Monday 16 July 2012

Afternoon Tea with the delightful Marta Altes

I am primped and preened, have donned my very best bow tie and polished the cake stand to near perfection and I'll tell you why. We are honoured and privileged to have Marta Altes coming to tea at Book Sniffer Towers for her VERY first interview, now that is an exclusive for you sniffers if ever I heard one.

Truly Scrumptious

We first became acquainted with Marta's delightful work when we sniffed NO! which was kindly sent to us by the ever so cheery Sarah at Child's Play - In NO! we observe a little well meaning pup as he unintentionally causes a bucket load of mischief as he tries his very best to please his family. NO! is an impeccable example of beautifully illustrated simplistic and humorous picture book and a very impressive debut. Accessible and enjoyable to all ages on many levels and very very funny indeed. This one certainly has the Book Sniffer stamp of approval.

We were thrilled when Marta agreed to come and visit us for tea so we could have a proper chin wag especially as it will be her very first interview!

We have just finished sniffing your latest picture book masterpiece My Grandpa, which we loved, what will you be working on next?

I've just finished (literally... I sent everything yesterday) the artwork for my third picture book!!! I'm so happy! It's called "I am an artist" :) It'll be published by Macmillan Children's books in February 2013!

Now I'm going to start thinking in my next project, and I'm going to set up my website... something that I've been putting aside for too long...

Which three things you would take to a treasure island?

My dog Floc, one sketchbook, and chocolate! :)

Do you collect anything?

I don't collect something in particular, apart from picturebooks :) But I do like to "collect" good memories...

What can you see from your studio window?

When I'm back in Spain I'm in a little town in the countryside close to Barcelona, and from my window, while I work I can see lots of trees and birds :) But from my window in London, it's not as lovely, although I can see a little park, and my neighbours kitchen windows (what is very funny when it's dinner time, and you see all of them cooking). I love that everyday around 5 o'clock I can hear the Ice-cream van music... It's very weird to me! We don't have this in Spain :)

What do you listen to when you are working?

mmm... difficult! It depends a lot on how I feel... or the work I'm doing... If I'm "thinking" in new projects, I can't listen music that I know because then I start singing (very poorly), and I can't focus on the ideas I'm working on.
Lately I've been listening a lot of Alt-J, Mishima, Maika Makovski, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros... among others :)

Which children's classic would you most like to illustrate?

I don't know if it's the one that I would like to illustrate the most (there are many I would like to illustrate)... but the first one that comes to my mind now is "El Patufet". It's a classic Catalan folktale that tells the adventures of the tiniest little boy who after not  being allowed to leave the house (because he is too tiny), one day he goes out to help his parents doing some tasks. It's a very surreal and funny story.

Best piece of advice you received while training?

In the MA of Children's Book Illustration, I don't think it was one tutor who told me this, but the general feeling that I think I got from the whole course was "to have fun and to experiment" while you are drawing.

Marta - Self portrait

Have you sniffed any good picture books lately?

YES! After visiting the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at Tate gallery, I couldn't help it after seeing it... I bought Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by her. The illustrations and the design of it are so special... It's such a beauuuuutiful book!

Who inspires you?

There are many illustrators work I love, like Herve Tullet, Beatrice Alemagna, Isidro Ferrer, Max,...
And things that happen to me or to my friends help me with my stories.

List three essential tools of your trade?

Pencils, photoshop and Watercolours. I discovered Watercolours in the MA, a couple of years ago, and right now... I don't know how I could live without them! love them!

Who should we follow on Twitter ?

You should follow my VERY good friend @birgittasif, super mr @daveshelton, @blogshank, I'm sure everybody already follows amazing @NadiaShireen and @chrishaughton, lovely @mayhewjames, Cambridge School of Art @FindUsAtBologna... How many can I say? :)

Which of your books are you most proud of?

so difficult! as I have just 2 :)
"No!" is very special for me because it was my first book, and it's given me lots of happy moments. But "My Grandpa" is very special as well, because it's a very personal story ... it was a challenge for me. Lots of things came together at the right time. In the MA, lovely Pam Smy gave a beautiful lecture about picture books on "issues", I was missing my grandpa a lot and I could see how my little nephews reacted to their very old great grandpa.

Tell us a secret....

Embarrassing and odd... I don't know how to use "green" colour... I find it terribly difficult.

What's the best thing you've ever found?
My dog Floc is not a thing... but I'm very happy for having found him :) We took him from the dog pound.

Do you create a character before a story of visa versa?

Well.. Because I'm just starting, I don't think I have a method... But I think I create both at the same time... I'm not very conscious of how it happens. If the character comes first, it might change depending in how the story evolves. Or the other way around.

Who's sketch book would you most like to snoop through?

mmm...let's see... Herve Tullet, ISOL, Beatrice Alemagna, Jon Klassen, Isidro Ferrer, Pablo Auladell...

Do you have time to draw / sketch for pleasure as well as work ?
Yes! :) I try to even if I don't have the time, to draw or write something completely different to the project that I'm working on at that moment... It helps me to disconnect and go back to the project with fresh energy.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

Well... After finishing the MA, my life changed so much I couldn't believe it. I used to work as a graphic designer, and being able to work as an illustrator now, makes me feel so lucky ! Although everything still feels so unreal...
I think the happiest moment was winning the "Read it again" award... it was so exciting!!! A big honour! being such a special award where children were the ones who voted. Another very happy moment to me, was being shortlisted for the Waterstone's Children's book Prize and having "My Grandpa" published in Catalan (my first language)!

THANK YOU Marta for popping by to see us it was lovely to meet you, We can't wait to sniff your next book.
THANK YOU to Sarah at Child's Play for sending us a copy of NO!

FOLLOW MARTA's Blog here!

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Winston Was Worried - Review

Winston Was Worried - Written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and Illustrated by Benji Davies

I've been spending a lot of time in the waiting room at our local vets of late with Mouse (the cat) .. The poor old biddy now has precautionary trumpet head and quite frankly other than a tin of sardines the only thing that has cheered her up of late and distracted her from the indignity was a good story! and that came in the form of the wonderful Winston Was Worried.

Before we leap in lets take a moment  to appreciate the hilarious end papers .. ahhh what a funny bunch of unusual looking canines (yes I know "pot and kettle")
 Some of whom you might recognise as they featured in our Friday Doggy Doodle Gallery!

Winston is a pup with a prickly paw problem of huge proportions.. or so he thinks.
There is a dratted splinter in Winston's paw and he is completely and utterly convinced that this is quite frankly the worst thing ever to happen EVER.. and he's quite keen on telling everyone who'll listen and quite a few who won't just how down in the dumps he feels.

Finally after much relentless complaining about his splinter to all and sundry Winston licks it clean away completely oblivious to the chaos and calamity happening all around him - Winston is soon to come up with a brand new ailment and finally ends up at the vets with all of his less fortunate chums!

Pamela's wonderful text is refreshing and jolly and great for joining in whilst reading aloud with little pups. 
A dynamic author / illustrator partnership in which Benji has created some beautifully vibrant retro illustrations and hilarious characters which leap and bound off the pages. Winston Was Worried is a treasure trove of detail to paw over with a good scoop of visual slap stick. (keep a beady eye out for the cheeky little bonus sub story on each page - miniature mousey perfection) 

We give Winston Was Worried 5 boney-o's out of 5 ! .. and a head trumpet for good measure.
Barking mad wonderful stuff...

All images (c) Benji Davies

Sunday 8 July 2012

Introducing Keith the Cat and Ogden the Ogre !

As a pug with sophisticated tastes and partial to only the occasional Gentleman's Relish sandwich for elevenses I was intrigued when I was introduced to Ogden the Ogre and Keith the Cat and a veritable abundance of pie and ice cream.

Keith the Cat with the Magic Hat - Written by Sue Hendra
- Published by Simon and Schuster

With sparkly cover!

If you're not captivated by the glittering hundreds and thousands on the cover and the fact that the hero of the story is a cat called Keith then you will certainly be once you step inside this tittersome picture book.
Poor old ginger Keith unexpectedly finds himself with a rather  tasty looking ice cream right atop his bonce.
Well the other cat folk can hardly contain their laughter as Keith is covered with sticky melty ice cream and poor old Keith has to think of a damage limitation plan toot sweet!

Keith pretends his unfortunate melty ice cream hat is actually a magical magicians hat and through a series of coincidentally mishaps manages to convince his pals that he is in fact a Magician of the highest order.. BUT even a magic hat made of ice cream might not be enough to get them out of a pickle involving a huge hungry looking dog. Will Keith be able to pull one last magical stunt and save the day? You'll have to read and find out.  

From the creators of best-seling Barry the Fish With Fingers! (also worth a look)

We Give Keith the Cat 5 scoops of ice cream and a flake out of 5

The Yoga Ogre - Written by Peter Bently and Illustrated by Simon Rickerty - Published by Simon and Schuster

No wthis one is a corker so before I start I shall limber up with a few lunges and squats...

Poor Old tubby ogre Ogden has finally succumbed to all  of the slimming advertising on TV and decides that it's time to ditch the 12 pies breakfasts and get in shape.

His chums tell him exercises is the way forward and he gets stuck straight in with gusto. Unfortunately Ogden isn't quite the Usain Bolt he imagines himself to be and gets himself into all manner of pickles as he tries out golf, horse riding, hockey, basketball and football amongst others. Finally after much destruction Ogden settles on Yoga ... Zen like and flexible he aint!
In despair his chums suggest that maybe a diet might be a slightly less damage inducing way of getting in shape.
Will Ogden ditch the pies and get in shape for the Olympics?  You'll have to wait and see.

We give The Yoga Ogre 5 pies and a snazzy sweatband out of 5!

To win these two fabulous picture books post a comment below - winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday 11th July

Wednesday 4 July 2012


Ahoy there Sniffers - Have I got a treat for you today! ... OH YES indeedy I do.
ME! by Benji Davies!

I've just got back from my monthly coiffure buffing at Billy Sweeney's Bouffant Barber's and you'll never guess who was in the barbers chair next to me! Blimmin' hot to trot, cad about town Mr Benji Davies! (YES the chap who designed my new profile picture - Smart eh!)

I couldn't quite believe my luck  - so while he was a captive in the chair I thought I fire a few questions his way ...


Hey Benji, Fancy seeing you here!
Have you sniffed any good picture books lately?

I just bought 'A First Book of Nature' written by Nicola Davies & illustrated by Mark Hearld. Its not a regular picture book, but its a really beautiful combination of artwork and words.

If you could choose any children's classic which would you most like to illustrate?
If I had to pick one of them it would probably be Wind in the Willows - I've always loved that book.
Maybe I'd go for a childhood favourite instead, a lesser known classic - The Little Grey Men by BB.

What is the view like from your studio window?

Not a lot! Its a very quiet street in hackney and my table faces the wall. I do like to do a bit of pacing though, so if its nice and sunny I'll get a brew and walk up and down the drive - probably looking a bit lost. We have a large metal shutter over the downstairs window which we keep shut in winter to keep out the cold but its nice when it gets to spring and we can open it up and let the light in.

Benji's home studio

Tuesday 3 July 2012

The Tales on Moon Lane Cake Fest with Chris Judge and Chris Haughton

On Friday Book Sniffer Towers celebrated the launch of the fabulous-o The Sun Comes Out On Moon Lane festival by hosting a Twitterstravanganza in the form of a Book Sniffer Twitter cake fest with two of the countries best illustrators Mr Chris Judge and Mr Chris Haughton.

Here's a summary of all the larks and cakes, just in case you missed it! (check out #tomlcakefest for the un-edited version)

Afternoon chaps welcome to the the Book Sniffer and
Plenty of cake to go round and it's calorie free!

@chrisjudge Hi Sniffer and Chris! Looks like a lovely spread!