Friday, 27 April 2012

High Tea with Steve and Leigh!

These lovely tea parties seem to be becoming something of a weekly fixture here at Book Sniffer HQ, The Sniffer cake stand hasn't seen this much action in ages.

This week we are lucky enough to welcome stitchy-crafty-super-beauty Leigh Hodgkinson and super-cool bonkers-as-a-bat-fish-dashing-hunk Steven Lenton to Book Sniffer Towers, What a treat!

Both currently fluffing their magnificent plumes of feathers in the Nosy Crow nest it seemed like the perfect moment to find out about them and all of their double-exciting projects! (I'll grab a bun and make myself comfortable!)

Not just an ordinary bun! it had jam in it!

Resembling something of a mad hatters tea party we decided it would be fitting not to fire them both simultaneously out of the quick fire cannon but to pop them alternately in the quick fire tea pot instead! SO here goes!

A Leigh-pot

find the Magical Mix-up books here

Cadding about at all these publisher parties must be quite tiring lets jazz it up with some fancy dress – what’s your fancy dress of choice?
Home-made superhero no question. You get the double whammy of a flappy cape and wearing pants outside your clothes (there aren’t enough occasions when this is sociably acceptable I find). Ooh and you get to wear a mask as well - what is there not to love

Tell us a secret…
I have webbed toes. I used to pretend I had verrucas at school swimming lessons so that people wouldn’t spot them. As it happens now I think that webbed toes are way cooler than verrucas… what was I thinking?!

Casting aside Facebook and Twitter which is your most frequently visited website?
i-player, blogger and etsy

Tell us about your fave book shop...
I must admit, I am partial to the big foyles in charing cross books and rays café- heavan!

In True Mr Benn style reach into our bag of hats and choose your favourite!
A 1920s style cloche hat. I just love them and they make me smile. You never see a meany-peg person wearing a cloche hat I find. Can I keep this hat please, I think it suits me.

First thing you’d grab of the cake stand?
Banana bread or the carrot cake (to keep up my five-a-day quota).
Nom Nom Nom.... droooool

If you were a cocktail what would you be and why?
Anything stripy. That way you can be greedy and have lots of flavours all at once.

What do you listen to when you are working?
I listen to radio 4 on iplayer. I am shamefully addicted to terrible radio sit-coms and the archers. I listen to music on spotify whenever I can remember the name of a band.

Best thing about being a published author / illustrator?
It is just fabulous doing something you love that is never boring or the same- being paid to fester in your own imagination and creativity is such a wonderful privilege.

Also, being able to say to people who do sensible groan up jobs, “today I drew a troll drinking tea and eating a macaroon,” and watch their expressions of utter confusion/jealousy is also quite a perk.

I consider my inability to draw horses and bikes adisability, Is there anything you can’t draw?
I share your disability. I hate drawing horses (those bendy inverse elbow things on their legs get me everytime). I also can’t draw cars (probably because I am not in the least bit interested in them).
Also I cant draw hands- they always look like a bunch of bananas- which is funny as when I purposefully draw a bunch of bananas they never actually look like a bunch of bananas. So I think the next time I have to draw a bunch of bananas I will tell my brain that I am drawing a hand- that can’t fail surely

What are you working on at the moment?
I am doing the artwork for my new picture book with Nosy Crow. It is about a troll and a little girl. I have wanted to do a book about trollywolls for ages so I am very pleased!

How did you feel when you first saw your books in a bookshop?
It was so lovely. It was like unexpectedly bumping into an old friend who you just have to go up to and hug, or was a bit like seeing something from your house out of context…. Eg “hello purple chair- what are you doing out of the living room and in a public place”.

Three tools of your trade which you couldn’t live without
Computer, dip pen, pencil.

Your book at bedtime?
We went to the brilliant roald dahl museum over the weekend I bought “Storyteller- the life of Roald Dahl” so that is me sorted for now (whoop whoop).

Best teacher you ever had?
My best teacher was Janis Goodman at the university of hull while I was studying for my degree. She was so inspiring and insightful- and an utterly amazing talented and nice person…. Go Janis!

What would you like to ask Steve?
Apart from “why have you got the same name as my husband?”
Oh a proper question you mean? Ok, “Steve, please can you pass me another piece of carrot cake.”
What? A sensible question? Ok, “Steve, what is your favourite part of making a picture book?”


*Munch munch, licks lips, dabs napkin to corners of mouth*

I think my favourite part is the character design - I could quite happily just draw the characters in different poses all day and hope that they just make a story up themselves!


Lullington Steve Lenton!

Look at that cheeky little face!

You seem like a dapper sort of chap – what’s your fancy dress of choice?
I still have fond memories of my 30th Birthday Party which had a Muppet theme - I went as Rowlf the piano playing dog - of course!

Shhhhhhhhhhhh Tell us a secret…(we won't tell .. promise)
Ducks quacks don't echo AND I am working on a book idea involving an air stewardess.

Casting aside Facebook and Twitter which is your most frequently visited website?
Amazon - if I'm not buying something I am always adding things to my wish list or shopping trolley!

In True Mr Benn style reach into our bag of hats and choose your favourite!
Mr Bean style?  *attaches fake mole to side of face* Oh sorry I misheard! I LOVE this Deerstalker AND these glittery Cat Deeley Boppers - please can I wear both?  I shall call myself Sherlock Stock and Two Glittery baubles!

What's the first thing you’d grab of this cake stand?
Ooh can I please take this lamington?  I've never had one before and they always remind me of Mrs Mangel from Neighbours.  Mmmm coconutty!

If you were a cocktail what would you be and why?
A Long Island Ice Tea - Tall and sweet but can leave a bitter after taste from sending too many emails about book cover changes!

I consider my inability to draw horses and bikes a disability, Is there anything you can’t draw?
I'm a bit pony at horses too - we should do Horse life drawing classes.  I'm now picturing a horse taking off its dressing gown, sitting bashfully on a chaise longue.

Tell us about your guilty pleasures…
Percy Pigs from M&S - I could eat three bags of them in one sitting easily.  Made In Chelsea is another - I absolutely love that programme - its so WAH (MIC reference) And Nicki Minaj - don't ask.

Which cartoon character are you most like and why?
I'm a bit like Road Runner - I never seem to stop running round doing ten things at once recently.  I don't eat bird seed though. I need a coyote to stop me for a while! I LOVE the Wile Coyote when he wears his green flying suit - cracks me up every time.

What are you working on at the moment?
I have just finished animating some cute little characters at the lovely Picasso Pictures and now I'm back into my book work - I have lots of new ideas for children's book Apps too which I'm very excited about.  I'm designing a new range of male-targeted greetings cards too which is a quite a challenge.  And I'm about to move house - yikesicles!

Five Christmas Penguins a vision in foiling available to pre-order NOW!.. DO IT!
Christmas stocking perfection!

Three tools of your trade which you couldn’t live without?
A propelling pencil - I used to be very anti these bad boys but now I absolutely love their permanently sharp state!

A sketch book with an interesting cover - I love collecting them and always have a stock pile waiting to be filled.

Radio 2 - I cant work without Ken Bruce, Zoe Ball or or Chris Evans keeping me company throughout the day.  I don't really like Steve Wright though so I listen to Nicki Minaj when he's on - don't ask

Tell us about something you don’t like ...
I don't like the tube and avoid it at all costs - the way people push and shove makes me as irritable as a Giraffe with neck ache!

Your desert island disc?
Has to be a frisbee.  Can I bring my dog Holly along so we can play catch?  If I could take a desert island disc-jockey it would be Zoe Ball.

What would you like to ask Leigh ?
Miss Hodgkinson - when is your etsy shop going to open - I have been waiting outside your virtual shop for weeks counting my pennies!

Leigh has recently published her first fabulously bonkers picture book with Nosy Crow Goldilocks and Just One Bear 
- Grab a copy NOW! You can also catch Leigh at Hay Festival this year!

Also stop by her fabulous new Etsy shop for multitudinous treats! OPENING SOON!

Stevens first book with Nosy Crow Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam publishes in 2013! You can find Steve all over the place including here! (his products on Not On The Highstreet are to die for, pop over there and take your purse!)

  • http://www.notonthehighstree

  • This is amezeballs! A real cracker and no mistake! Featuring one of the cutest pugs in picture books FACT!  

    Both Steve and Leigh were very naughty and brought lovely gifts , Badges , bags and prints and I was totally gob smacked! THANK YOU! *BLUSH*

    Swoon blush - blinkin bloomin gorge!

    VERY limited edition! I'll be the envy of Dorking!

    Can never have too many badges!

    Don't forget to join the
    Book Sniffer Facebook page!

    Wednesday, 25 April 2012

    Shhhhhhhhh - It's the Silent Scribble!

    I expect you 've heard whisperings about Book Aid Internationals hugely exciting charity auction The Silent Scribble.

    It's your chance to get your mitts on genuine works of art by some of Britain's best-loved authors and illustrators including Quentin Blake, Nick Sharrat and National Treasure James Mayhew  

    Book Aid asked a selection of Britain’s best known authors and illustrators to do one of the hardest things a writer or artist can ever do – sit down in front of a blank piece of paper, and produce something wonderful. They were given just a one-word brief: “Journeys”

    As a special tea time treat here are a few words from one of the illustrators involved in this inspirational project James Mayhew ...

    How did you get involved with Book Aid?
    They contacted me and asked if I would support them with a scribble. Of course I said YES. I know of their work, which I think is brilliant, important and not widely appreciated enough. Only through literacy and education will the situation in Africa improve long term.

    What was the inspiration behind your Journey Illustration

    I love old steam trains. I lived near a railway as a very young child and used t watch the Flying Scotsman (the original steam one; I'm VERY old!). My scribble is actually based on the train in Turner's painting Rain, Steam and Speed, which also featured in my book Katie & The British Artists. The theme for all scribblers was Journeys. This is my take on that theme.

    Which book did you borrow from the library most frequently as a child?
    It might have been Where The Wild Things Are, as I adored it but never owned it as a child. However, I suspect it was a corny old film tie-in book of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Or a book of trains (obviously!)

    Which other illustration in the auction would you most like to bid on?

    I'm in LOVE with Hannah Firmin's gorgeous print!

    Read James Mayhews marvellous blog here!!!

    To place your bids: Visit the Book Aid website and  email your chosen lot number, bid value, name and contact details or telephone in your bid on 020 7733 3577 before the 30 April 2012 – bidding will close at 9pm. The auction lots will be drawn on 1 May 2012 and announced on the Book Aid website


    Book Aid International increases access to books and supports literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa. We provided 516,138 new books to over 2,000 libraries last year alone and have sent more than 30 million books to partner libraries since 1954. Find out more by visiting their website

    Saturday, 21 April 2012

    Chris Mould in the Quick Fire Cannon!

    Smashing Illustrator Chris Mould and a few other un-named London Book Fair survivors stopped in at Book Sniffer Towers between events and VERY important meetings  for a whistle stop brew and some "snap" (pork pies).
    Yorkshire man Chris requested a few home comforts for his visit including his favourite brew Sneck Lifter which seemed quite fitting as it turns out a Sneck is a nose - all the better for sniffing with!  
    Happy as a sand boy with his cup of Sneck Lifter
    Although the visit was of an all too fleeting nature we took the opportunity to fire Chris out of the Book Sniffer Quick Fire Cannon...
    He looks good in a unitard eh!
    RIGHT - Here goes .. 3....2.....1......BOOM!
    What do you listen too when you are working?

    I actually really do like silence alot when I’m working. But sometimes if I’m writing I like to listen to a film score. That’s because music without words is great at creating an atmosphere and allows me to sink into a text without being distracted by a voice/ words. And if I’m painting or drawing I sometimes have a film on, listen to the radio, OR I might be spending time in a studio with other artists and having a chat or I might be on the phone.
    Describe your dog in three words

    Long Nosed Pest!

    King Alfred!

    Write us a short ode to your favourite pork product

    Aha, you’ve heard about my preffered meat based start to the day! OK!

    I put my favourite shoes on

    And went out for a walk

    I heard the lark, sing in the park

    And dreamed of bits of pork

    At home, the fridge door opened

    And then my heart was taken

    I saw a most delightful sight

    Behold, the joy of bacon

    Ta daaaaaaaa…! That took four minutes of my life so I hope you appreciated it ;-)

    List your top three drawing/writing/painting implements

    Black and White : Black biro, Black auto/car spray, Tippex pen

    Colour: Acrylics, Fingers, Thumbs (I like being messy)

    Writing: Sketchbook, Laptop, Small but MAD brain

    Give us a piece of advice for getting into the world of illustration

    Know your subject. Don’t send samples to publishing houses unless you’re aware of what’s going on in the market place and have an idea of where you might fit in and who with. Research your chosen field before you approach people

    Tell us a secret...

    Ok, here’s a secret. This is Edmund and Cecilie. Shhhhh…I can’t tell you too much right now but you’ll be seeing them again soon…POSSIBLY on the App puppy site if that’s ok with your liddl cuz?

    Hit us with your best joke?

    That would have to be the Cheese Joke !!!

    Mould: My favourite cheese begins with the letter G but I can never remember it.

    Book Sniffer: Gorgonzola?

    Mould: No

    Book Sniffer: Goat’s?

    Mould: No, no,

    Book Sniffer: Gruyere?

    Mould: No, no, no……..oh hang on, I’ve got it….

    ……it’s Grated! 

    Well, you did ask!

    *Tumble weed*

    Which other authors / illustrators would you like to collaborate with?

    Well, just immediately, myself and good chum Mr Melling are in discussion about a project. It’s difficult because he is busy and I am too but there are creative rumblings. AND it gives us an excuse to go to the pub !

    Tell us what’s on your desk in your studio?

    A well-thumbed, threadbare copy of a Richard Scarry picture book dictionary
    One of my sketchbooks
    A cuppa, of course
    A packet of polo mints
    A stack of Daler Rowney Heavyweight Cartridge paper
    An arrangement of delicious pens
    Lots and lots of tubs n tubes of Acrylic colours
    A million paintbrushes
    And underneath, a thousand random scribblings on the desktop
    He's a looker! ... the one on the right, natch!  !

    What can you see out of the window of your studio?

    The sprawling metropolis that is Dean Clough Mills, formerly the largest carpet mill in the world and now home to over 150 business in West Yorkshire, aswell as a colony of art studios, one of which I am luckily enough to hold a key to!
    Is there an existing fairy tale which you would like to illustrate?

    I’ve always had an Alice in Wonderland fixation. It’s a well trodden path so it’s a tricky one but it would be a real self indulgent, gift of a commission!

    In a fight Octopus vs. Hare who would win?

    Ooh, a fight. Hmmm…Quadruped versus Octopod. It depends on the arena . I’m backing the Hare, naturally but under sub aqua conditions I fear that lack of oxygen and sustained pressure might be overwhelming. HOWEVER…an open field would see the hare on home territory and that would DEFINITELY end in Octopus tears!

    How do you take your tea?
    That's not tea! It's beer!

    First things first, quality china only (oh…go on then… maybe a plastic vending machine cup if it’s a desperate circumstance). If tea is made in the pot it’s milk in the cup first, if it’s a teabag in the mug, milk goes in afterwards. No sugar, that’s what the cake is for. Semi-skimmed milk is a must. Full fat milk destroys the flavour of tea! And last of all…it must all prevail amongst good company and tall tales.

    What’s in your Pack-up (lunch box) today?

    3 cherished left over mini pork pies from the expertly choreographed Book Sniffer Tea Party which I shall eat slowly, half a pack of jammie dodgers, a cheese sandwich, and…I’m sorry to say, some fruit (Don’t worry, I don’t eat that. I use it to prop the door open whilst I’m wheeling in a box of kit-kats) !

    Even his fruit is arty! .. what a legend!

    Choose 5 toppings for your pizza….

    This would have to be a meat fest. Pepperoni, Spicy Beef, Bacon, Extra Cheese AND to top it off, a smiley face made from Jalapenos

    Have you ever moved your books to the front of the shelf at a book shop?

    Of course, although I’m slightly more shameless than that, I usually start re-arranging the window display.

    What’s the funniest question a child has ever asked you at an event?

    There was a funny one recently, but I have to give you the background info for it to make sense. I did some development artwork on a film called Flushed Away (that’s the Aardman film about a world of sewer rats beneath the streets of London). I think the child concerned must have been reading something about me online and got a little confused.
    His question was ‘Which one were you in Flushed Away?’
    Oh dear….errrrrum….I was the big fat rat with the huge ears that ate all the cheese!’

    Where is the furthest palace you travelled to to do an event?

    So far, that would be Dover Middle School, New Hampshire, United States and it was worth every second of a very long journey. BRILLIANT!
    NB: Chris has recently won ANOTHER book award and will be jet setting off to Geneva next week! Well done Chris, I hope they give you a nice trophy!

    What are the three things you most frequently sketch?

    Easy!…..Hares, Skulls and Dragons

    Which other Illustrators / artists have influenced you?

    Oooh now you’re digging into my brain deeply. You’d have to go as far back as early pen and ink masters like George Cruikshank, Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray. And then to people who carried on that tradition of pen and ink through the ages. Arthur Rackham, Honore Daumier, Ernest Shepherd, Carl Giles. And then contemporary equivalents such as Ronald Searle (R.I.P), and Ralph Steadman. In amongst the pen and ink types I’d also have to include the work of painters that I obsessively pored over like Hieronymous Bosch and Peter Brueghel because I loved their ability to fill a scene with crazy details of crowds of people all doing mad things. They were the kinds of scenes that made me want to draw. Eye popping stuff. And that’s before I get onto all the amazing work that’s out there these days that I love to constantly get my head around.

    What are you working on at the moment?
    Captain Beastlie - Publishing with Nosy Crow later in the year !
    I’m working on a picture book for Nosy Crow called Captain Beastlie about a dirty, grubby little pirate who constantly lets down his squeaky clean crew with his filthy habits. He is quite cute though!
    Tell us about that secret Lego project!

    You mean the Dean Clough one?
    Which will ‘possibly’ be the largest lego model in the world( but that’s unconfirmed). It’s a replica of the Dean Clough Mill complex where my studio is based and is on a huge scale. The real life version is around two thirds of a mile across so it’s a massive site and the lego model is currently under construction and can be viewed whilst ‘in progress’ in the Community Education Gallery at Dean Clough.
    Check out for more info or link up to them on Facey B for pics of the model in progress. Or check the bbc news link below.

    Get that down your neck fella!
    Visit and follow Chris's blog here! Tasty Treats  including these swoonsome labels - Stirling work

    Thanks for popping by Chris - you are a legend!
    Can't wait to sniff Captain Beastlie!
    From cradle to grave!
    ALSO - Thanks again to Chris for the Awesome new Twitter and Facebook profile picture!

    Thursday, 19 April 2012

    The Worst Princess (the best dragon!)

    Written by Anna Kemp and Illustrated by the divine Sara Ogilvie (Of Dogs Don't Do Ballet fame)

    Sue is a Princess with her eyes on the prize keen to bag herself a dashing and buff Prince worthy of her affections. (aren't we all!)

    As if by fairy tale magic a gorgeous beau appears to rescue Sue from her tower (after battling numerous obstacles including a hilarious Viking astride a stinky pig!) the Prince “rescues” Sue from her tower and takes her back to his kingdom for a life of luxury and a gypsy wedding style dress for every day of the week. What more could any budding Princess desire?

    In true Jeremy Kyle style the handsome prince is not all he is cracked up to be, especially for such a gregarious and vivacious Princess. Sue calls on the assistance of fearsome dragon with flashing eyes and this dynamic duo take care of that pesky rascal prince and teach him a harsh butt burning life lesson.

    With beautiful textured paper and luxuriant gold foiling this luscious picture book deserves multitudinous readings and re-readings.  Sara’s carefully considered illustrations maintain a magical spontaneity and each page bursts with colour and character and Anna’s faultless rhyming text is bountifully entertaining and tittersomely chuckle packed. 
    This is a hilarious twisted fairy tale and one of the best “Princess saved by Knight" rip-ROAAAAR-ing stories I have seen in a long time - It also includes one of THE best picture book dragons in this fair kingdom!
    I enjoyed this book so much I wanted to bite it let alone sniff it!
    Galloping upon the back of a fearsome dragon in your direction in paperback VERY SOON - Grab a copy and live happily ever after!

    THANK YOU to the lovely peopleingtons at
    Simon and Schuster for sending us a copy - we salute you!

    Tuesday, 17 April 2012

    Calling all letter fans, It's Operation Alphabet!

    Hmmm I'm not really sure what I can tell you about this next book, It's supposed to be TOP SECRET.. But you're a trust worthy bunch so I guess there's no harm in telling you a leeeetle bit about this snifftacular gem!

    Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Don't tell anyone!

    Operation Alphabet - Written by Al MacCuish, Illustrated by Luciano Lozano and Designed by Jim Blestas Published by Thames and Hudson

    Let me start at the beginning, I'm not ordinarily a curtain twitcher but this particular morning I had my snout sticking through the nets just checking whether the neighbours had trimmed their lawns when I spotted a mysterious character in a long mac and a trilby hat - He was heading straight toward Book Sniffer Towers with a package wrapped up in brown paper and string!

    In the blink of an eye he left it on the doorstep and in an instant was gone. I was intrigued as excitements of this nature rarely happens in outer suburbia!

    It was a parcel from The Ministry of Letters no less! 

    Not only did it contain TWO .. yes TWO sheets of alphabety spaghetti stickers of a most gleesome nature AND a personalised certificate but a copy of a book I have been admiring for some time now *pa pada pa pa paaaa- trumpet fanfare* Operation Alphabet

    That's Mouse the cat's butt - not a mysterious badger!

    The mystery and intrigue continues as you are drawn through the slot in a magical top secret post box which happens to double up as Operation Alphabet HQ,The Ministry of Letters - Only known to the elite, her madge the Queen, The Prime Minister,  Spies (no doubt including the sultry chap who delivered my copy), cats .. oh and now PUGS!
    Our adventure starts on Charlie Foxtrots first day at school where after a long day catching 40 winks at his desk and general day dreaming his teacher announces  a test that very Friday on the alphabet!

    A ginger letter ninja!

    Charlie is flummoxed and baffled by the alphabet and in the depths of despair is saved from an imminent test failing disaster by the letter S (Stan) and the letter O (Ollie) - I too shall hence forth in such emergencies be using the phrase "Holy Macaroni".
    Colonel A rallies the alphabet troops and they embark on a first class dash across the city to help Charlie. After a near miss with a ravenous cat, a nail biting motorbike ride with a duchess and a spectacular Oompah band Charlie finds himself familiar with his new found alphabet friends and aces the school alphabet test with flying colours.

    This is a seat gripping-tea-sipping-alphabiting-hunk of a delightful book!
    A real beaut and a must for any young sprogs shelf or equally for the fan of the finest picture booky loveliness.

    A+ for Operation Alphabet!

    Absolutely Bloomin Crackin'

    THANK YOU to The Ministry of Letters for sending me a copy of this droolsome treat!

    Follow them on Twitter @MOLtweetdept and visit the website here!