Tag Archives: Words

I’m working with Michael Morpurgo again!

New Book – New covers

Twenty nine years ago, I illustrated a book for an up and coming author called Michael Morpurgo. He’s done quite well for himself since!

The book was Mossop’s last Chance, a sad story about a farm cat that was past his expiry date. Fiona Kenshole, my editor at A&C Black, had a vision that she manifested in the groundbreaking Jets series.

Jets were such anew idea. Fiona had seen what “desktop publishing” could achieve. Computer artwork and typography was very new and had released type from boring straight lines. Why not let the illustration flow around the text and include the text in ways that were appearing in trendy print?

We didn’t have a computer! In fact I got a computer capable of doing interesting things before my publishers did!

So in the beginning we faked it. if the text needs to be on a curve, then we cut up each word or even letter and pasted it down – the origin of the phrase cut and paste. I say we… I did t the book layout and pate up and drew around the text to get it to fit nice and tight. Integrated text, we called it.

One of the first 6 in the famous Jets Series

I received the fearfully expensive typesetting in a long roll and had to cut Michael’s story up with scissors to paste down on the pages. Speech bubbles I drew with hand-lettering.

Inadvertently, Michael taught me how to write while I was doing this. Being so intimate with his text, I “saw” how he constructed his stories. Fiona then taught me how to edit and I was away.

Mossop’s last chance was one of the first Jets. The series was huge success. I went to to write and illustrate my own Jets books, Grandad’s concrete garden and We won the Lottery.

We made six books books together in the Mudpuddle farm series. Being a farmer himself, I always felt that Mudpuddle Farm was close to Michael’s heart.

9 million happy meals!

In 2012 9 million copies of Mudpuddle farm were given away in a McDonald’s Happy Meal promotion!

There was life in the old series yet.

Harper Collins had always done the paper backs. A&C Black had meanwhile been bought up by Bloomsbury.

HC Have now taken over the Mudpuddle series and we are starting again.

Michael has written two new stories which I am illustrating at the moment. They will be bound together in a two story book called Hee-Haw Hooray! It should be out this summer, if all goes to plan, along with new versions of the previous six, all ion their new-style, brightly coloured jackets.

It’s both thrilling and weird to be doing the books again. Weird because I’m copying my drawing style of so long ago. I started out thinking I would draw things so differently now, but now I’m in the swing of it, Im really enjoying going back to the naiveté of my younger self, but with added experience. I’m certainly a lot faster than before – and I remember I used to get blisters on my fingers from using the old rOtring isograph pens!

I’ll keep you up too date with the project as it proceeds. I’f wished the first story, now on to books two!

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Did you know that you can get my How To Draw Videos on Epic!

Epic! are like the netflix of children’s eBooks – they really have got a lot to choose from from K-5 which is similar to Reception through to Year 5 or 6 in the UK. They also have my How to draw videos as well as a huge range of titles to read.

Schools in the US and Canada can get epic for free! Families can get it all for $4.99 a month which is about £4 in the UK

NewSpeak – English is no longer for the English

Big-DataFrightening things are going on in English primary schools.

Never mind the destructive stress-testing of both teachers and pupils, a new, sinister hand is upon the education tiller.
Our glorious language is under threat from the Department of Education who are devising new forms of grammar and determining that their new rules are right and anything else is wrong. Pass or fail.

Primary school children in England are being taught new rules of grammar.

Exclamation marks must only end sentences that begin with “what” or “how”.  Crazy!

Fronted Adverbials anyone? I’m affronted!

Just as English children get to grips with their language – finding out what fun it is to roll new words around the tongue – just as they gain confidence to describe and joke and pun, playing with the most elastic language in the world – they are now to be bound in a straightjacket of rules that make language a dull, tedious, academic subject that is either right or wrong – pass or fail.

We all know one reason why this is happening. Creativity and individuality cannot be easily graded. Playing is not proper learning. Grammar can be checked in tick-boxes – nice and neat for Google and Big Data

Why would politicians want to waste so much time and effort curtailing the language when there are other pressing and important things for them to deal with?

This is not the English we know and love – the language of Shakespeare, Milton, Churchill, Dahl and JK Rowling. This is censorship. This is New Speak – a top down imposition of how children are expected to think and express themselves. “Think our way or fail.”

English is the world language precisely because its rules are so elastic. English bends and sways, ingests and accepts new ideas but never breaks. However badly it is written, it always delivers.

Imposing rules of grammar is the thin end of thought control.

This ominous meddling needs nipping in the bud right now.