Wednesday 14 December 2016

Writing Blue Penguin by Petr Horáček

"I feel just like a penguin," says Blue Penguin. "But you're not like us," said the other penguins and they left him all alone. Poor Blue Penguin. Will he be able to convince the other penguins he is one of them after all? We went behind the scenes with illustrator Petr Horáček and found out about his inspiration for Blue Penguin, a heart-warming story about the power of friendship...

I got the idea for the book Blue Penguin two years ago. It was a nice autumn evening and I was raking leaves in a beautiful apple orchard, thinking about one of my friends that I haven’t seen now for a long time.

His name was Richard and he was very different from everybody else I know. He used to say and do exactly whatever he wanted to say and do at that moment. Behaviour like this could get him into trouble from time to time, of course, but Richard didn’t mind. He was used to be different.

Richard was fun to be with and I liked being his friend. 

So that day I got this idea to write a book about a penguin that was different from everybody else. I started to write the same evening.

The next day I fitted the story with thumbnail sketches.

Some books are difficult to write, some books just pop out. It felt as if Blue Penguin is one of those books, which comes easily.

I really enjoyed sketching and writing the story and I couldn’t wait to show it to my publisher.

I’m very lucky to be published by Walker Books and I’m also lucky to work with two very good and nice editors. They nodded their heads as they were reading it and then they said: "We like it, but it would need a little bit more work.” I’ve heard this many times before and I know what it means. The hard work started there.

We had to tidy up the story, make it shorter, simpler. My editors and I worked on the text on and off for months. I must have about 15 versions of Blue Penguin. The book, which seemed to be at the beginning so easy to write, now turned into rather hard work.

To be honest I didn’t mind rewriting the text and I liked the process of editing the story, but at the same time I couldn’t wait to start to illustrate it.

I could see the pictures in my dreams and I was so looking forward to getting on with the artwork.

Finally after a year we agreed that the story was now ready. I did the pictures in a month or two, almost in one go and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Even when the illustrations were done we still discussed the text. My editors are never happy until everything is just right.

I had to change some sentences and it meant that I had to change some pictures too.
We also took some of the finished illustrations out, so it all fitted with the changes.
Below is one of the illustrations that didn’t make it into the book.

Blue Penguin was probably one of my most challenging books to write and one of the most fun picture books to illustrate.

Pick up your copy of Blue Penguin by Petr Horáček in your local bookshop.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Top tips on reading wordless picture books

A family of owls become neighbours with a family of bats ... just how will the night unfold? This stunning wordless picture book from Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick celebrates family, friendship and the power of togetherness.

Mummy Owl and her three little owls live happily on their spacious branch. That is, until the bat family move in. And the new neighbours (the owls up-top, the bats hanging below) can’t help but feel a little wary of one another. Owls just don’t mix with bats and bats don’t mix with owls. But babies are curious little creatures and this curiosity, and a wild, stormy night, might just bring these two families together…

Many of you may be wondering, how exactly you read a wordless picture book! We asked our Tanya Rosie from our Picture Books team to share her top tips…

At first, it can feel daunting to share a wordless picture book with a child. You open the first page and there is no opening line to read aloud, no names for the characters and, when you come to turn the page, no words to guide you across.

But that doesn’t mean a wordless book has to be read in silence.

In fact, a wordless book can inspire even more words. Because, when you open that formidable first page, all you need to do is point things out in the pictures and ask probing questions – Where do you think this story is taking place? What do you think is happening here? Who is that? How do you think they think and feel? – and you’ll soon find that that page, so quiet at first, will have ignited a conversation between you and your child. You’ll find that your child will be looking closely and keenly at the pictures; that they are paying close attention to detail; that they are giving voice to their understanding of the story’s events.   

And when you have explored each picture together and discovered so much narrative there, there’s another wonderful way you can approach a wordless book … you can encourage your child to narrate the illustrations. And then (and without realizing it!) your child will learn so much about plot, about storytelling language, and about structure – they’ll begin to understand the need for a beginning, a middle and an end, and they’ll search for and learn all the new vocabulary they need to tell the story they feel compelled to tell. And what makes reading in this way so special is that the story will never be the same twice. One day your child might narrate in the third-person, another day they might see the story from the viewpoint of just one of the characters – anything goes. Every single reader and every single reading will inspire a whole new story … and isn’t it just that which makes stories so wonderful?

So – don’t feel daunted! Feel brave and courageous when sharing a wordless book, like Owl Bat Bat Owl, with a child. Point things out in the pictures, ask questions, and encourage your child to channel their inner-narrator … do that and we feel sure that you’ll feel involved and excited by all the playful possibilities a wordless book presents. Because a wordless book, in the end, is a gorgeous opportunity – an opportunity for a child to read pictures, and an opportunity for a child’s unique imaginative response to be celebrated and take centre stage on the picture book page. 

Pick up a copy of Owl Bat, Bat Owl in your local bookshop.

Download our free Owl Bat, Bat Owl reading guide here, packed full of great ideas and discussion points to help you get the most out of reading this book with your little ones.  

Win a Christmas hamper worth £100

As Christmas is only a few weeks away (is it really that time already?) we've put together a selection of our favourite festive picture books, from beautifully illustrated classics to laugh-out-loud crackers. These heart-warming books will get you in the mood for Christmas and make the perfect gifts for little ones (and bigger ones!) to unwrap on Christmas day. Here are our top picture book picks, plus a chance to win a Christmas hamper full of festive treats...

Blue Penguin

A sweet fable with a magical, icy quality from the award-winning illustrator Petr Horacek. "I feel just like a penguin," says Blue Penguin. "But you're not like us," said the other penguins and they left him all alone. Poor Blue Penguin. Will he be able to convince the other penguins he is one of them after all? A moving and charmingly illustrated story about friendship and belonging, with an ending bound to fill you with Christmas cheer!

Penguin Problems
In this festive (but chilly!) season there's nothing better than being all snuggled up reading a hilarious book that will warm your cockles. In this laugh-out-loud collaboration from Jory John and Lane Smith, a penguin levels with human readers about what penguin life is really like ... and it isn't all fun and games! Have you ever considered running away to Antarctica? Of course you have! Because it's a land free of worries and responsibilities! Think again, my friend. This penguin has come to tell you that his life down there is no picnic!

The Christmas Eve Tree
What happens when an unwanted, little fir tree is left all alone in a shop on Christmas Eve? A young boy, who doesn’t seem to mind that the little tree isn’t so tall and straight like the others, takes this crooked fir tree as his own. Down by the river in a cardboard box, decorated with a few candles, the tree finds itself at the centre of a magical Christmas Eve it will never forget. Delia Huddy’s tale has a classic feel but a modern theme at its heart.

The Nutcracker
Fill your Christmas stockings with the magical pop-up edition of Marius Petipa's classic ballet. The Nutcracker story is a much-loved part of Christmas celebrations around the world, and this gorgeous edition captures the excitement of Christmas Eve. Beautifully illustrated, this charming retelling follows Clara's magical journey with the Nutcracker Prince and ends with a stunning pop-up of the Land of Sweets! 

Angel Mae
In Shirley Hughes’ beautiful gift edition of a Christmas classic, Christmas is coming and Mae Morgan's mum is expecting a baby. At school Mae is delighted to be given the part of the Angel Gabriel in the nativity play. But will the new baby steal her glory?

Maisy's Christmas Presents
It's so nice to give your friend a present at Christmas time, don't you agree? Maisy thinks so! When she comes back from her shopping trip, she has presents for everybody! Help Eddie, Charley, Talullah and Cyril unwrap their wonderful gifts by lifting the flaps. Then help choose a special present for Maisy by turning the wheel – what surprise will she get? Or what surprise will you get, all for yourself? You didn't think Maisy would forget you, did you? 

The Christmas Story
The Nativity is brought to life by master pop-up artist Robert Sabuda in six gorgeous 3-D scenes, making this a Christmas gift to treasure. The wondrous story of the birth of Jesus – born in a stable, laid in a manger, visited by shepherds and the three wise men – is exquisitely crafted in six scenes. Glinting with touches of gold and silver, The Christmas Story is a visual delight and a book for the whole family to enjoy at Christmas.

WIN a Christmas hamper worth £100

We have 3 gorgeous Christmas hampers to give away, each including a selection of cracking Christmas books, plus activities for the kids and delicious festive treats and mulled wine for the grown ups! For your chance to win, just answer the following question:

What colour is the penguin in Petr Horáček's latest picture book?
a)   Blue
b)   Brown
c)   Purple

Email your answer along with your name and address to with 'PBP Christmas' in the subject line for your chance to win. Competition closes on 20th December 2016. Terms and conditions apply.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis is the talented author-illustrator of Home, whose latest picture book is very mysterious indeed. Introducing, Du Iz Tak? An exquisite tale of the natural world written in ... “Bug” language!

Full of imagination, this brand new picture book explores the changes of nature that can be found in your own back garden, all through an invented language and gorgeous illustrations that appeal to both children and art-lovers alike.

Perhaps this endearing bug language was inspired by Carson’s own home; a farm in Oregon, USA, where she lives with her family, one cat, two llamas, two goats, one sheep, and eight chickens, a family of barn owls and lots and lots of tree frogs!

After studying painting at university, Carson went on to illustrate in several books such as The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket, Dillweed’s Revenge by Florence Parry Heide, and collaborated on the bestselling Wildwood series with her husband Colin Meloy.

Her debut solo picture book Home is a beautiful tribute to the many places that we all call home. From houses to flats, and even shoes, from messy homes to homes from myth, Carson created a book brimming with visual treats that achieved international acclaim. 

Now, her second book is proving to be just as admired:

“Carson Ellis created a fantastic microcosm with her usual grace and inventiveness …I was completely captivated by Ellis’s wonderful creatures, their charming little word and their droll language.” – The New York Times Book review

“There’s an elusive yet distinctly joyful quality to Carson Ellis’s picture book […]” – The Wall Street Journal

Check out this Q&A video with Carson Ellis to find out more about her and the inspiration behind Du Iz Tak?  

Be the first to get your hands on a copy of Du Iz Tak? and pick up a copy at your local bookshop.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Enter WoBoD 2017 for your school's chance to win up to £5000 worth of books!

Is your child’s school a school of books? There’s exactly one month left to enter WoBoD 2017 and to have the chance of winning £5000 of books for your child's school!

We’ve teamed up with World Book day to invite primary and secondary schools in the UK & Ireland to take our creative challenge for the chance to win even more life-changing book prizes than ever before, to transform your school’s reading habit.

Taking inspiration from A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, we’re asking schools to create their very own ‘world of stories’ display for their school, through any media you choose.

A Child of Books takes you on an inspirational journey of discovery, unlocking magic and adventure and celebrating the power of books and the imagination. So we want YOUR SCHOOL to celebrate your favourite books, those timeless stories you want to share with other story fans.

For full details on how to enter, just head over to the World Book Day website and submit your entry before 9th December 2016. Good luck!  

For a little more inspiration, check out this video of Oliver and Sam talking about the making of the book..

Pick up a copy of A Child of Books in your local bookshop.


Wednesday 2 November 2016

Picture Book of the Month: Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith

Little Penguin has problems: his beak is cold; there’s snow everywhere; the water smells salty; he waddles; he looks the same as everybody else. No – it’s not easy being a penguin!

In this hilarious first collaboration from Jory John and Lane Smith, a penguin levels with human readers about what penguin life is really like ... and it isn't all fun and games! 

Have you ever considered running away to Antarctica? Of course you have! Because it's a land free of worries and responsibilities! Think again, my friend. This penguin has come to tell you that his life down there is no picnic. For starters, it is FREEZING. Also, penguins have loads of natural predators. Plus, can you imagine trying to find your mum in a big crowd of identical penguins? This book is sure to tickle all funny bones, and will elicit appreciative sighs from the adults reading it aloud, too!

Here are a few of our favourite Penguin Problems from the book...


What are your Penguin Problems? We all have them – from losing our keys to spilling our tea or forgetting somebody’s name - we want to know yours! We have three Penguin Problems goody bags to give away, each including a copy of the book, a poster and a beautiful limited edition penguin print. To enter, just email your penguin problem to with ‘Pengiun Problems’ in the subject line, including your name and address. Competition closes 30 November. Terms and conditions apply.

Pick up a copy of Penguin Problems in your local bookshop. Join in the fun and download our free Penguin Problems activity sheet.

George Ezra will be singing the original theme song for Channel 4’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!

This Christmas, Channel 4 are going to air a special animated adaptation of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt! And it has just been announced that acclaimed British singer-songwriter George Ezra has written and recorded the theme song. 

The 23-year-old, whose debut album Wanted On Voyage was one of the UK’s best-selling of 2014, has penned a distinctive, sweet song called Me & You for the film’s soundtrack. Me & You marks the first time that George has composed a bespoke song for film or television.

Speaking at Abbey Road Studios, where the film’s score was recorded, George Ezra said: “Growing up this story was one of my absolute favourites and my mum read it to all of us for many years. In fact she still reads it to her class at school. But this animation is so much more than just a Bear Hunt and I cannot wait for everybody to see it this Christmas. Ho Ho Ho.”

The original score for We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is composed and conducted by the multi-award-winning Stuart Hancock (Atlantis, Crazyhead) and was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with City of London Sinfonia. The 53-piece ensemble was joined by 50 young singers from the London Youth Choir.

Stuart Hancock, composer, said: “It’s been a real thrill to create the music score for We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, and I’ve loved helping tell its story and capture all the new emotions that the animators have brought to it.  Recording with City of London Sinfonia and London Youth Choir has been a blast and I can’t wait for the world to see this at Christmas!”

This Christmas, Channel 4’s half hour film will expand the universe of the much-loved book for a truly festive family treat. Olivia Colman (Broadchurch, The Night Manager), Pam Ferris (Matilda, Call the Midwife) and Mark Williams (Harry Potter, Father Brown) will breathe life into the brand new characters of Mum, Grandma and Dad respectively. Michael Rosen, who wrote the best-selling book, will play the Bear.

©Lupus Films/Walker Books 2015
Based on the hit bedtime book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury and produced by the makers of Channel 4’s hugely-popular The Snowman and The Snowdog animation, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt follows the intrepid adventures of siblings Stan, Katie, Rosie, Max, the baby and Rufus the dog, who decide one day to go on an adventure in search of bears.
Coming up against a host of obstacles the family ventures through whirling snowstorms, thick oozing mud and dark forests on their ambitious quest. But when Rosie and Rufus become detached from the rest of the party it looks like bear-hunting might not be such fun after all...
Made with exquisite, hand-drawn animation, the film is set to enchant a whole new audience with its story of perseverance, optimism and a love of nature.

The official We’re Going On A Bear Hunt soundtrack featuring George Ezra’s Me & You will be available from Friday, 23rd December . 

Monday 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween! - Win a Hoot Owl Halloween 'Treat' bag!

Twit Twoo! It's Halloween! Are you ready for s spooky story? No? How about a funny one instead then! From masterful storyteller Sean Taylor and graphic artist Jean Jullien, comes the laugh-out-loud tale of Hoot Owl....Master of Disguise!  

Hoot Owl is no ordinary owl – oh no! – he’s a master of disguise! And he will use his expert camouflage powers to trick his unsuspecting prey into succumbing to him! Tiny animals of the night ... beware! But, somehow, Hoot Owl's prey keeps escaping... Hmmm, perhaps he isn't quite as masterful as he believes. Will he ever succeed in catching himself some dinner? 

Check out the animated trailer:

Hoot Owl is SO FUNNY that David Walliams has called it "the funniest picture book I have read in a long time". So if you're looking for more treats than tricks this Halloween, pick up Hoot Owl in paperback from your local bookshop.

We have three Hoot Owl Halloween goody bags to give away this Halloween, each one including a copy of Hoot Owl plus a limited edition print by Jean Jullien. To enter, just email with 'Halloween' in the subject line, along with your name and address.

Join in the fun and download the free activity sheets here

Thursday 27 October 2016

Introducing ... Walker Studio!

Last night the team at Walker HQ cracked the bubbly at the Illustrationcupboard Gallery to celebrate the launch of our brand new imprint, Walker Studio! 

So what is Walker Studio? The ethos behind our new imprint is to create a list of beautiful books with engaging design, high-quality illustration and superior production values. Although of course we always strive to make all of our books beautiful, over the years we have discovered that some titles really stand out with sophistication that appeals not only to children, but also to book lovers and design lovers of all ages. We decided to give these books their own list, and so Walker Studio was born!

Last night, to celebrate the launch, we had an exhibition of the artwork from the first four books on our list: The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan (with a foreword by Neil Gaiman), Animals by Ingela Arrhenius; A World Of Information by James Brown and Richard Pitt and An Artist’s Alphabet by Norman Messenger. The exhibition and launch party took place at the lovely Illustrationcupboard Gallery in St James, London, buzzing with book lovers, authors and illustrators. The artwork looked spectacular, and we even got to see the original sculptures from Shaun Tan’s The Singing Bones:

Here’s a bit about each of the books…

The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan
Shaun Tan fans get to see his extraordinary talent applied to sculpture in this award-winning, lavishly presented collection of art based on fairy tales told by the Brothers Grimm. Shaun captures the essence of these tales as he brings traitorous brothers, lonely princesses, cunning foxes, honourable peasants and ruthless witches to life in surprising – and illuminating – ways. Introduced by author Neil Gaiman and fairy-tale scholar Jack Zipes, The Singing Bones is a feast for the eyes, a profound, powerful celebration of the world's most beloved stories.

Animals by Ingela P. Arrhenius
Know someone who loves creatures? Animal lovers will fixate on this giant book presenting thirty-two big, bold images of friendly beasts. From a star of children s design in Sweden comes an exquisite array of animals rendered with whimsy and stylish splendor. Every oversized page highlights a different specimen, from an adorable sheep to an elegant flamingo, from an endearing hippo to a silly-looking snake. Each animal s name appears in a different eye-catching type treatment, making for an attractive graphic keepsake sure to find a prominent place in nurseries and bookshelves everywhere.

A World of Information by Richard Platt, illustrated by James Brown
This visually stunning miscellany from the effortlessly stylish print-maker James Brown is a collection of incredible facts and figures. Do you know how many bones there are in the human body or how clouds form? Or about different types of knots or how Morse code works? Each illustration is both beautiful and enlightening, and is accompanied by an engaging fact-filled explanation by celebrated author Richard Platt. Covering more than 30 diverse and fascinating topics, there is a world of information at your fingertips in this book, which is perfect for all the family to enjoy.

An Artist's Alphabet by Norman Messenger
A surreal and gorgeous alphabet book from an exceptional artist. The ingenious Norman Messenger transforms the ordinary letters of the alphabet into extraordinary objects in this visionary collection of flora, fauna and more. A Walker Studio book that all ages will delight in and a beautiful gift for an art-lover.

Later in the evening, we had a special Skype screening with illustrator Shaun Tan all the way from Australia, and heard all about the inspiration for The Singing Bones

He also recorded this video for us, so you can hear all about it too!

Pick up copies of the Walker Studio books from the Illustrationcupboard Gallery, including signed copies of Shaun Tan’s The Singing Bones. And if you’re in London, pop along to the gallery and see Shaun Tan’s artwork for yourself! 

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Working on A First Book of Animals

This month we published the beautiful A First Book of Animals, a brand new treasury of poems by Nicola Davies featuring over 50 different animals illustrated by Petr Horáček. We went behind the scenes with illustrator Petr to find out the story of how the book came about…

When I’m working on my books, I “think in pictures”. I know more or less how the illustrations and the book will look way before the text is finalised. I studied Fine Art, so this way of working is only natural to me. I’ve been writing and illustrating my own books for more than 16 years, but for the last couple of years I’ve wanted to illustrate somebody else’s book. I wanted to know how what it’s like to reverse the process of working; the process of the text coming first and the pictures having to follow. I asked my publisher if they could find me a suitable text I could work on. They promised to do so, but they also said, “Let’s wait until something really good comes along”. I’ve been waiting for a long time and then it happened. Nicola Davies and her editor Caz came up with an idea to write A First Book of Animals – and they thought about me as a possible illustrator. A First Book of Animals is the second of Nicola’s books of poems. The first one is the very successful A First Book of Nature, beautifully illustrated by Mark Hearld. 

I was thrilled to be asked to work with Nicola Davies. She is a great writer, her books are beautiful and great artists illustrate them. Knowing all this was exciting, but also very nerve-racking. Suddenly I realised what the difference is between illustrating my own picture books and illustrating for somebody else. If I mess up my own book I can only blame myself, but what if I mess up somebody else’s work?! I panicked a bit. Then I had a meeting with Nicola and her editor, Caz. Nicola is very enthusiastic and passionate about the subjects she is working on. She has great knowledge about nature and it made me very inspired. After the meeting I couldn’t wait to start working on the book. I started sketching on the train home.

To be honest, sketching the first pictures was easy because I loved Nicola’s text so much. It triggered my imagination straightaway.   

At home I looked at the notes and scribbles I made on the train and started to do them again and in colour.

Here are some of the first sketches and notes. 

Thinking back, it all makes me smile. I was enjoying reading the text and drawing so much, that I did almost all the sketches in one go. I didn’t want to do anything else. 

This is a sketch of corals …

and birds of paradise. 

It’s strange, but most of the final illustrations are pretty much identical to the first sketches.

The zebras for example

…or Arctic Terns.


I remember the relief when I received the first feedback from the publisher.

Nicola was happy and so were Caz and my editor Louise. I had permission to get on with the final illustrations.

Yes, first I had to finish one of my books I was working on at that time, but having a break and a slight distance from A First Book of Animals helped me and made me even more excited about whole project.

Once I started working on the final illustrations it was very difficult for me to do something else.


The book has almost sixty illustrations and it did take me almost a year to finish them all. There was time when I had to travel and had to be away from my desk for a couple of days or weeks, but I was always looking forward to getting back to the book.

The picture of a gorilla and the baby was the very first illustration I finished. I choose this one, because I consider it to be the most challenging picture in the book.

Of course, in a book like this there will always be pictures which are easier and fun to do and illustrations which are rather more challenging.

Fireflies were one of the pictures I found quite difficult, but also great fun to illustrate.

The dragonfly was also a challenging picture. We wanted to show metamorphoses and the dragonfly nymph.

In the book I used techniques such as collage and printing. I also used different materials. For example pencils, colour pencils, acrylic paint, watercolours, wax crayons, pastels…

Different pictures asked for different approaches. I painted the animals living in the water with watercolours.

Some of them with wax crayons and watercolours.

The others with acrylics and watercolours.

As we were working on the book we had to abandon some of the ideas and animals, because we realised that the book would be too long, or not enough of some of the species.

The naked mole rat may be a rather interesting animal, but it didn’t get in.

We also had too many fish, so unfortunately the orca had to go too.

But we have an ostrich and humming bird.

And we also kept in jellyfish.

I have mentioned collage. This is how I did the picture of a snake.

I made a stencil to create the pattern on the viper.

I was rather pleased with the result.

The book, which is divided into four sections and has “end chapters” which explain certain details about some of the animals.

I tried to illustrate them so that it looks as if they are studies from somebody’s notebook.

I must say that working on A First Book of Nature was everything I could have wished for. Nicola was great to work with and she was always ready to give me explanations and encouragement, and so were the editors Caz and Louise. It is no secret that a good book doesn’t happen w ithout good collaboration without great editors and a great publisher, so THANK YOU to everybody who helped us to do A First Book of Animals.


Check out this short video we made with Petr, where we asked him five questions about working on A First Book of Animals...

A First Book of Animals is the second title in the First Book series, following the bestselling A First Book of Nature. Pick up a copy in your local bookshop.