I love Edinburgh

IMG_9213It’s time to start working again after a nice holiday. What a better place to do it than in Edinburgh.
Last Saturday and Sunday I was doing talks with workshops at The Edinburgh Literary Festival.
I love Edinburgh as a city and I love the Edinburgh book festival. The festival is always so well organised with a great programme, nice people to work with and great audiences.audience

IMG_9211Here is a picture of Natasha. A little girl who came to my event with her best friend. I like Ted (that is his name) who was patched up so many times that he became an amazing piece of art.

IMG_9210With children we made little books at the Baillie Gifford Imagination Lab. The book was of course about Little Mouse.

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At the festival I had time to see a couple of very interesting and inspiring events. David Roberts and Sally Gardner talking about their book “Tinder” was one of them and I enjoyed it very much, but the highlight was Judith Kerr and her son Matthew Kneale.

judithJudith Kerr is so inspirational, witty, funny and a talented artist. Real treat to see and hear her live!
As for me, Edinburgh also gives me a good chance to meet up and catch up with fellow artists and authors. I already mentioned the great organisation of the whole event, but I was also very pleased to see the bookshop at the Edinburgh book festival.  Lots of space and very well stocked! Most of my recent books were there including the new pop up version of Silly Suzy Goose and some of my board books.bookshelfTalking about board books – I have two new board books out! IMG_9272

A Surprise for Tiny MouseIMG_9270

and “Where Do You Live Snail“?

IMG_9269I’ve been recently quite busy working on a new picture book and  promoting  ”The Mouse Who Ate The Moon”, so I completely forgot about publication day for these two board books.

In the past I may have said enough about the importance of board books, so let me just say that I’m AGAIN very pleased with the quality of  the board books Walker Books is publishing. The books are always beautifully printed. The colours are great and so is the quality of the card. Long live Walker Books!

 

Making books and tennis

Working at this time of the year is so hard for me. The reason is Wimbledon of course. I haven’t seen much of it during the first week, but I was only in two schools this week, so I was “working” in front of the telly, but multi tasking is not my strong point.

Congratulations to Ms Petra Kvitova!

This week I was in a really nice school Kingham Hill School. I was invited and very well looked after by librarian Donna. For two days I was working with children from year 8.

We were developing ideas for picture books and we were also making little concertina books.

IMG_8822It was good fun, but also a very intense two days. I started on Tuesday with a presentation of my work and after introducing myself and explaining what we were going to do, we started working on the stories.

I was simultaneously working with two classes. Together it was 39 children. IMG_8845

Working with 39 children on their stories is an achievement I’m quite proud of. IMG_8851 The truth is that I enjoyed the challenge and looking at the children’s work I’m quite confident to say that the children enjoyed it too.

IMG_8847I didn’t know the children and you never know what can happen in workshops like this. The start was slow, but pretty soon it was obvious that I’m working with some really talented children.

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Some of their work was amazing. Just look at these few pictures!IMG_8815This is probably one of my favourite illustrations. IMG_8816

I would happily queue for  a book with these illustrations of the flying mouse.

IMG_8848Here is an illustration from a novelty book. This book had holes in the pages.

IMG_8831Another beautiful picture.

IMG_8839And here is a book and story which doesn’t need any comments. The boy knew exactly what he’s doing. The pictures were simple and bold, the story was very good.

IMG_8841His book was about a penguin. I’m also working on the book about a penguin, but I’m stuck with finalising the text. I thought about giving myself a little break from it (another excuse to watch tennis) and prepare and stretch papers for the illustrations instead.

Since my book is going to be about a penguin, I will paint lots of snow. Here is one more book from the girl from Kingham Hill School. Plenty of snow there.

IMG_8827Isn’t it great?

Well, you can see how exited I was working with such talented children.

These two days were my last two days at schools before the holiday. I’m going to Czech Republic for a few days and I was just sent this photo.Puffin PeterMy Czech translation of Puffin Peter. Czech Republic hasn’t got sea and I was always wondering how many people know what Puffins are, but paradoxically this is also what the book is about.

I’m writing this blog soon after the men’s final and what a final it was! I wished somebody jumped out when the score in the fifth set was 4:4, stopped the match and shouted: “That’s it! Both of the finalist are winners and they are going to share the cup. I would be happy with that. It didn’t happened and Djokovic won at the end.

Congratuations Mr Djocovic! I do hope he is going to read my blog. :)

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of books

It’s nearly the end of the school year. How does it effect me? Quite a lot actually. This year I visited more schools than ever before. I still have two school visits next week, but the holidays are around the corner.photo-3

 Going to schools, talking to children and doing workshops is very inspiring for me and I do enjoy it. photo-6I will never get tired of seeing children drawing these amazing  pictures

photo-5O.k. it can be hard work too. Talking from morning to late afternoon to hundreds of children and their teachers, making sure that everybody is happy isn’t always easy.

But what makes my job much easier is the agency SPEAKING OF BOOKS , run by Kate, Elli and Jan Powling. Speaking of Books organises my school visits and events and they are do a great job. I’ve just realised that I’ve been with them for a few years and I can’t  praise them highly enough for what they do!

It’s always nice to see children being excited about the visit. It’s good to know that they are inspired to read more books, perhaps write some stories themselves or do pictures (or both).

For me it’s  great to see children’s reactions towards my books and I do get inspired by their enthusiasm.

Apart from organising my events Speaking of Books also sells quite a big number of my books at schools. It does make a difference these days when it is so hard to get books in to the bookshops. It’s appreciated not just by me, but also by the publisher, I’m sure.

I realised how long I’m with Speaking of Books last Tuesday when I went to Yardley Primary School in Birmingham . It was one of the first schools I visited some time ago. Three lovely ladies I know were waiting for me.  Phyllis, Pat and Denise. They are now retired, although Denise has few more days at her lovely school.

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I did two talks and we made this picture. It was a great day and nice to see familiar faces.

On Monday I was at Stanley Road Primary School in Worcester. Again, I know the deputy head Stephen Murphy, who is a writer and poet himself.

Wednesday – I was picked up from the hotel where I was staying by Lisa, the head teacher of the primary school, Samuel Ryder Academy in St. Albans. I know Lisa. I visited the school where she used to be before she the became head teacher. It was nice to meet up again. I had a good day in the new school.  It seems that the theme of  the week was Elephant and Suzy Goose.

photo-2On Thursday I was took part in a celebration to open the new Primary School in Tooting in London. Of course, opening a new school is always an exciting experience not just for children and parents, but for everybody involved. Great day. Brilliant Jeremy Strong was also there.

On Friday I was mainly doing emails and I fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon watching Wimbledon. I was tired though.

This week I’m going to Kingham Hill School in Kingham. I will work with children on ideas for picture books. These workshops can be challenging and I never know what exactly can happen, but it only makes it more exciting.

I’m looking forward to it.

photo-4Here is one more picture. This one was done by a teacher. Who said that pigs can’t fly?

 

 

 

I’m still writing something

IMG_8773Last week I mentioned that the sketches for my next book are more and more simple as I keep changing the story. I think I’ve reached the limit. The latest sketches are just a few pencil lanes.

Still, I had to make some sense of the sketches to be able to present the idea to my publisher.

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I do hope that I’m nearly there. I’ve changed the story so many times that I find it hard to see if the story is good enough.

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Apart from penguin, I was also drawimg a rabbit falling from the tree.

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 13.32.45Last Tuesday I went to the lovely independent shop The Tales on Moon Lane.

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Together with Jo and Louise from Walker Books, we decorated one of the shop windows. The theme was ” A Mouse Who Ate the Moon” of course.

photo-2Being in such a nice bookshop and seeing what a few people can do for children’s books (authors visiting, book reading, workshops) was so up lifting. I wish there were more bookshops like this. It was a sunny day and I was there just after lunch thinking it won’t be too busy and we can decorate the window but still people kept coming in. Who can blame them, it’s such a nice shop to come and browse the books.

I’m off to visit more schools next week.   STANLEY ROAD PRIMARY SCHOOL in WORCESTER on Monday, YARDLEY PRIMARY SCHOOL in BIRMINGHAM on Tuesday, SAMUEL RYDER ACADEMY ST ALBANS in HERTFORDSHIRE on Wednesday and TOOTING PRIMARY SCHOOL in TOOTING on Thursday. Busy week in front of me. I’d better go and pack.

There is one more thing I want to share. Tereza, my older daughter (17) gave me a present. It is an illustration to a story about a lady who collects souls from men.

Tereza HoracekI absolutely love the picture. I think I can now retire. Or…maybe not quite yet.

 

 

 

Getting on with the story

Last week I visited a couple of schools in Barking.  Manor Infant School in Barking and Manor Longbridge Dagenham. The both were nice schools and even then I had a rather busy time doing two talks, two visits to nurseries and two workshops in each school, I had a great time.

photo-3In Manor Infant School the children and teachers were dressed as book characters from their favourite books. Children always enjoying dressing up, but what is less known, is that the teachers also enjoy dressing up as equally as the children. Here is Catherine. The lovely teacher who invited me to the school. She is dressed up as Little Mouse of course.

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With children we made a big picture. I do these often, but I can’t ever get tired of looking at children’s drawings. Look at this cat on the skateboard…

photo-2or these two beautiful cats.

photoAnother of my favourite is the flying lion king and ladybird.

photo-4For the rest of the week I was trying to get on with my new story. It should be about a penguin, who is a bit different from the other penguins…or should it be about friendship? No it’s about being lonely…. I can’t get it right. I must admit, I’m struggling.

Scan 1I started with sketching the pictures. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to do the artwork.

Scan 2But there is no use in pictures, if the story itself isn’t strong enough. My publisher Walker Books is well known for not letting out a book which won’t be up to their standards. So my editors are making me change it again and again.

Scan 7My sketches are more basic every time as I’m rewriting the story. How many times I sketched the story is well demonstrated by my latest sketches.

ScanI think by now it’s only me who knows what is going on.

Well, it’s nothing too unusual going through the difficult process in the early stages..I keep telling myself. But I need a break.

Luckily it’s Father’s Day and my daughter made me cakes. It’s time to have a closer look at them!

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Books on the shelves

THE MOUSE WHO ATE THE MOON“The Mouse Who Ate the Moon” is now officially out! Last Thursday was the publication day. Publishing a book is long process and it’s a  whole team effort. My editors and I work hard on the story and on the pictures. I’m very lucky to be published by Walker Books, who are well known for producing good quality books. I’m not talking only about content of the books which is obviously the most important, but also the technical quality.

“The Mouse Who Ate the Moon” is beautifully printed, the paper is thick and the colours are right. The book smells delicious too!

Now is the time to introduce the book to the public. You may think that a good book would find its way into shops by itself, but it’s not so easy. Publicists work hard, the publisher works hard and so do I. I’m happy to travel a few hours on the train just to do a reading and drawings for a small audience. I don’t mind doing it, because the audience is always nice. People who come to such events want to hear the story and see nice pictures. This is the nice part of my job.

I had a very good review in The Times and Little Mouse appeared on the website of The Guardian this week. Have look here. I also had lots of nice reviews on different Blogs and lots of tweeting about my new book, but getting a book in to the shops is still the hardest part of it all.

Luckily  there are still some bookshops who care about the quality of books they are selling. Of course, everybody wants to make a living and nobody has it as hard as bookshops these days. It’s nice to know that there are shops who make space on shelves for picture books and who don’t just care about the profit they can make on variety of well known titles and true stories of endless celebrities.

What I wanted to say is “Thank you to all the shops who care for picture books”!

This week I was working on a new idea and also painting the cover of my next book.
IMG_8762 copyHere are some of the sketches.

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I was also in Clapham in London (part of Omnibus) introducing the new book to the young audience.

image copyIt was a fun and friendly event in a beautiful building.

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I’m now off to visit two primary schools in Barking. I’ll be drawing more mice no doubt about it!

IMG_8729By the way this picture is a detail of a big painting I did with children in Hay on Wye this year.