Thursday 24 October 2019

An exclusive Q&A with Emma Yarlett!

Read on for a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes process of the monstrously fun Beast Feast by the amazingly talented author and illustrator, Emma Yarlett! What a treat. 

1.       What gave you the idea for Beast Feast

After having such a wonderful time creating Dragon Post, it was great to have the opportunity to work with Walker on another ‘post in a book’ title as they’re so much fun! I had a whole host of ideas that had not quite reached maturity in my brain... but then I suddenly remembered a conversation I had with my agent, Louise, a few months prior: she and her godson had been playing a game together involving a beast catching a child to eat for his dinner... and Beast Feast was born!

When I was a child (and still even now!) I loved the dastardly and dark humour of Roald Dahl, and so it was fantastic to have the opportunity to work on a book which had a certain naughty kind of humour in it - as well as some fun wordplay, particularly with the tongue-in-cheek name of the child Beast catches...

2.       What’s your work process like?

I created the book from the tropics of Falmouth in my seaside studio. This book had to be put together within a very definite and immovable timeframe - as I was pregnant at the time! With the help of Walker, the book came together in record timing... I believe 4-ish months. Usually, it can take me 7-10 months, and so being pregnant gave me some sort of temporary superpower!

The process of this book began with a lot of talking about the storyline, concept, characters and then ironing out any crinkles within the story arc.

I’m rather traditional and create all of my art by hand. Usually, this involves a fair bit of planning and thinking through how to do this... but as I was on a tight timeframe I had to just jump into it! When I’d finish painting, collating, drawing, colouring and splashing, all of my art was scanned in - the colours corrected, and then sent off to Walker for checking!

The final bit of this book was hand rendering the typography. Boy, did that give me hand cramp as everything had to be written out over and over again to get the handwriting looking just so.

3.       What is your favourite spread/illustration in Beast Feast?

If I had to pick a favourite page from the book, I think it would either be the opening one where Beast is chasing Dinner and then has him dangling from his fingertips, or where Beast is trying to salt Dinner in his salt/meat room. That one was a lot of fun to paint!

4.       What is your favourite picture book that you’ve read recently?

Now that I have a little one of my own, I’m finding I’m reading even more picture books than I was before! I think the one I last read with her this morning (she loves books and so it’s a constant stream!) was ‘Dear Zoo.’ The last one that I picked to read though was ‘The Day the War Came’ by Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb; such a prolific book that is very telling of our troubled times.

Pick up Beast Feast by Emma Yarlett where all good books are sold!

It's got a sprinkling of fright but it's also overflowing with cups of fun and a whole jar of love and warmth. Not to mention the beautifully bright illustrations on each page! Great for children aged 5 and above. 

Monday 21 October 2019

What Mary Murphy Likes Most

As we welcome 'What I Like Most', a brand new picture book about coveting your favourite things, author Mary Murphy wrote a lovely behind the scenes piece about how the book came to be and her inspiration behind it:

Sometimes I have an idea for a book, but I'm the wrong illustrator for it. So I just write the story down, and put it away.

Then one day Maria, my editor, said, 'Why don't you write a book for someone else to illustrate?' I remembered my half-finished stories on half-pages of paper. I typed out 'What I Like Most', and sent it to Maria. I thought she would say 'That's not what I meant, I meant a proper story with a beginning, middle and end.' But she didn't. She said yes. And then she said, 'Zhu Cheng-Liang would be the perfect illustrator for this.'

Now, everyone loves Zhu Cheng-Liang, including me. His 'New Year's Reunion' is one of my favourite ever books. I thought he would say 'That's not what I illustrate, I illustrate proper stories with beginnings, middles and ends.' But he didn't. He said yes. You can imagine how pleased I was.

Everyone says how nice Zhu Cheng-Liang is, and I really hope to meet him someday. He is Chinese, and when he had said yes to the text, I started to think that the text was about a girl who moved from China to the U.K. I hadn't noticed this before, but that is one of the things about stories. They offer different things all the time. So Zhu Cheng-Liang shows us a girl in her new home, and she is noticing everything. He did the book in watercolours. It suits perfectly. I love the drawings, and colours, and the feelings between the girl and her friends, and how she looks at everything, including her mother. He based the girl on his granddaughter, Fiona. Some people think she looks like me when I was little.

The book is like a game I used to play on car journeys. Think of something you like, for example 'banana'. You say: 'Bananas are the best!' The next person has to think of something they like better, for example drawing. ' Except drawing,' they say. 'Drawing beats bananas, it's the best!' Then you might say 'Except the moon. The moon beats drawing, it's the best!' If the other person disagrees they say 'WRONG! Drawing beats the moon!' and you have to think of something else better than drawing - or they can. In the end you have a list of things you really like: holidays, rabbits, visiting, pizza, friends, swimming... they can be unusual things like untangling wool, or letting a bee out a window. You end up with something you can't think of anything better than. When I played, a dog was nearly always the thing I couldn't think of anything better than.

Except two dogs.

Pick up copies of 'What I Like Most' at your local bookshop!

Thursday 17 October 2019

Finding the Perfect Illustrator for 'Pick a Pumpkin' with Patricia Toht

Patricia Toht, author of the brand new Pick a Pumpkin, wanted to tell our Picture Book Party readers a little about the process of choosing an illustrator for a story and how Jarvis was the perfect fit for her:

Friends and relatives who are unfamiliar with publishing are frequently surprised to discover that, as a picture book author, I don’t choose an illustrator – instead, the editor and art director choose someone whose style fits the story. When I add that I’ve never even met my illustrators, they usually ask the same question:

“Then how do you tell them what pictures to make?”

“I don’t,” I answer. “The illustrator reads my text and draws what those words inspire.”

More than a few are perplexed by this arrangement.

“What if they make a mistake? What if you don’t like what they draw?”

I’m happy to tell them that I’ve been amazed and delighted by the illustrations for my books. The words and pictures meld to create something beautiful.

Two of my books, Pick a Pine Tree and Pick a Pumpkin, are illustrated by Jarvis. His illustrations evoke the warmth and nostalgia of family traditions. They are so lovely!

The day an illustrated proof arrives is always a special one. I pour over the illustrations, soaking up every detail. But I had a unique experience the first time I turned the pages of Pick a Pumpkin. It was as if Jarvis had accessed our family photos! Sure, I drew upon our family’s experiences when writing the text, but those illustrations – they were my memories.

How could he know that the wagon being pulled through the farm not only contained pumpkins, but also a little boy with a pumpkin in his arms? 

Why did he choose a girl to clean the pumpkin, with buckets in the background… 

…and a little boy in blue, standing on newspaper, pulling out the guts?  

There is no way Jarvis could know that my youngest child always cut a hole in the bottom of his pumpkin so he could sport it on his head on Halloween. So how could it be that a pumpkin-headed child appears at the end of the pumpkin carving scenes? (And note that both pumpkins have triangle eyes, triangle noses, and a two-toothed grin!)

Authors and illustrators have a unique bond, one built on trust and confidence in each other’s talents. My task is to write the best text I can and then get out of the way as the illustrator takes over.

The combination leads to transformation – picture book magic!

Pick a Pumpkin is available to buy now! 

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Illustrating 'Madame Badobedah' - with Lauren O'Hara

Sophie Dahl's first picture book, Madame Badobedah, has been out in the world for just over a week now, and illustrator Lauren O'Hara joins us to talk about bringing curious Mabel, mysterious Madame Badobedah, and The Mermaid Hotel to life on the page:

What was it like to illustrate Madame Badobedah?

Madame Badobedah was a delight of a book to illustrate. Sophie created a world so full of joy, humour and tenderness I was hooked from the first page. I was itching to bring her world into full and colourful life.

How did you come up with the designs for the main characters? 

From the first sketches, Mabel seemed to spring to life fully formed. Her grumpy little face and suspicious glances often made me laugh as I sketched. Madame B was more challenging.  After a lot of attempts, she ended up looking rather like my grandmother who was an elegant and formidable redhead with a passion for antique jewellery and Bichons. Sophie described Madame Badobedah's flamboyance and I had great fun designing costumes by watching old Marlene Dietrich and Gloria Swanson movies and sketching feather boas and gold lame leggings.

And what about the Mermaid Hotel, and the many fabulous locations imagined by Mabel?

The world of the book is gorgeous. I enjoyed switching between Mabel's home in a little English Bed and Breakfast by the sea, and Madame Badobedah's past as an emigre and later a young ballerina in New York. I used two colour palettes to show these worlds: Buttercup yellow, cadmium blue and peppermint green for Mabel's world and a darker, more subdued palette of maroon, navy and gold for Madame B."

To celebrate the publication of Madame Badobedah, Lauren painted a beautiful window for London-based independent bookshop, Ottie and the Bea:

Thursday 10 October 2019

Top new picture books from Walker Books this October!

Madame Badobedah

Mabel lives with her parents in The Mermaid Hotel, by the sea. Mabel likes to keep an eye on the comings and goings of all the guests. Then one day a particularly interesting old lady comes to stay. There is something very suspicious about her, with her growly voice and her heavy trunks and her beady-eyed tortoise. And why does no one know her REAL name? There can only be one answer, Mabel decides ... this guest is a SUPERVILLAIN. But even supervillains have a soft side, and as an unlikely friendship grows between the pair, their fantastical exploits take them well beyond the corridors of their seaside home.

Pick a Pumpkin

It’s Halloween! Which means it's time to dangle cobwebs and bats from the windows, put on costumes, and – most important of all – visit the pumpkin patch and pick out that perfect pumpkin! Then cart it home, scoop out the insides, carve a scary face, and finally light a candle inside, transforming it into a one-of-a-kind, glowing jack-o’-lantern...With warm, autumnal art, this is the perfect book to share by flickering candlelight on the spookiest night of the year.

Beast Feast
Beast has found a tasty dinner, and he's written to all his friends to invite them to a feast. Unfortunately, Dinner is a child who very much does not want to be eaten. As Beast's friends send their instructions for cooking Dinner, is there any way Dinner can convince Beast to change his menu? A vibrant and charming interactive book with hilarious letters to open.

A Child of Books

In this inspiring, lyrical tale about the rewards of reading and sharing stories, a little girl sails her raft "across a sea of words" to arrive at the house of a small boy. There she invites him to come away with her on an adventure. Through forests of fairy tales and across mountains of make-believe, the two travel together on a fantastical journey that unlocks the boy’s imagination. Now a lifetime of magic lies ahead of him… But who will be next?

Hat Box

The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. A fish has stolen a hat – will he get away with it? Two turtles have found one hat, but the hat looks good on both of them... Jon Klassen’s deliciously deadpan hat tales continue to surprise and delight readers of all ages, and they are all now available in one beautiful boxed set along with an exclusive frameable print.

Just Because 
It might be time for bed, but one child is too full of questions about the world to go to sleep just yet. Little ones and their parents will be charmed and delighted as a patient father offers up increasingly creative responses to his child’s night-time wonderings. Any child who has ever asked “Why?” – and any parent who has attempted an explanation – will recognize themselves in this sweet storybook for dreamers who are looking for answers beyond “Just because”.

Pick up copies of all these books at your local bookshop!

Thursday 3 October 2019

October Book of the Month - Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl

Madame Badobedah

We’re delighted to introduce you to Madame Badobedah, a timeless story celebrating friendship and imagination from Sophie Dahl. 

Mabel lives with her parents in The Mermaid Hotel, by the sea. Mabel likes to keep an eye on the comings and goings of all the guests. Then one day a particularly interesting old lady comes to stay. 

There is something very suspicious about her, with her growly voice and her heavy trunks and her beady-eyed tortoise. And why does no one know her REAL name? There can only be one answer, Mabel decides ... this guest is a SUPERVILLAIN.

But even supervillains have a soft side, and as an unlikely friendship grows between the pair, their fantastical exploits take them well beyond the corridors of their seaside home.

"A tale of fantastical exploits and unlikely friendship, with stylish, whimsical art from rising star O'Hara." - The Bookseller, Children's Previews

Click here to read a behind-the-scenes piece with the illustrator of Madame Badobedah, Lauren O'Hara!