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An Interview with illustrator Colleen Lamour

Posted By Jacob Hope, 13 hours ago

We were delighted to have the opportunity to interview illustrator Colleen Lamour on the blog!  Colleen studied on the MA in Children's Book Illustration at Cambridge Art School. Her first books were published by Little Tiger Press and her latest book is Making Friends, written by Amanda McCardie.  Do check out the sketchbook pictures and artwork which Colleen has kindly shared with us.


Can you tell us a little about yourself, how you became an illustrator and your work to date?


I live in Lisburn, County Antrim with my husband and our two daughters.  I grew up nearby and went to a local high school where the only subject I was interested in and any good at was Art. 


After school I studied an Art & Design GNVQ and then went on to study Multimedia Arts in Liverpool.  For three years pen and paper was replaced with brightly coloured Apple Mac computers.  I made children’s animation, short films and interactive games. 


Leaving with a digital portfolio I worked for a while in advertising and animation but I felt like a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, not fully accomplished at any one thing.  What I really wanted to do was draw traditionally again and make a children’s book.  Luckily, I got a place on the Children’s Book Illustration MA course in Cambridge.  An amazing two years spent mixing with wonderful people and being taught by the best teachers. 


After I graduated from the course I was fortunate enough to get a book deal with Little Tiger Press.  They published my first two books, Under the Silvery Moon and Little Friend.  When I finished the second book I returned home to Belfast and found it difficult to earn a full-time living from illustration alone so I got a job in Waterstones running the children’s section. 


I loved the job and for a few years it took over until I had children.   On maternity leave with my youngest daughter I set up my own online business, Little Carousel, selling my illustrated prints and handmade soft toys, which I made using fabric printed with my illustrations.  Having the business was a pivotal change for me.  I had no briefs or preconceived rules to follow so I explored, experimented and had fun with my illustration in a way that I hadn’t really done before.  I gained so much more confidence and intuition with my work and built up a fresh illustration portfolio. 


In 2018 I was signed to the Bright Agency and have since worked on a lot of great projects.



Who are some of the illustrators you admire and which of their books particularly stand out for you and why?


A nearly impossible question to answer as there are so many!  I do enjoy and always take inspiration from classic illustrators such as Tomi Ungerer, Dahlov Ipcar, Jean-Jacques Sempé and John Burningham - those stunning animal drawings in Mr. Gumpy’s Outing!   Some current illustrators that I love are Polly Dunbar, Helen Stephens, Isabelle Arsenault, Yasmeen Ismail and Christian Robinson, who is a real favourite.  I was incredibly moved by the book Last Stop on Market Street that he illustrated, written by Matt De La Pena.  Robinson’s artwork for the book is deceptively simple whilst conveying such rich feeling and storytelling.  Something he makes look easy, which it most definitely isn’t!



Your first books 'Under the Silvery Moon' and 'Little Friend' were published by Little Tiger Press after you graduated from Cambridge Art School, how did this come about?


Our graduation show was in a gallery in London.  Lots of publishers were invited along and soon after I was approached by Little Tiger Press and another publisher who were interested in publishing the two books I had made during the MA course.  I felt incredibly lucky to have such interest in my work.  I signed with Little Tiger Press, who took great care of me while I worked through the publication of my first books.



You've just published Making Friends with Amanda McCardie, can you introduce the book to us please?


Making Friends is a non-fiction picture book that follows new girl at school, Sukie.  Shy and lonely at first, she soon befriends Joe, Stan and Poppy and together they experience all the ups and downs that friendships bring. 


The book is full of kindness, empathy and helpful advice and I loved making it.  Having admired Amanda’s previous books I was over the moon to be asked to illustrate this new one.  The team at Walker made the whole experience a pleasure and having the opportunity to work with such an amazing publisher was incredible.


It’s nice to think that the book can be a help to children starting or returning to school after what’s been a pretty strange and unexpected year for them.



The school that Sukie attends feels wonderfully inclusive, how important do you feel visual representation is in picture books for the young and why?


I think it’s vital.  Having a diverse visual representation for many different experiences can really help children feel seen and can normalise something that may be making them upset or feeling out of place.  Race and culture but also class, wealth, abilities, family set-ups, appearances.  Even something as simple as a character wearing glasses could mean the world to a child who is upset at having to wear their new glasses.

It’s an important, simple and effective way to teach acceptance, love and kindness towards differences from a very young age.



Can you talk us through your approach to illustration - techniques, preferred media, where you work, the processes and stages you go through…


I work from a spare bedroom in our home which I’ve turned into my studio.   It’s bright and airy and I’ve made it a comfortable space that I love spending time in. 


I’ve always kept a sketchbook and recently I’ve become a bit addicted to drawing and experimenting in them.  It’s such a great way to relax.  I can really see the benefits of this experimental work feeding back into my commissioned jobs and portfolio work. 


I still largely use traditional media to illustrate and will use photoshop to piece certain elements together for final art.  I start projects with lots of drawings on cheap paper.  I’ve always found expensive paper the quickest way to freeze up my drawing for fear of making a mistake and wasting it! 


I don’t really have a set technique.  Sticking to one illustration style is not my thing.  I get bored easily this way and I’m much happier mixing things up and doing what is needed for the project.  I like to see it as creative evolution and growth!


You've also worked on t-shirt designs for MyKarma Klub, what did this involve?


This was fun.  Chris at My Karma Klub had some quirky ideas and slogans that he asked me to illustrate for his new t.shirt and website launch.  I also designed the logo for the business.  We worked together to settle on the right designs, colourful and humorous, which he had printed on unisex t.shirts.  He sells them across the UK and Ireland at LGBTQ+ events and festivals.  



What's next for you?


I’m currently working on a non-fiction picture book with Kids Can Press.  It’s called Our Green City and is written by the brilliant Tanya Lloyd Kyi.  The book requires an approach to artwork that is different to how I’ve worked before but I am loving the challenge.  It’s an original concept so I was thrilled to be asked to illustrate it.


Earlier this year I also began writing my own stories again and have a few in development.  I’m enjoying the writing process and exercising that different part of my brain.  It can sometimes be the perfect remedy when I need a break from illustrating!



Huge thanks to Colleen for the interview and for sharing her artwork with us!



 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  Diversity  Illustration  Reading  Reading for Pleasure 

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The B on your Thumb - An Interview with Colette Hiller

Posted By Jacob Hope, 22 September 2020

We are delighted to welcome Colette Hiller to the blog to talk about The B on Your Thumb a collection of poetry published by Quarto which uses rhythm, humour and wordplay to help to develop a love of the English language.  The book has been chosen as a recommended read for National Poetry Day.


Please can you tell us a little about yourself?

I began life as a dancer at  NY’s  High School of Performing Arts (as in  the film Fame.) Interestingly, fame was not something any of us thought about.  But yes, we really did dance on the desks !    I  came to London with the original  Broadway production of Annie and liked it so much I stayed.   After years on the London stage – with the RSC (spear carrier on the right) and the National Theatre (spear carrier on the left) , I joined The BBC  as a researcher and then producer.   I  loved it there and worked 

across many departments, Education to Current Affairs. This led to my role as a cultural producer at   Sing London, filling  city streets with public pianos, ping pong tables and Talking Statues.  I’ve  also written a best selling children’s CD –  Applehead  – The B is my first book. 




The oral nature of language and storytelling is such an important part of our literary culture and of our early introductions to reading.  How much did this influence you?


Strawberry short cake cream on top. Tell me the name of  your sweet heart is it A? B? C  I was hugely influenced by the skipping rope and handclapping songs of my youth.    The rhythm, internal meter and simplicity of these rhymes  stuck in my head.   Further influence came from A A Milne , Mother Goose and  from Alligator Pie the Canadian classic by  Dennis Lee.  ( I was chuffed to bits when  Dennis Lee  wrote an endorsement for the book. And in  rhyme!)



Are there any rhymes that are particular favourites and, if so, why?

These rhymes  are  like  my children so I don’t like to show favouritism! That said...I especially like  TION – which tells  a  funny story.   The A in my Head – is wonderfully  daft!   And... I like A lot  a lot.   I’m actually a  rotten speller  myself, and so this  rhyme reminds me how to spell the word!. 

A  Lot

A  lot is not  just one word ,

 it’s always made of two

A lot of people don’t  know that

From now on, you do!

How important do you think sharing and reading aloud is?

Reading aloud  is  particularly important  with poetry .  When a poem is words on the page,  it’s only half formed.   It comes alive when said aloud.     My challenge when writing these was to create rhymes which felt  easy to recite,  and  gratifying.

Some of the complexities and irregularities of the English language can make learning to read quite tricky?  Do you have any experiences from working with BBC Education or through your work with early education about some of the challenges associated with this?

English is tricky and  lots of things seem to make no sense.  But  that doesn’t mean  these irregularities are s tricky to teach.   You just have to explain that they are weird.  For that matter,  take my rhyme to explain the spelling of  WEIRD



I before E

Except after C

And W too

On the odd occasion

(Which is wEIrd!)

What do you think of Tor's illustrations and did you have any interaction with him during the process of the book?

Tor ’s illustrations are  lively, entertaining and imaginative.  While a silent B may be painfully  shy, a Bossy E is  downright  bolshie!  But more than that, the illustrations  reinforce   the learning message  of each rhyme.    They are also  filled with  hidden things for children to find. 

There is a real sense of play, fun and interaction in the book, how important do you feel these are to learning?


I think the process of  learning to read should itself be enjoyable and entertaining.  It  shouldn’t be  arduous or medicinal.  And above all it shouldn’t be predictable!

All of these rhymes were  created around  a  playful sense of fun. 



Thank you to Colette for the interview and to Quarto for the opportunity.


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Tags:  Poetry  Reading  Reading for Pleasure  Spelling 

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Oi Aardvark!

Posted By Jacob Hope, 18 September 2020

Oi readers!  It is the Youth Libraries Group here, 'Y' on the alphabet blog tour for Kes GraY and Jim Field’s irresistible new picture book Oi Aardvark!  We work with Youngsters, judge the Yearly CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals and Yarns are our specialism!  What will we be talking about as the ‘Y’ stop?  We will be discussing our top five reasons whY the Oi books are so perfect for sharing!

WhY funnY books make reading a joY

SadlY research shows children and Young people’s reading enjoYment is currently in decline.  Only 53% of children and young people said they enjoYed reading in 2019 (National Literacy Trust).  This is the lowest level since 2013.  If we can make reading fun and enjoYable from an earlY age it carries those associations.  FunnY books are a brilliant waY to achieve this and there’s a delightfullY absurd qualitY to Kes GraY and Jim Field’s Oi books!

WhY rhYmes matter

RhYthm and rhYmes plaY an important role as part of children's early reading.  Thehelp children to get activelY involved, offering opportunities to chant words, to take part in the sounds and rhYthms and to guess what might come next.  Kes GraY’s rhYming text in the Oi series is a delight to read aloud and offers rich opportunities for joining in whether you are 'a mosquito on a burrito' or a 'Yak on a sack'!

WhY Jim Field’s illustrations help relaY emotions

Large eYes and clear facial expressions make it easY for children to interpret and understand the emotions that characters have.  Jim Field’s illustrations not only ooze child appeal, but are great for this.  Keep an eYe on the eYebrows in his illustrations too, these plaY a keY part in helping to show the feelings of his characters!

WhY being part of a series can be reassuring

Finding books we love is such a powerful thing for any reader and often there can be a sense of loss on reaching the end.  Books in a series have familiaritY so can be a useful waY to reallY develop and build an appreciation and love of books and stories.  There are six main titles in the Oi series to explore and share.

WhY design is important

High contrast page colours really make the books ‘pop’ visuallY.  The size and shape of the books make them ideal for sharing whether at storYtimes in libraries or schools or whether cuddling up close together in more intimate moments.

WhY not pop to your nearest librarY and borrow some of the Oi Books, look out for the latest title, Oi! Aardvark?


Tags:  picture books  reading  Reading for pleasure  sharing 

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Interview with Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, translator of How Do Bridges Work? by Roman Belyaev

Posted By Jacob Hope, 17 September 2020

We are delighted to welcome Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp to the blog.  Ruth is the translator of b small publishing's How Do Bridges Work? written and illustrated by Roman Belyaev.  Here Ruth provides an insight into translation.  Many thanks to Sam Hutchinson from b small publishing for the opportunity.

How long have you been a translator and how did you get started?

I qualified as a professional translator in 2004 when I finished an MA and postgraduate diploma in translation, but my first taste of freelance translation was during my third year abroad, when I spent 4 months in Dresden. I translated some texts and marketing videos for an eco tech company at Dresden Environment Centre - a really fascinating experience. 

This new book from b small publishing, HOW DO BRIDGES WORK?, was originally written in Russian. Tell us about your connection to the Russian language.

I started learning Russian aged 16, when I was lucky enough to do Russian GCSE alongside my A levels. I fel in love and went on to study Russian and German language and literature at Oxford University, spending every summer in Moscow and St Petersburg, traipsing around the many wonderful writers' house museums. I associate Russia with music and singing with friends around the kitchen table. About 10 years ago I taught Russian A level at a local school and it was a delight to devise grammar activities based on classic Soviet rock songs! 

 HOW DO BRIDGES WORK? contains some quite technical language to do with architecture and engineering. How do you tackle this?

I have a background in literature and history, not science and technology, and yet over the years I have translated a few popular science books. Part of the essential toolkit of a translator is excellent research skills and also a reliable network of expert friends to ask about terms and concepts when in doubt! I also think self-doubt as an underlying principle is important in translation: you need the confidence to tackle texts that are sometimes out of your comfort zone, but the self-doubt to check and double check everything! One thing I love about translation is the excuse to read books and texts about a vast range of subjects. You never know what you're going to be asked to work on so the best preparation for a translation career is to read constantly and read widely. 

Do you do any preliminary work to find the voice of the original author or do you like to approach the text without preconceptions?

It depends on the text and the target readership, and where on the spectrum the book fits: should it be written in a neutral nonfiction style or a more chatty, personal style, for example? With this book, it was most important that the text was clear, concise and accessible to younger readers, so at times I need to restructure a sentence or a paragraph to express the same ideas in a way that would be clear to young English readers. 

As a fan of foreign languages, are you learning any new languages at the moment? What’s next?

To say I love exploring foreign languages is an understatement! I was 24 when I started learning Arabic, and for the first decade or so I had to focus on that alone - Arabic is many languages in one, after all, when you consider how much the spoken dialects vary. But in recent years I've allowed myself time to dabble in other languages again. I'm slowly working on my Norwegian on Duolingo, as we have family in Bergen; as I'm a linguist I fear they're expecting me to be fluent by our next visit! I got a bit distracted by Yiddish after watching Unorthodox on Netflix - I'm instantly gripped by a language that is similar to one I already know well, and Yiddish is very close to German. I have family links to Malta and I was astonished when I started listening to Maltese podcasts and realised I could understand a lot because it's very close to colloquial Arabic, particularly the Palestinian and Syrian dialects I'm most familiar with. 

Foreign languages don’t always have the most consistent spot on the Curriculum, particularly in primary schools. How would you encourage children to take an interest in foreign languages?

This is a particular passion of mine and I'm working with the Stephen Spender Trust to develop teaching resources for primary schools, exploring creative translation in the classroom. These activities give pupils the satisfaction of codebreaking and working out how to read a creative text in a language they have no experience of, and then translating it as they would approach any creative writing task: writing freely but with certain constraints. Pupils discover language skills they didn't realise they had and make discoveries about English at the same time. 

Another way young people can explore our multilingual planet is to get involved in #WorldKidLitMonth, which is happening now in September. On social media, this is an initiative aimed at encouraging kids and adults to read beyond our shores, and to explore children's and YA books in translation from other languages. There are heaps of resources on World Kid Lit blog, a website I co-edit, including reading lists and maps for different age groups, and you can search the site by language and by country. We aim to make it easier than ever before to pick a place in the world and fly there by book! 

Finally, now that many of us are having to work from home or in new conditions, tell us about your workspace!  

My workspace actually hasn't changed as I have a home office; what is new is having to share it with my husband! But as we've had the children home from school throughout lockdown, we've worked shifts and haven't been in there at the same time. From September we might have to get another chair but to be honest I'm not sure I'll be able to share with him - I think I talk to myself too much when I'm translating! I have to read texts aloud to hear how they sound and as I'm currently editing my translation of a novel I'm forever acting out scenes to check it all fits together. I think I may be banished to the living room! 


A huge thank you to Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and to b small publishing for the opportunity.



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Tags:  Information Books  Non-fiction  Reading  Reading for Pleasure  STEAM  Translation 

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The Klaus Flugge Prize Shortlist 2020

Posted By Jacob Hope, 16 September 2020

We are pleased to welcome Jake Hope to the blog to talk about this year's shortlist for the Klaus Flugge Prize.  Jake was a judge on this year's award and is the author of Seeing Sense: Visual Literacy as a Tool for Libraries, Learning and Reader Development.


Illustrations in picture books can help to shape our early understanding of who we are, of the world that surrounds us and of the ways we feel.  Since its inception, the Klaus Flugge Prize has showcased some of the vibrant innovation and technique that new artists are bringing to the form.  This year’s shortlist has been no exception and the books brilliantly shine a light upon the different roles illustration can play.


Like many of the best picture books, Kate Read’s One Fox works on many levels.  It helps provide a foundation for learning with its humour, drama and visual rhythm. It’s a vibrant counting story about a sleek sly fox who has three plump hens on his mind, but there’s a pleasing twist in the tale.  The lively combination of print and collage lends a real textured quality to the art.


Emotions and feelings can be complicated and hard to verbalise in early childhood.  Seeing and feeling the effect of these can thus be an incredibly powerful experience.  This is certainly the case in Eva Eland’s When Sadness Comes to Call.  It is a masterpiece of minimalism that shows real understanding of the format of the book, there’s great control in the use of a limited palette and in the fluidity of the line but each is saturated with depth of emotion.


Childhood can be a time of great adventure, of discovery and wonder.  This is captured brilliantly in Helen Kellock’s The Star in the Forest.  The interplay between light and darkness creates real impact and achieves an intimate dialogue between ‘reader’ and ‘book’.  Readers are taken on a journey into the heart of the forest and are reminded of the boundless quality of imagination!


There is something joyous about close looking, the act and art of uncovering new details finding new dimensions to stories.  This playful quality abounds in Puck Koper’s energetic Where is your Sister?  With a three tone palette, inventive use of patterns and incredible style this is a book full of laugh-out-loud moments and games!


Illustration can also help to relay detailed and complex information and ideas, helping to make this more relatable and easier to understand.  This is certainly true of Sabina Radeva’s On the Origin of Species which relays the enduring nature and the scope of Darwin’s remarkable impact on science and the natural world.  Composition and design is employed to great effect in this stylish and wide-reaching book.


The winner of this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize will be announced tonight (16 September), at 6.00pm, but with such a cornucopia of imagination, experimentation and innovation, the real winners are readers whose worlds are enriched and enhanced by such outstanding illustrated books.  Congratulations to each of the shortlisted illustrators and the publishing teams behind these incredible books.


Thanks to Jake for the blog.



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Tags:  Illustration  Outstanding Illustration  Prizes  Visual Literacy 

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The Klaus Flugge Prize 2020

Posted By Jacob Hope, 15 September 2020

We are honoured to invited Julia Eccleshare, critic and chair of the Klaus Flugge Prize to the blog to explain why this new award for picture book illustrators is so important.


Five years on and the Klaus Flugge Prize (KFP) is celebrating the most promising and exciting new-comer in children’s illustration. Although this year’s event is different and the judges had to argue gently across zoom rather than in the flesh, the end result has all the excitement of previous years as the winner of the 2020 KFP joins a roster of previous winners: the once newcomers who are now stars of the picture book scene. Watching anything grow is always a delight but watching the KFP grow has been a particular pleasure because it is a gentle snowball in a noisy world.


Illustration for children rarely gets the attention it deserves and, when it does, too often that attention focuses on the best of the classic illustrators. While the iconic images from the past provide the bedrock of the great illustration traditions in the UK, it is equally important to make sure that illustrators who reflect the world as we see it today are discovered, fostered and above all promoted. It is because it does that, because it is there at the beginning of a new creative career, that the KFP is so special. In shining a spotlight on a new talent, the KFP celebrates the important principle that every generation needs new illustrators to create images that imagine, reflect and re-imagine how we see the world today. While shaping visual tastes through experimental ways of portraying the everyday, these images will also give even the youngest children their earliest exposure to ways of seeing the real world beyond their own experience as well as entering richly imagined fantasy world.


Changing visual tastes is a subtle and often slow process particularly when it is around the way we show childhood. It raises questions about how we think of childhood and what we want to teach children about it. And it asks questions about how visually sophisticated children are. The best picture books are a perfect marriage between text and pictures but do readers value them for their beautiful images or their vibrant story line? Almost all books for children contain a certain amount of ‘information’ or moral messaging but how much can be included in a picture book? That’s to say, can picture books show children some of the more challenging aspects of life and if so, how can that be best dressed up? All of this and more is at the heart of all the picture books submitted annually for the KFP. Considering them collectively shows just what an open-minded concept a picture book is and how many different ways there are of telling stories in words and pictures. It also shows us why all readers, not just the pre-reading children for whom there are primarily intended, love picture books and what a lot we can all deduce from them.


It is the desire to share that knowledge that underpins everything about the KFP. Just as it does all the work of Klaus Flugge, whose long and distinguished career is honoured by this prize which he funds. In 1976 he founded Andersen Press, the ground-breaking picture book list which promoted the early work of many of today's most distinguished illustrators including Chris Riddell, Tony Ross, and David McKee from the UK and also brought illustrators from around the world including Leo Lionni, Dan Santat, Uri Shulevitz and  Max Velthuijs to UK readers. Since then, and still now, Flugge’s belief that children deserve the best and his enthusiasm for getting it to them is perfectly matched by his keen eye for the most interesting ways of telling stories in words and pictures. Impelled by humanity, inspired by the search for innovation and tempered by commercial forces, Flugge’s Andersen Press and the KFP combine to bring us the substantial legacy which we treasure and celebrate.


The winner of the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize will be announced at 6.30pm on Wednesday 16 September.


Thank you to Julia Eccleshare for the guest blog and to the Klaus Flugge Prize team for the opportunity.



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Tags:  Illustration  Prizes  Reading  Reading for Pleasure 

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Agent Moose - An Interview with Mo O'Hara

Posted By Jacob Hope, 11 September 2020

We are delighted to feature an interview with children's author extraordinaire Mo O'Hara.  Mo is the author of the brilliantly funny My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish books and is a huge friend and supporter of libraries.  We are doubly excited about this interview because Mo's illustrator for her new graphic novel, Agent Moose, Jess Bradley has joined us for some questions too.  


Did you read comics a child? Although it is changing, in the UK they are often quite maligned, is there more of a culture surrounding them in the US? 

Thanks for having me on your blog.  I’m excited to talk about Agent Moose. 

I did read comics as a kid.  My brother was a big collector of comics ( mostly DC) so our house was full of comics.  I enjoyed the DC comics, the action and the characters but mostly I loved the way you could immerse yourself totally in the world of the comic book. They were their own universes with different rules. That’s very liberating as a kid.  I dabbled in comics really, I would pick one up because the cover intrigued me or it was a mash up with a character from another series (I loved it when they did that) but I never followed them the way my brother did. I’m a complete Sci Fi geek too so anything that was Star Wars, Star Trek or Doctor Who also grabbed my attention. Then I really lost touch with comics until I was a grown up when I came across some amazing  graphic novels.  When I had kids we started getting The Pheonix and we loved that!  The last proper comic book I bought was on the pretext of buying it for my son a few years ago and it was a mash up of Doctor Who with Star Trek Next Gen. I’m still such a nerd. It was epic though.

At the moment Agent Moose is only published in the US but it’s easy to order import copies through any independent bookshop or online store.  Waterstones online has it available from the first of September!!

Jess Bradley also kindly took part in the interview, we asked Jess if she read comics as a child and also about her work on The Phoenix comic

I loved comics as a kid! I grew up with the Dandy and Beano (which I’m now a writer for, which is pretty awesome. I think 10 year-old me would be happy!), and also Whizzer and Chips and Buster. When I was a teenager I discovered X-Men and then got into a lot of American comics, especially indie comics. I was a huge fan of Manga too and everything I read has played a huge part in influencing my own art. My work on The Phoenix is very much based on what I know I would have loved reading as a kid; very odd characters in odd situations and lots of toilet humour! I love making the extraordinary ordinary so you’ll find a lot of magical creatures doing boring things like getting their homework done on time and washing up!

Mo, What were the challenges of writing a story told largely through dialogue and illustration? 

 I read somewhere recently that most authors are either character/dialogue authors or plot/action authors. I’m definitely the former.  So writing a script with just dialogue was actually my happy place. I used to be an actor and I started out writing scripts for performance ( stage and radio) so I think in scenes and when I write books I write with a movie script in mind.  My editor has to usually get me to trim back my dialogue and put in more description in my fiction books.  It was a learning curve to get the story into a certain number of frames for each chapter and I always overwrite so again there was a lot of cutting of dialogue.  Then the challenge is to make it consistently funny and pacey without losing the real sense of the characters too.  Jess Bradley is amazing at creating the look at feel of Agent Moose. Her illustrations bring not only the characters but the whole world of Big Forest to life.

Can you tell us a little about how the process of creating the book worked and what kind of collaboration – if any you had with Jess Bradley?

Working on Agent Moose really was a four way process with me, Jess, the editor Holly West and the art director Liz Dresner.  I wrote the script and worked with Holly on that. Jess created the character drawings and then Liz and Jess did the lay-out and design of the book to make it look inviting and fun and make you want to turn each page.   Once they had rough sketches that we had another look at the text and made some changes so it worked better.  I think with book one we were feeling it out a bit.  In creating book two we had a template of what we wanted so I could write to fit that.  All the way through my main question was- Is it funny if…? Jess’s sense of humour is fantastic so I think a lot of the same things cracked us both up.  Her illustrations genuinely make me giggle reading the book for the ump-teenth time. 

We asked Jess for her thoughts on working on Agent Moose

The book was a wonderful collaboration and one of the funnest projects I’ve worked on. I would get Mo’s wonderful script (kind of like a film script but split into book pages!) and then I would do some character designs for all of the lead characters. These would go to Mo and our wonderful editor and art director and once they had all had a chat, would come back to me with any changes they might want and I’d make some amendments.

After characters were decided on, I would then go through the script and make thumbnails, which are very small scribbles of the pages so I could figure out how many panels could fit on a page and make sure all of the characters didn’t get too squished! I would then go on and do pencil versions of the pages. Off to Mo, the editor and art director for a look and back to me with any changes (luckily, not many!).

Once the whole book is drawn, I then ink and colour it in Photoshop. There’s a lot of back and forth but it’s nice because someone might come up with a suggestion for something that I didn’t think of and it can really add to the book! I feel like I know the characters so well now and love drawing new situations for them. Mo has some fantastic ideas and drawing them is a hoot!

Mo, the first case for Anonymoose and Owlfred is ‘Turtle-apped’ can you tell us a little about it?

Anonymoose and Owlfred (special agents for Woodland HQ) are one case away from solving their 100th case. Then Camo Cameleon (Agent Moose’s arch rival) solves his 100th case first.  Anonymoose is not amused. When they travel to Camo Cameleon’s patch to find a missing witness from Camo’s last case- everything is not as it seems.

There’s some lovely inventive funny moments with ‘News of the Wild’ and it feels a well realised habitat filled with humour and fun, how much world building was involved?

I loved creating the world of Big Forest with its newspaper ‘News of the Wild’.  We wanted to make all the characters really distinct and give them all a chance to shine.  The world they inhabit has to seem real too.  You have to feel at home there. But always we are looking for the ridiculous.

So, you might not know this but Agent Moose first started out life as Agent Mouse. When I was first thinking up ideas for my next project my agent, Gemma Cooper said , ‘I accidentally typed ‘Anonomouse’ the other day instead of anonymous. Maybe there’s a character there?’

I liked the idea and wrote several chapters of a really boring story about a special agent master of disguise Anonymouse.  It never worked. I put it away and came back to it months later. I realised that it didn’t work because a mouse in disguise isn’t funny.  Mice are pretty incognito anyway really.  A mouse could be in the room right now and I wouldn’t know it.  But Anonymoose? A 7 foot tall moose that could be in the room and you don’t know it ?  Now that’s funny. How do you disguise a giant furry antlered moose spy? And so Anonymoose was born. So, I constantly remind myself to look for what is funny in the scene and how can we make it funnier.

Towards the end there’s a threat by the perpetrator (no spoilers in this interview!)  ‘You haven’t seen the last of me’ can we expect any future outings?

Yes, no spoilers but you do get to see the perpetrator in the next couple books. 


You are an actor as well as a writer, does this inform your writing and events at all?  Conversely, do you feel your writing influences your acting?

I definitely feel that my writing is influenced by my acting in many ways.  I think from a practical point of view my ear is tuned in to voices.  I have very clear ideas of how my characters speak and move.  I have to work harder at the plot and setting for my books but my characters often come out with very clear voices from the beginning.  I also think I’m used to working collaboratively because I worked in theatre. I’m not precious about ‘my lines’ or ‘my writing’ because I know it will be even better with a whole team of us collaborating to make it the best book it can be.  Thirdly, I think working in improv for years has made me open to new ideas during the creative process.  I think as authors we can get stuck in our fixed plan of how we want the book to go instead of listening to our characters when they throw in something new. In improv you are taught to ‘accept’ to ‘say yes’ and take that and move on.  Often the best work I’ve done, acting or writing, is because I said yes to the unexpected.  I think if I had one bit of advice for aspiring writers it would be to take a couple of improv classes. It will open up your mind and switch off your internal censor.  Lastly the comedian in me LOVES to get up in front of a crowd of kids and make them laugh. I am really really missing performing at festivals and schools because of  the pandemic.  I do stuff online but it’s not the same as the energy you get from live shows.  I await the day when I can get on stage at a school or festival again.

I haven’t been in a play really since I’ve been a professional writer (just done little bits and bobs). I think I would approach rehearsals and delving into the character and discovering what makes them tick in a slightly different way now.  I think I’ve learned a lot about conflict and how people behave in conflict and that would be interesting to apply in rehearsing a play.

We asked Jess for a bit of information about her background as an illustrator

I’ve always drawn, even when I was really young and I studied art all through school. I went on to art college and did a foundation course and then went to university where I gained a BA Hons in Illustration. I worked in a comic book shop after I graduated and got into self-publishing my own work and have always done that alongside my freelance work for publishers. I really enjoy the freedom of being able to make my own books! I love working with publishers though and have been very lucky to work with a lot including Macmillan, Buster Books, Capstone, Carlton Books and Arcturus Publishing.

Mo, you’ve also written the massively enjoyable My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish, picture books like the brilliant Romeosaurs and Juliet Rex and now a graphic novel.  What differences in approach are needed, do you have a preferred form to work in and are there any forms you’d like to try your hand at? 

Awh thanks. I loved writing the fiction books and the picture books and they are very different animals. I think writing a picture book text is like writing a poem. You have to be so precise. There is no room for words that aren’t pulling their weight.  I have more ideas for picture books- including some non -fiction stuff. I also have an idea for a new fiction series that I’m kicking around and I’ve written lots of poems during lockdown. Poetry seemed to be my go to form for a creative outlet during the last few months. I’d love to have some more poetry published too.

You’ve had some fantastic illustrators working on your books Marek Jagucki, Andrew Joyner, Ada Grey and Jess Bradley.  What do you think leads to a successful pairing of text and illustration?

I know! I feel like I won the illustrator lottery or something!! I have been incredibly lucky to have been paired with the illustrators that I have worked with.  The editors and art directors at the publishing houses really did the pairing.  These four illustrators have such different and unique styles and each one suits the project that we did together so well.  I guess it’s just experience knowing what images would suit what voice but I just hope I keep getting this lucky!!!

This year you were heavily involved with setting up the Herne Hill Kidlitfest, can you tell us a little about this and about how it went?

That was an incredible experience and led to me meeting and working with  some absolutely fantastic authors, illustrators in the sessions and editors, agents, librarians and literacy specialists on the panels.  (including Zoey Dixon from Lambeth Libraries on a fascinating Reading for Pleasure Panel) The festival was in South London in the Herne Hill Station Hall which is a buzzing  community hub above Herne Hill Station. It’s a large space (big enough to fit 90 kids in the Chris and Katie Riddell session on the Saturday!!). It showed that there is a big demand for book events in the area.  The uptake from local schools was amazing and the contact with kids through the story making festival was brilliant as well.

We are hoping to run the story making contest ( stories can be told in word, drawing or video) this year and we’ll have to see if circumstances allow us to hold any in person festival events.

CWISL (Children’s Writers and Illustrators for Stories and Literacy), Herne Hill Station Hall, Herne Hill Forum and Tales on Moon Lane bookshop were all involved in the creation and running of the festival.  We all hope to take it forward to continue to connect local kids with authors and illustrators.

You are also very involved with SCBWI and with the Pulse what does this entail and are there ways that libraries can support any of your work?

Candy Gourlay and I run the PULSE strand of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) events which is aimed at our published authors. As you know SCBWI British Isles as a whole and  PULSE specifically have been keen to connect more with librarians especially YLG.  We have done some fun joint events so far (pre pandemic) and hope to do joint panels, talks, socials and even conferences perhaps in the future.  I think we both have so many common goals,  promoting reading for pleasure especially and  also just getting the right books in the hands of the right kids. Librarians work that voodoo.  They are the people who, if given the opportunity, can impact a child’s reading life immensely. Authors and Illustrators are the content makers. We put our ideas and words and pictures out there into the world but feel powerless sometimes about how we can get those words and pictures into he hands of our future readers. Librarians and Authors (writers and Illustrators) truly  have a  symbiotic relationship. 

I hope that we can all be creative in these next several months to try and have virtual events together perhaps and to make plans for when we can all meet up in person again.

Just a small plug too for those of you who work in schools.  Book PenPals  is a fantastic resource for connecting authors and illustrators with schools and school libraries. In current times this is great way of keeping contact through online posts and snail mail between authors and students. 


A huge thank you to Mo O'Hara and Jess Bradley for a fascinating Friday interview.  Do check out the illustrations which Jess has kindly shared with us!



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Tags:  Festivals  Graphic Novels  Humour  Illustration  Reading  Reading for Pleasure  SCBWI 

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Judging the Branford Boase 2020 - a guest blog by Layla Hudson

Posted By Jacob Hope, 09 September 2020

Established in 2000, in memory of award-winning author Henrietta Branford and her editor Wendy Boase, one of the founders of Walker Books, the Branford Boase Awardis given annually to the author and editor of the outstanding debut novel for children. Uniquely, it also honours the editor of the winning title and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent.


Last year’s winners were Muhammad Khan and his editor Lucy Pearse for I Am Thunder.  The winner of the 2020 award will be announced in a special online ceremony at 6.00pm on Wednesday 9 September.  We are delighted to welcome Layla Hudson of Round Table Books, one of the judges for the 2020 Award, describes the process and the 2020 shortlist



Being a judge for the 2020 Branford Boase Award has been an absolute honour. Since starting my bookselling career back in 2016, I’ve always wanted to be part of a judging panel and to share my thoughts with other judges about which books we thought were winners. Although, of course, it’s very tricky to choose one winner out of twenty books, I enjoyed the challenge immensely! It was also fun to do such critical reading; as a blogger I do tend to keep things in mind when it comes to needing to review a book, but this was on a whole different level. I found myself keeping notes and highlighting parts that I wanted to discuss, which isn’t something I usually do. 


Of course, this year things were very different with our judging meetings and discussions. Back when I was first chosen to be a judge, I was looking forward to meeting my fellow judges in person and chatting books over cake. With lockdown, meetings had to be changed. We all met and spoke over Zoom, brought our own cakes if we wanted, sat with our stacks of books but were able to still chat passionately about the things we’d read and discuss our top favourites on the list. It was interesting to hear my fellow judges’ thoughts on the longlist, and was also great to get into discussion about our thoughts on particular books. Every reader is different, and my fellow judges Julia Eccleshare, Muhammad Khan, Sue Bastone and Victoria Dilly were an absolute delight to work with. Many passionate talks and agreements were had during our Zoom calls, and although we weren’t together, this didn’t stop us from running over our allotted meeting times with our discussions. 


The 2020 shortlist has been incredibly strong, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading these books. Some of my new favourites came from this shortlist alone! Each book is so different which really shows the variety of books published today, and there are so many themes and topics discussed throughout. A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby not only talks about grief, but has the topic of change throughout the book as the main character navigates through the ups and downs of starting secondary school, The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton delicately discusses teenage mental health, and Frostheart by Jamie Littler is a triumphant adventure that has a core message of finding your voice. The shortlist also showcases some different and intriguing takes on traditional book publishing. For example, Bearmouth by Liz Hyder is written phonetically as the character is learning to read and write as you go through the book, which I’ve never seen before! A Good Girls Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson includes interview transcripts and video descriptions, whilst also showing parts of the main characters essay as she writes it, and The Space We’re In by Katya Balen has coded chapter titles that you can decipher with the key at the start of the book. The editing process that the books have gone through is also to be applauded - there are some brilliant editors in the world of children’s publishing, and the books longlisted goes to show these talents.  There is a wealth of new talent in the book world, and I was also proud that there were some books by Black authors and authors of colour on the list too. I hope that publishers continue to work hard to champion their books by diverse authors, and hope to see more featured in future awards.



Many thanks to Layla Hudson for her insightful thoughts and views on judging this year's Branford Boase Award and on the shortlist.



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Tags:  Awards  Diversity  Prizes  Raising Voices 

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A Library Life - a guest blog by J M Joseph

Posted By Jacob Hope, 08 September 2020

In the run-up to Libraries Week (5-10 October), we are delighted to welcome  J M Joseph author of the fantasticially funny Fire Boy to the LG blog to talk about his life in libraries. 


In Bristol, the Central Library will re-open to browsers and borrowers in early September. In other parts of the city – Henwood, Fishponds and Stockwood – libraries are already open, coping with new restrictions which social distancing have brought to our post-Covid world.

It isn’t easy.

The closest branch to me is in Redland. Its red doors are shuttered, its windows dark. It made me reflect on how difficult I would have found it to cope without a library when my children were young. It got me thinking about the different libraries I have frequented over the years, sometimes on a daily basis. My life, I realised, was not measured in coffee spoons, but in library cards. So, as a nod to the vital educational and community supports which libraries and librarians provide, here is my library life, a look back at libraries and my use of them over the years.

Early visits

My mom (the American spelling is intentional here) had a part-time job our local library. It was in a small room in the same building as the police station and came with three adult-sized tables and twelve stiff chairs. None of your touch-screens or play areas in this library! As the sign over the librarian’s desk said: READ IN SILENCE. In this room I discovered Charlotte’s Web, Roald Dahl, Tom Sawyer and Matt Christopher, my favourite back then, a writer who wrote books for children which revolved around baseball and football.

School libraries (as student)

I went to Catholic schools – Benedictine nuns in grade school, Jesuits in high school – where page-turners like The Lives of the Saints (A good read if you should ever find yourself interested in macabre ways to die) and that barrel of laughs, The Bible, featured prominently in their school libraries. Novels were restricted to the classics – you were not going to find any Judy Bloom books squirreled away on those shelves. On the plus side, I first learned about Greek mythology, Norse gods and the beliefs of different Native American tribes in these libraries, stories which have remained with me to this very day.

University libraries

I completed my first MA in 1989, my last in 2017 and squeezed in a MEd somewhere in between. I started off with card catalogues and checking for references inside each volume of the James Joyce Quarterly (they filled four long rows of shelves) by hand at University College, Cork and ended in academic portals reached from my bedroom, sweeping the internet for wildly obscure links. I love university libraries, and miss them too: the periodical rooms, the rare books, the detective work involved when hunting down a link, the satisfaction that comes with unearthing a nugget of knowledge.

Haringey Libraries

The Golden Age.

My wife and I moved to a two-bed maisonette in north London before our children were born. I taught in Highbury, then west London, lecturing two nights a week as well while my wife took a career break. Saturday morning were spent visiting one of the three libraries near us – libraries in Alexander Palace, Crouch End or Muswell Hill – bundling through the door with our buggies and wet wipes and camping out in the children’s section for an hour or two. It’s where we first encountered The Gruffalo, Asterix, Miffy, Tintin, Puppy Tales and Beast Quest. We alternated libraries each week – we thought it best not to outstay our welcome – plus, it kept our churn of children’s books relatively new. Each visit seemed like an adventure.

In those days, I travelled by Tube to work often with a book in hand. Forever the student, for me reading was about Enlightenment. I read classics only or thick biographies, philosophy, history. Yes, those Jesuits had taught me well. Great books were peaks I was determined to scale in my quest for Learning. The Tube, however, did not prove the most ideal base camp. Whenever I read one of these tomes, I either found myself re-reading the same page or falling asleep.

One Saturday I hit on the bright idea of borrowing a “popular” novel from the library of my normal fare. Perhaps a lighter read will keep me from waking up in Cockfosters two nights a week. Since I was only borrowing it, I didn’t need to worry about it where it might sit on my august shelves either (sadly, an important consideration at the time). I chose a John Grisham novel and three or four others doing the rounds on the best-seller lists.

Sleep? I inhaled those novels. It was as if a bolt of electricity had smacked me on the arse. I read and read and read. It was like being re-born as a reader. I sampled genres. I broke free of the Canon and let my interests roam. It forced me to re-think the old saws I was raised on and question what ‘Enlightenment’ is and why we read and write.

I will never be able to repay the debt I owe to those libraries and the people who ran and stock them.

School libraries (as a teacher)

Where I teach, classes visit our school library once a week. It is open at every break and lunch time and children are expected to have a reading book with them whenever they enter class. Our librarian, Jenny Jones, is a dear friend and knows more about children’s literature or what book might best suit a child’s tastes than any algorithm Amazon (or anyone else) will ever invent. We have regular author visits and run frequent events and competitions. As a teacher and children’s writer, our school library is the single most important resource I possess.

Corona-19 has closed many libraries, but our present government may prove an even greater threat. Across the country our library services are being cut and libraries closed. Our libraries are not only great sources of local knowledge, but often part of the backbone of our communities. If you would like to help, please follow this link:


Thank you to J M Joseph for this heartening blog piece and to Hachette Children's Books for including us on J M Joseph's blog tour, check out his other stops on the tour!





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Tags:  Libraries  Reading  Reading for Pleasure  School Libraries 

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Butterfly Brain - An Interview with Laura Dockrill and Gwen Millward

Posted By Jacob Hope, 07 September 2020

We are delighted to welcome performance poet and author Laura Dockrill to the YLG blog alongside Gwen Millward to talk about their new book Butterfly Brain.  Part cautionary tale and part lithe and lyrical exploration of the ways in which memory and dreams contribute to our make-up, it is a beautifully written, illustrated and produced book that leaves a lasting impression upon the minds of readers.   

Congratulations on the publication of Butterfly Brain it feels a really special book with some profound comments on the impact of keeping feelings secret, on dreams and on memories.

LAURA: Ah thanks so much. I’m so excited about it. 

 Please can you tell us a bit about yourselves?

LAURA: I’m an author from south London. My love for writing and storytelling began at a very young age where I would love making up stories and scribbling plays for my younger sister and brother. As a child I would always keep a sketch book, scrap book and note pad by my bed and would constantly be keeping notes, writing poetry and stories, drawing, cutting and scribbling. I was a nosy, curious child. Obsessed with people watching and conversation. I even transcribed one of my mum’s phone conversations to my grandma without her knowing! I guess this was all a love that never really went away. I looked to writers of all disciplines - from Jacqueline Wilson, Benjamin Zephaniah, Roald Dahl and Carol Ann Duffy to cookbooks, film script, theatre, poetry and music. I love lyrics and would enjoy listening to the inspiration behind a song- punk, Bowie and soul. My dad would always encourage me to research the artists that I liked. To pick up a dictionary and learn a new word. My mum makes documentaries, so I think that’s where my love for character came from. The two smushed together made for a very eager, brightly coloured, overly excited, untactful spy. I’m very grateful to do my job. 

GWEN: I grew up in Wales and went to a Welsh speaking school in a tiny village called Llanfair Caereinion - go on! try and say it. My parents are both quite arty - writer Mum and artist Dad, so I found myself doing both and loved it (I wasn't very academic - I was really bad at maths, still am). I used to draw lots of leafy things and wildlife and wrote short stories about cats. 

I studied illustration in Edinburgh which was an amazing experience for an 18-year-old straight out of a tiny village. This stretched my brain and arty-muscles and helped me figure out how to hone my drawing and writing. When I was 25, I got my first picture book contract with Puffin books. It was incredibly exciting, but my agent reminded me not to give up my day job (which at the time was temping in an insurance company in Bristol, not my area of expertise!) and it took another few years before I was able to concentrate solely on writing and illustrating. To date I've written and illustrated three of my own books and illustrated 14 picture books and 13 pre-teen fiction books. I have lots of other books in the pipeline including another two of my own - which I cannot WAIT to get started on! One involves monsters. I'm excited.

Can you introduce us to the book and to Gus the main character?

LAURA: Sure. As a writer of children books I spend a lot of time (usually) doing school visits. It’s a really important and precious part of the job as it reminds you what children are actually like. They are changing and growing all the time. You learn a lot from them. How robust and resilient they are especially. How genuine! Physically being inside a school is also very evocative for our own memories- the smell of the crayons, the sugar paper, the paints - the dining hall- the savoury smell of rice and potatoes and custard. Of biscuit and pencil sharpenings. The noise of squeaky rubber on school halls. Of laughter and shouting and the triumphant clang of an out of tune piano in a school hall with a school assembly singing. And I forgot how much kids sit back on their chairs! It’s a little thing but they are always at it. Always being told off for it! When my little brother hector was little he would do this and once he pushed too far and split his head! I remember seeing his hair. Angelic white curls drenched in blood! And the stitches. I think that’s always stuck with me- and something I ALWAYS love to bring out to the kids in school! 

Gus has some pretty big things happening in his life.  How important do you feel it is to approach difficult situations in books for children and young people and are there any considerations in your approach?

LAURA: It’s extremely important. Books were my first friend. For many children they are solace, wisdom and companionship. They teach us how to love- to be thoughtful and ask questions. It is important that we tell stories that children can relate to with characters they identity with that share the same interests, aspirations and fears as them. It would be a lie if we pretended that life was totally blissful all the time. It has its tough bits and pain but we can show a child that they are not alone. That they are not weird or broken. And that in itself helps. Books teach us how to put our feelings and emotions into words- and that is such a vital life skill. Books are vitamins for the brain. 

Gwen: How did you respond to the story and character of Gus and were there any challenges in this?

GWEN: When I first read the text for Butterfly Brain I was really stuck by how fresh and raw Laura's words were. It's a heart breaking story but she tells it without soppyness or saccharine tone. It's gritty and painful and is straight to the point. Gus is a young boy in so much turmoil but can't unlock all that pain. It seemed right to reflect that in the drawings, which are quite edgy and dark I think. I have to admit I was in floods of tears towards the end of the book, trying to draw Gus as a baby with his Mum was hard to do through leaky eyes. I was a mess. I think also being a Mum to a 7 year old boy myself made it feel quite close to home - it really tugged hard at the old heart strings. 

Gwen: Can you tell us a little about your artistic technique?

 GWEN: The final images were drawn digitally, but initially sketched out in pen and ink. I used quite a strong dark line to outline the characters. This softens ever-so-slightly in the latter half of the book to reflect Gus's emotions softening and becoming less gloomy.


Laura: There’s a real sense of playfulness in the language of the book, which makes it very fun to read, did you enjoy writing it, were there any parts that you particularly enjoyed writing?

LAURA: Ah thanks! Yes I always spend a lot of time reading the work out loud. I write a lot in my head without paper and pen - in the bath or when walking or cooking. So the work always have a sense of rhythm and musicality to it. As I am inspired by storytelling and words in general- not just books- it is important to me that the work is illustrative and theatrical. That is not still and stiff on the page but dances and jiggles about. That people can feel the words in their mouth as though they are at a restaurant tasting a meal. When writing, a story does not just translate through the words alone but the order the words appear in and how they fit together too. 

It feels like there are some visual and written influences – the opening has similarities to Hilaire Belloc’s cautionary tales  (poor old Rebecca who slammed doors for fun and perished), and visually there are some similarities to the unsettling work of Edward Gorey.  Were any works or artists a particular inspiration?

LAURA: I’m so glad you picked up on that. Yes I am a very big fan of the macabre and Avant Garde, fairy tales, Greek mythology, folk lore and fables. Cautionary tales! I love Shockheaded Peter which actually has similar stories but I wanted to make sure that I delivered the real caution- which is to remind us to take care of our mental health as well as our ‘physical’ self- which is a harder thing to write about especially for little ones. And that the brain and body are connected as one. It’s about trauma and grief. Using the guise of smashing a head open as a realisation of grief.

GWEN:  I am a huge fan of Edward Gorey and I’m sure somehow in my subconscious his illustrations might have influenced me! I think Laura’s text inspired me mostly, though. Her language is very visual and I think I’m pretty dark, to be honest. It was a bit of a dream come true to be asked to illustrate this, I feel hugely lucky.

There’s some very profound comments around the role memory plays in defining who we are. Our members are librarians, do you have a favourite childhood memory of libraries and reading?

LAURA: You know I have met so many incredible librarians over the last ten years. Librarians that pick you up at 5am in the pouring rain for a day or touring schools, that carry the heaviest of boxes of books from their car. And back again. That sign your name in with a grin. That squeeze you in the back of their mini squished up next to their baby’s car seat and picnic blankets. Umbrellas and dog hair! Always smiling. Always talking about their favourite books. I have met librarians that have shown me to best shops in their villages- led me towards leopard print shoes and vintage dresses. Bought me the best carrot cake, hot chocolate and even gin in tins! I have met librarians that have INFLUENCE. Power. That can save a little child’s life by listening and sharing and offering that safe warm glow of the library arms to keep them safe like literary lighthouses! Librarians that know it all but say nothing and then speak up when it truly matters. That remember a young person’s name. That order that special book for them. That make them reading lists. That lend them pens and photocopy for them. That help with maths homework. That share satsumas behind the front desk. 

I’ve met librarians that make the best cups of tea in the world. The greatest cheese sandwiches. Encouraged and supported. Been loyal. And engaged. Get the best coffee shortbread biscuits in. That are soft and gentle and cosy. That speak in hushed tones when you’re reading only to bellow down the hall and electrify a gaggle of noisy kids in the hallway and put them ALL in their place. Librarians in the most incredible of fancy dress costumes. That have been at a school or in a community long enough to be mistaken for the building itself. Then those are new that simply LOVE books and want to make a difference. That have moved with the times. The change. Seen people come and go. Remain constant. Capable of putting one book in the right hands that could change a life forever.

GWEN: My memories of libraries and librarians are very fond ones. I would go with my mum or gran to the local, which was tiny but perfect. We also had a library bus that would visit when I was really small (Wales used to have lost of these). There wasn’t a massive selection, but it was fun having a chat with the librarian that ran it and a novelty to hop on a tiny bus and look at books.


 Thank you so much to Laura and Gwen for the fantastic interview and thanks to Piccadilly Press for the opportunity.



Tags:  Illustration  Poetry  Reading  Reading for Pleasure 

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