Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Kiss the NHS better with picture books - A puggy political broadcast

That's Andy in the blue shirt and smart jacket! Also in the gang Mr Rufus Hound
My former colleague Andrew Sharp  (Rights Director at Hachette Children's Books) is standing as an MEP - Everyone who has or does work with him is immensely proud of everything he is doing to stand up for our beloved NHS. 

You can read more about his mission  here #savetheNHS also please follow the National Health Action Party on Twitter @NHAparty - Three cheers and best of luck to Andy! 


In tribute we have asked some of our very dear Twitter chums to suggest their favourite picture books featuring Hospitals, Doctors and Nurses. We would love you to review them and help spread the word about this marvellous cause. please tweet @maybeswabey and let us know about your fave hospital picture books. 

  • Katie Clapham & Melanie McGilloway - A Day with the Animal Doctors 
  • Tor Freeman - Emergency Mouse 
  • Giles Paley-Phillips - Doctor Duck 
  • Jodie Hodges - Nurse Mousey 
  • Alice Blacker - Doctor Miaow's Big Emergency 
  • Damyanti Patel - Miss Dose the Doctors Daughter 
  • Catherine Freiss - Froggy goes to the Doctor's
  • The Illustrated Forest - 'Da Quando e arrivato Lallo'

Monday, 21 April 2014

Helen Hancocks interviews Emma Yarlett

Fortunately the stars have aligned and two of my MOST favourite picture books publish in May, Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett and William and the Missing Masterpiece my Helen Hancocks - I simply can't wait, so to give you a tantalising taste of what's to come Emma and Helen have very kindly agreed to interview each other for the Book Sniffer blog, So whilst I put my feet up with a nice cup of Earl Grey here is the first of two posts... 

interviewed by 

Where did the idea of Orion stem from (a childhood fear?) and were you afraid of getting book 2 off the ground? 

Weirdly I was never really afraid of the dark that much, it was more my over-active imagination that scared me! 

The idea for Orion stemmed from a book I wrote at university called Sidney and his Shadow. This book was eventually developed into two separate ideas, the first being Sidney, Stella and the Moon and the second being Orion and the Dark

So Orion and his shady friend have been hovering in my mind for a good 3-4 years, so when it finally came round to creating the book I was really ready to get things down onto paper and it came out pretty easily.

I love all the inkyness (textures it creates) and colour palette (I love all this BLUE - my favourite colour) and typography, which bit did you enjoy the most & did you feel the way you worked on this changed in anyway since Sidney,Stella and the moon? 

Thank you! Can you tell that I was going through a blue phase? I really enjoy the ideas stage of any project, just sitting and scribbling out a million and one different ideas and combinations whilst listening to the radio and eating a Jaffa cake. 

But for Orion, I super enjoyed illustrating the interiors of his house, and also creating any artwork that had ‘Dark’ in it. He is such a fun character to paint! I really enjoyed doing the secret cover too- I set aside a whole day, and just sat down, hyped myself up and started doodling typography. I think the way I create pictures has developed quite a lot from Sidney, Stella and the Moon. I wanted to create the whole book traditionally, with little to no help from any digital means. This meant that I approached the way I produced artwork rather differently, which I thoroughly enjoyed! As an illustrator I’m eternally trying to push my work forward into new directions (the way I paint, the way I use line, the way I draw characters etc) and to challenge myself- I definitely tried to do that with Orion!

What inspired you during the creation of Orion? (music, film, person, art, food etc?)

I must admit, I listened to the Tron soundtrack on repeat during this book. It was super helpful when trying to create epic moments!
I was really inspired by a film too Dumbo. It was a real favourite of mine as a child as I have always loved the idea of everything and anything being able to fly. 

In particular the scenes at the beginning of the globe in map form inspired me a lot! 

Other inspirations were David Ryan Robinson’s intricate London scenes, 

Brian Wildsmith’s beautiful use of colour, mixed media and his incredible sketch scenes from Professor Noah’s spaceship, 

and of course Jack Hudson’s wonderfully electric retro colour palette! 


How did you decide what form "Dark" would be - did it take long to develop him or was it set in form from the start?

Dark just sort of happened, I’ve got no idea where he came from. He waltzed into my imagination and soon found his way into my sketchbook. He’s had a few minor little things changed on him (at one point he had a teeny bowler hat), but otherwise he remains the chap he always was!

You use a lot of hand written type (which I think is beautiful - the slip cover is something to swoon over) were there any problems or obstacle to overcome with this?

I think I always scare my editor Libby when I ask to do this sort of thing because she has the unenviable task of checking for spelling and grammar…! But I am so grateful to Libby and the Templar team for taking a risk and letting me really go wild with the typography, as a lot of publishers would definitely run a mile!

You have done several books with other people as well as your own, which do do you prefer doing and what's next in the pipeline? 

Each definitely has it’s pros and cons, collaborative picture books are always a lot more straight forward as the text is more or less set in stone by the time I get a look in. But writing and illustrating picture books is where my heart really is.
It feels great to grow something from a teeny minuscule first fleeting thought through to a final finished tangible book, and to own it the whole way through.
Oooo what’s next! I wish I’d asked you that question! I’m working on picture book number 3, which is a step in a whole new direction… There’s no night time, no starry skies, no moons (gasp!). It’s a completely different genre that is really challenging but super exciting! 

I’m also just starting working on a few different other projects including a picture book or two, a novelty book and potentially something else that’s marvellously top secret for now! I’ve also just started designing, writing and curating a magazine for a charity that’s very close to my heart.

You can read the Book Sniffer review for 
Orion and the Dark HERE

With MANY thanks to Emma and Helen, 
Keep an eye out for our second instalment next week where Emma interviews Helen about her book 
William and the Missing Masterpiece.
 Follow Emma and Helen on Twitter 
@helenhancocks and @EmmaYarlett 

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Queens Hat

`red arrows british queens hat

It is my very great pleasure to introduce you to an incredibly talented new illustrator friend of mine, you may have already heard the buzz surrounding his first book 'The Queens Hat' Published by Hodder Children's Books  on May 1st, Believe the hype Steve Antony is certainly one to keep a keen eye on, This chap really is going places. 


The Queens Hat is a riotous Royal romp through our magnificent capital city. Beautifully unique in its sophisticated and engaging illustrative style this story unfolds page by magnificent page as a chaotic chase ensues. 

The Queens men in all their traditional military attire embark en masse on a mission to try frantically to catch The Queens Hat which after an unexpected gust of wind has been blown far far away!

The jolly jaunt leads us UP, around & OVER some wonderfully familiar city sights, My personal favourite spread features the Queen in all her octogenarian glory driving a tube train (I bet they'd run on time if she was in charge)

Each page builds gently in pace as the number of Queens men increases to mind boggling proportions, This visually lends itself to some profoundly memorable illustrations, Including Big Ben with soldiers swarming from top to bottom like tiny ants as they chase the elusive hat

Steve's masterful use of a subtle and limited palette really make this particularly bold picture book stand head and shoulders above the crowd and it's also worth mentioning that the illustrations have been reproduced so skillfully that it almost feels as though they were drawn straight onto the pages of the book.   

A thoughtfully nostalgic nod to Mary Poppins leads us to a climatic finale where we are lucky enough to meet the very newest member of the Royal family.

The Queens Hat is a beautifully intimate celebration of family and the role of the grandparent (even if they do happen to be The Queen)
I have no doubt that this book will be a huge success and I do hope it gets the real Queens Royal seal of approval. 

In the meantime here's the Sniffer 5 golden paw prints.  

Steve Antony has been kind enough to join us at Book Sniffer Towers for a very sophisticated celebratory 
High Tea! 
(Interviews are always best conducted over miniature scones)

Me and my first published picture book.

If you were lucky enough to be invited to tea with the Queen which top three items would you most like to see on a Royal cake stand?

  • A chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake, 
  • White chocolate and raspberry meringue roulade
  • And eight pumpkin cupcakes iced with cinnamon cream


How did you feel when you first saw a finished copy of this book?

I was half-awake when I stumbled downstairs to answer the door to the postman, but as soon as I realised what was in the package my eyes popped wide open. There I was holding 'The Queen's Hat', and it had my name on it! Hodder had turned my story into this really cool and really tangible object! I think I spent most of the day re-reading it to myself. I still can't quite believe it. I feel super lucky. It felt amazing, and it still does.

Embedded image permalink

Where did you first find the inspiration for this story?

I saw a news article that had a photo of the Queen holding on to her hat on a windy day. It all stemmed from there really, because that evening I had a rush of inspiration. Within a couple of hours, I had a very rough story board for 'The Queen's Hat'

Lots of my picture book ideas are inspired by an image or a phrase that I've stumbled across, and the idea of the Queen chasing her hat around London seemed like such a fun book to pursue. It all pieced together quite well, and I loved creating a really British book with strong visuals and humorous details. Also, although I was born in England, I spent my childhood in the middle of a hot New Mexican desert, so I tapped into a certain kind of nostalgia when creating this book. I remembered how much I fantasised and romanticised about returning home, so part of me wanted to create a book for old times sake, if that makes sense.

What was the best piece of advice you were given at Art College?

Don't do something just because you can. Pam Smy, an illustrator and course tutor who worked very closely with our class, said that - and it stuck. It made me realise the importance of carefully considering what to include in an illustration or a story; and more importantly, what not to include.

Tell us about your creative process?

Inspiration can strike when I least expect it, so I try to remember to always have a pencil on me. I often don't though. Once I finger-drew a character idea in the condensation on my car window and took a photo of it with my phone. I normally start with a character, a phrase or a concept. I do a lot of sketching, until my little seed of an idea starts to germinate. If I get a good feeling about the idea, I'll pursue it. Sometimes I'm unsure whether I've got a good idea or not, and I'll say out loud to nobody in the room, "Is this a good idea?!", and I'll wait for a light to flicker or something, which hardly ever happens. So I plod along until I start to form a narrative. I form a narrative visually by creating mini storyboards in my sketchbook. It's like writing really messily, until eventually the letters start to become clearer. At this point the words and pictures are normally developed simultaneously.  Once I feel like I've got a solid story, I'll start the proper drawings. I then scan the black and white pencil drawings into Photoshop, and that's when I inject the colour. Layer upon layer, page by page, the book comes together, until eventually I have a rough dummy in a PDF format accompanied by one or two final drawings to show my publisher. Then I wait. And while I'm waiting, I'll start on another idea just incase the other one actually wasn't that good after all.

What can you see out of your studio window?

A blooming cherry blossom tree, a sand box on the corner of the road, and my car parked on the roadside. There's normally a guy that walks his big yellow dog twice a day, but he's not there right now, and, more recently, I keep seeing a blackbird, but she's not there either.

What one piece of advice would you pass on to up and coming new illustrators?

A while ago, someone asked me 'what I do'. When I answered her question, she responded, "I'd like to do children's books too." There are probably thousands of people just like her, and I do wonder if it's only the ones that really, really want it really badly (and keep on trying and studying and working and trying some more) that eventually achieve their goals. I know it's tough, but sometimes things can fall into place when you least expect it. I've had my moments of desperation, and I still sometimes doubt myself, but I never stop drawing.

If you could ask the queen one question what would you ask?

Hmm. That's tough because I feel like I should have a really important and profound question. So how about, "Did you find the butler?"

Can you give us a rough estimation as to HOW MANY soldiers you had to draw for this book??


the queens hat steve antony landscape.jpg

But maybe I should have a contest like the ones where you have to guess how many marbles are in the jar, but then that would mean I'd have to count all the guards to begin with, so maybe not. My guess would be 623.

Which is your favourite spread and why?

The London Zoo spread. That was the last spread I did. I was dreading it. All those animals and all those guards, and then there was the giraffe. First of all, I had to be sure that I only included animals that actually are in London Zoo, which ruled out an elephant, and that was a shame, because I really wanted to draw a big stomping elephant. I spent ages trying to get the animals looking just right, and it was the most rewarding experience to see it all come together. I had fun adding details to this page too. My favourite animal on there is the hard-to-see chameleon.

No, it's not a touch screen.

Which is your favourite tourist spot in London?

I love the buzz of London. It's kind of hard to pick just one place. I have a really good memory of hanging out with some friends at the Palace Gardens several summers ago. It was the first time I had been there. I hadn't realised just how many different types of birds were there. We even saw a black swan. I think that's the only place I've ever seen one. The London Eye is still on my bucket list, and I do enjoy the shopping (mostly window), especially at Christmas. I feel lucky to live only a train ride away.

What are your top three tools of the trade?

Paper, pencil and perseverance.

Pre-order The Queens Hat Now

Short Author Bio - 
Although I was born in England, I spent much of my growing-up years in a city in New Mexico called Alamogordo. I was the kid with the British accent that liked to draw. Sadly, most of my drawings and stories were lost during my move back to England in the '90s. I went on to study art, and graduated with an HND in Illustration from Swindon College. Several years later, I was made redundant from a call centre day job, which afforded me the opportunity to apply for a place on the MA Children's Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin. I graduated in 2013. Currently, I am working on future publications in my little Swindon studio. I am represented by Elizabeth Roy. To keep up to date with future releases and events, you can follow my blog and/or follow me onFacebook and Twitter.

Follow Steve on Twitter @MrSteveAntony 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Shh! we have a plan ...by Chris Haughton

Well, It's fairly impossible to keep Shh! about a new Chris Haughton picture book and it seems like I've been waiting for this one for eternity. I am thrilled to announce that Shh! will be the first book on the Book Sniffer blog to receive the elusive gold rosette of approval! TA-DA

I am a HUGE fan of Chris's work and he was in fact one of my very first blog guests - Under rather surreal conditions we conducted the interview via virtual post cards when he was all the way over in Kathmandu ! (Probably my most extreme interview to date and probably ever)  

We also enjoyed a hilarious virtual tea party twitter fest with our other Irish pal Chris Judge on the launch of Oh No George! which was full of larks and HUGE cakes, (sadly they were virtual ones also) 

So it was with heart FULL to the brim with anticipation that I opened the envelope containing Shh! which published this March. 

When a book cover speaks volumes you know just what to expect Shh! is a vision in various pantones of blue, the design aesthetic of Chris books never once hits a bum note and this one certainly has the credentials of a book shelf must have. 

This is a familiar fable has a unique, engaging and visually contemporary twist as we follow the three stooges and their smaller more cunning companion as they embark on a quest through the deep dark forest. 

On their hilarious fruitless mission to catch a beautiful bird (Illustrated in contrasting oranges and reds) smaller readers will relish knowing the secret behind the smallest forager's role in this unruly gang, Readers will be able to whole heatedly relate to him being left out of all of the important aspects of the adventure with calamitous consequences only to come up trumps in the end. 

With deftly created characterisations second to none Shh! is a marvellous mad-cap endeavour beautifully designed with flourishes of pure joy.  

That Haughton chap is super-humanly talented and one of THE nicest chaps you'll ever have the luck to meet! Bravo to Chris and his continued success. We are already looking forward to what's coming next! 

We give Shh! a 5 paw rating! TOOT TOOT  

With HUGE Thanks to the kind folk at Walkers Books and to dearest Chris Haughton - A great support and a huge inspiration. 

Find out more about Chris's charitable work here
Follow Chris On Twitter @christhaughton
Follow Walker Books on Twitter @BIGpictureBooks
Check out Chris's website HERE 

Keep an eye out for Chris's App 'Hat Monkey'

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

GOAL! Up for the Cup with Simon Bartram

...and Julio's magic feet took over

As we embark on what will be a year of fabulous World Cup football mayhem there is still a moment to sit down in a comfy chair and enjoy a nice picture book! 

We have a premier league picture book here for you and no mistakes, Its the latest eye-boggling creation from delightful chappy and life long Sunderland FC fanatic Mr Simon Bartram. Introducing 'Up for the Cup' A rollocking, tribute to a football team who make it to the cup final against the odds. A brilliant read for slightly older picture book fans with a complex and engaging story which will have you on the edge of your seats cheering our team on from the sidelines. An alphabetti-spaghetti-super-hit 
Hitting the bookshelves of a purveyor of high quality books in May 2014 - Grab on while they're hot!

In the meantime while you wait to get your hands on a copy, lets Kick Off with an interview with the books creator Simon Bartram - Enjoy! 

1- Which is your favorite spread from Up for the Cup and why?

My favourite spread is the busy goal celebration. It took an age to paint because I wanted to create a lot of detail to spot. On certain pictures I like to add more and more and more. It's a good job I had a deadline to meet because,otherwise, I would still be working on it now

2- What's your half time pie filling of choice?

In a league table of pies the Meat n Potato would just pip the Chicken and Mushroom to the title. No pies would be relegated .

3- If you could choose your dream team which players would you select?

I would choose a combination of current greats such as Messi and Ronaldo mixed with some of my childhood Sunderland AFC heroes and Roy Race  from the classic ' Roy of the Rovers' comic.

4- The characters in this book are extraordinarily expressive - Are there any famous faces hidden in this book for us to look out for?

There are not any famous faces but there are some characters from my other books such as Bob and Barry and a robot called Mr Nigel Carruthers. 

Also, I'm in it wearing my Sunderland scarf!

What's been the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you? 
Be yourself, work as hard as you can and don't eat your paint.
the United players celebrated in the style of my favourite heavy metal band

Simon Bartram, Templar Publishing and Arena Illustration