Friday 29 August 2014

The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo

There is little doubt that Gabriel Alborozo is a creator of illustrative treasures. His classic line work with a sprinkle of vivid colour repeatedly combine to create some of my most favourite picture books of recent times. 

This beautifully tender tale of Zot the colour thieving alien reflects perfectly the wonder and fragility of our world and the importance of friendship and kindness. 

This book simply sparkles with brilliance. 

Follow this exceptionally talented picture book creator on Twitter @gabrielalborozo  and publishers @KidsBloomsbury 

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Blown Away an interview with Rob Biddulph

Take off with Penguin Blue on an unexpected adventure in 'Blown Away' the most captivating picture book debut of the year!­
­It’s an extraordinarily windy day and Penguin has a marvellous brand new bright
red kite – but where’s he going on this maiden flight? ­Penguin Blue and his friends go on a gloriously illustrated adventure full of good ideas, homesickness and the perils of kites, from the sparkling new talent Rob Biddulph. Devastatingly stylish and eternally evocative this is an essential picture book for the true connoisseur . 


Rob Biddulph in conversation 

with the Book Sniffer ...

What is your first memory of art?
My mum is an amazing artist and so drawing/painting/colouring was always a big part of our childhood. But I'd have to say that my first memory of art is winning a pen when I was five for the doing the best drawing of a maypole dance. The headmaster came in to the classroom to present it to me. I think it was a biro!

Which books did you enjoy as a child? And which books do you share with your children?

I absolutely LOVED anything by Richard Scarry. I particularly remember reading Storybook Dictionary and What Do People Do All Day? again and again, hunting for Bugdozer on every page. Dingo Dog was my favourite character. I also loved Dogger by Shirley Hughes, The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr and, of course, Roger Hargreaves' Mr Men books. We have all of these on our bookshelf at home plus about a ton more - I'm something of a compulsive picture book buyer. My daughters' current faves include Emma Yarlett's Orion and the Dark, I Want My Hat Back by John Klassen, The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell and anything by Oliver Jeffers. Storytime is the best time of day!

What’s your favourite subject to draw?
Woodland scenes are nice - also jungles and the like. Monsters and aliens are fun too. My subconscious phone-doodle of choice is always fruit. I have no idea why, but whenever I finish a phone call a post-it note crammed with apples, bananas and cherries has magically appeared!

Which is your favourite spread from your picture book Blown Away and why?
The jungle spread when the gang have just crash-landed. It was fun dotting the penguins and their scattered cargo around the scene. There's a surprise or two hidden in there as well... 

If you could only choose one essential tool of your trade which would you choose and why?
Is it too obvious to say my pencil? A colleague at the Observer bought me some really beautiful ones - Palomino Blackwing 602s. Chuck Jones' pencil of choice don't you know. It really is beautifully balanced (how pretentious does that sound?). From a tech point of view it would be my Wacom tablet and Intuos 3 Art Pen. 

How did you feel when you first saw your book in print?
It was a really weird feeling actually - almost like an out-of-body experience. I couldn't quite believe that there was an actual, real, hardback book with my name on the front. Just SO exciting! I can't wait to see one in the actual shops.

Which three piece of advice would you give to illustrators trying to break into the publishing world?
1. Sketch, sketch and sketch some more. You only find a style of your own if you draw your way to it! An individual, immediately identifiable style is SO important. Try and keep a sketchbook with you at all times - you never know when inspiration will strike!

2. Tailor your portfolio to your target market. The first thing that my brilliant agent (Jodie Hodges of United Agents) asked me to do was draw all of the children's book staples - a pirate scene, a dinosaur scene, a space scene, animals, children etc etc. Not only do you end up with a portfolio that publishers can readily identify with, but it can also really help you to hone you style and test it's adaptability too.

3. Don't give up. There probably will be some rejections along the way but remember that a most opinion regarding illustration is subjective. It's not like maths where there's a definite right or wrong answer. If you really believe in yourself and what you're doing you'll be fine. Also, in my experience publishing can be quite a slow-moving process, so having some patience will definitely stand you in good stead!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The head of my degree course once gave me a pep talk and told me that talent always rises to the top eventually. If you're good there will always come a point when people notice that you're good. His words were a great comfort when I first left university and began looking for a job!

Apart from illustration what’s your biggest talent?
Probably football. I was a decent player when I was younger and had a couple of offers to play semi-professionally. I was at uni at the time and I had to decide whether to throw myself into football, training four or five times a week, or get my head down and work. I chose art. Hopefully I made the right decision. In all honesty I don't think I would have been good enough to play football at the top level. Probably not anywhere near it.

Which three things inspire you most?
My three daughters, Ella, Kitty and Poppy. Does that count? They are endlessly fascinating, funny, clever and, er, weird. They are also my picture book guinea pigs - their feedback has been invaluable. Plus they come up with most of the ideas for my stories - but don't tell them or they'll be after their share of the royalties!

What’s next?
Well, I'm halfway through book two at the moment and it's going pretty well so far. It features a brand new cast of characters and I really hope people will like them as much as they seem to like those in Blown Away. Book two has to be finished by the end of January. I also have a few other exciting illustratey (is that a word?) bits and bobs in the pipeline, plus I have to design the Observer Magazine every week (available in all good newsagents every Sunday). It's a really busy time but really, really good fun.  


FREE 'Blown Away' activity sheets - Check the right hand side bar for a downloadsble PDF

Follow Robs work here... 

With many many kind thanks to 
(especially Nicola C) for their support. 

Friday 22 August 2014

On Sudden Hill - An interview with it's creators Linda Sarah and Benji Davies

Ethereal and nostalgic in 'box' loads Benji and Sarah have created a magical environment set to ignite imaginations big and small...

On Sudden Hill

On Sudden Hill is 'Stand By Me' for pre-schoolers, filled with emotion and stark scenery the reader is magnetically drawn to the three small boys and the intricacies of their beguiling friendship. The poetic lyrical text weaves a tender tale of innocence and explores the limitless nature of a child's imagination.

We are beyond thrilled to welcome the creators of
On Sudden Hill to Book Sniffer Towers to tell us a little more about the creation and development of the lead characters in this book, how they came to be and how Benji so deftly put a face to their names. 

Linda Sarah Author :

Hello Book Sniffer (I love your blog name by the way), thank you for having me here!

The names for the boys just tumbled out with the story - when that happens, I love it and usually they feel right - like the characters have been there all along, just waiting for the right moment to appear and say: Howdy - I've got something to tell you! 

It was originally written as a story for older readers, the boys were young teenagers - a much fiercer story, but when sifting through my chaotic piles of notebooks with ideas and story fragments, I thought it could maybe work for younger people as well - the idea of feeling left out, but also having nowhere to express those feelings, no one who is interested etc., - and re-writing it seemed simple and easy, which is a good sign I think.

I honestly can't remember how I first pictured Birt, Etho and Shu, but when I started to see Benji's sketches of them, I had a huge feeling of "Yes!" and I adore how he has brought them to life - they are totally as they should be (and so much better!). Their feelings, evoked by his tender expressions, gestures, reflected in surroundings etc. - just perfect and magical.

Benji Davies Illustrator :


Characters I think are one of the hardest parts of illustrating a book.
The main characters, the starring roles of the book, need to be able to carry the story, to tell the story through their actions. And to do that they need to be believable, they need to hold within them some truth about the story. This all starts in the way that they look.

Of course each illustrator can come up with a vastly different character to the same text, so its by no means set in concrete by the words. That's where as the illustrator you get to tell the story how you see it, you get to shape the characters and the settings, design the place inside which the story unfolds.

First of all you need to know the function of the character, how do they relate to the other characters and elements in the story. In a well written text I think this just pops out at you and perhaps gets easier the more books you illustrate, as you hopefully get better at it.
You have to take their most important characteristics and make them embody those ideas. Are they vulnerable? Make them small. Do they need to be physically big enough to do something specific in the story, to reach on top of a wall perhaps? Make them tall. Or give them long arms. This sounds quite simple but actually can be quite a complex process of unravelling the text to get the right feel for the character. Its a bit like finding a missing piece of jigsaw that fits perfectly in the hole. All these choices have to feel right for the story. Even if they feel random I think there is something subconscious at work, guiding the choices - hair colour, posture, costume. All of these choices will be reflected in the atmosphere and tone of the book. 

For On Sudden Hill I felt that it was such an emotional text, that I couldn’t see the characters without visualising their world first. I thought it needed a more organic approach, to see the bigger picture and then start pulling the characters out.

First of all I started to draw silhouettes of some of the scenes in the text, or moments that I felt would evoke the atmosphere of the book. In animation they call these kind of sketches and drawings the ‘beats’.


These beats really helped me to start shaping the story, getting into the sense of place and the interaction between the three boys.
I then sort of hoped that their characters would start to filter through. I made more further sketches.

I was starting to get an idea of how a couple of them might look, very roughly. I think some of them were a bit too old looking, but that wasn’t important for this stage. It was better to just get something down than worry about specifics.  I would have loved to have been able to keep more of these silhouettes in the final book but I think it might have been too dark and moody.

Then I made some more detailed character sketches and also a design for the box-cart which I based on my previous silhouette drawings.

As I started to artwork, their individual personalities started to take shape. They still needed to be younger though, and I gave them more appeal by making their clothes brighter and more detailed.
Then at a late stage, we (my art director, editor and myself) realised that it wasn’t really working as well as it could. One of the characters was stealing the limelight - the wrong one! But rather than start the characters from scratch they suggested a straight swap of two of the characters. So Birt became Shu and Shu, Birt. It was completely contrary to how I had been thinking but the characters worked but it made complete sense. 

I think it shows that you can never be entirely sure what the right solution for a character is, but that when you get it right everything falls into place.

Vists Benji's website here 

Follow Benji (Benji_Davies) 
& Sarah (@travelandsing) on Twitter
With HUGE thanks to the team at Simon and Schuster  (especially Jade)
for inviting us to kick off this blog tour!
Make sure you pop over to Wondrous Reads tomorrow for the next installment of the On Sudden Hill blog tour! 

Toodle Pip! 

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Animalium by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott

'Prepare to be completely enveloped in a book which celebrates all that is magical about the natural world.' 

Within the pages of this resplendent book lie a diverse and comprehensive collection of animals the likes of which you might only ever discover in the mesmeric corridors of the Natural History Museum.

The nostalgically fusty and delightfully antiquarian feel of the collection within these pages immediately transport the imagination through the galleries within the fictitious'Animalium' museum. 

Case upon case of beautiful creatures unfurl from the pages, from Invertebrates to birds and beyond, no stone is left un-turned and you will feel notably enlightened by the bountiful, engaging and 'not-at-all-stuffy' facts. 

The numerous exquisite naturalistic illustrations by Katie Scott are as awe inspiring and breathtaking as the creatures they represent and perfectly compliment the expertly and fastidiously curated annotations by author Jenny broom

Be it for reference or pure unadulterated wonderment 'Animalium' is an essential addition to all home libraries. It will no doubt be adored by adults and children alike, a true celebration of the infinite value of a beautifully made book.
'Animalium' will be prowling, slithering and scuttling into book shops across the country this September, 
it's sheer physical magnificence will have readers heaving copies off the shelves at break neck speed.

Follow innovative 'Animalium' creators
Jenny Broom (@broom_jenny)
& Katie Scott (@katiescottscott)
on Twitter 

With thanks to @BigPicturePress

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Introducing Zack Rock

With his first picture book  Homer HenryHudson's Curio Museum  set of imminent release, behold in innermost thoughts and an excusive sneak peek into the spectacular sketchbook of my new Twitter friend Zack Rock's amazing sketchbook!

Which three pieces of advice would you give to students graduating now about how to break into the publishing world?
The most important thing is to make sure you're doing work that springs straight from your heart. If you're not, the publishers and public can sense it, and you'll likely not get very far. Of the many books I've sent out, the only ones that have been picked up were those I thought were too personal for anyone to want to publish. So take who you are and what you love and stamp it between the pages of your book.

In the same vein, don't just send your book proposals out to any random publisher. Find the publisher that releases work you respond to. They speak to you for a reason, and will more likely have ears to hear what you're trying to communicate. Also, this is a real relationship you're trying to build, so do what you can to meet these publishers in person. They won't bite.
Lastly, getting published is REALLY REALLY hard. It's hard coming up with ideas, hard rewriting books until they sound right, hard redrawing compositions until they look right, hard staying up nights and staying in weekends to get a project finished. It's hard putting yourself out there, hard dealing with the inevitable rejection, hard to not feel hopeless.

Know you'll be walking uphill against the wind the whole time. But know also that each step is bringing you closer to the top, and everyone who's come before you has tread the same mountain. Be patience, and enjoy the view from wherever you are (I mean it).

Which three things inspire your work most?
Books. The stories in books not only take you to far away places you couldn't possibly fathom, but brings you up close to the minds of people you couldn't otherwise know. They expand the possibilities of reality itself. I can spend hours in a bookstore wondering at the universes waiting behind the covers.
My home (wherever that is). Everywhere I've lived has presented me enough miraculous moments to inspire a book. Homer HenryHudson's Curio Museum is packed with impressions from my old home in Seattle, and my current home, Berlin, is all over my second title. It's tempting to keep moving and just do a book everywhere I land, though I think if I take my cat on one more transatlantic flight he'll murder me midair.

Music. I spend a lot of time alone in the studio while working on a book, and music is the fuel that keeps me running during those long hours. Luckily I spend more time illustrating than writing since brushes are way better than laptops for air-drumming.

Can you show us a page from your sketch book…

Since you asked nicely, I'll show you a few pages from my sketchbook. The smaller sketches are from my pocket life drawing book I take with me everywhere, and the other sketches are from my larger book. 

The Olympics were on at the time these were drawn, and I'm big on figure skating. And dinosaurs.

Readers can find my portfolio at, my blog at, my Facebook artist page at, and my Twitter account at See you there!

We wish Zack the best of luck with his beautiful book
and hope it becomes a huge success! 

Monday 11 August 2014

The Big Blue Thing on the Hill - Creating a BUZZZZZZ

It's always completely thrilling to be introduced to a new illustrator and during my time at Templar Publishing Yuval Zommer has to be one of the most charming and unique finds on my list of top favourites.

Represented by Penny H at the Caroline Sheldon Agency Yuval has an extensive and enviable career at some of the top advertising agencies in the world so it was a great treat to hear he was creating his very first picture book. With his off beat sense of humour and unique and contemporary style it is sure to be a huge hit.

In advance of his inaugeral Children's Illustration exhibition at Hornsey Children's Library Yuval has joined us to tell us a bit more about what we might see in the exhibition and to give us a very sneak peek at some of the work which will be exhibited.  

Yuval Zommer and his brilliant book 

A Word from Yuval: 

"Without giving the plot of my story away, a large swarm of insects plays a crucial part in 'The Big Blue Thing on the Hill'. This actually came about when a very inspired Creative Director suggested I include some Mosquitos in the book... I soon found out that I really enjoy drawing flies and Mosquitos and bees and wasps and dragonflies and basically any bugs! 

I love them whizzing through the book and kept thinking I should used them elsewhere when I was asked by Hornsey Children's Library to exhibit my work the first thing I asked the librarians was how would they like a rather large swarm of insects taking over the wall? To my delight they said yes!" 

Sketches from the exhibition at Hornsey Children's Library 

Here's a sneak preview of some of the beautifully bonkers bugs, beetles and bees from Yuvals exhibition.. 

We highly recommend you fly along to Yuvals show at
Hornsey Children's Library
3rd - 21st September! 

The Big Blue Thing on the Hill 

The Big Blue Thing on The Hill by Yuval Zommer

The residents of a peaceful and sleepy forest near 
Howling Hill are puzzled to discover a Big Blue Thing has appeared in the middle of the night.
What could it be? 
and more importantly how can they get rid of it?

In this hilarious tale the wise but confused woodland creatures try all manner of mad cap schemes to make the Big Blue Thing move on but what IS this mysterious creature! 

Children will love having the upper hand knowing the secret revealed in the elaborate illustrations and roar with laughter as this clever and unique story unfolds. NB: Plenty of howling, roaring, growling and screaching required! 

A winning picture book for readers of all ages 
(This book has a very unexpected and highly amusing ending!)