Tag Archives: Illustration

BLOG TOUR: Bad Panda by Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey

It’s DAY FIVE of the Bad Panda blog tour – and I’m afraid you just can’t help falling in love with super-fluffly Lin and her partner-in-crime, Fu – no doubt much to Lin’s disgust! Bad Panda is the first in a fantastically funny new series from the duo who created Dave Pigeon, author Swapna Haddow and illustrator, Sheena Dempsey. Lin is the ‘bad’ panda in the story but she’s so super fluffy and cute everyone loves her, no matter how badly she behaves, as she tries to escape the zoo and get home to her favourite person – her bad brother, Face-Like-A-Bag-Of-Potatoes. Combining hilarious narrative, with lively illustrations that perfectly capture the humour, Bad Panda is the ideal tonic if you need cheering up or if you just enjoy laughing-out-loud!

Today I’m sharing an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how Swapna got to know pandas and gain real insight by working as a panda-keeper for a day!

Behind the Scenes of Bad Panda – with Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey

“You are in for a treat. Swapna and Sheena are sharing behind-the-scenes pictures and secrets of their new book Bad Panda.

The Bad Panda story was originally inspired by a trip Swapna took to China with her in-laws in 2017. Her mother in law arranged for the family to be panda keepers for a day at the Chengdu Panda Base and Swapna describes this as the absolute highlight of the trip.

She and her family arrived at the panda base where they heard about the rescued pandas Most had lost their homes due to deforestation and some were orphaned. And right now there are only about 2000 pandas in the wild, which makes them vulnerable of extinction so these centres do vital work in protecting pandas.

Swapna spent the day cleaning up the panda paddocks, sweeping up their poos, smashing up bamboo stems ready for meal times and making steamed panda cake which is a treat of corn, soybean, rice and egg.

And of course, she spent many hours watching the gentle giants go about their day.

When she got home she had heaps of ideas for a new panda story and both she and Sheena co-created Bad Panda.

Sheena says designing characters is one of her favourite aspects of illustration and before she started making the rough drawings for Bad Panda, she wanted to create some model sheets that she could refer to easily for each of the main characters – these model sheets were inspired by those the Disney animators make where they draw their characters from different angles and with different expressions.

Lin was the trickiest character to get right. Sheena struggled to make her cute and appealing, while also making her look like the rotter of a grotter of a panda she truly is. She worked with her art director Emma Eldridge on getting the fluff around her head just right, as well as making her proportions very toddler-like with a big head on a small body.

Fu was a much easier bamboo to crack than Lin. Sheena describes his body shape as ‘kind of like an egg on legs, with a flyaway quiff on the top of his head’.

Sheena wanted to make the antagonist King Cobra pretty vicious-looking and she didn’t hold back. He looks every bit the deadly cobra he is.

Bad Panda is partly told in graphic novel format, with 37 pages of its pages told with panels and speech bubbles. This was a really exciting way to tell Lin’s story through pictures. Sheena did a lot of research into the mechanics of making comics as she had never drawn any before and she even started her own webcomic called Penguin Chronicles for practice.”

With thanks to Faber for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Find out more at www.faber.co.uk and don’t forget to follow the rest of the tour:

BLOG TOUR: Bug Belly Froggy Rescue by Paul Morton

It’s time for another Bug Belly adventure on the final day of the blog tour for Paul Morton’s second book in the Bug Belly series, Froggy Rescue published by Five Quills. Featuring the fabulous frog Bug Belly, this time on a rescue mission to save a froglet from a magpie’s nest! Read on for a bookchat Q & A with author illustrator Paul Morton

Uncle Bug Belly says frogs can FLY. But CAN they REALLY? Bug Belly and the froglets are about to find our in this dangerous rescue adventure.

Another lively, fun-filled adventure by talented author illustrated, Paul Morton, Bug Belly Froggy Rescue brings the inventive froggy and friends leaping to life! Once again Bug Belly’s rumbling tummy gets him into trouble and he fails to save one of his froglets from being snatched by a magpie. However, being the brilliantly inventive frog that he is, Bug Belly soon comes up with a daring rescue plan which involves an intrepid trek across the forest. On the way, Bug Belly and the froglets have to face all manner of dangers including not becoming fancy froggy fritters to owls and snakes! As ever Bug Belly finds ingenious ways to save them all – think rabbit poo amongst other things.

Bug Belly Froggy Rescue is as entertaining and exciting as the first adventure and young readers are sure to enjoy the story and the lively illustrations! I’m delighted to welcome Paul Morton to the blog for a bookchat Q & A.

What’s your typical working day like?  This is going to sound really lazy, especially when I have friends and colleagues producing books whilst they have full time teaching jobs for example. If I have any illustration commissioned work booked in I will spend maybe 3 or 4 hours on the Mac in my studio at home. I might mountain bike in the afternoon. Do some writing in the garden summerhouse (it used to be in cafes) and I like staying up late to work if the muse takes me. I work best in a quiet house at anything up to 2.30am.

How have the last 15 months been? As an author, have you found ways to connect with readers? I managed one single school visit the week before the first lockdown. Since then I have joined the Book Pen Pals scheme, where authors are paired up with schools, and they swap recommendations and craft ideas and stories. I have absolutely loved this. My 3 schools at the moment, in Darlington, Derby and Bradford have all been enthusiastic with their replies, completing Bug Belly crafts and recommending new books to me that they have been reading in class. I’ve have virtually visited a couple of them on Zoom and that was really fun too. I’m hoping to get out and about to more schools, bookshops and libraries as soon as it’s practical and safe to do so.

How did it feel to see Bug Belly included in the Summer Reading Challenge last year? Initially a great surprise and then I felt so proud that my first published book was chosen amongst some other great titles. It was a pity the scheme wasn’t able to run to its full potential due to the pandemic, but still a great feeling.

Are you working on other book projects at the moment? In addition to working on 2 or 3 further Bug Belly storylines I have two picture books at various stages of development. I’m looking forward to bringing those to submission. They are very different from Bug Belly, though both of them happen to feature a frog in the storyline!

Were you a keen reader as a child? If so, what kind of books did you enjoy? I must say that I don’t remember that many reading books from my childhood. The ones I can recall are all from school time. The Borrowers, Water Babies and a favourite was Stig of the Dump. At home and in holidays it was always comics, and as a treat I would buy 3 or 4 Batman comics with my pocket money.

And now? what do you like to read as an adult? Lots of ‘How to” books on creating children’s stories. Favourite books at the moment are still Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. David Almond. John Fowles. Unless we are on holiday I don’t seem to find the time or patience to read a longer adult novel so it’s picture books and early readers that I devour at home.

Which other authors and/or illustrators do you admire? I’m currently in the middle of writing a piece for the SCBWI Words and Pictures magazine about Brian Wildsmith. I’ve always loved the vibrancy and immediacy of his colours and images. I knew he was also from South Yorkshire but in my research I discovered that not only did he move to the same small village just outside Barnsley but we actually lived on the same road. Me at no. 89, the Wildsmiths at no. 22. Amazing! We were 27 years part though, so it’s not like I could have bumped into him. Currently I love the books of Benji Davies, Jim Field, Oliver Jeffers, Mo O’Hara and all the King Coo titles by Adam Stower.

Finally, what do you hope readers will take from your books?  A sense of fun and enjoyment from having been on a mini exciting adventure and left with a hunger to read about more Bug Belly antics. I have plenty more planned, so I hope so.

Bug Belly: Froggy Rescue by Paul Morton is published by Five Quills, £6.99 paperback – out now. Find out more at www.fivequills.co.uk / www.bugbelly.com. With thanks to Five Quills and Catherine Ward for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Check out the rest of the tour for more Bug Belly fun!

BLOG TOUR: Pinkie and Boo by Chae Strathie illustrated by Francis Martin

Today, I’m rounding off the wonderful blog tour for Pinkie and Boo by Chae Strathie illustrated by Francis Martin, published by Little Door Books. Introducing a feisty young girl and her toy monkey, this story is bound to delight readers young and old alike!

Pinkie loves being the smallest in her family, but the arrival of a baby means everything is about to change. It seems like the tiny new addition to the family will get all the attention . . . and Pinkie isn’t happy about that. To cheer her up Mum and Dad give her a lovely toy monkey called Boo. But it turns out there’s much more to him than meets the eye – at least in Pinkie’s imagination. Their outrageous efforts to regain some attention lead to a whole lot of mess and mayhem, but everything works out happily in the end.

What a delightful story! Full of humour and insight into the very real scenario of the arrival of a new sibling – one that many will relate to. Pinkie is understandably worried about the new baby and her vivid imagination (involving seagulls and wizards) only serves to make her more so!  When Boo the toy monkey arrives, he stuns Pinkie by coming to life – but she’s so pleased to have someone to share her problems with. Boo suggests all sorts of ways to make things better- making special drinks with all manner of ingredients from the fridge; drawing special pictures on the walls (oh dear..) and collecting all Dad’s best flowers from the garden!

The humorous narrative brilliantly brings to life this ever-so-tricky situation accompanied by lively, bold illustrations that capture the chaos and the determined Pinkie’s frustration. Empathy abounds as Mum and Dad discover the mess – but thankfully make things right for Pinkie and Boo. An entertaining read and a great story to reassure families expecting a new sibling, I hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of Pinkie and Boo!

With thanks to Little Door Books for sending me this book to review.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour:

BLOG TOUR: Ten Little Dogs written and illustrated by Ruth Brown

I’m very pleased to welcome author and illustrator Ruth Brown to the blog today, in celebration of DAY THREE of the blog tour for her latest picture book published by Scallywag Press, Ten Little Dogs.

Ruth is sharing the ‘inside story’ of this delightful picture book featuring a count-down of man’s best friend. You can’t help but fall in love with the four-legged friends that appear on each page, and try and spot the difference as they slowly ‘disappear’ as you count-down. Gorgeous illustrations and a rhyming narrative bring the bouncing dogs to life. It’s a celebration of all the antics dogs can get up to from chasing butterflies to paddling in the sea and romping in the park! I’m pleased to share a guest post from Ruth sharing insight into the creative writing process behind the book.

Welcome to the blog Ruth!

“Ten Little Dogs is a counting book like millions of others, some use addition and some subtraction. I used the same plot device in my book “Ten Seeds” – start with 10 seeds – decrease to 1 flower which produces 10 seeds. Satisfyingly circular. I wasn’t originally going to use dogs in this latest book, I’d planned to use a variety of animals – birds, butterflies, caterpillars, mice, slugs, frogs etc and it started –

“10 plump pigeons pecking grapes from a vine.

Along came a fox – and then there were …….

9 blue butterflies resting on a gate.

Up jumped a cat – and then there were ……..”

and so on through my list of animals. But having written it, I realised that I had created a catalogue of unremitting predatory deaths. Now, I have no qualms about revealing the truth about dear old Mother Nature’s darker side to 5 year olds. At that age, I remember the fascination of finding small dead animals, the ritual of burial and the happy hours spent arranging daisies round the grave. (Normal childhood curiosity……….hopefully?) But when creating a picture book it is important to have an uplift at the end – not necessarily a happy ending, but resolution on a positive note, an element of hope.

In my story as it stood, yes, the pigeon could possibly escape the jaws of the fox but could a slug outrun a leaping frog? I don’t think so. In the make-believe world of picture books, no matter how bizarre and unrealistic, the stories have to adhere to their own mad logic and if, as I’d planned, my animals had all ended up miraculously alive in the meadow it would have been wrong. The ending would have to have been – The End …they are all dead. A bit harsh and not much fun.

So back to the drawing board. I decided to use just one species of animal. I often write about cats but using them in this instance would mean the opportunity for adventurous scenarios would have been limited – you don’t often see cats paddling in the sea – so I decided to use dogs. Puppies actually, but the title of “Ten Little Puppies” set the wrong tone. These were ten independent, adventurous little dogs. I know it’s unusual to see ten small dogs alone in a field minus owners and you’d probably called the RSPCA if you did, but remember this is picture book world. Finally I had the plot, the text and the characters and the story flowed, it came naturally to a satisfying circular conclusion, with all the dogs happily playing in the park……. and none dead. Then I had the pleasure of doing the pictures – always my favourite part of the process. Who said creating children’s books was easy?”

With thanks to Scallywag Press for sending me this picture book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Don’t miss the rest of the tour:

  • 26 April: My Shelves are Full @erinlynhamilton
  • 27 April: This Mummy Style @Thismummystyle
  • 28 April: The Book Activist  @bookactivist1
  • 29 April: Margaret’s Reading Shelf @booklib61 & Get Kids into Books @GetKidsin2Books
  • 30 April: Jane Sandell  @SeasideReader & Miss Cleveland is Reading @MissNCleveland

New reviews: Illustrated non-fiction roundup!

Today on the blog I’m sharing some fantastic non-fiction titles to educate and entertain. From rainforest to engineering to the magic of sleep and Ancient Egypt, there’s something for everyone!!

Zoom Rainforest Adventure by Susan Hayes and Susanna Rumiz is a gorgeous new non-fiction board book adventure series that will inspire budding young adventurers! Bright colours and lively illustration bring to life the fact-filled text and make this an ideal way to engage youngsters in early reading. They’ll find out about the animals and birds that inhabit the rainforest and discover creep-crawlies galore. With die-cuts and pop-ups throughout, Zoom will inspire even the youngest of explorers! Published by What on Earth Books, with titles including Ocean Adventure, Space Adventure also available and Building Site Adventure and Farm Adventure coming this November.

Sticking with the theme of forests, enter a world of wonder on a woodland walk with Look What I Found in the Woods by Moira Butterfield and Jesus Verona. Young readers are invited to join in the fun with this lovely picture book, and see what they can spot in the woods too. Full of detailed illustrations showing just how much there is to see, with an engaging, rhyming narrative. There’s also nature notes that add extra guidance and I’m sure Look What I Found in the Woods will encourage families to put their wellies on and get hunting in the woods! Published by Nosy Crow in collaboration with the National Trust.

Enter a world of plants and learn all about nature from master forager and gardener, Alys Fowler in Grow, Forage and Make illustrated by Heidi Griffiths. A detailed guide with 30 activities to inspire family time in the garden and teach children how to forage and what to do with their wonderful finds. They’ll learn how to make wildflower seed paper and create art from leaf pounding, or make a parsnip pea-shooter and see the Wood Wide Web! There is so much to discover in nature and this lovely book with equally lovely illustrations will children and their families discover it in spades (!). Published by Bloomsbury in collaboration with Kew Gardens for children aged 9+.

For something more historical in flavour, there’s The Mystery of the Golden Pyramid by Adela Norean and Aaron Cushley. A beautifully produced lift-the-flap adventure, readers join Sophie as she sets out to save a King and solve the mystery, with the help of a talking dog. With action, excitement and humour throughout, this fantastical adventure will engage young readers AND fill their minds with knowledge of Ancient Egypt! Published by Little Tiger.

The Magic of Sleep – A Fascinating Guide to the World of Slumber by Vicky Woodgate is exactly that – a totally fascinating insight in to sleep, uncovering all the things you’ve ever wondered about – and much more you haven’t! From the scientific to the sensational, from myths to the beds we sleep on, animals to plants and of course, humans, it covers everything. With helpful chapters headings, informative illustrations and a delightful cat who accompanies each section, you will fall into the world of sleep with ease with this book! My niece picked this book up and proceeded to read it cover to cover – she particularly liked the dream journal and practical tips for sleep at the back of the book. Published by Dorling Kindersley

Cool Engineering by Jenny Jacoby and Jem Venn is a new title in the ‘Cool’ series that has eleven other titles covering every subject from architecture to maths to mythology. Cool Engineering follows the same appealing, simple and attractive graphic style with just the right amount of interest to engage readers aged 8 and above. It’s full of incredible information about the world of engineering, including biographies of key figures in engineering history such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and more recent, Elon Musk. From tools to transport, computers to biomedical inventions, there’s a whole world of fascinating facts to discover! Educational and engaging this is great book for reluctant readers and those who like to dip in and out of reading. Published by Pavilion.

Standing on Her Shoulders A Celebration of Women by Monica Clark-Robinson illustrated by Laura Freeman is a celebration of the strong women who influence us – from our mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers to the women who fought for equality and acceptance. Beautifully drawn, it reminds us of all the inspirational women who have gone before us – those we know and love personally, and those figures from history who deserve our recognition. It reminds us not to take our freedoms for granted and strive to protect them – and invites us to think about who might stand on our shoulders one day. Standing on Her Shoulders would make a lovely gift for the young girls in your life, one to be shared with all the family. Published by Scholastic.

With thanks to all the publishers for sending me these books to review.