Wednesday, 23 September 2020

The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup - Guest Illustrator Post

 It is a real treat to invite Britta Teckentrup onto the Picture Book Party blog to tell us all about the making of her new book, The House by the Lake, written by Thomas Harding. You can now read the full post below!

Guest Illustrator Post - Britta Teckentrup

How did you decide on the look of the book?

The House by the Lake tells the remarkable true story of a little wooden summer house built on the shores of a lake on the outskirts of Berlin throughout the course of a century.

The 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 through the garden of the house.

As the text is full of history I decided to reflect that in my illustrations.

The artwork has got a faded, old quality to it and I worked a lot from archive films and reference photography of the house and the people that lived there.

I was able to visit the house with the author Thomas Harding in the summer of 2018. It was just in the process of being restored as it had been derelict for many years.

It was very hard for me to imagine what the house had looked like. I tried to piece it all together by looking at Thomas Harding’s old photographs. It was quite difficult to understand at times as the house had changed quite a lot throughout the course of a century.

I only saw the fully renovated house after I had finished illustrating the book.

Here is some development work of the house and the people that lived there.

(I tried to give the people a likeness whenever possible to preserve their memory.)

(I also did a fair bit of research into uniforms, clothes, furniture, wallpaper, the cranes that were used to build the wall, Russian tanks, planes etc. as I wanted to be as accurate as possible)

Tell us a little bit more about your artistic process?

 I work from my studio in our flat in Berlin where I live with my husband (who is also an artist) and our son.

We live in a typical Berlin flat with high ceilings, tall windows and wooden floors.

I always thought that I was a morning person but I completely changed my working pattern when my son left school and I didn’t HAVE to get up early any longer. 

I now enjoy the luxury of getting up late and work into the night.

I especially enjoy the silence of the night during the warm summer month when everything is calm and quiet and I don’t get distracted by emails or phone calls.

 My work is a mix of hand-printed textures and digital collage. I always worked with collage and my first books many, many years ago (in 1993) were all hand-made collages. The process evolved and I now use a computer as well but the printed textures still come first. I love the messiness of creating the textures, the smell of the oil paint and the feel of paper.

Once I have scanned in the textures I play with them in Photoshop ... I cut them up, overlay them, move them around and still get many happy surprises and ‘accidents’.

I still use a mouse to create my illustrations and don’t really draw or paint in Photoshop – I mainly use the lasso tool - and am mainly lead by textures, shapes and colour...

 What was your favourite spread to illustrate?

I have got two favourite spreads...

I loved illustrating the darkest spread of the book where the planes fly over the house during the Second World War.

I also love the mood of the abandoned house taken over by nature.

Thomas Harding’s text beautifully combines lightness and dark, the beautiful and the harrowing and I tried to reflect that in my artwork.


What is your favourite thing to draw? 

I haven’t really got a favourite thing to ‘draw’.

I love illustrating people, nature and animals (apart from dogs and cows).

What was your favourite picture book when you were a child?

 I still have got my childhood copy of Tomi Ungerer’s ‘No Kiss for Mother’, which I treasure. I even coloured in the cover.

I am sure that I didn’t quite understand the book at the time but I always knew that it was different from most of the other books I had.

Maybe it is not really a picture book but I hope it counts anyway.

- Britta Teckentrup

A special thanks to our guest illustrator this week, Britta Teckentrup!

The House by the Lake is now available to buy from all good booksellers.

Monday, 21 September 2020

The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup - Guest Author Post

We are delighted to invite Thomas Harding onto the Picture Book Party blog to tell us all about the making of his new book, The House by the Lake, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup. You can now read the full post below!

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.

Guest Author Post - Thomas Harding

In 2013, I visited my family’s little wooden lake house outside of Berlin. It had been built by my great-grandfather Alfred Alexander, a prominent Jewish doctor. The Nazis had stolen the house from us back in the 1930s. Now standing outside, I was filled with sadness. The walls were covered with graffiti, its windows were broken, its floorboards rotten. When I asked the neighbours what the city planned to do with the house I was told it was going to be demolished. This made me feel even worse.
So, with the help of members of the local community and members of my family, we saved the house and set about its renovation. From this experience, I wrote the adult non-fiction book, THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE.

In 2019, we opened the house to the public. It was so exciting to see people visit for the first time, to experience what my grandmother called her ‘soul place’.
I was particularly interested to see the response of our younger guests. They touched the hole in the side of the house-made from a Russian bullet back in 1945. They stared at the piece of concrete and iron poking up from the soil in the garden, a leftover from the Berlin Wall. They looked at the sunflower wallpaper inside put up during the time of East Germany. They took in the beautiful view of the lake. And I thought to myself: could I find a way to tell this story for a younger audience?

I adore picture books. As a child, I read them again and again. My favourites still sit proudly on my shelf. As a teenager, I had a summer job in the children’s bookshop in Muswell Hill, London, where I was introduced to new types of books, history, nature, fantasy and much more. Later, when I had kids, I read to them every night. I wanted so much to make a picture book of my own.
But I had my doubts. I had never before written a book for children. I felt intimidated and lacking in confidence. Even if I tried, I thought to myself, how could I tell this story for 6, 7, 8 year olds? After all, it had so many dark themes — Nazis, refugees, the Berlin Wall, the Stasi, bombing raids.

A few weeks later, I was in Scotland at a book festival and I met the wonderful children’s author Nicola Davies. I told Nicola about my concerns and she said I could do it. All I had to do was take the one step and then another.
Which is what I did. I sat down at my desk and wrote the first few words. ‘A long time ago there was a little house by a lake.’ And then the next line, and then the next. Remarkably, the incredible people at Walker Books decided to publish the story. I was so happy.

Working with Britta Teckentrup was a dream. I admire her books so when I heard she would be creating the illustrations for THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE I was delighted. We first met in a little café in Berlin near where she lives. We had an immediate connection. We talked about the story, what it meant to me and what it meant to her. Britta then went to visit the house by the lake and did some research on her own. A few months later I was sent her work and I was thrilled.

The first image I saw was of the kind doctor and cheery wife and their four children outside the house. Of course, this is my family and I found the picture very moving. And the colours were so beautiful.
The next picture I saw was of the aircraft dropping bombs on Berlin. This was very different, angry, dark, powerful. I was very impressed at how Britta had captured the sudden shift in the story.
When I saw the illustrations of the ‘young man’ arriving at the house towards the end of the book I laughed out loud. Britta had captured me so well, down to my flat cap and purposeful stride.
I am so pleased this story is now available for a younger audience and I am excited to hear how they respond.
The house by the lake is now renovated and open to the public as a centre for education and reconciliation. For more information about programming or to arrange a visit please go to .

- Thomas Harding

A special thanks to our guest author this week, Thomas Harding!

The House by the Lake is now available to buy from all good booksellers.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Norse Tales by Kevin Crossley-Holland & Jeffrey Alan Love - Guest Illustrator Post

 It is an absolute treat to invite the brilliantly talented Jeffrey Alan Love back onto the Picture Book Party blog to tell us all about the making of his new book, Norse Tales: Stories from Across the Rainbow Bridge. You can now read the full post below!

Guest Illustrator Post - Jeffrey Alan Love

Tell us a little bit more about your artistic process?

I live in Northern California and have an office that looks out on Mt. Tam. In the mornings I can watch the fog rolling in from Point Reyes heading towards San Francisco. Before the pandemic I worked like anyone else - drop the children off at school and work until it was time to pick them up, Monday through Friday, with weekends off. Now I work in stolen moments, naptime, late at night or early in the morning, as much as I can on weekends. Six months in and this feels normal now, and I wonder what it will feel like when my children are able to go back to school safely. This has been incredibly hard, as I know it has been for everyone, but I also feel lucky to have gotten to spend so much time with my children at such a young age.

As for my working method, I like to print the manuscript so that I can doodle in the margins as I read through it, little scribbled visual notes when something strikes me. If there's a moment that evokes an emotional reaction I underline it and try to evoke that emotion in my artwork. The sketches I send to Ben are done in photoshop, generally just black and white, trying to get the design and composition right. The sketches are never about drawing, or details - only whether the composition is working. If the composition is working then I can get away with just having fun making the finished artwork, trying different techniques and tools to get interesting marks and effects. As long as I have the composition and value structure worked out I know I have a safety net and can only fall so far, so I feel free to take risks and make mistakes and discover new ways of working. All of the paintings for this book were done with acrylic and ink on illustration board.

What was your favourite spread to illustrate?

My goal is always to make every spread my favourite, to give 100% to each painting. I want the reader to be propelled through the book by the words and images, and each image needs to have an impact. 

Which of the tales is your favourite and why?

I think Kevin did something wonderful with this book, in that each tale builds subtly one upon the next until we reach the end and he brings them all together with the final tale. When I read the manuscript the first time I got teary-eyed at the end. So if I had to pick just one, The Gift of Poetry. As a father now I often think of what I want my books to pass on to my children, and what was given to me by books in my childhood and in my life. The Gift of Poetry speaks to that history, that heritage, all of us are links in a chain reaching back through the years and that, we hope, will extend far into the future.

What is your favourite thing to draw? 

I am drawn to knights and arrows and swords and King Arthur and Robin Hood because, as a young child growing up in Germany, I spent my days running through dark woods, up the hill from our village to a small castle. On weekends we would go visit other castles, or walled cities, or ruins. I was surrounded by the landscape of the tales my parents told me, of the picture books they would buy me.

What was your favourite picture book when you were a child?

Tales of King Arthur by James Riordan, illustrated by the magnificent Victor Ambrus. My parents went to England and came back with that book and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to write and draw as soon as I saw the cover. 

 - Jeffrey Alan Love

A special thanks to our guest illustrator this week, Jeffrey Alan Love!

Norse Tales: Stories from Across the Rainbow Bridge is now available to buy from all good booksellers.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Norse Tales by Kevin Crossley-Holland & Jeffrey Alan Love - Guest Author Post

We were thrilled to invite Kevin Crossley-Holland onto the Picture Book Party blog to tell us all about the making of his new book, Norse Tales: Stories from Across the Rainbow Bridge

You can now read the full post below!

Enter an ancient world of green glades and glaciers, where gods and goddesses spread their magic whilst rock-giants and mountain-trolls roam. This astonishing new collection of Norse tales from the award-winning Kevin Crossley-Holland – with Jeffrey Alan Love’s arresting illustrations – will enthral readers of all ages.

Guest Author Post - Kevin Crossley-Holland

What was the inspiration behind writing this novel?

 Long ago and not so long, I came across a page in an ancient book seething with supernatural beings: light elves and changelings and ghosts and night-trolls and water-horses and tide-mice and... That started me thinking that although the Norse myths are chiefly about gods and giants and dwarfs and a few humans and monsters, the Vikings believed that their world was inhabited by all kinds of other beings.  So I thought I would write about some of them.

 But then I changed my mind!  Well, partly.

I remembered that although the gods are not particularly interested in human beings, a few myths describe what happened when gods and humans did meet.  I wanted to retell one or two of them as well, so then the book became a kind of hybrid (that sounds like a kind of monster!), partly about the gods, when they cross the rainbow bridge into Midgard, and partly about human beliefs and superstitions.


What made you want to revisit the Norse World?

Long ago and very long, a great poet laid his wrinkled right hand on my head - no, he didn't touch my tongue! - and told me to 'Look North'.  Look north to the thrilling, ice-bright myths and poems and sagas of the Viking world.

 He said that since the native British are by blood, temperament, geography and culture, creatures of the northern world (that's to say, northwest Europe), we should, of course, be familiar with the Norse and Germanic and Anglo-Saxon myths, legends and folk tales as well as with Hebrew and classical mythology.

 I was electrified.  I took my young sons to Iceland and camped there.  And while I've spent a good part of my writing life excavating the literature of the Northern world, I'm well aware I've done little more than scrape the surface.

 And that, in a nutshell, is why I wanted to revisit the Northern World in my Norse Tales.  And why I will do so again.  Indeed, I'm just embarking on a historical novel set during the weeks leading up to the stunning battle at Stamford Bridge; it's a kind of love story, and an account of what happened when Harald Hardrada, the greatest warrior of the Viking world, met Harold Godwinsson face to face.


 Tell us a little bit more about your writing process?

Writers are self-employed, and so they need to be self-disciplined.  I'm not all that good at embarking on a new project.  I make all kinds of excuses, turn aside to shorter commitments, draft new poems, and sort-of giddy around like an old dog before getting down to work.

I write at the desk I bought with the advance I was given by Macmillan for my first book, Havelok the Dane.  I was 22.  It's rather too small, actually, but at this late date, we're almost conjoined at the hip!

Once underway, I concentrate fiercely - and ideally, I think and plan and write through the morning (no emails, no 'phone calls, no correspondence, buckets of strong coffee supplied by my smiling wife).  I warm up, as it were, by revisiting and revising my previous day's work, and then break new ground.  Come late afternoon, I try to return to my desk between 6.00pm and 8.00pm.  And then, late at night, I usually spend an hour in the company of my characters and story, thinking and dreaming. . .

I write by hand (I'm left-handed), using my old brown Waterman pen and a liberal flow of Absolute Brown Ink.  And every few days I pass my manuscript to my P.A. (one of the few people in the world who can decipher my handwriting) and she types them.  Then the next and crucial stage begins: redrafting. . . revising. . . and revising. . .  Each word counts; and so does each silence. 


Which of the tales is your favourite and why? 

 My favourite story?  It's a toss-up.  Perhaps 'Blue of Blue', the lyrical myth about how humans first learned to grow flax and make linen, in which the dramatic Icelandic landscape is so much part of the story.  Or perhaps 'The Gift of Poetry', because of the way in which precious gifts can be passed on from person to person, and generation to generation - something I think of when I 'Look North' and try to live up to the example of the great writers, the great word-weavers, who have inspired me.

In that tale, the narrator says that, listening as a boy to the old poet Halldor, 'I knew each waterfall was alive, each column of steam and plume of cloud, each birch leaf and rowan leaf, each moonwort and spotted orchid.  They were alive and I shared their lives and longings. . .  I wanted to be like Halldor, and told him I wanted to learn...'

 - Kevin Crossley-Holland

A special thanks to our guest author this week, Kevin Crossley-Holland!

Norse Tales: Stories from Across the Rainbow Bridge is now available to buy from all good booksellers.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Bring nature back to where you live with 'The Promise' by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin

We are delighted to share that The Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin, has been adapted into a film, soon to be shown on the BBC.  It is launching on the week of 12th October and conservation group, Wild Labs, wants to support families and communities to seek action from those with power to bring nature back into the places we live in.

On the morning of October 16th, they will be hosting an exclusive LIVE online screening of The Promise film for schools. In particular they are looking for schools in nature deprived areas to participate, if that is you or you work in nature deprived communities do sign-up to their newsletter to receive the latest updates and screening information.

You might also be a primary school that wants to bring more nature into your school and surrounding community; or maybe you are an on the ground partner already bringing food growing into urban areas, tree planting or community gardens and are excited by working with children, communities and creative ways to connect with nature. For you, Wild Labs have developed a local partnership program that aims to match-make these two groups, take a look here for more information.  

If any of the above is of interest to you, sign-up here to get the latest updates, and if you have any questions or want to get more involved drop them a line via 

More about The Promise, the book that inspired the film:

A picture book of great beauty and hope about the power we have to transform our world.

On a mean street in a mean city, a thief tries to snatch an old woman’s bag. But she finds she can’t have it without promising something in return – to “plant them all”. When it turns out the bag is full of acorns, the young thief embarks on a journey that changes her own life and the lives of others for generations to come. 

Inspired by the belief that a relationship with nature is essential to every human being, and that now, more than ever, we need to renew that relationship, The Promise is the story of a magical discovery that will touch the heart and imagination of every reader, young and old. With poignant simplicity, honesty and lyricism, Nicola Davies evokes a powerful vision of a world where people and nature live in harmony. And Laura Carlin's delicate illustrations capture a young girl’s journey from a harsh, urban reality to the beauty and vitality of a changed world.

Available to buy where all good books are sold! 

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Honey for You, Honey for Me by Michael Rosen & Chris Riddell

From Children’s Laureates Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell, the bestselling team behind A Great Big Cuddle, comes a first book of nursery rhymes.

"A guaranteed bedtime favourite for our youngest bookworms is the new book from Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell. These topsy-turvy tales are a feast of words and amazing pictures." - The Bath Magazine 

Flying pigs, wobbling plates of jelly and a giant with a terrible fear of mice: welcome to the topsy-turvy world of nursery rhymes. Inspired by his lifelong fascination with these wonderful, riddling rhymes, Michael Rosen has placed familiar playground songs beside forgotten gems for a seminal new collection, which Chris Riddell has brought to vivid life with his magnificent, exuberant pictures. Expect familiar faces, from little Jumping Joan to Miss Mary Mack-Mack-Mack – but also plenty of mischievous surprises. With over thirty rhymes to choose between, this is a book for families to share and treasure.

Join Michael as he reads from his new collection of nursery rhymes, Honey For You, Honey for Me below:

Honey for You, Honey for Me is now available to buy from all good booksellers.

Friday, 4 September 2020

International Dot Day

Celebrate International Dot Day on 15th-ish September!

International Dot Day, a global celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration, began when teacher Terry Shay introduced his classroom to Peter H. Reynolds’ book The Dot on September 15, 2009. Now, every 15-ish September, more than 10 million teachers, librarians and children in 170 countries participate in International Dot Day, making their mark by getting busy with writing, drawing, painting, or other creative outlets and sharing their Dot Day inspiration with others.

Join in the global celebrations on 15-ish September by hosting a reading of The Dot, throwing a creative dot-making event, or planning a weeklong series of activities — the possibilities are endless! To get started, download the free International Dot Day pack which is packed with simple ideas to help you celebrate creativity in your classroom or library here.

 Watch this video of Peter H. Reynolds to learn the story of how The Dot came to be and what he hopes you and your students will take away from it.

 We can’t wait to hear about your International Dot Day event in your classroom or library. 

Keep us updated by sharing any news, photos and art with us via Twitter @WalkerBooksUK #DotDay, #Makeyourmark.

To find out more and to discover other great ideas for making your mark on International Dot Day, click here!