Tag Archives: Illustration

BLOG TOUR & GUEST POST: Where has all the cake gone? by Andrew Sanders and Aysha Awwad

Ah for the love of cake! You can’t possibly resist this gorgeous picture book from very talented duo, Andrew Sanders and Aysha Awwad, Where has all the cake gone? published by Macmillan. Today is my stop on the blog tour and I’m sharing a guest post from author Andrew all about where he get his ideas from, as well as hosting a FACT or FIB challenge for Andrew and Aysha:

“The Emperor Penguin is the largest kind of penguin. On average they measure 100cm tall – the same height as the average 5 year old”

What do you think?! Scroll down to the end of the post to find out!

The almost unbelievable story of a missing cake, LOTS of hungry penguins and a crumb-covered little boy, who swears he’s telling the truth. HE DID NOT EAT THE CAKE! Could his story really be true?

Parents and carers will all relate to this one! That little innocent face looking up at us insisting ‘it wasn’t me’, even though surely it couldn’t have been anyone else! This delightfully entertaining tale celebrates the cheeky nature of little ones and their wonderful imaginations, and reminds all readers that honesty is the best policy in a truly light-hearted way. I defy anyone to read this story and not have a smile on their face or fall in love with the brilliantly illustrated Albert and his penguin friends!

Here is author Andrew Sanders to share about the ideas behind his writing. Welcome to the blog Andrew!

“Where do you get your ideas from?”

That’s the question that authors get asked a lot. I’ve certainly been asked it since my new book, Where Has All the Cake Gone? (illustrated by the brilliant Aysha Awwad) came out. And to be fair, it’s a good question.

The truth is that all us authors buy ideas from the same lollypop lady in North Pembrokeshire. She sells them between 8.20am and 8.40am every weekday morning – has done for years. Rowling, Walliams, Biddulph, Me… We all queue up and buy new ideas each week. It’s not always fun in the middle of Winter when George Martin is hogging her to himself and the sleet is coming down down, but it’s the only way to get new ideas, so you just have to suck it up and get on with it.

“Stop being silly, Andy. I know all the lollypop ladies in Wales, and none of that is true, is it?”

That’s the other thing people say. Usually to me. After I tell them the lollypop lady stuff.

And to be fair, yes. The thing on lollypop ladies is a fib.

But that’s the thing about ideas. It usually just involves taking a simple question or premise and then running off with it in a silly direction.

In day-to-day life, this kind of creative thinking isn’t always helpful. If you go to see your doctor, it’s probably for the best if he doesn’t try something creative, like using a stethoscope made of jelly. But when you’re coming up with ideas for kids’ books, it often pays to be as silly as you can. And the great thing about ideas is that they’re free. You can have as many as you want. If they’re rubbish, then you can stick them to one side and come up with a new one.

That’s why when you’re given a question like “Where do you get your ideas from?” you might end up talking about lollypop ladies from Wales.

For picture books, though, there’s one extra layer to it. Randomness and silliness are all well and good, but they need to be held together with something; a heart in the centre of your story.

And that’s where you need to add relatability. We’re talking about experience that everyone can relate to.

Maybe it’s eating something you shouldn’t have. (In my case, my brother’s Orange Aero on a warm Sunday in 1989.)

Maybe it’s staying up past your bedtime. (For me, Christmas Eve 1992, looking for Santa.)

Maybe it’s breaking something expensive that belongs to your parents. (Sorry about your glasses, dad. Yes, on both occasions.)

From here, it’s just a question of taking a sizable portion of silliness – the sort that kids often love – and exploring the possible reasons for all these scenarios. Who took the cake? Aliens. No, turtles. No, penguins. Why didn’t you stop them? They had jetpacks. No, they froze me in carbonite. No, they put me in a big jar of marmalade.

Some of these silly ideas feel like a better fit than others, and for a children’s book author it’s a question of knowing which is the best option to develop further. For instance, there’s just something inherently charming about penguins – the way they hang around in groups, their cheeky little waddle, the way they dress like little waiters, even though there’s remarkably few suit shops in the Antarctic. They’re fascinating for kids, and they just felt like the perfect little gang to try and create a bit of mischief for Albert.

So, to go back to the original question: “Where do you get your ideas from?” Well, I guess the truth of it is that I just sit down and think about silly, fun stuff and see where I end up. It’s very enjoyable. And every now and again, one of those ideas turns out to be a good one.”

FACT or FIB Challenge:

“The Emperor Penguin is the largest kind of penguin. On average they measure 100cm tall – the same height as the average 5 year old”

Andrew guessed this fact to be a fib as he reckoned that they are even taller than 1 metre. However, Aysha thought it was true. Who’s right?

Andrew was correct – they measure 115cm on average – the same height as the average 6 year old!

With thanks to Andrew for this guest post and for Pan Macmillan for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

Find out more at www.panmacmillan.com and follow the rest of the blog tour:

BLOG TOUR: Princesses Break Free by Timothy Knapman illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

Watch out – there are princesses about! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Princesses Break Free, a new picture book by Timothy Knapman and Jenny Løvlie, with a guest post from author Timothy. Move over damsal in distress, and hello feisty and fantastic Princess Tilly!

Princesses Break Free is a fun, wild adventure challenging the stereotypical image of the poised, preened damsel; Tilly is a princess who takes life into her own hands without waiting around for anybody else, as she shows princesses – and then princes, witches, and dragons – that they can do anything they want to!

I’m sharing a guest post from author Timothy all about the inspiration behind this delightful story. Welcome to the blog Timothy!

What Was the Inspiration For Princess Tilly in Princesses Break Free?

by Timothy Knapman

“Before my princess story, there was a pirate story.

The princess story is called Princesses Break Free.  It’s my new book, dazzlingly illustrated by the ridiculously talented Jenny Løvlie.  Princesses Break Free tells the story of Princess Tilly, who is carried off one day by a dragon – so far, so traditional.  Tilly’s fairy godmother has told her she must wait until a handsome prince comes to her rescue, but Tilly thinks that’s boring.  So instead she just rescues herself (with a parachute made from knickers, naturally) and in so doing encourages every other princess in fairy tale land to take their destinies into their own hands and go out and do what they want, not what’s expected of them.  Of course, this puts the princesses’ support network of dragons, handsome princes and evil queens out of a job.  Suddenly and unexpectedly having time on their hands, the dragons try being carried off for a change, the princes have a go at getting rescued and the evil queens find a new use for their poisoned apples.  Soon enough, they realise that they all like this new freedom too. 

I’ve wanted to write a princess book for ages.  One of the great pleasures and privileges of being a children’s author is that sometimes you get to go into schools to meet your readers.  If your visit’s anything to do with World Book Day, you’ll probably be welcomed by row upon row of Harry Potters, superheroes, dinosaurs, pirates and princesses.

I can see why kids love dressing up as these big, bold, clearly defined characters.  It’s partly because it’s fun, of course: a brilliant way to enter your favourite fantasy world.  But it also helps them explore and develop their personalities, as they try on different ways of being until they find one that fits.  Weedy little boys (as I was) take comfort in the padded muscles of a superhero outfit, or take advantage of the licence to misbehave as a naughty dinosaur.  Little girls are attracted to the magic and glamour that a princess costume will lend them.  But I’m very conscious that these outfits can also be traps – unthinkingly imposing on the kids wearing them the values and expectations of the original stories, some of which (about class, gender and ethnicity) we have long outgrown.

I’m a children’s author, not a cultural critic, so rather than write an essay about this, my solution was to take some of these traditional characters and have a bit of fun with them.  As I said at the beginning, the first one I picked was the pirate – in a book called Captain Sparklebeard.  It tells the story of a girl called Peg who lives, miserably, by the sea with her wicked step great grand auntie.  Every night, Peg reads pirate stories and dreams of escape and adventure.  She thinks her luck has changed when a crew of real pirates comes to town, but – traditional to the core – the pirates don’t allow polite little girls who can read and don’t have beards to join their crew.  Peg won’t stand for that, and she adopts the persona of the mysterious Captain Sparklebeard aboard a boat made of books.  In the ensuing race for buried treasure, she shows those scurvy sea dogs once and for all who’s the greatest pirate who ever lived.

With princesses there’s a similar range of clearly defined expectations that are, if anything, even more restricting – and therefore even more fun to play with.  Princesses frequently find themselves at the heart of the exciting moments in a story but they don’t often get the chance to do anything about it.  The energy released by turning those expectations inside out is what drives Princesses Break Free, as all that liberated excitement courses through the fresh twists and new possibilities of the story.

I’m not the first person to have tried to reimagine the role of the princess in a story, and I won’t be the last.  Nor am I saying there’s anything wrong with little girls dressing up as princesses.  I’m just suggesting that these familiar characters are so vivid, and so entrenched in our collective consciousness that they can withstand, and even benefit from, a little narrative mischief.

More importantly, I want my young readers to know that if they ever find themselves limited by the imaginative worlds handed down to them, they can always bend and twist and reconstruct those worlds to suit them better. 

And if they ever need to escape, they can always make a parachute out of knickers.”

With thanks to Walker Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour here:

BLOG TOUR: The Boy Who Rescued a Rainbow by Corrina Campbell

It’s Day 10 of the blog tour for The Boy Who Rescued A Rainbow by Corrina Campbell, published by Little Door Books, and I’m sharing my review of this delightful picture book.

The Boy Who Rescued A Rainbow by Corrina Campbell

This beautifully crafted picture books explores what being strong, brave and fearless really means, showing the wonder of imagination alongside the reality of life’s challenges, whatever they may be.

A young boy is enjoying marvellous adventures with his faithful dog by his side, when he discovers a broken rainbow. He fixes it, and together they all enjoy even more adventures. But one day, the rainbow disappears and the boy realises he is gone forever. How can he be strong, brave and fearless without his friend?

Thankfully his little dog reminds him it’s okay to feel sad and cry. And eventually the boy picks himself back up and continues his adventures, and is then reminded of his wonderful rainbow friend and the fun they had together.

A simple narrative, accompanied by gorgeous, colourful illustrations bring this lovely story to life. Young readers will love the imaginative play of the little boy, and the friendship he makes, and will be encouraged the develop their understanding of bravery in the face of loss as the story progresses. The Boy Who Rescued a Rainbow is a brilliant book to use in the classroom too, with opportunities for extended learning around themes of kindness and empathy. A real treat.

With thanks to Little Door Books for sending me this book to review and inviting me to be part of the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour here:

BLOG TOUR: Happy Sad by Pippa Goodhart and Augusta Kirkwood

It’s blog tour time! Today I’m hosting a delightful new picture book, Happy Sad by Pippa Goodhart and Augusta Kirkwood, published by Little Door Books.

When Toby finds a sad mermaid in a rock pool he takes her home to make her happy. But, away from her sea home and family, the mermaid is ‘Happy Sad’. What should Toby do?

A sweet tale of mixed emotions, as a young boy plays by the sea and finds more than just shells on the beach! Beautifully captured with softly-toned illustrations full of depth, Happy Sad portrays the exact feeling when you’re caught between being happy and sad.

As Toby tries to make the mermaid happy, although he succeeds in some ways, she still misses her true home. Even though they become friends, he starts to appreciate the only way to make her truly happy is to take her home – but this makes Toby ‘happy sad’ too! Happy to see the mermaid happy in her real home; sad because he can’t go with her.

A great picture book to instill empathy and reassure young readers that it’s ok to have mixed emotions, Happy Sad is a lovely story and will brighten up your picture book shelf!

With thanks to Little Door Books for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour here:

BLOG TOUR: One More Try by Naomi and James Jones

Today is the final stop on the blog tour for a wonderful new picture, One More Try, by Naomi and James Jones, published by Oxford University Press. This delightful story introduces a very determined Circle who will just not give up!

Circle loves the tower that the squares and hexagons have built. But Circle and his friends are much rounder or pointier…and much wobblier so making a tower turns out to be quite tricky. When the shapes are ready to give up, Circle asks them to have one more try. Can he find a way?

A follow up to their 2021 debut picture book, A Perfect Fit, which featured a triangle trying to fit in, this time we meet a very determined Circle in another shape-filled adventure. Circle and his friends try everything to make their tower-building work – from making themselves stronger and smarter to looking at the problem from every angle. Finally, when all the others are ready to stop, Circle asks for one more try. And you guessed it, it works!

A thoroughly enjoyable story about workings out, seeing things from different perspectives and not giving up, One More Try is sure to bring a smile to your face and get little minds thinking. I love the shapes as characters, each with their own personality, and I can imagine if my boys were still young they would be asking for ‘one more’ read of this colourful story!

With thanks to Oxford University Press for sending me this book to review and Liz Scott for inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Find out more on the rest of the tour: