Friday 30 September 2016

The Lonely Giant by Sophie Ambrose

This week on Picture Book Party we have a beautiful new book for your bookshelves by rising illustration talent Sophie Ambrose. The forest giant in The Lonely Giant, likes nothing better than smashing, bashing and pulling up trees. But when all the animals run away in fear, he finds himself sad and lonely. Can he find a way to bring back the woodland bloom, and even make some friends? We caught up with author and illustrator Sophie Ambrose to find out all about what it was like making her first ever picture book, The Lonely Giant.

What inspired you to write The Lonely Giant?

I had decided to go back to education and convert my existing HND in illustration to a degree, so that I could retrain to teach. As a mature student, with a young family I found the Illustration & Animation degree at Kingston University really hard work but great fun. I realised I still loved illustration as much as ever and in particular my passion for children’s books. I knew I wanted to focus on writing and illustrating a picture book for my final project. It was a doodle in my sketchbook of a tough looking character with a pet canary on his finger that inspired me to create the Giant. The visual imagery of an enormous character who dominated his natural surroundings and a tiny yellow bird was great fun to draw. Once I had created the characters, I wanted to write the story and discover what the relationship could be between the giant and the tiny bird.

Is he based on anyone you know?

The Giant character isn’t really based on anyone I know, (although I asked my husband to pose for some of the giant’s harder positions such as hurling huge trees with a broom handle!) The giant developed considerably from the early sketches. I really wanted to develop a character with all the strength and power of a giant but also a character that could be warm and likeable too. He became less like the image of a traditional giant and a much cosier, warmer character (aided by his love of a cup of tea!)

This is your first picture book. How did you bring the idea and illustration together?

I found that the process worked like a chain of events. Firstly, develop the main character. That inspired ideas to create a rough outline of the story. Once I sort of knew how the story would go, I then wanted to work on the character more and how he would react in different settings. I drew endless mini scenes of the giant in sketchbooks. The story seemed to develop from there. Having said that, some of the pages I found very hard to write and came up with lots of different versions before feeling happy with the result. For example, I started writing “He plucked trees as though they were hairs on his head” Eventually I changed that to “He pulled up trees as though they were weeds” which apart from the fact the words flowed better, the imagery of the words were better too! The original story in university took 3 months from beginning to end with all artwork and a mock up book. The story changed quite considerably for the better, once I was working at Walker with my lovely editor Lizzie and fantastic designer Anne-Louise. We added animals to the story and made more of the woodland and animal scenes. The actual book took a further 2 years, 2 A2 layout pads, 1 A3 sketchbook and 3 A4 sketchbooks! I’m a firm believer in the use of sketchbooks!

Is there any advice you would give to budding author illustrators?

My first advice to any budding author/illustrators is keep a sketchbook. Jot down any ideas or quirky things you see around you. You never know where inspiration for your story may come from. I usually find that a story idea starts with a sketch, once that sketch has started to blossom into an idea then words will start to flow. Other author illustrators may find the words come first, it’s a personal choice.

It’s very important to remember when writing a children’s book that the story is designed to be read aloud. Keep reading out loud everything you write, to others and yourself. You will soon hear the parts of the story that don’t flow.

What has been your favourite part of the process so far and why?

That’s quite a hard question as I really have enjoyed so much of it! It’s very exciting when an idea seems to click. It’s in your head and you just want to draw it out. I always storyboard each version of the story on a single A2 page. What’s also so good about drawing every page out is you can self edit as you go along. Once you start roughing out a page, it usually becomes obvious whether an idea will work or not. Not always though, and that’s where it’s fantastic to be able to work with an editor and designer. Often three heads are better than one, especially with such a solitary process as creating a book! I also enjoy the end process of creating the final artwork. I work traditionally with paint and pencils and it’s at this stage I have the radio on, drawing and painting, with plenty of tea to keep me going!

Pick up a copy of The Lonely Giant by Sophie Ambrose in your local bookshop.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Meet the Little Adventurers and make your own pet Leafy!

Have you met The Little Adventurers yet? Peanut, Finnegan, Sprat, and Floss are the latest group of friends to join the Walker family, meeting each week in their shed HQ and getting up to all sorts of fun.

From award winning author Philip Ardagh, and author/illustrator Elissa Elwick, Leafy the Pet Leaf is the first book in this exciting new series. Their first adventure joins the four friends on Bring in A Pet Day, but when Sprat’s cat Shadow can’t be found, he decides to make his own pet. He carefully chooses a leaf, and carefully chooses a crayon, and look, he has his own pet Leafy which the Little Adventurers have lots of fun chasing around!

Watch Elissa show you how to make your own pet Leafy, with a little help from Philip, so you can have just as much fun as the Little Adventurers! Grab some paper, scissors, pens, and a lollipop stick and get making!

The Little Adventurers is out now in hardback and paperback from all good booksellers.

Thursday 22 September 2016

A candle of tapirs!

Today Polly Faber, author of the gorgeous Mango & Bambang series, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy, joins us to talk tapirs in celebration of the paperback publication of The Not-a-Pig and brand new Mango & Bambang adventure, Tiny Tapir Trouble

"An unexpected consequence about writing about an unexpected animal has been the unexpected number of them that have entered my life over the last two years. It's a good consequence of course; a very good consequence. 

It started with one. All collections start with one I think. I seem to remember plenty of episodes of Record Breakers or Blue Peter from when I was small which would feature, say, a slightly worried-looking teenager peeking out from the only remaining space in their bedroom which was otherwise ENTIRELY FILLED by frog toys. Or Snoopy. Or key rings (even though they didn't yet own a single key). And they always, always said when interviewed, "It started with one..."

I have some way to go before I reach the stage where I cannot find my desk for tapirs. The thing about them is that they are much less represented in toy and model form than most other animals. They still get called pigs and horses and elephants and even enchiladas by passers-by at the zoo. That is one of the reasons why Clara and I knew Bambang's story was one that needed telling. 

Those passers-by had heard plenty about pigs and horses and elephants but almost nothing about Malaysian tapirs. It was not their fault. Partly because they are rare, it makes it all the more exciting when a tapir is chosen to take centre stage. So here are some of mine, gifts from kind friends or purchases I haven't been able to resist, including amazing original artwork from felter Josie Armand Smith, ceramicist Midori Takaki and embroiderer Eleri Larkum. Which is your favourite?

As well as these friends and relatives of Bambang tapirs, I am equally proud of the paper Bambang portraits I have been lucky enough to be sent. I know the illustrators of the future who drew them will make sure that passers-by at the zoo never muddle an odd-toed ungulate with a Mexican sandwich again. Aren't they all brilliant?

But forgive me if my favourite is still the very first Malaysian tapir that arrived in my collection. A sketch from clever Clara Vulliamy that arrived one December day and sparked a story. The very first picture of a pair that now feel like very old friends of mine.

But there is one thing I am fretting about as my candle (collective noun for a group of tapirs) grows. One thing that makes me think that, even if tapirs start featuring in every gift and toy shop in the land, even if they attain owl-like levels of popularity, I should curb my desire to keep buying them. And it's this...

Have I become a Collector of the Unusual??"

Thursday 15 September 2016

Happy Publication Day to The Little Adventurers: Leafy the Pet Leaf!

Today we are celebrating the publication day of The Little Adventurers: Leafy the Pet Leaf from award-winning author Philip Ardagh and author/illustrator Elissa Elwick.

When you're a Little Adventurer
each new day brings...

Meet the Little Adventurers

Finnegan, Sprat, Floss and Peanut. 

Each week they meet in their top-secret shed HQ, 
ready to share their fun with you.

This week, Sprat can’t seem to find his cat, Shadow, anywhere. 
And he absolutely has to have a pet – it’s Bring In A Pet Day! 
So, instead he find a leaf, draws a face on it and… 


Sprat has a pet: Leafy! 

But can you really have a leaf as a pet?

With an activity idea and fact-packed spread in every book in the series, The Little Adventurers will encourage hours of immersive play and ignite the imagination of curious adventurers everywhere! 

To WIN a copy of the book, plus a limited edition print, stickers, a poster and your very own Muddy Puddles Ecosplash rain mac email with the subject line Little Adventurers Club.

Closing date 15/10/16. Terms and Conditions apply. 

The Little Adventurers publishes on the 15th of September and is available in hardback (£11.99) and paperback (£6.99) from all good booksellers.

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Guest Post: New York Times Bestselling author Kate Beaton shares the making of King Baby!

We are delighted to have our very first guest post from Kate Beaton
the New York Times Bestselling author illustrator of The Princess and the Pony

Kate joins us to talk about her brand new book King Baby!

I first drew King Baby in 2011, in a coffee shop:

Someone made a thing about it, very helpful:

 But King Baby was just an idea with funny drawings for a long time. 

Like this one. 

 And these two.

And then my nephew was born and I went to visit him for the first time. 

 Here he is (in 2015):

I drew comics about it:


And then King Baby became a book! 

Here are a few more sketches. 

Behind the Scenes!

I made a version of King Baby that was from the parent's perspective.  It was more tender, but not so funny as King Baby narrating. There's a preview below but you can download it by clicking HERE.


Tuesday 13 September 2016

A Child of Books Tour: Meet Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston!

Sunday 18th September
CBI Conference, Dublin
16:30 Keynote speech with Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Monday 19th September
Ulster Museum, Belfast
With No Alibis bookshop
19:00 Oliver Jeffers and Bookshop owner David in conversation
SOLD OUT – availability for signing after the event

Tuesday 20th September
The Atrium, Liverpool
With Waterstones Liverpool
19:00 Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston in Conversation

Thursday 22nd September
St Boswells, Scottish Borders 
With Mainstreet Trading Co 
19:00 Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston in Conversation

Friday 23rd September
Edinburgh Bookshop
14:30 Signing only – no ticket required

St Augustine's Church, Edinburgh
With Blackwells Edinburgh
19:00 Oliver Jeffers, Sam Winston and Eoin Colfer in conversation

Monday 26th September
Waterstones Piccadilly, London 
19:00 Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston in conversation

Saturday 1st October
Easons O'Connell St, London
11:00 Signing only – no ticket required

You can also catch Oliver discussing his book Imaginary Fred at the following events:

Saturday 24th September
Newcastle with Seven Stories
11:30 Oliver Jeffers and Eoin Colfer

Sunday 25th September
Wimbledon BookFest, London
10: 30 Oliver Jeffers and Eoin Colfer