Category Archives: books

Does Nick Park read my mind?

This is my Dug

Does Nick Park read my mind? There are times I have thought so. It must be that we are of a similar age and think in similar ways.

Back in 1990 Wallace and Gromit first appeared on TV. I was amazed, because my book, Santa’s Secret Diary, which had just come out, had a sold-out toy of the season, that Santa was having difficulty sourcing. What was the toy called? A Gromit!

My Dad used the word all the time when he was rewiring the house. Gromits were little rubber rings that were used to soften the sharp edges of metal electrical boxes.

I love watching Wallace and Gromit, but I often have moments when  I think, “Wait a minute! I thought of that!”

But thinking isn’t doing. Ideas, contrary to what most people think, are two a penny. It’s what you do with them that counts. So I’m comfortable in the knowledge that Nick Park – who I’ve never met – and I, are must be connected to the same zeitgeist or idea-energy-centre that floats around us.

This is Nick Park’s Dug

But this time I beat him to it. My Dug, was first! My Dug is a Bronze Age boy doing the Bronze Age stuff that Bronze Age boys do. I called him Dug because he digs for tin, one of the constituents of bronze. Nick Park’s Dug is more of a teenager, I think.

Perfect for Primary and elementary school projects on the Bronze Age, you can get my Dug books from the links below.

Are children’s book authors and illustrators adults too?

I went to London on Thursday and had some time to spend in the mediaeval galleries at the V&A  (Victoria and Albert Museum in London)  I did some sketching and shared the work on YouTube.

This morning I woke to an interesting comment:
I thought about it over breakfast and ended up with a much longer reply than usual, so I thought I’d turn it into a blog post. What do you think? This is what I wrote in reply:

You might think, but a sketchbook is made for only one market and that is the artist themselves. If they choose to share the contents that’s another thing. Children’s books are inspired by everything – adult or children’s. A children’s book author/illustrator is an adult and, as such, interested in adult things. An illustrator in particular needs to be interested and try to understand pretty much everything they ever come across. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a catholic school, but you are often greeted with similar images of Jesus, wounded, dead or dying all over the place, even in classrooms, so young children can absorb the horror all day long.

This is a drawing of a statue that used to be on display in a church, and which is now openly on display in a museum, where children not only go but are welcomed. Such images, and far worse, are on display in churches all over the world and, once you get your eye in, you will find all sorts of horrors casually displayed in all sorts of religious establishments. My sketching is about exploring that idea.

This sketch is particularly about the casual nature of the horror. In the Bible, the scene is about doubt, the disciples having to see the wound to be convinced it was really him. While drawing this and the other things in the exhibition, I was struck by the idea of how each age and culture adapts bible stories, recreating scenes with their own dress codes, ethnicities, hopes, fears and prejudices. This sketch brings that though consciously up to date with the comment, “Hey guys, check this out.” And the Monty Python cherubs in the back reflect music video/Giorgio Armani style.

My job as a children’s writer is to take those ideas and make them accessible to children, gently preparing them for the realities of adult life. My job as a illustrator means I need to understand how the world is put together to show, explain and yes, to entertain too. But that involves going out into the real world, and continually drawing to learn, understand and improve my skills. It is a never ending job.

As Octopusbeak says, This channel has become for an older audience. Have a look at DrawStuffRealEasy for everyday drawing with a target audience of children – which is also watched by a large audience of older beginner drawers who are picking up from where they left off at the age of about 11!

All the best

World Book Day Costumes

Is World Book Day is out of control? I know some schools think so and are not going along with it anymore. Certainly parents are driven to distraction by it. The getting of costumes is now a regular joke in TV sitcoms.

My attention was drawn to a post on the Birmingham Mail website about World Book Day. Most of the post is about costumes and where to buy them.

World Book Day is supposed to promote literacy, but the costumes are often far removed from books. Supermarkets pile up costumes for WBD, knowing that frazzled parents will buy them to stop the kids nagging and not to lose face at the school gate. Never mind that the costume probably promotes a movie, sport or computer game.

When I’m asked to judge a fancy dress at a school, I immediately eliminate anything that has come from ASDA. The kids with amazing, shop-bought costumes look confused when I choose some kid wrapped up in bin bags and granny’s old hat. That’s what I call dressing up.

Image from the Birmingham Mail web post. Great Trump costume, but what is the book the child is celebrating – Fire and Fury or The Art of the Deal? Not Primary school books either way!

World Book Day is supposed to be about celebrating books and promoting literacy. Many children come dressed as footballers, superheroes, princesses in bridesmaid dresses or other famous movie or computer game characters, in off-the-shelf costumes. I’m always asking them, “Yes, but what book are you supposed to be?”

Schools – It’s okay to NOT dress up on World Book Day.

Leave dressing up to a special end of term dressing-up day or Halloween, when it doesn’t really matter what anyone dresses up as or how.

Celebrate the book on World Book Day, not football or Disney.