Wednesday 25 February 2015

Show your Mum how much you love her with Adopt a Word!

Adoptaword detail
Adopt a Word with I CAN today for just £15 and be in with a chance of winning one of ten fantastic Guess How Much I Love You gift packs, including a copy of the 20th anniversary edition of this classic picture book, stickers, hare ears, posters and a cuddly Nutbrown Hare plush toy!

From Wednesday 25th February to midnight Sunday 15th March 2015, when you Adopt a Word as a gift you will receive a special limited edition Guess How Much I Love Adopt a Word certificate.

Visit the Adopt a Word website to find out more.

Monday 23 February 2015

Celebrating 20 Years of Guess How Much I Love You

Day 1 of the Guess How Much I Love You blog tour

Today we're over the moon to be kicking off our Guess How Much I Love You blog tour on Picture Book Party, celebrating 20 years of this cherished classic by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram. 

This week, to celebrate two decades of the book that has captured the hearts of millions of children and adults worldwide, we've asked four fantastic mummy bloggers to share their memories of Guess How Much I Love You, and to get creative with their little ones, inspired by the book.

Follow the blog tour:
Monday 23rd:
Tuesday 24th:
Wednesday 25th:
Thursday 26th:
Friday 27th:

‘I love you right up to the moon – and back’

Sometimes, when you love someone very, very much, you want to find a way of describing how much you treasure them. But, as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discover, love is not always an easy thing to measure! 

The tale of the Nutbrown Hares competing to measure their love for one another, and Big Nutbrown Hare’s heart-warming declaration to Little Nutbrown Hare, ‘I love you right up to the moon – and back’, has helped this story become a way of saying ‘I love you’ all over the world. 

The story behind Guess How Much I Love You

The seed for Guess How Much I Love You was planted during a conversation between Sam McBratney and his editor. Sam explains how it all began . . .

"One day, my editor at Walker Books in London said, “Why don’t you write a picture book, Sam?”
I said, “Do I not need to know an illustrator, Caroline?”
“Wouldn’t I have to work with an illustrator? You know, match text with drawing sort of thing.”
She shook her head.
I said, “You mean, you want me to send you ... a page?”
“Sam,” said Caroline, “we have illustrators who can render in exquisite detail whatever your imagination can dream up. What we don’t have are people who can write a powerful story using hardly any words at all. It looks as though it should be easy, Sam, but it’s not easy.”
What she was saying was what I later came to believe: it’s as difficult to write a fine picture book, one that stands out from the crowd, as it is to write a fine novel.
I took up the challenge and the result was Guess How Much I Love You, published in 1994. About 400 words. And Caroline was right, it wasn’t easy - it was a new experience over six months to have every word fighting for its existence in the finished text. But that’s another story, a different story.

Anita Jeram and Sam McBratney


To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Guess How Much I Love You, we have a gorgeous goody bag up for grabs, filled with Little Nutbrown Hare treats including a soft toy, poster, an anniversary edition of the book, stickers and hare ears! Three runners up will win a beautiful anniversary edition of the book. For your chance to win, just tell us what you love "right up to the moon and back." Send your answer along with your name and address to with GUESS in the subject line by 10 April 2015. Good luck!

Terms and conditions apply

Keep your little hares busy and visit for lots Guess How Much I Love You activities.

Friday 6 February 2015

Jonathan Emmett on the tale of a perfectly pristine pig

This month we publish A Spot of Bother, the new picture book from Jonathan Emmett (illustrated by Vanessa Cabban). Today we welcome Jonathan to the Picture Book Party for this exclusive guest post:

Pigs have an undeserved reputation as dirty creatures. In reality pigs are one of the cleanest farm animals; they will use one area for sleeping and another for going to the toilet, providing they are given enough space. The pig in my new picture book, A Spot of Bother, is fastidiously clean. The book is a follow-up to The Pigs Knickers and both books are illustrated by my longtime collaborator Vanessa Cabban.

In this second story Pigs behaviour is as over-the-top as ever. When a squashed cherry leaves a small stain on his backside, Pig declares it to be a monstrous misfortune. Things go from really-not-that-bad to genuinely awful as Goat, Cow and Sheep try to help Pig rid himself of the spot. But the more they try to clean it, the bigger it gets!

When I was writing the story, I decided it would be funniest if the spot ended up covering Pigs entire body, from head to trotter. I also decided that, to give the story a satisfying ending, Pig would have to get completely clean again. The question was how to achieve this. One solution I considered was to have Pig caught in a thunderstorm and showered clean in the downpour. This would certainly be dramatic, but then I came up with another solution that allowed me to get Pig even dirtier before he was cleaned up. I realise that not every parent may thank me for revealing that mud can be good for your skin, but by dunking Pig in a mud bath I was able to make his transformation back to spotlessness even more sudden and dramatic.

Vanessas illustrations deftly capture Pigs emotions as he goes from satisfaction to despair and back again. My favourite spread shows Sheep trying to wash off Pigs spot with shampoo, but accidentally using a bottle of dye instead. I dont know if its intentional, but Pigs resigned pose as Sheep squirts the dye over him reminds me of one of the iconic cherubs from Raphaels Sistine Madonna.

And his sense of dejection is beautifully conveyed by his slumped posture in this panel.

 A Spot of Bother is the seventh book that Vanessa and I did together and I'm extremely sad to say that it will be our last as Vanessa passed away shortly before Christmas. She was a good friend and an inspiring illustrator to work with and I will miss her greatly.

Thanks Jonathan, for stopping by Picture Book Party! Jonathan has also created this fantastic Pig mask so you can bring Pig's stories to life yourself. You can download the mask on our Activities page, and if you visit Jonathan's website Scribble Street, he has written this guide on how to create the mask.

Don't forget to check out the trailer for A Spot of Bother.

Thursday 5 February 2015

The Girl with the Parrot on her Head by Daisy Hirst

This month, we went behind the scenes with Daisy Hirst, author and illustrator of our picture book of the month, The Girl with a Parrot on her Head.  In this exclusive blog post for Picture Book Party, Daisy gives us a sneak peek inside her sketch book and tells us how she developed the story and artwork for her debut picture book...
Making the story
The Girl with the Parrot on her Head began as two unrelated sketchbook doodles: Isabel first appeared (among other people with birds on their heads) in 2010,

and her cardboard box “system” is even older.

My drawings are very small (Isabel there is 1.6cm high) so it takes me about a year to fill up an A5 sketchbook. In 2011, when I was almost at the end of the bird-heads sketchbook, and halfway through an MA in Children’s Book Illustration, the girl with the parrot on her head came back, this time with words, and from then on the words and pictures developed together.

This phrase stuck with me, and suggested the whole story: apart from the tense it hasn’t changed since this first edit – even though people did sometimes suggest it was too negative, and many other things have changed (for instance, Isabel didn’t have a name until I started working with Walker in 2013 – she was always ‘the girl with the parrot on her head’). I suppose I hung on to it because I want to write honestly and take children’s experiences seriously – Isabel gets upset and angry and isn’t always ‘nice’ (as I certainly wasn’t), and that’s actually okay.

After doodling ideas for the story, I developed it through storyboards and mini dummy books. I had lots of help from the incredible tutors at Cambridge School of Art, who are all practicing illustrators, and from friends and family too.

Making the pictures
At the same time, before the story made much sense, I started making the pictures. The illustrations in The Girl with the Parrot on her Head are all silkscreen prints – a technique I began to learn through making this book. Before that, I had used pen and ink with coloured inks, but I wanted to find a technique which would enable me to make bigger, bolder images, and experiment with using limited colour, whilst keeping my drawing free and scribbly. I do my best drawing when I can draw tiny things, and when I’m not worried about getting it right. So now I draw each picture many times, enlarge all the best bits and stick them together to make the final composition – which is what I base the screenprint on.

Screenprinting is a way of building up a picture one colour at a time: for each colour you make a stencil on fabric stretched over a frame (the silkscreen), and then you squish ink through it using a tool called a squeegee. I sometimes find it helps, as you do the squeegeeing, to say “SQUEEEEEE!”

Here is the picture of Isabel and Simon in the pond, with four colours printed. In the background you can see the next stencil waiting to be printed (in green) on top.

And here is my screenprinting set-up with another partly-completed print.

One of the hardest things when you start screenprinting is registration: printing each stencil in exactly the right place on top of the other colours. I’ve got much better at this over the years, but still I often get it wrong – and actually I like a bit of mis-registration, interesting accidents and mess. In fact, I sometimes think my prints are getting too neat and I might have to try something new that I’d be worse at. However, I never meant it to go this wrong:

Finding a publisher
Perhaps because of the way this story evolved from disparate images and phrases, in a quite surreal and associative way, it did not – at least at first – go down very well with publishers. It was ‘too strange’ or ‘too specialised’ or it just did not make sense. It’s easy now to squash that period into a sentence and forget it, but it was very difficult at the time: of all the projects I had to offer, this was the one I felt the strongest connection to, its very strangeness was the thing I wanted to pursue – but it was also the project that seemed least likely to be published.

So I was surprised (and extremely pleased) when Walker decided they wanted to develop The Girl with the Parrot on her Head with me. That was the beginning of about another year’s work, of reworking and then finishing the book with my brilliant editor and designer. To be fair to the other publishers, it didn’t quite make sense as it was – there were lots of abrupt transitions and squished bits, and a confusing part about playing pirates – so I’m lucky Walker thought it worth fixing.

Most of the changes were to make things clearer or improve the pacing of the story. One wonderful thing was that we were allowed to expand the book to 40 pages from the standard 32 – so we got four extra double-page spreads to play with. Two of these went on Isabel’s friend Simon, who I’d tried to introduce and eject within one spread: here’s one of three final Simon spreads.

This bit of the process was often difficult – every word and every image had to be scrutinised and justified, perfected or cut, and agreed by all of us. It was also extremely interesting: I learnt so much about stories, books and design, and I also learnt about this particular story. When I had to justify things I wanted to keep, I had to try and figure out why these (often instinctive, inarticulate) things made sense and mattered to me. I miss some bits we cut or changed, but I think it’s a stronger book now, and I couldn’t be happier with the design and production. It is a strange and magic thing to have your book arrive in the post.

Get hold of your copy of The Girl with a Parrot on her Head at your local bookseller.
Join in the fun and have a go at making your very own animal headbands with this free activity sheet.