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.