Monday 24 June 2013

WIN a SIGNED Catherine Rayner print

Dearest Sniffers I have managed to get my mucky mitts on a wonderful treat - It's a signed print from Catherine Rayner's brand new picture book Abigail

I think you'll agree it's sublime - Look at that face! 

To be in with a chance of winning this beautiful work of art please send me a drawing of your favorite animal - Either post it on the Book Sniffer Facebook page / Tweet it to @maybeswabey #Abigail or email it with your contact details to

Closing date 15/07/13 - GOOD LUCK  

UK only SORRY : ( 

Saturday 22 June 2013

A fun day out....

Today has been a top trumper and no mistake! And here's why...

I was at near Sniffing melting point at today's ELCAF comic fair in east London ... Sure enough after following a trail of trendy beards and brogues and the wafting scent of gourmet burgers I found myself at the arty comic event of the century!

A whole town hall crammed to the rafters with tables literally groaning with amazing creations. I was utterly gob smacked at the quality and inventiveness of the work on sale and a buzz of enthusiasm and creative passion literally fizzed in the air.

Highlights included bumping into my old chum Harry who now works for outstanding publishers No Brow and perusing their impressive wares, having a portrait sketched by some traveling comic artists and coming away with a bag of treats which are eye wateringly delectable!

Post Comic fest I travelled to Battersea Park with my dear pal (pencil maestro) Mark Chambers on route to the annual Bright Group summer picnic - what a treat to meet such a friendly bunch - mad as a box of badgers every single one of them but that made me love them all the more.

There were sandwiches and mini sausages galore and we all had a wonderful bunting adorned slightly blustery afternoon catching up with the likes if Yasmeen Ishmael , Nicky O'Byrne, James Davies, Gab Alborozo, Charlie Adler,and delightful Ben Mantel! I also got the chance to arrange further plottings with ubercucumbercool Benji Davies regarding plans for a big Sniffer celebration for the publication of his new picture book!!! (Ver ver exciting)

What a day... I'm plum tuckered. And now for bed. Night night x

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Levi Pinfold - creator of Greenaway WINNING picture book, Black Dog

Book Sniffer EXCLUSIVE ...

We are utterly thrilled to be able to present to you dearest Sniffers,
Illustrator Levi Pinfold's top #scribbletips
As an award-winning author and illustrator of the highest calibre it was an utter privilege to listen to him speak about the process behind creating these works of art which eventually become beautiful picture books to treasure. (Video to follow shortly)

Here are Levi's top tips...

1/ Draw things that you like – I used to love drawing superheroes (and Marshmallow Man)

2/ Observation is key, really look at the things you are drawing…

3/ Don't confine yourself to a sketchbook – draw on anything, big sheets of paper are very liberating.

4/ Try different mediums – I love using Egg tempera.

5/ Break things down into simple steps then you can draw anything.

6/ Colour effects your mood – be creative with it.

7/ Just doodle – it's quite relaxing
Every challenge is an opportunity and every opportunity is a challenge.

8/ Think about the object you are trying to draw as a collection of shapes.

9/ Look back at old sketch books for inspiration.

10/ Experiment with formats – panoramas are a unique way of working.

Now get doodling!

Thank you to delightfully dishy and utterly inspirational Levi and of course the charming folk at Templar Publishing for letting me come along and meet the man himself. You can follow Templar on Twitter @templarbooks to find out more.

Levi is also on Twitter so seek him
out @LeviPinfold


Tuesday 11 June 2013

A day at Me Books HQ

I have just this moment returned to Book Sniffer towers after an utterly inspiring day meeting with the good folk at Me Books, what a fab bunch of ladies and gents, the office was literally oozing with eager enthusiasm.

If you're not yet familiar with Me Books hop to it! They have created a platform which houses a feast of picture books which you can read on an iPad or iPhone, not your average app malarkey but innovative, creative and most of all true to the original books. Each converted picture book is narrated but also accented with hot spots which reveal hilarious titbits of audio script which will have you snorting your tea with laughter. (You can also record yourself reading the story - what a bonus)

Only launched in October they are already storming the publishing world with their creativity and vision. Some of my absolute fave authors and illustrators are already on board and have found the whole experience of working with the Me Books team most enjoyable.

Days like these where you feel anything is achievable are few and far between.... But do you know what, I think Me Books are the ones to make it happen.

I heartily recommend checking them out at the soonest opportunity.

Sunday 9 June 2013

Introducing delightful Petr Horacek and his brand new books

I've admired the work of award-winning author / illustrator 
Petr Horacek from afar from some years so I fair bounded at the chance to interview him about the release of his brand new board books. Petr's fresh, organic and vibrant style sets him apart from a majority of the board books on the market for pre-schoolers so I was intrigued to hear more about how his style has developed to suit this much younger format. 

Petr has been leading the way for over ten years, creating beautiful books for children and his board books are no exception. Full of striking illustrations, in his instantly recognisable and distinctive style. brimming with texture, striking colours and images, created using a variety of mediums and told in a simple narrative.

Honk Honk! Baa Baa! and Time for Bed 
are published by Walker Books

Welcome to Book Sniffer towers Petr thank you for taking part in our Q&A...

Can you tell us about your two new board books?
My new board books are called Time for Bed and Honk Honk! Baa Baa! Both these books have novelty aspects. The pages inside the books slowly build to a final image. Time for Bed is a book you would probably read to a child before bed.

Each page has an image of something familiar to a child that he or she comes into contact with during the day such as a book, bath with a duck or supper. Each page is shaped and shorter than the previous one. As you go through the book, the pages build up to the final images. In this case it’s a very colourful blanket under which sleeps a little boy. The blanket is made up of parts of the child’s day.

Honk Honk! Baa Baa! is a book about domestic animals and the noises they make. The book also has shaped pages, which build to the final picture. In this case it’s a black and white cow.

The books are part of the Baby Walker series, published by Walker Books Ltd.

What inspired you to start making picture books?
I started to write and illustrate books around the time when my first daughter was born.  It was then that I came across for the first time in my life The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carl.  Since I was born in the Czech Republic, I had no idea that this book existed. I thought at the time and still think, that this book is very cleverly designed and beautifully illustrated. I wanted to do something like that myself.

What inspires your stories?
I get inspired quite easily by anything I see around me. It could be an art exhibition, an abstract painting in an art gallery, a drawing done by a child, an interesting photo in a magazine or a butterfly in the garden. The inspiration can come quickly, but working with an idea and coming up with a good story or concept for a board book is a different matter.

I spotted that bears are your favourite animals; did you watch the Great Bear Stakeout? Do you think you might create a book featuring bears?
I haven’t seen the documentary, but it’s true, bears are my favourite animals.

I have pictures of a bear in two of my books A New House for Mouse and Look out Suzy Goose.  I haven’t created a book just about bears though. I don’t think it’s that easy. There are so many books about bears and teddy bears, so until I have a very good idea I won’t even try.

You have created some beautiful die cut board books, how important do you think it is to introduce books & art to children at an early age? 
The board book could be and often is a child’s very first contact with a form of visual art.  Children are learning something new, every minute of every day.

Children may have less life experience than adults, but they are not stupid. They want more from a book than just random images. To come up with a good idea for a board book is not easy. My editors and I spend lots of time creating a good board book and we take it very responsibly.

All of my board books have holes, cut outs, shaped pages and sometimes a turning wheel, which changes colours in the final image.

The child can chase a mouse through the pages of the book, follow a car which is going to visit granny, travel by train over the hills, bridges and through the woods. The shaped pages slowly build into a final picture as you turn the pages.

Yes, the game itself is important, but I also like the idea that children are learning to like books as objects. Next time the child sees a book, he or she will feel the need to touch it and open it.

We have more influence on their education than we think.  It may seem easier to switch the TV on, than read a book to a child, but it doesn’t take much to work out which is better.

When you read to a child you are together.

Can you tell us more about your process when developing a book, for example do you plan cut outs, flaps, pop ups etc when you start writing the story or begin the illustrations?
Working on a board book or novelty book can be different from working on a picture book.

With a board book I have an idea about the concept of the book. For example, I know that I want to do a book with pages which are shaped, I know that I want to produce a book about colours, numbers or shapes and so on. Then I think about the story line and the pictures.

With a picture book I start with the story in my head. Then I do a storyboard with small notes about the text.
Then I do a picture, but not the first picture in the book.  Usually it’s an illustration I’m most excited about.
Writing the text itself is probably the very last thing and together with my editor we work on the text even after the pictures are finished. The text is of course very important and we do want to get it right.

Are you experimenting with any new illustration techniques? You use lots of mixed media in your books, how long does it take to put together a book?
I like colours, collage, different media and textures in my illustrations.
Using different media often inspires me, but I always remember, that the book itself is most important. I want the illustrations to be right. There’s not a place in my books to show off my artistic skills, even though it could be tempting sometimes.
In my latest picture book, Jonathan & Martha, I used pastels together with acrylics and collage. Working with pastels was quite new to me and I did enjoy it. I think the technique went well with the book.

You share some of your sketches & drawings in your blog - are there any current writers blogs that inspire you?
In my blog I’m trying honestly to write every week about what I’m working on at the moment. I put in lots of sketches, even those that are not very good. I hope that some people will find it interesting and inspiring. I think it is encouraging to see, that even a published author, can be rubbish at drawing a monkey for example.
I must say, that I try deliberately not to look too much at somebody else’s work. It’s too easy to be influenced by somebody’s work. Being a writer is very solitary and before you realize it, you are copying somebody’s story.

Which author/illustrator has been an inspiration to you?
I’ve already mentioned Eric Carl. I have always been inspired by how he uses colour and paint, but I also like artists whose art is different to mine. I like Anne Herbauts, Sarah Fanelli. Lucy Cousins, John Burningham, Kveta Pacovska, or Jiri Salamoun. I like illustrators who are not afraid to paint and use materials.

You have a love for music, do you have any favourites you enjoy listening to while you work?
My studio is full of music. I listen to different music in different situations. When I’m writing I choose classical music. I like Renaissance and Baroque music such as Monteverdi or Bach.
When I’m drawing and thinking about the book I play something creative like My Bloody Valentine or Sonic Youth.
When it’s time to do some painting, printing and I need to loosen up I play something energetic and loud such as Jimi Hendrix or Nine Inch Nails.

Is there anything you find challenging to draw?
It’s not easy to draw friendly and smiley cats. Also, drawing horses can be tricky, even though I used to draw horses in stables quite a lot in my twenties.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished a book called The Mouse who ate the Moon. It’s a sequel to A New House for Mouse and I’m working on ideas for new board books. I’m also working on a picture book called Treasure Island, which is rather different from what I normally do, so it’s a bit of a challenge.

to Petr for taking the time to answer our questions!

Visit Petr's wonderfully inspiring website here 

Follow Petr on Twitter @PHorace

Desert Island Picture Books with award-winning author Giles Paley-Phillips

Whilst perching in a nice shady spot in the grounds of Book Sniffer towers sipping a cucumber Pimms I was inspired by the sunshine and took the opportunity to catch up with award-winning author Giles Paley-Phillips who's marvellous new book 
'Things you never knew about DINOSAURS' illustrated by the ever so delightful Liz Pichon) is available for pre-order now. 

Here for your delectation are Giles Desert Island Picture Books...

Which picture book character would you most like to be stranded with on your island? 

The Giving Tree, she'd let me use her branches to make a boat! I would come back for eventually.

Which bedtime picture book would you be reading by the campfire? 

'The Courage of the Blue Boy' by Robert Neubeker, as I think I'd be feeling quite scared and alone by this point.

Best picture book recipes to keep you going when the coconuts run out? 
I could try doing a 'Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs' rain dance
Which book would you jam into a bottle and send home to your family? 

'The Way Back Home' by Oliver Jeffers

Which picture book do you first remember reading by yourself? I really don't remember any, I know that sounds strange, but i just didn't get to read much when I was small, my mum was ill most of my childhood, and my dad wasn't around much, so never had story time as part of a routine, I'm only really discovering picture books with my own children, however there was one that when I re-read with my boys, called 'Not Now Bernard' by David Mckee (Mr Benn) that I found myself recalling it, and it's such a great book, and it's been a big influence on my own writing.

Which picture book would you grab when it was miserable and pouring with rain? 
It would have to be 'The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales' by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, so funny and inventive, brighten up any rainy day.

If we give you a piece of chalk to write your next story on a cave wall what will it be about?
I'm currently putting down my chalk for the foreseeable future, once the rainy season starts up again I'll be picking up my guitar again for a while, then....who knows, I should probably try to start a fire!

Thanks for popping by Giles! Good luck with your lovely picture book! TOOT TOOT 

Follow Giles on Twitter @tenderbranson10