Thursday, 17 June 2021

Sydney Smith wins The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal!

Sydney Smith has WON The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for the second time, with his first author/illustrated book Small in the City!

This is an incredible feat, joining a prestigious list
of illustrators who have won twice, such as Helen Oxenbury, John Burningham,
Shirley Hughes, Anthony Browne – and Chris Riddell, who has won three

It’s also a wonderful achievement for Walker Books, as this will make it our third Greenaway win in four years, and our 13th win overall! HUGE congratulations to both Sydney Smith on your win and fellow Walker Books author/illustrator Pete Oswald for being shortlisted for Hike!

 The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal is one of the UK’s oldest and most loved children’s book awards, recognising outstanding reading experiences created through writing and illustration in books for children and young people.
‘With themes of freedom, the great outdoors and journeys through the natural world, we hope this year’s shortlists will inspire and empower young readers.’

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Being small can be overwhelming in a city. People don't see you. The loud sounds of the sirens and cyclists can be scary. And the streets are so busy it can make your brain feel like there's too much stuff in it. But if you know where to find good hiding places, warm dryer vents that blow out hot steam that smells like summer, music to listen to or friends to say hi to, there can be comfort in the city, too. We follow our little protagonist, who knows all about what it's like to be small in the city, as he gives his best advice for surviving there. As we turn the pages, Sydney Smith's masterful storytelling allows us to glimpse exactly who this advice is for, leading us to a powerful, heart-rending realization...

About Sydney Smith

Sydney Smith has illustrated multiple children’s books, including Town is by the Sea, the winner of the 2017 Kate Greenaway Medal, The White Cat and the Monk, written by Jo Ellen Bogart, and the acclaimed Footpath Flowers, which was a New York Times Children’s Book of the Year and a winner of the Governor General Award for Illustration. Born in Nova Scotia in Canada, Sydney now lives in Toronto with his wife and son. Find him online at and on Twitter and Instagram as @sydneydraws.


Small in the City is available to buy from all good booksellers!

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Frog vs Toad by Ben Mantle - Now out in Paperback!


Frog is a frog. And Toad is a toad. They are totally different from each other. So when a fly mistakes Frog and Toad for two FROGS, it’s not long before things get a bit fruity... Luckily, a too-close call with a snappy alligator makes Frog and Toad join forces to see that they’re not THAT different after all… At heart, a laugh-out-loud journey about togetherness, putting differences aside and realizing that friends don't need to be just like you, but they come in all shapes and sizes!

Click here to download our Frog vs Toad activity sheets!

Click here to enter our Frog vs Toad competition:


Frog vs Toad is now available in paperback from all good booksellers!

Thursday, 3 June 2021

New June Picture Books Releases!

Check out a selection of our new releases for June below!

Dance with Oti: The Bird Jive
by Oti Mabuse and illustrated by Samara Hardy

It’s time for Oti’s dance class! Join Oti in her dance studio and learn “The Bird Jive” in ten easy steps.

There are lots of children in Oti’s dance class – and lots of feelings, too. Meet Fikile in her sparkly new shoes and Naira, who is SUPER excited to get started! Gan is feeling a little worried about joining in whilst Martin can’t wait to show his parents what he can do! But in the middle of their dance routine, an unexpected visitor disrupts the class. Not to fear, Oti is here! Soon they are back on track, getting ready for the performance of their lives.

Written by Strictly Come Dancing superstar Oti Mabuse, this debut picture book will dance into the hands of families who have loved watching Oti on-screen.

Download our Dance with Oti activity sheets here

Julian at the Wedding 
by Jessica Love

Julian and his nana are attending a wedding. Better yet, Julian is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to ... muddy puddles? After all, it wouldn’t be a wedding without fun, laughter and a little magical mischief. With ingenuity and heart, author-illustrator Jessica Love tells a charming story of friendship, acceptance and celebration.

Now out in paperback!

Click here for our Julian at the Wedding activity sheets!

Frog vs Toad
by Ben Mantle

Frog is a frog. And Toad is a toad. They are totally different from each other. So when a fly mistakes Frog and Toad for two FROGS, it’s not long before things get a bit fruity... Luckily, a too-close call with a snappy alligator makes Frog and Toad join forces to see that they’re not THAT different after all… At heart, a laugh-out-loud journey about togetherness, putting differences aside and realizing that friends don't need to be just like you, but they come in all shapes and sizes!

Now out in paperback!

Click here for our Frog vs Toad activity sheets.

Margaret's Unicorn
by Briony May Smith

Margaret's whole world changes when her family moves to a cottage by the sea to be near her grandma. One evening, Margaret spots a mist over the water. No, that's not mist ... clouds, maybe? No, they're unicorns descending onto the shore! They vanish as quickly as they'd appeared, but accidentally leave behind a baby, tangled in the weeds. Margaret, lonely and in need of a friend, brings him home...

A heart-warming story of friendship and kindness brought to magical life by Briony May Smith's enchanting characters and breathtaking coastal landscapes.

Out of the Blue
by Elizabeth Shreeve and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon

Discover the story of life on Earth, and how it evolved from tiny cells in vast oceans into the huge variety of creatures that covered our prehistoric planet. Find out why creatures first emerged from the sea and brought life onto land, in a lively and engaging journey through millions of years of fishes, giant reptiles and mammals. With illustrations from the award-winning Frann Preston-Gannon, this is a gorgeous introduction to the amazing story of prehistoric life.

My First Book of Sea Creatures
illustrated by Zoë Ingram

Illustrated in a bright, contemporary style, this modern guide to twenty of the most interesting marine animals from all around the world is packed with information and fun facts – everything you need to know to help you learn about and identify our ocean-living friends. From the little shrimp to the big blue whale, taking in the magnificent narwhal, the beautiful moon jellyfish and the fascinating anglerfish along the way, there is so much to find out. With key facts about size, habitat, diet and population, there are detailed descriptions of each animal and fascinating did-you-know facts!

Mister Boo!
by Joyce Dunbar and illustrated by Petr Horácek

Mischievous Mister Boo loves to give everyone he meets a surprise. He shocks the baby birds, the baby rabbits and the baby owls. BOO! But one day he wakes up without his usual energy and no one seems to take any notice of him. Will Mister Boo learn to accept change and find joy again? A buoyant second collaboration between the acclaimed writer Joyce Dunbar and world-renowned illustrator Petr Horácek.

Oscar's Tower with Flowers
by Lauren Tobia

Oscar's mum has to go away, just for a little while. So Oscar has come to stay with his nana. Oscar likes being with Nana in her tower block, but he really misses his mum, too. So, one day, Nana has an idea. Together, they carefully sow seeds – lots and lots of seeds! And then they water them, and wait… And the seeds start to grow! And the flowers begin to burst! There are plants everywhere. But, what to do with them all?

In a timely silent narrative for the youngest readers – gorgeously illustrated with graphic panels and sweeping spreads that evoke the urban bustle of a busy high-rise – Lauren Tobia shows how each individual, each child, can bring lushness and vitality to a community.

by Atinuke and illustrated by Birgitta Sif

Hugo the pigeon has an important job. He looks after the park and everyone who lives there. Everyone except for the Somebody whose curtains are never open. But one day, Hugo is so busy doing his showing-off dance that he doesn't see the dog approaching ... and Somebody has to fly to the rescue!
A charming story about community and the value of friendship, beautifully brought to life by Birgitta Sif's energetic illustrations.

Now out in paperback!

Click here for our Hugo activity sheets!

Grow: Secrets of our DNA
by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton

"Vibrantly illustrated, this is a fascinating and accessible introduction to the concept of DNA for five- to eight-year-olds" - The Guardian

A beautifully illustrated introduction to the concept of DNA for younger readers. All living things grow – every plant and every animal, including human beings. Some things grow fast and others grow slowly; some things grow by tiny degrees, while others grow to be enormous. Yet there's something about the way we grow that links us all together. Ever since you were the size of a dot, your body has been following a set of instructions: a code, which connects you with every creature on the planet... With words from Nicola Davies and exquisite artwork by Emily Sutton, this groundbreaking book is certain to enchant and inspire children.

Now out in paperback!


All of our June releases are now available from all good booksellers!

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Dance with Oti - Illustrator Q&A with Samara Hardy

Today we welcome Samara Hardy onto Picture Book Party to talk about illustrating her new picture book, Dance with Oti, written by Strictly Come Dancing star, Oti Mabuse.  

Can you tell us a little about your journey into illustration? 

I’ve always loved to draw so becoming an illustrator was always the most natural route for me to take in life. I never really considered anything else! After finishing A-Levels I did a foundation course in Art and Design, then studied Illustration at Falmouth University, which was an absolute dream! After I graduated I did various work placements within the homeware and greetings card industries, then took an in-house design position at a retailer.I never had a strong singular style, so the role suited me perfectly as it was so varied. I provided illustrations for everything from gift bags to paddling pools, and it gave me a great foundation for taking the leap into freelancing 3 years later. It was a scary step going from a secure salary to what felt like a world of uncertainty, but I haven’t looked back. 

I now work alongside my lovely agents at Plum Pudding, mainly on picture books, but I still like to dip my toe back into homewares and licensing from time to time as well!   

What is your working process?

I’m lucky enough to have a spare room which I’ve turned into my studio which is fantastic. It’s also turning into a bit of a greenhouse with the amount of plants I’m rapidly accumulating! I use Procreate for sketches and colouring but as I use a lot of layers, and Procreate can be quite limiting in this respect, I piece everything together in Photoshop afterwards. Being able to work on an Ipad has been great as it enables me to work wherever I want. I’m looking forward to traveling again to really make the most of this. Although the temptation to just work from bed some days is hard to resist! 

How did you begin illustrating Dance with Oti? 

I began by sketching out all the characters. Each child had a particular character trait to focus on which really helped me in making them unique and recognisable. Designing Mrs Oti was the biggest challenge as drawing a character based on a real-life person was something I’d never done before. It was definitely a bit nerve-wracking waiting for her approval!  

Once we had confirmed all the characters I made a start on the spreads themselves. These started off as small thumbnails before being neatened up into final roughs. Oti sent across some photos demonstrating each dance move which was super helpful. As learning the dance moves is such an integral part of the book, it was important to get them right!  

What was your favourite spread to illustrate? 

My favourite spread was probably the one where the bird comes flying into the room. It was a really fun one to do and I love how some of the kids are running away in horror and others are loving the excitement of it!  

What are your favourite picture books/illustrators? 

I have so many! I grew up captivated by the worlds created by Beatrix Potter and Quentin Blake, but more recently I really admire the work of Kate Hindley, Paola Escobar, Emily Hughes and Alex T. Smith…and many more!  

Thank you, Samara, for giving an insight into your work on Dance with Oti. 

Download our Dance with Oti activity sheets here

                            Dance with Oti is available to purchase here

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Sean Taylor's Top Tips for writing a Picture Book

What makes a strong picture book text? There are no definitive answers. But Sean Taylor, author of How To Be Cooler than Cool, uses this little checklist to test the readiness of a developing text. 

Sean Taylor: "Sometimes a new story is strong in a number of areas, but not all. Checking through these 9 pointers can identify what needs to be worked on. And it can spark the ideas that a story needs, to evolve…"

1. Is there a character with whom young children will fall in love– preferably after one sentence?

2. Is there something about the story that will 'hook' readers in from the start?

3. Does the story have a page-turning quality as it progresses?

4. What does the main character want?

5. Is there an emotional journey, as well as a story journey? (It doesn’t matter what the emotion is.)

6. Is there visual variety for an illustrator?

7. Does everything happen across a short time-span? (Picture book stories very often describe a single day, or even less.)

8. Is the story truly young...truly for and about children under 6?

9. Is there some kind of ending uplift that will delight young readers? (There are many kinds: twists, jokes, echoes, questions, satisfying resolutions. Best of all, perhaps, none of those…but something no-one’s come up with before!)

Thank you to Sean for these top tips! 

Download our coooooooool activity sheets here.

“For the child worried about keeping up playground appearances, How to Be Cooler than Cool by Sean Taylor is a reminder that the coolest thing is to be yourself.” – The Telegraph

How to Be Cooler than Cool is available from all good booksellers. 

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Ernest the Elephant - Q&A with Anthony Browne

We are delighted to welcome Anthony Browne onto Picture Book Party for a Q&A on Ernest the Elephant!

Ernest is a happy baby elephant. But when his curiosity gets the better of him, and he leaves the rest of his herd to explore the alluring and dangerous jungle, he becomes very lost indeed. Amongst the undergrowth, he meets a rude gorilla, a weary lion, an impolite hippo and an uncaring crocodile. Will anyone help Ernest find his way out of the jungle and home to his mum?

From the international phenomenon, Anthony Browne, comes a heartfelt, visually stunning picture book about finding help in unexpected places.

Q&A with Anthony Browne

What was the inspiration behind Ernest the Elephant?

The idea for this book came from a version of the story I first wrote and illustrated in 1975, before I’d ever been published - my first attempt at making a picture book. I vaguely remember a story that my parents would often read to me about an elephant who lost his way, and I can strongly recall the relief I felt every time he found his mum.

Original illustrations from the first version of Ernest the Elephant (1975)

I looked at the works of Brian Wildsmith and John Burningham and was influenced by their use of colour and also by 1960’s record covers. I submitted the dummy to the publisher Hamish Hamilton but I had no idea how picture books worked.

I was introduced to the editor Julia MacRae and, although she liked the story, she felt it wasn’t suitable for publication at that time, and so we developed another idea which became my first book, Through the Magic Mirror. Julia became my regular editor for the next 20 years, and she was extremely helpful in encouraging me to develop as an author and illustrator. 

Another original illustration of Ernest the Elephant (1975)

Tell us a little bit more about your process?

 I have recently moved house and am now working in the best studio I’ve ever had. It has a lot of light (North light which is the best light to work in), loads of space and a fantastic view. I work fairly regular hours, about 7 hours a day, but because it’s in my home, I can go and have a sneaky look at what I’ve been working on any time of the day or night.

When I have an idea for a book, the first thing I do is to make a storyboard which is a sequence of little rough drawings and words - a bit like a comic. It’s rather like planning to make a film where every picture represents a new scene. When I’m reasonably pleased with that, I make a dummy - a tiny version of the book, again roughly drawn and with a text which I know will change. After meeting and discussions with my editor, I then work on the full size finished paintings, mostly done in watercolour.

Do you have a favourite spread in the book?

I think I have 3 favourites - The scene where Ernest is fascinated by the jungle but  feels a little bit frightened, the crocodile (which is almost exactly the same as the crocodile I painted in the first version forty-odd years ago) and the last picture of Ernest and his mum walking away.
What was your favourite picture book when you were a child?

It was a book called Fudge in Toffeetown by Ken Reid, a comic album about some kind of elf who travels to a town where everything is made of sweets.
I loved sweets and later also loved Surrealism.

To find out how to be in with a chance of winning a copy of the book and this stunning print, click here!


A special thanks to our guest this week, Anthony Browne!
Ernest the Elephant is now available to buy from all good booksellers.

Monday, 17 May 2021

Take Off Your Brave by Nadim illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail

 Take Off Your Brave
by Nadim (Age 4) and illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail

Everybody has love.
Even baddies.

The poems in this book beautifully capture how a four-year-old sees the world – a world of rainbows, glitter and magical boxes; a world of nursery, hometime and cuddles with Mum. They make for joyful reading and, paired with a foreword from poet and teacher Kate Clanchy and wonderful pictures by Yasmeen Ismail, are an invitation for young readers to join in the fun... By turns funny and charming, gentle and zany, Take Off Your Brave shows that poetry is for everyone – no matter how little you are!

Click here to enter our Take Off Your Brave competition on Twitter:

You can also find our teachers' notes here!


Take Off Your Brave is now available to buy from all good booksellers.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

How to Be Cooler than Cool - Q&A with Sean Taylor

“For the child worried about keeping up playground appearances, How to Be Cooler than Cool by Sean Taylor is a reminder that the coolest thing is to be yourself.” – The Telegraph

Sean Taylor reveals how he wrote his latest picture book How to Be Cooler than Cool, and talks about his collaboration with illustrator Jean Jullien. Their new story features some young friends in a playground – a cat, a cockatoo, and a pig. The three of them find a pair of sunglasses and get rather excited about how cool they’re going to be, when they wear them. But their efforts to be cool result in some seriously slapstick disasters. Then a tiny chick arrives. And she shows them that just being yourself is cooler than cool.

What was the seed of inspiration for How to Be Cooler than Cool?

There’s nearly always more than one seed. In fact, it’s when several seeds start growing that you feel an interesting story is on the way.

In this case, one seed was our younger son being given a pair of sunglasses. (Even though he was small, he knew they were supposed to make him cool!) Then I found myself imagining animals in sunglasses. That felt as if it could be fun for an illustrator. And a third seed was slapstick comedy – which I’ve always loved watching. It very often revolves around deadpan (you might say ‘cool’) actors like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd suddenly, and utterly, losing control. That was the seed which felt as if it could grow into some laughter!

How did you move on from these seeds?

I started scribbling. This is the first rough story plan I came up with…

What I’m doing here is seeing how the narrative might work, split across 14 double-page spreads. Finding out if a story is going to work in a picture book format is always an important early step.

If you can make any sense of my handwriting, you’ll see that the four characters in the final book are in this first vision of the story - cool cat, cockatoo, pig and chick. I’m just slightly surprised to find that my original plan also featured an elephant…and a cucumber!

Then you wrote the story, based on this rough plan?

Yes, a first draft. It wasn’t even a full first draft. But it had something I liked about it. And one day I was having a drink with a brilliant trio of listeners: my current editor at Walker Books, Maria Tunney, my former editor, David Lloyd, and the designer who would come to work on How to Be Cooler than Cool, Deirdre McDermott. I read them the first, unfinished manuscript. This is it below. (You can see I’m still playing around with titles…A SERIOUSLY COOL STORY…A REAL COOL STORY…SUCH A COOL STORY…)

Maria, David and Deirdre were all, in their different ways, very positive about these beginnings of a story. I happened to meet up with illustrator, Jean Jullien a few weeks later, and could feel him drawing the characters in his mind as I described them to him! So I was encouraged to keep going.

Did it take long to work that early draft into a finished book?

This is the file of notes, scribbles, drafts, editorial exchanges and evolving proofs that built up as we developed the book…

Picture book stories are very short, but that doesn’t mean they take a very short time to write!

How to Be Cooler than Cool found its form over three years (which isn’t an unusual timeframe for a picture book project.) And this bulky file of notes reminds me what a lot of invention, thought and trial and error went into the process of writing the story.

To be frank, the quantity of paper reveals that there was rather more ERROR than TRIAL. All that work ended up being distilled into a very simple narrative only 286 words long! A great deal fell by the wayside.

How does it feel being illustrated by Jean Jullien?

It’s special. I’m constantly revisiting Jean’s illustrations for our previous books - , Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise and I Want To Be In A Scary Story - because they’re very popular, and I’m always being asked to read them aloud.

I never grow remotely tired of either.

Jean’s illustrations are striking and engaging. He works in simple lines and flat colours. So how does he get so much life inside those two dimensions he uses? It’s absolutely there – character, emotion, movement, LIFE. I’m delighted that we’ve formed a partnership. And I hope that How to Be Cooler than Cool will put a little light into the corners of young readers’ eyes, in the way that our other two books have.

Thank you to Sean for joining us on Picture Book Party!

Download our coooooooool activity sheets here.

How to Be Cooler than Cool is available from all good booksellers.