Something scary

bearI’m in the middle of sketching my new book “Little Mouse and Something Scary”.

Little Mouse is a character which has appeared in my books previously, so it’s like hanging with an old friend, taking an old friend for a walk….for a walk in the woods.

Yes, the book could be a bit SCARY.IMG_4434

I love this part of work. Drawing the main characters, thinking about how to paint the background and still being able to listen to audiobook as I’m sketching.IMG_4435I always draw all the characters from the book first. This way I can keep the continuity of the character in the book.IMG_4436So as I’m working on my book, some other books have been published. I would like to mention one of them. The book is called “Perfect”.


The book was just published by the independent publisher “Graffeg”. It’s beautifully illustrated by Cathy Fisher and written by award-winning children’s author Nicola Davies.

But what is really interesting about the book is its subject. The book is about a disabled child being born. It’s a subject of great importance, close to many of us, because we all know of somebody who is, or was dealing with a similar issue. You would think, that a book like this would find a publisher easily, but the opposite is true. It took a long time, before a publisher brave enough to publish the book, was found.

You can listen to Nicola herself talking about the book here – click.

So CONGRATULATIONS to Nicola and Cathy and WELL DONE to Graffeg.

I’ll have to leave my book on my studio table for a couple of days, since I’m traveling to Bradford Literary Festival and I’m also visiting two schools on my way home. I’m looking forward to it. Wherever I go, I do get little presents from children – little drawings. I love children drawings.

These pictures are drawn by Vojta Kalenda age 9 and they are characters from my books. Pretty good, what do you think?IMG_4413

How to write a picture book

At this time last year, I was rather busy. I was working on a book called “A First Book of Animals”.  The book is written by Nicola Davies and has about sixty illustrations. At the same time I somehow managed to finish my own picture book called “The Greedy Goat”.

At the end of June, a year later “The Greedy Goat” is going to be published. I’ve just received a first printed copy of the book!

The Gready GoatI almost forgot how much fun I had working on “The Greedy Goat”.thumb_IMG_4336_1024I opened the book.thugoa_IMG_4338_1024

thumb_IMG_4339_1024I looked through my sketches and folders on my computer.IMG_4414Scan 2It’s the same as looking through the diary. Scan 9thumb_IMG_4337_1024
The memories come back to me.

I did enjoy looking at the old sketches and through the very first versions of the book. It was interesting to see how many changes my editors and I did since the idea of writing about a greedy goat came to me.

Writing and illustrating books can be sometimes be a rather lonely job and getting the story, the text and the illustration into the final shape can take a long time. Sometimes longer than you think.

I’m often asked by people who write, illustrate, or do both, for advice about how to get published. As much as I would like to help, it’s impossible for me to do it through an email. There are lots of books around, which will give you an idea of how to approach an agent or publisher, but none of these books can help you with your story on which you are currently working.

Well, here is an idea:

This summer I was asked to be a tutor in a course at The Ted Hughes Arvon Centre at Lumb Bank.  The course will be running from the 8th to 13th August. Please read about the course here.

In case you don’t know Lumb Bank, it is an 18th Century mill owner’s house in Yorkshire which used to belong to Ted Hughes.  It is set in a beautiful wooded valley close to Heptonstall village where Sylvia Plath is buried, and is 2 miles from Hebden Bridge.

It didn’t take me long to accept the invitation, especially after learning that my co-tutor on the course will be Joyce Dunbar.

Joyce is a great writer and author of more than 7o books for children. She has tutored on Arvon courses before and you can’t wish for a more experienced writer than her. Personally I can’t wait to work with Joyce.

The other great news is that Joyce’s daughter Polly Dunbar is going to be the speaking guest on the course. I’m a great admirer of Polly’s work and her book “Penguin” is still one of my favourite picture books.penguin

So if you are serious about writing, illustrating or both, please join as at The Ted Hughes Arvon Centre at Lumb Bank this summer. You are more than welcome and as far as I know there are still some spaces left.Arvon



A School and a Chair

I visited a school in Claygate, Surrey. I’ve been to Rowan Prep School a couple of times before and I have always had a good time. Firstly, the teachers in the school are very friendly and so are the children. These two things always go together – happy teachers, happy children.

Secondly, at this time of year Rowan Prep School invites children from other schools and  the whole day is  like one big party. We even have hot dogs in the garden!IMGP1734I did a talk, drew and read some of my books and we all made books and pictures.IMGP1747This year the theme was the jungle, so we sent Puffin Peter to have a look at the jungle,  to see if he can find new friends.IMG_0049I was planning to show you one or two pictures, but the problem was, that I can’t choose just one picture.IMG_0052The children were from Year 1 and at the beginning I thought that my idea to do a collage is a bit over ambitious.IMG_0050It turned out, that I was wrong.IMG_0045The children really enjoyed it and they worked so hard and they created amazing pictures.IMG_0044Alisha did a book with two double spreads.IMG_0035Here are Puffin Peter and Puffin Paul looking for ….IMG_0043 a MONKEY! Here is the monkey jumping from the page.IMG_0054

FullSizeRenderTwo puffins and and a tiger.

IMG_0055One more picture. here is a penguin as well.

Then I got an email to say that I’ve been chosen by  the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education  as Author of the Month! What an honour. The day was good.

On my way home, on the train, I thought how nice it was to sit in the garden with the other teachers, looking at children running and playing together. These children from different schools didn’t know each other a couple of hours ago, but now they were playing, drawing and making books together.

Then I read an email from Nicola Davies. It was a poem written by Nicola in response to the government’s policy on refugees.

The day war came there were flowers on the windowsill
and my father sang my baby brother back to sleep.
My mother made my breakfast, kissed my nose
and walked with me to school
That morning I learned about volcanos,
I sang a song about how tadpoles turn at last to frogs
I made a picture of myself with wings.
Then, just after lunch,
while I watched a cloud shaped like a dolphin,
war came.
At first, just like a spattering of hail
a voice of thunder…
then all smoke and fire and noise, that I didn’t understand.
It came across the playground.
It came into my teacher’s face.
It brought the roof down.
and turned my town to rubble.
I can’t say the words that tell you
about the blackened hole that had been my home.
All I can say is this:
war took everything
war took everyone
I was ragged, bloody, all alone.
I ran. Rode on the back of trucks, in buses;
walked over fields and roads and mountains,
in the cold and mud and rain;
on a boat that leaked and almost sank
and up a beach where babies lay face down in the sand.
I ran until I couldn’t run
until I reached a row of huts
and found a corner with a dirty blanket
and a door that rattled in the wind
But war had followed me.
It was underneath my skin,
behind my eyes,
and in my dreams.
It had taken possession of my heart.
I walked and walked to try and drive war out of myself,
to try and find a place it hadn’t reached.
But war was in the the way that doors shut when I came down the street
It was in the way the people didn’t smile, and turned away.
I came to a school.
I looked in through the window.
They were learning all about volcanos
And drawing birds and singing.
I went inside. My footsteps echoed in the hall
I pushed the door and faces turned towards me
but the teacher didn’t smile.
She said, there is no room for you,
you see, there is no chair for you to sit on,
you have to go away.
And then I understood that war had got here too.
I turned around and went back to the hut, the corner and the blanket
and crawled inside.
It seemed that war had taken all the world and all the people in it.
The door banged.
I thought it was the wind.
But a child’s voice spoke
“I brought you this,” she said “so you can come to school.”
It was a chair.
A chair for me to sit on and learn about volcanoes, frogs and singing
And drive the war out of my heart.
She smiled and said
“My friends have brought theirs too, so all the children here can come to school”
Out of every hut a child came and we walked together,
on a road all lined with chairs.
Pushing back the war with every step.

A Chair 2

 It made me sad and I did a picture. A picture of a chair.