Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton are meant for each other. You can almost smell the surf between the pages.” - The Times


From Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton, the multi-award-winning team behind Tiny and Lots, comes a spellbinding collection of poems about the oceans of the world and their shores, now out in paperback! 


With this book, children can swim alongside dolphins and flying fish, pore over rockpools and sail from pole to pole and back, learning about everything from phosphorescence and plankton to manta rays and puffins – all in the comfort of their bedroom. 


Emily Sutton's exquisite watercolours capture the breathless excitement of a child's first glimpse of the sea, the majesty of ancient trading ships and the sheer, staggering wonder of the humpback whale. 


The perfect companion to international bestsellers A First Book of Nature and A First Book of Animals, this book is sure to enthral and inspire readers of all ages.

Activity Sheet

Download the activity sheet for A First Book of the Sea by clicking on the image below!


Check out these great photos taken on location!



A First Book of the Sea is now out in paperback and is available to buy from all good booksellers!


Catch that Chicken! by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank

Catch That Chicken! by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank


Lami loves chickens. She's the best chicken catcher in the village. She's fast, she's brave and she always catches that chicken. Until the day she chases one up the baobab tree, slips ... and falls. How can she catch chickens with a sore ankle? Could there be another way to catch that chicken?



Told with great humour by Nigerian storyteller, Atinuke, this story of the headstrong, impetuous Lami will strike a chord with all children. The gentle message – to use quick thinking not just quick running – gives an incredibly satisfying ending, while Angela Brooksbank's beautiful artwork captures the energy and the beauty of the West African setting perfectly.



Head over to Authorfy to take part in Atinuke's 10-Minute-Challenge, here!










Catch That Chicken! available where all good books are sold.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Top Picks of the Month for July!

It seems that June really flew by, and in July we have even more fabulous picture books for you all to enjoy!

1. Catch that Chicken! by Atinuke and illustrated by Angela Brooksbank




Lami loves chickens. She's the best chicken catcher in the village. She's fast, she's brave and she always catches that chicken. Until the day she chases one-up the baobab tree, slips ... and falls. How can she catch chickens with a sore ankle? Could there be another way to catch that chicken?








2. I Like Trains by Daisy Hirst

Small Dog loves trains. Playing with them, reading about them, drawing them and pretending to be the driver. But the best thing of all is going on a real train – looking at everything whoosh past the window! But who is Small Dog going to see...?



3. Bedtime for Albie by Sophie Ambrose

“Bedtime!” says Mum. Albie the warthog doesn’t think so! He’d much rather play a game. So off he dashes – skippety trot trit trot. But the cheetahs are having their bedtime story, the elephants are having their shower and the meerkats are already snuggled down deep in their burrow. What will Albie do? Mum might just have the most fun game of all...


Now out in paperback.



4. What I Like Most by Mary Murphy and illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang

A little girl tells us about all her favourite things, from her light-up shoes to hot, steamy chips, to her red pencil. But the girl knows that, even as her feet grow, her plate empties, and her pencil shortens, there’s someone she’ll always love … and that is what she likes the very, very most.

Now out in paperback.




5. Ellie's Dragon by Bob Graham

When Ellie is very little, she finds a newborn dragon fresh from the egg on a supermarket shelf and calls him Scratch. He is quite the sweetest thing she has ever seen! From that day on, Ellie and Scratch do everything together. Ellie's mum and her teacher can’t see her fiery friend, but all her friends can – and, over the years, Ellie's dragon grows to be big, house-trained, and very affectionate. And Ellie is growing, too...