Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Catch That Chicken! - Q&A with Angela Brooksbank

Today we welcome Angela Brooksbank onto Picture Book Party to talk about her new picture book, Catch That Chicken! written by Atinuke.


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.

Q&A with Angela Brooksbank

Can you tell us a little about your journey into illustration?

30 years ago, I did my degree in illustration at Chelsea School of Art. There, I made birds out of tin cans and collages out of old wallpaper, but I avoided learning to draw and paint!

After having jobs selling orange juice, doughnuts and being a nanny, I got a job in a small children’s publisher - making dummies and thinking up ideas for novelty books.  I loved it, and over time I began commissioning illustrators to make beautiful artwork. I dreamt that one day I would be able to paint and draw properly like the illustrators of the books we were making.

When my children were little, I went to Cambridge School of Art to do a masters in Children’s Book Illustration. I was determined to improve my drawing, learn how to paint and figure out how to be an illustrator!

I drew in nurseries and music groups, and I loved capturing lovely moments in my sketchbooks. Observational drawing helped me to understand the proportions of preschool children and babies.

 At Cambridge, I wrote my dissertation about “Play and the creative process” - the idea that, it is through play and experimenting that the best work is created, without too much concern for the end product.

Now, I like to experiment a lot. I find that all the best bits in my books have come from when I have rolled my sleeves up and had a good play with my materials.

After graduating from Cambridge, when Walker Books asked me to illustrate a story by Atinuke, I was overjoyed!

I love Atinuke’s stories and have a fascination for all things African.

How did you begin illustrating Catch That Chicken?

I was really excited when I first read the Catch That Chicken! text because I love drawing chickens. I think they are so funny!

I have spent quite a bit of time trying to catch chickens, and I love cuddling them, just like Lami in the story!

I began illustrating Catch That Chicken! by sketching out the characters. I looked at references of people catching and holding chickens!

My drawings are always very scribbly at first, whilst I look for shapes and find the right energy.

I drew chasing poses and tried to figure out each of the characters in the book.

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

I begin a project by gathering lots of photographs. I make a big scrapbook of images, which I look at to help me make the drawings authentic. I have pictures of chickens, motorbikes, African long-horned cows, Baobab trees, cooking pots, hairstyles, facial expressions and even shadows in the hot sun!

Then I start with thumbnails, planning out the spreads. A huge amount of thinking, adjusting and discussing happens between the designer, the editor and the author to get just the right combination of pictures to tell the story. It is lots of fun, but it takes a long time!

Once the pages are all worked out, I start playing with paint, pencils and inks.

I use paintbrushes, rollers, sponges, toothbrushes to make different lines, textures and patterns.

I make textures by printing with all sorts of things like an oven mit, lace, feathers, pom poms, corks, pen lids, buttons, sponges and even Lego!

I scan the paintings, textures and drawings and put them all together in photoshop. This helps to organise my rather complicated and chaotic process. I can also tidy up the smudges and pick out the best bits.

What was your favourite spread to illustrate in Catch That Chicken?

My favourite spread shows the busy compound where Lami and her friends are going about their day. I so enjoyed putting in all the little details of happy family life.

It took ages to paint all the people chatting, playing, cooking and gardening.

Tell us about the chickens in this book!

The little group of chickens that Lami chases in the book are the same five chickens.

I named them Benin, Togo, Mali, Guinea and Nigeria after African countries just so I could check them for consistency from page to page.

Nigeria is Lami’s favourite chicken, and Nigeria is the country where Catch That Chicken! takes place and where Atinuke is from!

What are your favourite picture books, both older and more recent?
I love older books illustrated by Gerald Rose, Satoshi Kitamura, Brian Wildsmith, Eric Carle, Ezra Jack Keats, Tove Jansson and David McKee.

More modern books that I have enjoyed with my children are Shoebaby by Polly Dunbar, So Much by Helen Oxenbury, Fleabag by Helen Stephens and Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake.

My studio is full of beautiful picture books that I love. 

A special thanks to our guest this week, Angela Brooksbank!
Catch That Chicken! is now available in paperback from all good booksellers.

Friday, 9 July 2021

Silent Books Nominations 2021 by IBBY UK

We are honoured to have three Walker titles nominated for IBBY UK's Silent Books!

In response to the waves of refugees from Africa and the Middle East arriving in the Italian island, Lampedusa, IBBY launched the project “Silent Books, from the world to Lampedusa and back” in 2012. The project involved creating the first library on Lampedusa to be used by local and immigrant children.
The second part required creating a collection of silent books (wordless picture books) that could be understood and enjoyed by children regardless of language. These books were collected from IBBY National Sections, over one hundred books from over twenty countries. This set of books was deposited at the documentation and research archive in Rome, a set delivered to the library in Lampedusa, and a further set was part of a travelling exhibition.
Once again this year, all national sections of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) were called to support this initiative by nominating and submitting the best silent books published in their country since 2017.
Due to the absence of language restrictions, wordless picture books have become an excellent tool not only for second language teaching but also for early readers and anyone who enjoys visual stories. Most importantly though, these books can enhance visual literacy skills and their art, aesthetically pleasing as it is, can attract both children and adults.
We are delighted to have had the following three titles nominated!
Dandelion’s Dream by Yoko Tanaka
"The pictures seem to have a sepia tint, with the dandelion’s yellow halo and tail tip standing out." IBBY UK
In a meadow filled with dandelion buds just about to flower, one dandelion blooms into a real lion. Roots and leaves unfurl into four tiny paws and a long tail with a fluffy yellow tuft. What a great wide world there is to explore when you have paws instead of roots! There are fast trains to ride, regal ships to sail, and cities with lights as bright as Dandelion’s field in full bloom. But will a real lion ever be content to go back to being a rooted dandelion?
The Midnight Fair by Gideon Sterer and illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio 
"The atmosphere and movement in the pictures have a cinematic quality." IBBY UK

Far from the city, but not quite in the countryside, lies a fairground. When night falls and the fair is empty, something unexpected happens. Wild animals emerge from the trees, a brave raccoon pulls a lever, and the rollercoasters and rides explode back into bright, neon life. Now it’s time for the woodland creatures to have some fun…
Hike by Pete Oswald
"In the beginning, there is a clue to their specific purpose in addition to the joys of simply walking in the countryside and the warm relationship between parent and child is apparent throughout. Shortlisted for the 2021 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal." IBBY UK
In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive – and closer than ever – as they document their hike and take their place in family history.

In detail-rich panels and textured panoramas, Pete Oswald perfectly paces this nearly wordless adventure, allowing readers to pause for subtle wonders and marvel at the views. A touching tribute to the bond between father and child, with resonant themes for Earth Day, Hike is a breath of fresh air.


You can find more about the Lampedusa project and the collections of wordless picturebooks on the IBBY official website.

For the IBBY UK section, please visit www.ibby.org.uk

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

I Am Angry by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Robert Starling

I Am Angry
by Michal Rosen and illustrated by Robert Starling

This kitten may look cute and cuddly, but better beware: they're angry. Really angry. Angry, angry, angry! And this isn't any old "angry". This is a jump-up-and-down, roll-on-the-ground kind of angry. This is a spider-scaring, tiger-scaring kind of angry. This is a burst-balloon-ing, SQUASH-THE-MOON-ING kind of angry...

As surreal as things may get, this is also the kind of angry that parents of toddlers will recognize – a bad mood that comes out of nowhere, escalates wildly, then disappears as suddenly as it arrived. 

Based on the popular poem from A Great Big CuddleI Am Angry combines Michael Rosen's brilliant rhymes and anarchic imagination, Robert Starling's perfect knack for character and a reassuring message: anger may feel overpowering, but it doesn't last forever.

I Am Angry is now available from all good booksellers!

Monday, 5 July 2021

Recent Picture Book Highlights

Ernest the Elephant
by Anthony Browne

Ernest is a happy baby elephant. But when his curiosity gets the better of him and he leaves the rest of his herd to explore the alluring and dangerous jungle, he becomes very lost indeed. Amongst the undergrowth, he meets a rude gorilla, a weary lion, an impolite hippo and an uncaring crocodile. Will anyone help Ernest find his way out of the jungle and home to his mum? From the international phenomenon, Anthony Browne, comes a heartfelt, visually stunning picture book, about finding help in unexpected places.

Click here to download our Ernest the Elephant's activity sheets!

by Chris Haughton

Three little monkeys, and their big monkey, are sat high up on their branch in the forest canopy. “Ok, monkeys! I’m off," says the big monkey. “Now remember. Whatever you do, do NOT go down to the mango tree. There are tigers down there.” Mmm … mangos! think the little monkeys. They LOVE mangos. Hmm ... maybe … maybe they could just look at the mangos? That’d be ok, right?

Click here to download our Maybe's activity sheets!

The Rock from the Sky
by Jon Klassen

Turtle really likes standing in his favourite spot. He likes it so much that he asks his friend Armadillo to come over and stand in it, too. But now that Armadillo is standing in that spot, he has a bad feeling about it...

A hilarious meditation on the workings of friendship, fate, shared futuristic visions, and that funny feeling you get that there’s something off somewhere, but you just can’t put your finger on it. Merging broad visual suspense with wry wit and existential silliness, celebrated picture-book creator Jon Klassen gives us a wholly original comedy for the ages.

Click here to download our The Rock from the Sky's activity sheets!

My Big Book of Outdoors
by Tim Hopgood

From vibrant springtime flowers to sweet fruits on summer trees, the falling of autumn leaves and snowdrops in winter, this book of four seasons is the perfect introduction to the big outdoors.

Discover why birds fly south in winter, find animal footprints in the snow and learn to make the perfect snowflake; grow a sunflower, find a feather and make a daisy chain. Full of activities, poetry and fun facts to explore, this bumper book is jam-packed with amazing things to see and do outdoors – the perfect gift for every season.

Frog vs. Toad
by Ben Mantle

Frog is a frog. And Toad is a toad. They are totally different from each other. So when a fly mistakes Frog and Toad for two FROGS, it’s not long before things get a bit fruity... Luckily, a too-close call with a snappy alligator makes Frog and Toad join forces to see that they’re not THAT different after all… At heart, a laugh-out-loud journey about togetherness, putting differences aside and realizing that friends don't need to be just like you, but they come in all shapes and sizes!

Click here to download our Frog vs Toad activity sheets!

Julian at the Wedding
by Jessica Love

Julian and his nana are attending a wedding. Better yet, Julian is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to ... muddy puddles? After all, it wouldn’t be a wedding without fun, laughter and a little magical mischief. With ingenuity and heart, author-illustrator Jessica Love tells a charming story of friendship, acceptance and celebration.

Click here to download our Julian at the Wedding's activity sheets!

Thursday, 1 July 2021

New July Picture Books Releases!

Check out a selection of our new releases for July below!

The Seed of Doubt
by Irena Brignull and illustrated by Richard Jones

A little boy dreams of a world beyond the farm where he lives – a world full of mountain ranges, oceans and cities, where he could do anything. But one day he plants a seed from which doubts start to grow. Instead of thinking of all that he could do, he thinks more of what he could not. Can he overcome his fears and chase his dreams?

I Am Angry
by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Robert Starling

This kitten may look cute and cuddly, but better beware: they're angry. Really angry. Angry, angry, angry! And this isn't any old "angry". This is a jump-up-and-down, roll-on-the-ground kind of angry. This is a spider-scaring, tiger-scaring kind of angry. This is a burst-balloon-ing, SQUASH-THE-MOON-ING kind of angry...

Maisy's Surprise Birthday Party
by Lucy Cousins

Today is Maisy's birthday, hip-hip-hooray! She dresses up in her favourite outfit and eats a yummy breakfast ... but there are no cards from any of her friends. Have they all forgotten about her birthday?

Of course not! Her friends are throwing her a very special surprise party. Join the birthday mouse as she plays party games, eats a scrumptious feast, opens her cards and presents and makes a special wish as she blows out the candles on her cake!

The perfect book for teaching little ones all about birthday traditions, from party games to blowing out candles, this is an extra-special addition to the bestselling First Experiences range, celebrating 30 years of Maisy!

Now out in Paperback

The Child of Dreams
by Irena Brignull and illustrated by Richard Jones

"A joy to pore over." The Irish Independent, Children’s Books of the Year

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 timeless story with sumptuous illustrations, this picture book will be shared and treasured by all families whatever their shape or size.

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?

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.

Phoebe Dupree is Coming to Tea!
by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Alea Marley

Have you met Phoebe – Miss Phoebe Dupree?
Phoebe’s as perfect as perfect can be.

To Abby, her friend Phoebe can do no wrong. Phoebe is speedy. Phoebe is smart. She’s equally brilliant at science and art. So when the budding hostess invites Phoebe over for a tea party, everything from the sugary treats on the menu to Abby’s dog, Louie, must be, well ... perfect. But when life – and possibly Louie – send a clear message to let loose, the girls indulge in a perfectly imperfect playdate. Linda Ashman’s vivacious rhyme and Alea Marley’s inviting illustrations serve up a classic tale of enduring friendship at a tea party that will leave readers wanting to pull up a chair.

Welcome to Your World
by Smriti Halls and illustrated by Jamie Kim

Welcome, little baby, round your mama curled.
Welcome, little baby. Welcome to your world.

Journey along with a new small someone through our natural world, discovering the warmth and love that is found all around us. From ice-capped mountains to the depths of the sea, through forests, plains and jungles, this book brims over with delicious parent and baby pairings – elephants, eagles, monkeys, polar bears and more! A lyrical, stunningly illustrated book that celebrates the wonders of nature, while also subtly calling to protect it. A must-have gift for a newborn!

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...?

Celebrating the warmth of family relationships and the joy of imaginative play, this book is utterly charming whether you love trains or not!
Maya & Cat
by Caroline Magerl 

On a roof, as wet as a seal, as gray as a puddle, Cat was rumbling, a rumbly purr.

What will lure Cat down? Feather boas? Pretty pink shoelaces? A boatful of fish under a tiny tin sail? Maya finally succeeds, only to watch Cat jump on the roof again, above a thousand lit windows, one of which must be Cat’s own. As the rain keeps coming down, how can Maya help Cat find its home? With whimsical watercolors both fluid and full of expression, Caroline Magerl portrays a child on a mission and an adventurous cat who keeps its mysteries as quiet as its paws in a story that follows a kindly impulse to an unexpected conclusion.


All of our July releases are now available from all good booksellers!

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Oscar's Tower of Flowers - Q&A with Lauren Tobia

Today we welcome Lauren Tobia onto Picture Book Party to talk about her new picture book, Oscar's Tower of Flowers.


Oscar's mum has to go away, just for a little while. So Oscar has come to stay with his nana. Oscar likes being with Nana in her tower block, but he really misses his mum, too. So, one day, Nana has an idea. Together, they carefully sow seeds – lots and lots of seeds! And then they water them, and wait… And the seeds start to grow! And the flowers begin to burst! There are plants everywhere. But, what to do with them all?

In a timely silent narrative for the youngest readers – gorgeously illustrated with graphic panels and sweeping spreads that evoke the urban bustle of a busy high-rise – Lauren Tobia shows how each individual, each child, can bring lushness and vitality to a community.

Q&A with Lauren Tobia

How did you get into illustration and picture book writing?

I suppose everything begins and ends with drawing for me. I have always drawn, I loved drawing and crafts as a child and never stopped.  I am always happiest when totally absorbed in putting pencil or paint to paper.

I worked as a nurse for many years, but when I reached my 40th birthday, I realised it was time to change. I joined the illustration course at UWE Bristol and have never looked back.

Near the end of the degree, I entered the Macmillan Children’s Book Prize and was highly commended with a wordless book about a blue cat. I think that was a huge encouragement, topped off by being phoned after leaving uni and offered work illustrating Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke with Walker Books.

I started working on the early readers, producing black and white illustrations, and as the collection of Anna books grew, I continued to learn. As the years have gone by, I have worked for other publishers and the lovely Walker team over in the US and each time I help make a book I learn and try out more. 

What was your inspiration behind Oscar’s Tower of Flowers?

That’s easy. My grandson Oscar!

I found out I was going to be a nanna and everything came together. I combined all of my obsessions; cityscapes, my grandson, and the blue cat from my first dummy book for the Macmillan Prize - oh, and houseplants as I have a market stall and little houseplant business in Bristol.

Can you talk a little about your work process? 

My work process is pretty simple as I also have to work with my dyslexia. In my case, I have a concise attention span and get very distracted so I should keep some sort of office hours in my studio. Of course my mind wanders, but it will tumble back eventually if I am at my desk. I draw everything in pencil usually very quickly and then transfer the drawing into a digital image and build up a page using colours and textures and ideas I pull together. It works well for me as it is immediate and easily editable. 

If I am in the early stages of work, I will paint and whiz off on my bike or go and sit somewhere and people watch, but once I start properly I am back at the studio in my spare bedroom.

What was your favourite spread to illustrate in Oscar’s Tower of Flowers?

I loved drawing anything I could fill with plants, but I suppose the final endpaper is my favourite with all the plants and people waving and talking to each other and the beehive on the roof... even though I loved making all of the pictures.

I love drawing city’s with their tower blocks and houses and all the liveliness of a city.

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

My favourite picture books vary so much. Some illustrators /artists I admire are Britta Teckentrup, Sydney Smith and Lucy Cousins, particularly Hooray for Fish - but I probably change my favourite every week.

There are a few illustrators that will always be special to me such as H.E. Shepherd and his beautiful drawings of Pooh Bear and friends and Gerald Rose, who illustrated The Great Jelly of London by Paul Jennings that I took out of the library almost continuously as a child.

Any list would not be complete without a shout out to Mary Blair for her fabulous colours and compositions, Edward Ardizzone and Heath Robinson, who I have always loved and makes me chuckle.


A special thanks to our guest this week, Lauren Tobia!
Oscar's Tower of Flowers is now available to buy from all good booksellers.