Saturday 21 November 2015

WELCOMING Cressida Cowell to Book Sniffer Towers

How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury by Cressida Cowell published this autumn and as illustrated Fiction goes it's pretty special.

We are very lucky to have been invited into Cressida's writing den to have a sneaky look at some of her trademark sketches for the latest and sadly last in the the How to Train Your Dragon series. 

"At the end of this day, either the humans or the dragons will face extinction. Can Hiccup save the dragons? First he must defeat the Dragon Guardians of Tomorrow, and then he faces the Dragon Furious and end the Rebellion… ALONE. The VERY beginning of the first book starts with a question: did dragons exist? You may have noticed that as the series has developed the question changed to: if dragons DID exist, what happened to them? I’ve known the answer for 15 years, now it’s time for you to find out…" - Cressida Cowell

The How To Train Your Dragon books have always been highly regarded in the Sniffer household, the charming and snortluagherous illustrations by Cressida Cowell herself really really add a great authentic quality to the story and a fantastic insight into Cressida's imagined world. 

With a mighty 12 books in the series there is no doubt it has ignited a passion for books in thousands and thousands of young readers and I would have no doubt inspired a great many to pick up a pen themselves. It just so happens Cressida's picture book 'That Rabbit Belongs To Emily Brown' (Illustrated by the delightful Neal Layton) was the very first book I worked on when I began my publishing career at Orchard Children's Books many years ago. 

Cressida's Studio
So here for your delectation and delight are a selection of illustrations from the very last book in the How to Train your Dragon series! Magical maps, Hilarious Hiccup and a myriad of monstrous dragons. Enjoy! 

"Here is a Map of Berk. I’ve always loved a good adventure story, such as Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. He started that story by drawing a map – the pirates and Long John Silver climbed out of that map and into his imagination. Like Robert Louis Stevenson, one of the things I did when thinking about How to Train Your Dragon was draw a map of Berk. This helped me start building the world and who would live there."

"In the first volume of Hiccup’s How to Train Your Dragon memoirs, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III was an awesome sword-fighter and greatest Viking Hero who ever lived. But it wasn’t always like that. In the beginning, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III was not loud enough to make himself heard at dinner with his father, Stoick the Vast and CERTAINLY not stupid enough to go into a cave full of dragons to find a pet. It was important to me that Hiccup wasn’t a classic big, strong Viking. I wanted to write about an ordinary, unimpressive-looking Viking, who shows everyone that he can STILL be a Hero."

We are very excited to hear what Cressida will be penning next! We anticipate something epic and fun filled ...


Cressida Cowell grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. She was convinced that there were dragons living on this island, and has been fascinated by dragons ever since. Cressida has written and illustrated twelve books in the popular How to Train Your Dragon series which has sold over 7 million copies worldwide, and is published in 37 languages. How to Train Your Dragon is also an award-winning Dreamworks film series, and a TV series shown on Netflix. Also the author of picture books, Cressida has won the Nestle Children's Book Prize and has been shortlisted for many others. She has been a proud Ambassador for the National Literacy Trust for almost ten years. Cressida lives in Hammersmith with her husband and three children. Check out Cressida's website:


Why not take part in our Twitter competition! #WIN a complete set of How to Train Your Dragon books plus a copy of Cressida's beautiful Incomplete Book of Dragons kindly donated by Hodder Children's Books - Pop over to Twitter an RT and follow @maybeswabey  #HTTYDCOMP - Comp Closes 2/12/15 UK only - winner picked at random GOOD LUCK!

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Hide and Seek with David Barrow

'Have You Seen Elephant?’ 
Published by Gecko Press 
£10.99 HB  

Here, right before your eyes (not hiding at all) is a bonefide pitch perfect laugh out loud picture book for all ages. Debut author David Barrow has created a brilliant celebration of the limitless nature of a child’s imagination wrapped up in a deliciously sophisticated and accessible package. 

A joyful simple text perfectly compliments moments of complete hysteria in the accompanying illustrations. Beautifully immersive full page pictures draw the reader into the game of hide and seek played between a young boy and a cumbersome pachyderm.  Little readers will quite possibly burst at the seams desperately trying to help the young boy find the elephant on each page and the story’s punch line is a complete delight and the characters are utterly beguiling.  

I do hope you enjoy this picture book as much as I have and will do for years to come. Have You Seen Elephant? is a must have for every pre-school and home library and the perfect gift for little Book Sniffers this Christmas (and any other season for that matter) 

Promotes – Inclusivity / imagination play / friendship  

By some stroke of fantastical luck and the help of a dear friend David agreed to spend a little time answering some questions for us - here's the result!  

How long did it take for the initial concept for the book to become a real book? And did the idea change much along the way? 

I came up with the concept of the book as one of my projects when I was studying for my Children’s Book Illustration MA at Anglia Ruskin Uni and I developed a first draft dummy over one semester. Julia from Gecko was visiting the course one week and saw the image of Elephant under the standard lamp. Thankfully she liked it, asked to see some more and subsequently gave me the opportunity to develop the project into a “real-life” proper book! Pretty much all the hiding places I’d initially drawn stayed. We introduced the dog character and really worked on the look of Elephant (I looked back at my original Elephant the other day and he looked positively threatening!) Working with publishers and art directors is an amazing process as all everybody wants is to make the most of a book at the end of a day. All in all it was about a year before a box of lovely new books arrived on my doorstep. And boy did they smell good! 

Are there any authors or illustrators you would  like to collaborate with? 

I’d love to work with Jon Klassen and/or Benji Davies. Not so much to collaborate with them; more to sit behind them and nick their ideas. I’m a big fan of Gerry Turley’s work and I reckon he could teach me a thing or two about screen-printing. 
Also I’d gladly do a two way writing/illustrating swap with fellow Anglia Ruskin alumni (and thoroughly nice bloke) Steve Anthony! 

Do you work digitally or physically or a mixture of both?

 I create all my artwork and textures physically with ink, paints, pastels, pencils... whatever’s to hand really. Then I scan it all in and composite everything digitally. That way, you get both the spontaneity and energy of physical mark-making, and the control offered by working digitally. Most things I do are a result of accidents happening during both stages!

Which is your favourite spread?

Hmmm... I have a love/hate relationship with most of the spreads! I know you shouldn’t laugh at your own jokes but Elephant behind the TV still makes me chuckle (only a bit, and then I remember how long I battled with it and I shed a little tear). I guess an honourable mention to “Elephant under standard lamp” has to be made as that’s the image that ultimately led to the book actually happening.However, I can tell you exactly what piece of music I was listening to with every part of every image. I bet a lot of illustrators possess that skill!

Are the characters in the book inspired by people you know? Are there any special details we should look out for?

Elephant is actually inspired by my nieces’ hide and seek skills. Pretty much all of Elephant’s hiding places have been adopted by one or both of them at some point. Obviously, I’ve ever so slightly exaggerated the situations. Things to look out for; the dog plays a fairly significant role, cat makes a couple of appearances, the tortoise is hiding in a couple of spreads. Oh and Edward Lear’s in there somewhere.

You have kindly let us have a peek inside your beautiful sketch book (below)– If you could snoop in someone else's sketch book who would you choose?  

Whilst on the MA course, I’ve been lucky enough to have sneaky peeks in some fairly astounding sketchbooks over the last couple of years. Highlights include Axel Scheffler, Alexis Deacon, Jim Kay, Ronald Searle, Helen Stephens and Pam Smy. I find sketchbooks phenomenally exhilarating to behold and will gladly look through anybody’s!

What will you be working on next?

I’m very lucky in that I’ve got a few projects on the go. Due to the secretive nature of the publishing industry I can’t say too much, however I’m writing and illustrating my next book with Hodder which is massively exciting (also a development of a Uni project). I’ll be illustrating for some other authors as well. 

Can you recommend a good hiding place? 

A good hiding place? I can’t reveal my best one as then everybody will know where to find me!

Visit Davids website HERE ...
Follow David on Twitter @DaveBarrow3 

With Thanks to 
Bounce Marketing, 
Pip Johnson, Laura Smythe, 
Gecko Press and David!