Thursday 14 May 2020

Top picks of the month for May!

As we look forward to the weekend - why not take a moment to look at our top picture books publishing this May:

 1. My First Book of Paris by Ingela P. Arrhenius

From the banks of the Seine to the top of the Eiffel Tower, there's so much to see in Paris! Visit lively neighbourhoods, famous museums and trendy bistros in this gorgeous picture book from Ingela P. Arrhenius. With striking illustrations of everything from iconic landmarks to the traditional French croissant, this is a stylish gift for any fan of the City of Light.

2. My Red Hat by Rachel Stubbs

Grandpa’s hat is full of dreams, secrets and stories and when it is handed down to a new owner, it can even spark new adventures. Explore all the possibilities that a treasured hand-me-down can bring and see how love is handed down with it. A tender tale about imagination, belonging and love between generations, perfect for reading as a family.

3. Hike by Pete Oswald

In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive – and closer than ever – as they document their hike and take their place in family history. A touching tribute to the bond between father and child.

4. Little Frida by Anthony Browne

The artwork of Frida Kahlo inspires former Children's Laureate and twice winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal Anthony Browne in this beautiful and surreal picture book. Stunning illustrations tell the story of a lonely young girl who discovers the power of the imagination to set you free. A tribute to an iconic artist exploring themes of belonging, creativity and hope, this is an exquisite and touching picture book. 

5. Baby's First Encyclopedia by Ingela P. Arrhenius

With her trademark sense of whimsy and her bold, retro illustration, Ingela P. Arrhenius delights young children as well as design lovers, as she looks at the everyday world through imaginative common themes. Flowers, a new book and a freshly bathed baby all smell great, but a skunk, old fish bones and a baby in need of a change? Not so good! Whether up in the air, in the water or things to be found at Home Sweet Home, readers are invited to take a playful tour of the world around them to discover the way that things are alike, and how they are wonderfully unique.

Get your copies of our top picks of the month at your local bookshop! 

Thursday 7 May 2020

My Red Hat by Rachel Stubbs - May Book of the Month

To celebrate the publication of our May Picture Book of the Month, My Red Hat, we've got a behind-the-scenes Q&A with author-illustrator, and winner of the Sebastian Walker Award for Illustration, Rachel Stubbs. 

1. What was your favourite picture book from when you were a child?

I loved The Elephant and the Bad Baby, by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs about a baby who has forgotten his manners and gallops down the road on an elephant - who wouldn’t want to do that?! Another favourite was New Blue Shoes by Eve Rice about a little girl who has a confidence crisis after buying some new shoes, something I can still relate to. The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord also totally captured me with its hilarious verse and imaginative drawings. 

2. What is the inspiration behind My Red Hat and/or Why did you choose a hat as the focus of the story?

I kept coming back to the image of a giant red hat in my sketchbook and loved its graphic shape and the different playful images I could make with it. It allowed me to experiment and have fun with colour and image-making without worrying about having to have a narrative or story to focus on, which I think was really important for me at that stage. I also loved how the size of the hat and its placement on the page could be used to alter the visual pace and sequencing of the images. In the end, it became a sort of character of its own, and I wrote a short piece of text inspired by those sketches, written in the voice of the hat to its owner - which gave me more of a structure to begin working with.

3. Are the characters in the book based on anyone personal to you?

Not intentionally, although the Grandpa character does look suspiciously like my Dad, who has a very lovely face to draw! 

4. What was your writing/illustrative process to the book? Did the writing come first or the pictures?

They kind of happened together. I came up with the original dummy book on my MA through a lot of visual play, but when it came to working on the idea with a publisher it was a bit like starting all over again as the basic structure needed a lot of work. I found it helped to start really small and made lots of very rough thumbnails on tiny ripped up pieces of paper. This made it a lot easier to discard ideas when they didn’t work and to see how the book would work as a whole. Once I finally had the structure down, I started on the final roughs, and then the final artwork. For the final art, I wanted to try and keep it as loose as I could - but this is always easier said than done! I used the linework from my final roughs whenever I could, cleaned them up in photoshop and combined them with layers of ink.

5. What is your workspace like?

I currently work from home in our spare room which feels quite luxurious, especially in London where space is so rare. It also has its downsides - I have to make sure I get out and see people so I don’t go completely mad! It worked well for this book as my son was so tiny, so it made working in the evenings easier if I needed to. I also love having a view of the trees.

6. What is your favourite thing to draw? 

I love drawing things from everyday life - particularly people, and their body language, expressions and outfits. I love going to our local parks and cafes to draw when I can, and experimenting with mark making and materials. Drawing from observation has also really helped my drawing from memory, and I find it fun to alternate between the two.

My Red Hat is available to purchase where all good books are bought. Why not also download our My Red Hat activity sheets, here

Tuesday 5 May 2020

The Best Place in the World by Petr Horacek

The wonderful Petr Horacek has written a special piece all about his favourite place to visit. Enjoy!

Every autumn I travel to the Czech Republic to spend a couple of weeks on my own in one of my favourite places in the world.

It is a cottage, which belongs to my friend David. He doesn’t live there; it is his holiday cottage and he lets me stay.

Meadows and woods surround the place. The cottage is right on the edge of the wood and has a small apple orchard with an amazing view over the countryside. To me, it is heaven. I spend time painting, walking through the woods and writing down ideas for picture books. 

I was born and grew up in the Czech Republic, but I have lived almost half of my life in England. When I am in the Czech Republic, I am closer to my friends from my childhood and I am missing my family back in England. During the rest of the year, it is usually the other way around.

Being on your own for a certain period of time, you may start thinking about lots of things. Thoughts about where I belong, and what and where is home can be one of them.

In fact, it is not the first time that the subject of belonging, friendship and identity comes into my stories. I think it is a theme, which we all can identify with. Coming home after being away for some time, the strange feeling in your stomach is something we all know very well and we know it from our childhood.

I must also admit that The Best Place in the World is also a book about pictures. Right from the beginning, when I started to write the story, I was looking forward to doing the illustrations. I could see in my head the hare running through the orchard, the fields, the woods and the hills I know so well. I wanted the book to be as visual as possible.

I was almost wishing that the book could be in a bigger format and have twice as many pages. I just wanted to paint, and I enjoyed doing it. In my work, I get inspired by materials I am using: from graphite, colour pencils, wax crayons and watercolours to acrylics. I use the technique of collage and I don’t use a computer. I like working with possible accidents. Before I stick all the pieces onto the paper, I arrange everything very carefully, but once you pick up all the bits to glue them on, you lose the exact marks, things get shifted and these are the moments I like. These small accidents and corrections bring another dimension to your work.

It is a well-known fact that behind every good book is a good publisher and team of good editors. I must say big thank you to Denise Johnstone Burt and Louise Jackson, who were helping and working with me on The Best Place in the World. I hope the readers will like to read the book as much as I liked working on it.

- Petr Horacek

The Best Place in the World is available where all good books are sold!

Monday 4 May 2020

Jon Klassen's Hat trilogy brought to life!

What better way to pass some time indoors than to watch the lovely people over at The Little Angel Theatre bring to life the wonderful hat trilogy by our brilliant author-illustrator Jon Klassen.

It all begins with a bear desperate to find his lost hat. Click below to watch I Want My Hat Back:

Then why not follow a fish who has stolen a hat, and who is desperate to get away with it in This Is Not My Hat:

And finally, in just a few weeks time, make sure you tune in to get to know two turtles who find just one hat, but it looks good on both of them in We Found a Hat. If you can't wait that long, all three books are available as a boxset, AND they come with a gorgeous collectable print, perfect for framing.