Thursday 21 April 2011

Hoppy Easter!

Have a great spring break!

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Ella! ( Front Cover Sneaky Peek!)

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Ta- DAH! Here it is! The final cover for my new picture book ELLA which hits the shops in paperback and hardback form early 2012 ( just in time for Valentine's day!)
Hasn't my designer Alex Fowler at Scholastic done a brilliant job?! I'm really pleased with it and I can't wait to see the finish thing in all it's glossy or maybe shiny glory!

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Ask Angela: Pipe Problems

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I'm very inspired by the 1950s and 60s and try to give my illustrations a retro feel. Claude in particular is set in this time and I really enjoy looking through old photos and style books to get everything right.
A couple of months ago I went to an antique and vintage book fair and whilst a lot of it was waaaaaay out of my price range (£10,000 for a copy of a Famous Five book?!) a found a stall right at the back selling vintage fashion magazine and I bought a stack of them. It's been great going through them. I particularly love the problem pages ( Ask Angela) and decided to illustrate one of them. I think I might do some more in the future... there's a good question about gravy etiquette!

Friday 15 April 2011

Grandad Sid's Little Book of Stories: Joseph's Adventure

I thought, by way of thanking you all for the kind words and touching comments made on the post about my grandfather, I might post and illustrate one of the stories he wrote for me. This story is called Joseph's Adventure and it stars a big brown bear I got around the time I played Joseph in my infant school play ( aged 4) - hence his name.
This was my favourite story in the book as it combined all of my favourite things - night time adventures, snow, cardboard boxes ( I was very keen on playing in these as a child) and fish and chips!

I hope you enjoy it....

Joseph's Adventure
By S. R. Thomas

Joseph, the brown bear, was bored. He wanted some excitement.

“I must go on a journey,” he told himself, “That’s what they do in stories when they want to have an adventure.”

That night, as it was beginning to grow dark, Joseph looked round the bedroom. All the toys were asleep. Padding quietly, he crept out of the bedroom, went down the stairs and into the night outside. He shivered just a little as a few flakes of snow fell on his face.

“My thick fur will keep me warm,” he said.

He gazed about him. The bright orange street lamps looked pretty. The lights from passing buses were even prettier. Yet more exciting were the shop windows which were lit up. He looked into a toy shop and lingered at the window of a sweet shop. He stared at the good in a shoe shop and wondered how humans could wear such articles on their feet.

He walked quickly as the snow fell more heavily.

Suddenly he was aware of a warm, appetising smell. As he sniffed he realised that he was hungry. The toys back in Alexander’s bedroom would be enjoying a midnight feats now. He wished he was there but he had to finish his adventure.

The warm appetising smell became stronger. Joseph stopped and looked up at theewindows of a fish and chip shop. He wished he could go inside to buy some, but he had no money. Anyway, they wouldn’t sell fish and chips to a teddy bear...

He walked on. He was feeling very cold. A passing lorry threw up wet, slushy snow which plastered his thick fur.

“I think I’ve had enough adventure now,” he said, “I’m tired and cold. I’ll go back home.”


He stopped walking and looked about. Where was his home? He had been so busy looking at all the sights that he had not noticed where he was going.

He was lost! He was about to panic when he remembered his story books again. When people were lost in the snow - in stories - they followed their own footprints back home.

That’s what he would do - but his footsteps had vanished. The snow, which was falling fast, had covered them.

“I really am lost,” he said sadly, “ What am I to do now. Perhaps someone will recognise me and take me home.”

He shook his head. That was a silly thought. No one outside of Alexander’s bedroom knew him.

As he stood wondering what to do he noticed that the traffic was no longer passing by. There were no people in the street. Lights were going out in the houses as people went to bed.

“They are all warm and well-fed and comfortable,” said Joseph miserably, “ I’m cold and tired and hungry - and lost. They are all in their cosy beds.”

Not knowing what to do, he wandered about until he arrived outside a bicycle shop. Near the door was a large, empty cardboard box.

“If I go into that I might be able to keep warm,” he muttered.

But he was wrong! All night he huddled inside the box - and all night he shivered.

“Even my thick fur won’t keep out the cold, ‘ he clattered.

Finally, after a very long night, daylight came. As he peeped out of the shelter Joseph saw a man approaching. A big blue bag hung from his shoulder.

“A postman!” muttered Joseph. He became excited. “ It’s the postman who brings the letters to Alexander’s house. Now I know what to do!”

He crept out of the box and stretched his cramped limbs. Then he watched the postman making deliveries. Carefully, he followed the man.

Soon they were outside the gate of Alexander’s house. While the postman searched for letters in his bag, Joseph crept past him. He hurried to the front door and waited.

A moment later the postman walked up the path.

“What have we here?” he said when he saw the shivering teddy bear, “You look as if you could do with a warm!”

He rang the doorbell. When Alexander opened the door the man nodded towards Joseph.

“You’d think he’d been out all night, “ he said, “ He lives here doesn’t he?”

“Yes,” said Alexander, “Thank you for letting me know he was out here.”

He picked Joseph up.

“ I wonder how you got out and where you’ve been,” he said, “ Wherever it was - I’m very pleased to see you back again. Now you must come and get yourself warm.”

To see larger versions of the illustrations please go to my flickr page.

Thursday 14 April 2011

Friday 8 April 2011

Grandad Sid

Today would have been my grandfather's 84th birthday. His name was Sid and he was one of the biggest influences on me growing up to be a children's writer and illustrator.

He retired from teaching the year before I was born and, as he only lived around the corner from my house, I think I must have seen him every day throughout my childhood (even if it was just me flashing the light on and off in my bedroom at night and peering out of my window to see him and my grandmother do the same from their kitchen!)

Sid had been Head of English at a large school in Birmingham (having moved to Coventry from Wales to be with my grandmother which is another story!) but in the evenings and at the weekends he wrote and he wrote and he wrote. He was passionate about books and the english language and even wrote a book on the subject which was published.

He also wrote articles for magazines and newspapers and even had a few radio plays produced and broadcast. But what he enjoyed writing the most was books for children and he must have written hundreds ranging from very short stories to longer novels. But this was before the days of Young Adult books and although lots of publishers enjoyed the stories, they couldn't ever quite find a market for them.

When I started school, my grandmother decided that rather than have our dog mooching around our house on her own all day whilst we were all out, she would send Sid over to fetch her so she could spend the day (being spoilt) by them. I would leave my best ever toy, a grubby cardigan wearing bear called Silver (not my choice - his name was on his label), on the sofa for Grandad to see.
Imagine my surprise when I came from school to find Silver holding in his paws several piece of A4 pieces of paper addressed to me on which was written a story starring Silver and ME!

It was the best day ever and from that day for the next 4 or 5 years when I came home from school I would find Silver holding a new story nearly always about what the toys in my bedroom had got up to while I had been at school!

Then one day shortly before the summer holidays in 1994, just before my ninth birthday I came home to find not a letter in Silver's grubby, much loved paws, but an entire book! In an old, unused diary, Grandad had painstakingly copied out by hand some my favourite stories and collected them up for me to keep for ever. Above is the dedication.

Since that day the book, called ' The Royal Pool and Other Stories', has been on my shelf in every house and studio I've lived and worked in and even traveled with me when I ( very briefly - another story) studied at university in North Wales.

Sid and I had a very close relationship - he was more of a friend than a grandfather. Always supportive and excited when I visited with a new picture to show him or a new story I had scrawled in a notebook.

When I finished university and got my first book deal I think he almost burst with pride.  I had just moved into a titchy flat where there was no room for me to work so he converted his unused back bedroom into a studio for me and I worked there for quite a while. It was brilliant. Grandad potted about downstairs (writing) and I would draw upstairs and every so often he would call me down to the kitchen for tea and cake and to catch up on every thing I was doing and how the book was progressing. I wish it could have lasted longer as it was a very happy time.

Unfortunately Sid became ill very quickly and died shortly before my first book hit the shops three years ago. My publishers were brilliant though and rushed out a bound proof copy for him to see and he was so thrilled by it.
He is greatly missed by me and all our family. But he lives on and still regularly pops up in illustrations, in the background and the character of Claude is a little bit based on him. He was terribly clever, but at the same time seemed to bumbled through life going from one hilarious mishap to another.
Not only was he a super grandad and a great story teller, he was a gifted musician and after my grandmother died he wrote a short, very beautiful piece of music dedicated to her. 

So there we go, I have good old Grandad Sid to thank for my job and love of books and for the gift a book written by him, just for me.

Happy Birthday Sid, you great big eejit! As it's your big day and it's coming up to late afternoon - treat yourself to a little whiskey and a good book (maybe Claude? I've heard that's quite good!)

Wednesday 6 April 2011


click to enlarge.

I was going to say that these children appear to have leapt straight out of the 1950s, then I realised that the little girl looks just like my niece when she was about three who had a dress very similar to the one the girl above is wearing. It was a costume for a dance show she was in, but that didn't stop her from putting it on and wearing it around the house!

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Meet The Dogs

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My parent's came to visit this weekend and brought with them their three dogs. So combined with our three, we had six nutty pups dashing about the place. Here's a little portrait I did.

From left to right:

Billy Bongo (Our Tiny Chihuahua)
Maisie Mouse ( My parent's Yorkie/Chihuahua cross puppy and Billy's girlfriend)
Bella Boo (Our Chihuahua/Jack Russell cross)
Murphy (My parent's West Highland White/Small Poodle cross)
Barney (My parent's Border Terrier/ Small Bear!)


The One and Only Lucy Locket (Our 14 year old Yorkshire Terrier. The Boss)

Sunday 3 April 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's day to my little Mum ( who checks this blog every day)!

Nobody believes me when I say it but I am actually just a slice under 6ft tall. My mum, however is a titch. I tower over her and when I go to visit my parent's house it's like walking into a doll's house. Everything is at completely the wrong height. Mirrors cut me off at the neck, I smack my head off things and come home with back ache from ducking every five minutes.

But never mind. My mum's brilliant. Utterly doolally, but utterly lovely.
Happy Mother's day!

Friday 1 April 2011

Book Sniffing

Have you all found The Book Sniffer yet?!

It's a new, utterly brilliant and very, very funny children's book reviewing blog. It have book reviews, interviews with authors and illustrators* and now every Friday is Doggy Doodle Friday when illustrators send in their doggy doodles! And I've done one this week. I'm delighted to introduce Prunela to you. She's a Chinese Crested and doesn't let her lack of hair stop her from getting glamorous with the accessories!

The genius behind The Book Sniffer is the lovely Emma who used to work for one of my publishers Hodder, but then left ( still sad about this :-( ) to work at Templar Books. Emma is one of the very nicest and hilarious people working in the children's book world. And so very kind. Whether it's emailing me funny pictures of animals in costumes or sending me ACTUAL presents such as a chihuahua pen and a cowboy badge to say thank you for the littlest thing I have done for her, she goes out of her way to support picture books and the work that authors and illustrator's put into them. So do go to the Book Sniffer website and book mark it! It's brilliant, just like Emma!

* it also has interviews with illustrator's dogs... Including my three little nutcases. Read what they say about me here!