• Quick Post

    Sunshine through the mailbox today: advance copies of Boyband of the Apocalypse!

  • Quick Post

    Fan art of the gloriously villainous Lucretia Cutter from Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard.

  • Spring happenings

    Here’s what has been happening with me for the first part of this year.

    When I’m a Mummy Like You!, the picture booked created by me and Francesca Gambatesa was released into the wild in February! We had a launch party at Gosh! Comics in Soho to celebrate (pic by Sarah McIntyre). It’s also out now in the US as When I’m a Mommy Like You! You can read a lovely review at Bookblog Book Monsters here. Francesca spotted the book in Foyles window as part of a Mother’s Day display.

    Meanwhile, I finished the illustrations for Tom Nicoll‘s Boyband of the Apocalypse that’s out in June, and I’m pleased to say there’s a sequel on the cards which I’ll also be drawing. I’m looking forward to that, as I really enjoyed working on Boyband.

    Also in February, Sarah McIntyre kindly invited me to take part with her show at this year’s Imagine Festival at the RFH, along with Katherina Manoulessou and Stephen Collins.

    We had to talk about our book characters and then lead the audience in a draw-along – the (huge) audience were very enthusiastic and some fantastic drawings were produced.

    Read Sarah’s report here (from where I pinched these pics).

    In March I had another big event at Leicester Author Week, organised by Whatever It Takes, an initiative to encourage reading within the city. I gave a talk to two sets of school children – about 400 children in all – about my work, followed by creative writing workshops. It was a busy day, but a lot of fun! Thanks to WIT for organising it, probably the best organised event I’ve been invited to. (Pic by WIT)

    World Book Day (or at least, the UK version!) is in March and it always pleases me to see how many people dress up as Jampires, year after year. Here are some pics that appeared on Twitter:

    So cute!

    Currently, I’m working on the edits for the first book of my novel series with Bloomsbury books, which comes out next year. An illustrator has been chosen and I’m very excited about the whole thing. Fingers crossed that other people like it too!

  • Wrap-up

    2016 is rapidly coming to its end and most people seem to be quite happy about that, as far as I can tell. It’s been a bit of a bumpy one, current affairs-wise, but 2017 promises more of the same. Let’s hope that cooler, wiser heads will prevail and that it’s not too troublesome.

    For me, the second half of 2016 (as it’s been that long since I updated this blog!) was quiet, book-wise.  I was focused almost entirely on writing, something that makes me very happy! I can report that the first draft of the first of my two books for Bloomsbury has been handed in, and I’m awaiting the editorial verdict. I’m expecting lots of red pen as even I could see the flaws of this draft, but I’m looking forward to fixing things up with my editors’ help. I love the world I’ve created in this book and really enjoyed writing it, in spite of a few uneven sentences paragraphs chapters. I have to finish this book and hand in the first draft of the second book by June next year, so I’m expecting the first six months of 2017 to be spent tapping away on a keyboard…

    …apart from January/February, when I’ll be working on the illustrations for this book written by Tom Nicoll. It’s very funny and I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty on the drawings. There are some great, quirky characters in it, which are always very satisfying to do. More info on that when I’m allowed to show it.


    Speaking of quirky characters, I drew a whole bunch of them for Inktober. This is an internet community thing set up by artist Jake Parker. It encourages artists to create an ink-based picture every day for the whole of October. It’s a chance to draw just for fun, without the aid of a computer, and not be too precious about the splats and smudges. I’ve posted all thirty-one pictures on my Instagram account .

    The Suspects no. 31 for #inktober #inktober2016 Phew! Finished – hard but good fun.

    A photo posted by David O’Connell (@davidoconnelluk) on


    The last Creature Teacher book was published in July. It’s now out in six languages (English, Turkish, Danish, Slovak, Hungarian and Vietnamese) which is very pleasing.

    Writer Sam Watkins is currently working on a new series from Egmont: The Fintastic Diary of Darcy Dolphin which is out soon, and I’m sure will be… well, fintastic!


    Jampires has become something of a Hallowe’en book – not quite what Sarah McIntyre and I intended, but I love hearing about little Jampires turning up at costume parties in October – there are more and more each year!

    On the subject of Jampires, here is Mrs Coventry from St Joseph’s School in Keighley, Yorkshire, reading the book aloud for us:

    Aliquam Tempus – Jampires from Albus Cubus on Vimeo.

    A very impressive performance! I went to a workshop for children’s writers in October on how to inject a bit of drama into book presentations so I’m hoping my reading skills have buffed up a bit. It was hosted by the Golden Egg Academy who mentor up-and-coming authors through the writing and publication process. It was an excellent day and the Golden Eggers are a lovely bunch of people too. I’ve a big couple of presentations in March (among other things) where I need to step up my showbiz side a bit more.

    My most recent public gig was at the brilliant Brentwood Children’s Literature Festival back in July, organised by Natasha and Jim at the Chicken & Frog Bookshop. It was very well-organised for a first-time festival and there was a great crowd at the Brentwood theatre to see me do my Monster & Chips comic-making spiel. Some fab comics came out of it too, my favourite being about a prince and princess who meet, fall in love… and are eaten by a giant fly. (Pic below by Natasha.)

    Here are some more monster-y drawings that have been sent my way – firstly, this fearsome chap who comes with his own specials board (I love this colour combination!):

    And also this brilliant comic featuring Fuzzby and pals (a couple of years old but which I only just found out about on the Imagination Project website):


    Last, but definitely not least, I’m very excited about the next book from me and the amazing Francesca Gambatesa: When I’m A Mummy Like You! It’s out in early February (just in time for Mothering Sunday in the UK) and a bit later in the US – where it’s called When I’m A Mommy Like You! (obviously).

    I can’t get over how super Francesca’s art is – there’s more at the book page. She’s done such a wonderful job with my rhyming nonsense and I hope people love it! There’ll be a launch party at some point which I’ll post about here when we’ve firmed up the details.

    I’m going to be offline for the rest of the year but have lots of plans for 2017 so will be back refreshed and recharged in January.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful 2017!

     

  • Summer update

    I’m off for a summer break soon, escaping to the seaside from the city and its current political wailing and grinding of teeth. There is a folder filled with creative projects going with me. Past experience says they won’t even make it out of the suitcase – it’s good to do nothing sometimes. I might post some terrible snaps on Instagram, but aside from that it will be a very welcome social media-free zone.

    To counteract that, here is a blog post written around other people’s Twitter photos! I may not do social media very well but I can’t deny it’s very useful.

    Out and About

    I was very privileged to be asked along to the first Lollies awards ceremony recently, hosted by TV presenters Sam & Mark, to honour the best in funny children’s books. It was a jolly event at the Lyric Theatre in the West End of London with entertainment provided by the performers of the stage show of Horrible Histories. There were even lollies for the audience – very welcome on a hot day.

    This year’s winners were:

    Picture Book: I Need A Wee! by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

    6-8 years: Badly Drawn Beth by Knife & Packer

    9-13 years: The Parent Agency by David Baddiel & Jim Field

    Among the nominees was my book buddy Jamie Littler, one of the hardest working people around. He wasn’t a winner on the day, alas, but it was great to see him recognised, and to see an award for funny books to replace the late lamented Roald Dahl Funny Prize. My friend Alex Milway has done a huge amount of work with his This Book is Funny Campaign to highlight the hunger for funny books amongst children. The more attention they can get, the better!

     

    Book News

    It was great seeing When I’m A Monster Like You, Dad! in various shop windows over the Father’s Day weekend. It’s going down well in the U.S., apparently, and everyone wants to know what Francesca will do for the illustrations for our second book together (including me). There will be a wait, I’m afraid, as that’s not out until early next year. However, you can colour in some of her illustrations with these lovely activity sheets she made, available on my activity page.

    Monsters-coloring-sheet-1

    Events

    I will be at the Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival next month, and in the run up to that I’m taking part in the Brentwood Art Trail. Some of my illustrations are in the window of the wonderful Chicken and Frog Bookshop, who are organisers of the festival. I’ll be running a writing workshop on the 29th July so do come along – tickets are available at the above link.


    Meanwhile, I’m super-excited about a new book deal which means I’ll be writing a couple of books for an older age group (9-12 years) than my usual 7-10 years. It doesn’t sound like a big age gap but there’s quite a leap in reading ability in that time.  Monster & Chips was about twelve thousand words in all, these will be about thirty thousand words long: loads more to write but loads more to play with, developing characters and exploring new worlds. It’s going to be a real challenge but I’m so looking forward to it, especially as I’ll have an editor holding my hand along the way. The first book won’t be out until 2018 but I can’t wait to see what people think.

    I’ll also be doing lots of drawing to help break up the long writing periods. Expect to see plenty of sketches and pictures posted here, on my Twitter and on Instagram!

    Now, off to pack my bucket and spade!

    Characters for a book. #sketchbook

    A photo posted by David O’Connell (@davidoconnelluk) on

  • When I’m A Monster Like You, Dad! – Out Today

    Happy book birthday to us! Francesca Gambatesa and I have a new picture book in the shops today (and if you’re on the USA, it’s been out for a month already!).

    wimly01

    When I’m a Monster Like You, Dad! is about a little monster who wants to be just like his dad: BIG and BAD! But Daddy Monster just wants little monster to have fun. The words are by me and the beautiful artwork is by Francesca. I’m thrilled with how it looks! It’s been a long-timing coming (I wrote the text in 2013) but it’s great to see it finally in the shops -just in time  for Father’s Day (June 19th).

    wimly02

    We had a launch party at the wonderful Gosh! Comic Shop in London last Friday. Lots of people turned up and I did a dramatic reading of the book! It was a lot of fun – thank you to every one that came along, and thank you to Gosh! for being such good hosts.

    wimly_badges

    Francesca made some goody-bags with little note-cards and badges in. So cool!

    Here’s me and Francesca, with monster ears, proudly holding our book baby (taken by Sarah McIntyre):

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    There are a load of other great photos from the night here, taken by Gosh!’s resident photographer, Mauricio Molizane De Souza. Here’s one of us signing some books (fascinating fact: it was the first time Francesca and I had actually met!):

    wimly_signing

    All the buying information can be found here. Francesca and I will be at Village Books in Dulwich on Sunday 11th June at 11am for a story-telling session, and we’ll be making Father’s Day cards too, so do come along if you’re around. Toot-a-loo!

    wimly03

  • Nice news

    Blogging is less of a chore when there are lots of nice things to write about.

    Firstly, lovely letters. Here’s a drawing from Theo, aged 7, a Monster & Chips reader. He’s drawn a brilliant monster with a snot-burger and chips. Great use of colours, too. You can almost smell the fart!

    theo

    barry_letter

    I also had a very nice letter from Charlie, which was beautifully written, so I’ve taken extra care with my reply. Charlie, from St Bede’s School in Weaverham, said the Barry the cat was his favourite character in Monster & Chips so here’s a little picture of Barry that I drew at the bottom of the letter.

    Recently, I finished the illustrations for the last Creature Teacher book. It’s a great series and I was over the moon when the first book won the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award! Woohoo!

    I couldn’t be more pleased for writer Sam Watkins as it was her first published book. And I was completely bowled over when Sam tweeted about an animated trailer that the children from the participating schools had made. It’s absolutely amazing and I keep replaying it and having a chuckle!

    Freshmade NYC are a cooking and craft studio that run cookery sessions for kids in New York City. They have a storybook cooking class, which sounds like a fab idea, and recently ran a Jampires doughnut making session! Here’s a pic from their Instagram feed:

    Banana doughnuts! Yum.

    What am I up to at the moment? I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately and a few weeks back finished a manuscript for a book idea that I’m really hopeful will prove to be publisher-friendly. It’s doing the rounds of publishers right now, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed and praying to the book gods that it works out.

    I’m also working on a window artwork display for the nice people at Chicken & Frog bookshop in Brentwood. I visited them a couple of years back and am doing an event for the Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival which they are organising (tickets on sale!). It’s not something I’ve done before so it’s very exciting.

    In the meantime, When I’m A Monster Like You, Dad! is out in the shops very soon! My advance copies arrived from the publisher today. Illustrator Francesca Gambatesa and I are hosting a launch event at Gosh! Comics in London on the evening of May 27th – all are welcome, so do come along if you can and say hello (and buy a book!).

    WIMLY_party

  • A Late Catch-Up!

    It used to be that I wrote blog posts as a way of procrastinating before work. Now I find that I’m procrastinating before writing blog posts. It does seems a very cumbersome way of communicating news in these days of Twitter and other social media. But it’s a useful way of recording what I’ve been up to so I’m going to keep at it, even if updates get a little few and far between.

    Find me here:
    Twitter
    Instagram

    I can be found in a couple of social media-type places (above) but here’s a more long-winded catch-up with some things that happened in the latter part of 2015. Mega-post alert!

    Books

    A second book of Sam Watkin‘s Creature Teacher series came out in August with me on art duties again. Creature Teacher Goes Wild is set at a theme park which meant lots of fun things to draw. Here’s a bit when Mr Hyde and the gang are on their way to Wilf’s Wild Adventure Theme Park – it gets messy pretty soon afterwards:

    CT2_spread

    There’s another Creature Teacher book out very soon – next week in fact! Creature Teacher Science Shocker introduces a new character who’s more than a match for Creature – but who is it?

    The fourth CT book is due out in July and I’ll be drawing the illos for that any day – can’t wait to get started!

    Writer Sam and I will be doing an event together at the Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival in July – come along and say hello if you can. Tickets are available here.

    creature_teacher03

    CT is also coming out in Turkish which is very exciting. I love seeing books I’m involved with coming out in different languages! You can find information on all the Creature Teacher books here, or on Creature’s very own website where there are a load of activities to do too.

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    Speaking of foreign editions, JAMPIRES is going to be coming out in Korean which should be really interesting to see as it’s such an attractive written language. My fab co-author, Sarah McIntyre, and I donned our Jampire gear for a spooky Hallowe’en window-painting session at the wonderful GOSH! Comics in London back in October.

    jampiresoct1501_tweaked

    It’s very hard to paint on glass, never mind back-to front. I’ve borrowed these photos from GOSH’s Facebook page – they’re both taken by Mauricio Molizane De Souza and there’s plenty more of his ace work to be seen there too.

    jampiresoct1502

    ********

    I’ve blogged previously about my friend Alex Milway‘s This Book is Funny initiative and was very pleased to be invited to join him and comics chum Gary Northfield at the Discover Children’s Story Centre‘s summer Storyfest that took place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford in July.

    funnysticker

    We talked about our books – all of them funny books – having visited the schools involved in the previous weeks to see what kind of funny stories they could come up with themselves.

    It had to be one of the hottest days of the year – not a day to be dressed up as a lion fighting a zebra Roman gladiator. Yes, dear reader, that is me in the furry onesie, having taken on gladiator Gary, and in the middle of my (very dramatic) death throes. A career highlight.

    ********

    Finally, I’ve recently got to see the artwork for When I’m a Monster Like You, Dad!, the picture book I wrote that is being illustrated by Francesca Gambatesa. It’s been ages coming (for publisher scheduling reasons) and I was over the moon to see the final images. Francesca’s done such a great job so I couldn’t be more happy!

    The second book in our collaboration is in production now and will be out next year some time, but WIMLY (as I call it) is out in the beginning of June – just in time for Father’s Day. I’ll be talking a lot more about this before then, but here is one spread from inside just to whet the appetite:

    Monster_Dad-INS-2

    As usual, I have a page devoted to the book with all the buying information here.

    Comics

    I haven’t made any comics recently and actually took a break from even going to conventions in 2015. I’ve really missed being involved in comics and I don’t think it’s something you can ever really leave behind, although I know I’ve benefited creatively (and financially) from the break.

    However, when my friend Richy Chandler asked me to take part in his anthology that came out in September there was no way I was going to say “No”! The theme of Richy’s book Tempo Lush Tales of the Tanoox was the idea of positive transformation, with the Tanoox being an emblem or totem of this change. I decided to do a short slice-of-life comic, a genre I’ve become more interested in over the years.

    TLT-2-Cover-Double-Page-Spread-Update

    Here’s a snippet:

    David-Tanoox-Sample

    I’d like to do more with these characters, so might be tentatively dipping my toe in the murky waters of comics at some point this year.

    TLTotT is a great anthology, with a diverse set of creators who’ve all taken very different approaches to Richy’s challenge. You can get a copy here, at various comic shops, or at any of Richy’s many convention appearances (and it’s worth meeting him in person as he’s such a nice chap!). His webcomic Lucy the Octopus is back next month after a break  so make sure you bookmark that for some future funny-aquatic-eight-legged reading.

    Out & About

    There was a bit of London-exploring done last year – quite a lot of it underground.

    ccross04

    We went on a tour of the disused Jubilee line Tube station at Charing Cross, that’s now used mainly for film-making (Skyfall being a recent example). We got to walk through the utility passages that stay hidden from passengers, although we could spy on them through the various ventilation grills that you see at the stations (but never give a thought to). The tunnels lead right underneath Trafalgar Square until you’re directly below the now-famous fourth plinth. Mind-boggling stuff.

    ccross01

    ccross02

    We also visited the deep level bomb shelter that was built underneath Clapham Common to protect residents from the blitz during WWII.

    clapham03

    clapham01

    clapham02

    Such a huge space! And very easy to get lost down there.

    I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be stuck in the shelter when the bombs were falling.  The smell from all the people must have been a bit wearing, at the very least. This shelter was later used as a budget hotel for visitors to the Festival of Britain, and as a temporary home for the first Caribbean migrants to the UK, which is the reason that Brixton and that corner of London became centres of the Afro-Caribbean community. The shelter is one of eight that were built and still exist today – they are mainly used for archive storage, but I think TfL want to try and open more of them to visitors.

    Lastly, a trip into the bowels of the iconic Tower Bridge to see the workings of the bascules (as the draw-bridge bits are called). You get to see the massive counterweights that were used in the steam-driven era, and the chamber into which the road disappears whilst its far end goes skyward.

    tower02

    tower01

    You can’t go in there when the bridge is open because you’d get squished!  You also get a chance to visit the old Victorian engine room, as well as the walkways over the road with their great views and rather sick-making glass floors.

    tower03

    This publicity video gives a good preview of the tour if you fancy it:

    Outside of London we spent our summer holiday in Blakeney, Norfolk. Brilliant beaches, lots of walks through wind and salt-blown scenery and lots of good food.

    norfolk03

    The dog enjoyed it and so did I!

    Now: time to look forward to the challenges of 2016. Onwards!

  • Using Activity Sheets

    I’ve a number of activity sheets available on my website (and there are more on the websites I made for JAMPIRES with Sarah McIntyre and CREATURE TEACHER with Sam Watkins). It’s always gratifying to know that people are downloading and using them.

    Madame Picque  recently emailed me from the Collège Romain Rolland of Waziers in northern France to say that she had been using my ‘Create Your Own Monster’ sheet as a way of teaching her English class physical descriptions. What a great idea!

    Here are some of the results, they’re all wonderful but I think Nathan‘s monster ‘Georges’ was my favourite (see if you can spot him)!

    activity sheets activity sheetsactivity sheets activity sheets activity sheets

    activity sheets activity sheets

    Thank you to Mme Picque for letting me know – I’m sending a drawing of my own monster to the school in return:

    french_monster

  • Make your own Monster Menu!

    I get lots of emails from readers in the Netherlands who have to do book reports for school – it sounds like it’s quite a common thing to do. Students have to find out about the book’s authors as well as telling their classmates about the story. I’m quite happy to answer questions as it’s always nice to know that people like your book enough to tell others about it.

    I don’t often get to hear how the book reports go, so was very pleased to hear back from Philippe (aged 8) who was awarded a 9 for his report! I’m not surprised, as he included a monstrous menu of his own making:

    specials

    Translation:

    Blood Soup with Living Human Eyes

    Hamburger with Dead Cricket

    Pizza of Darkness (the title of the second Monstersnackbar book)

    That is the scariest pizza I’ve seen in quite a while. I think I’d stick to the hamburger.

    Philippe also included a menu made by one of his classmates.

    Translation:

    Dung Beetles with chips

    Frog Legs with chips

    Lion’s Eyeballs with (large) chips

    Zombie Cupcakes with Icing and chips

    Beetles with chips

    Very tasty! I love the little illustrations that go with the food, just like the menus in the Monster & Chips (De Monstersnackbar in Dutch) books.

    monster_menu

    Thanks so much for sending these, Philippe!

    philippe

  • Autumn

    Autumn is here already! I’ve lots of news to catch up on but important things first: fan art.

    barry-drawn-by-Tycho-Overmeer

    This picture of Barry from Monster & Chips was sent to me by Tycho from the Netherlands. Barry’s looking very jolly here. Thank you, Tycho – he’s brilliant!

    I’m particularly proud of the Dutch editions (De Monstersnackbar) as they’re lovely hardbacks, and it’s nice to hear from Dutch readers. Translator Sandra Hessels obviously did a great job.

  • Mega-May Recap

    Argh! Half a year gone and I haven’t achieved nearly enough, including blog posts. Here’s few things that have been going on:

    Creature Teacher

    The first book of this series came out in April. It can sometimes be a bit confusing working on a set of books that are being published at relatively short intervals. Whilst book one was appearing in the shops I was working on the illustrations for book two and simultaneously working on the cover for book three! I keep getting the books mixed up in my head. Here’s a rough pencil-version of an illustration from book two, with the CT gang on the hunt for mischievous creature!

    CT2

    Creature Teacher writer Sam Watkins had a very busy launch event at Thomas A Becket School in Worthing in May. She spent the whole day doing short events with children from years 1 and 3 – I think she was losing her voice by the end of it all.

    I joined her for the afternoon sessions to do a bit of drawing whilst she read from the book. It was a lot of fun but quite exhausting! It was the first time Sam and I had actually met (she is lovely, thank goodness!). Sam even made some swirly biscuits to match the book cover design. I can personally vouch for how tasty they were.

    CT_biccies

    Here’s a pic of us at the end-of-day signing (we didn’t play the bongos, alas). Not sure who took this photo – apologies for pinching it.

    CT_launch

    Our visit even made it into the Worthing Herald. Oh, the heady heights of fame. Here’s a clipping from Sam’s Twitter feed:

    CT_herald

    (You can read the online version here.)

    herald2

    We ran a competition at the school to design a cover for a Creature Teacher book – you can see all the entries at the CT website here. I love how much energy there is in all the drawings, but then it is a very energetic book!

    More recently, Sam and I visited Brighton Waterstones for a drawing and reading session. Everyone got to design their own Creature Teachers, drawing or doing a bit of collage.  Here’s some photos from Sam’s Twitter:

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    It’s great doing events with someone else – you get to bounce ideas off each other, as well as providing a bit of support. Sam and I will be doing more events together at some point soon.

    Monster & Chips

    I was thrilled to see Whitchurch School in Hampshire have been reading Monster and Chips as part of their Year 4 book group. You can read all about it here. The readers have been creating their own monsters and even making up their own ‘delicious’ menu:

    • Bashed Beetleburger AND CHIPS
    • Slimy Slug Surprise with antennae eyes
    • Eyeball soup with slug slime chips
    • Bogey burger gravy AND CHIPS
    • Smelly cabbage soup with poo plop croutons
    • Earwax tart

    Poo plop croutons! Tasty. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book – I love seeing people’s reactions to it. Thanks to librarian and book evangelist Jo for the tip-off!

    I was very pleased the group had read Jampires too! The US edition is out at the end of the month and my co-author Sarah McIntyre and I were very happy to have a nice review from Publisher’s Weekly.

    Sarah has been very busy – and successful – with her Pictures Mean Business Campaign, trying to get more recognition for book illustrators in their contribution to a book’s success. You can find out more here, or follow the #PicturesMeanBusiness hashtag on Twitter.

    pw_jampires

    DinoPolice_cover

    Sarah has a new picture book out in June: Dinosaur Police! I saw the print proofs for it a while back and it’s her best book yet – absolutely brilliant!

    Red Alert! How will Dinoville’s police squad catch Trevor the T-Rex, who’s at the pizza factory, gobbling up all the pizzas meant for the town fair? Inspector Sarah Tops and Seargeant Stig O’Saurus are on the case!

    This Book is Funny!

    I’ve blogged previously about Alex Milway‘s initiative to promote funny books for children. He’s been sending out thousands of stickers to schools and libraries so they can help their readers find the books they love.

    Alex has also produced a couple (so far) of podcasts full of comedy sketches, readings and interviews. I’ve written a bit material for him for a future recording featuring Fuzzby and Barry from Monster & Chips. Need a laugh? Then follow Alex’s Soundcloud for guaranteed chuckles.

    Out and about

    I try to get away from my desk when I can. Whilst in Brighton for the Waterstones shindig I popped along to the Brighton Illustration Fair, part of the town’s fringe festival.

    It was good to catch up with comics chums Joe Decie, Warwick Johnson Cadwell and Amber Hsu, who all had tables, as well as bump into Matt Baxter (who designed the This Book Is Funny logo).

    Lots of lovely things to see, but I was very much taken with the drawing activity they had: rotating towers of cardboard boxes that you could draw on in a heads-and-tails fashion. Worth bearing in mind for a future event.

    brighton_bif

    Nunhead Cemetery is an old Victorian graveyard near where I live. It was abandoned for years before the local council took it over and in the intervening years nature completely overran it, turning it into some kind of gothic film set.

    Burials still take place there, but the council have wisely left most of the cemetery untouched. I think some bits are ‘managed’ to encourage some bio-diversity. It must be heaven for foxes, judging from the number I’ve seen there. You have to be careful in some parts in case you fall into an ivy-covered tomb!

    I’ve been there several times (it’s good for dog-walking) but they had an open day in May, providing tours for those interested. I prefer to wander and soak up the peaceful/melancholy atmosphere (depending on your mood!).

    nunhead nunhead2

    I’ve also made a couple of visits to the recently opened Sky Garden. It’a worth a trip if you’re able, as it’s free (though you have to book) and has one of the best views in London, in my opinion, plus added tree ferns.

     

  • Happy Publication Day Creature Teacher!

    It’s officially out today (although I think it’s been in some shops for a bit): Creature Teacher is here!

    Written by Sam Watkins and with illos by me, it’s the story of Mr Hyde, everyone’s favourite teacher, who has a rather unusual secret: he turns into a weird creature whenever he gets upset!

    It’s a great read and very funny, and I hope it’s a huge success for Sam as it’s her debut book! We’ve not yet met but will be doing a few events together in Worthing in a couple of weeks – very exciting! Purple snot may be involved. Allegedly.

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    There’s loads more info about the book on our Creature Teacher website (including important buying stuff).

    You can find out about all the characters, read an extract from the story, and Sam’s also come up with some brilliant writing and drawing activities which can be downloaded for printing.

    Make your own purple snot! Test your slug general knowledge! Make some moon rock cakes!

    Do take a look!

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    I did the illustrations for the book digitally, which helped a lot in meeting the deadlines. It still meant there were a few steps in the process of making them, but no boring scanning which always takes ages.

    Here’s a walk-through of my process for making an illustration, where Mr Hyde’s doing some crazy dancing in front of the class!

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    1. I get sent a PDF of the book where the designer has left spaces for the illustrations with suggestions for what they might be. I worked with the lovely Sarah Darby – we’ve not met but I  reckon she has a heck of a social life.

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    2. I block out some basic shapes to help me get the relative positions of all the picture’s elements in place and just get a feel for the illo. There might be several versions of this.

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    3. Then I draw a rough (digital) pencil sketch showing a bit more detail. This normally goes back to the designer for approval.

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    4. If the publishers are happy, I’ll ‘ink’ the sketch.

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    5. The finished illustration. I’ve added some grey tones and a bit of texture to make things interesting. The designer may make further tweaks, particularly if there have been changes to the text layout, but otherwise we’re all done!

    Creature Teacher is the first of a series of four books (I’m about to start working on Book 2). Do go and buy it – it’s in the shops now!