Sunday, 23 October 2016

Interview with Joe Todd-Stanton

Joe is a south London based illustrator who graduated from Bristol University in 2012, since then he has worked with a large range of clients including Anorak, Nobrow and Cricket Magazine. He has a bold colourful style, but still tries to keep his work grounded in his strong line work, due to the heavy childhood influence of illustrators such as Tove Janssen and Maurice Sendak.

BWB: Arthur and the Golden Rope is your debut book for children. Are you happy with the end result?

JTS: I'm very happy with how it turned out. After spending so much time developing it it's an amazing feeling just to be able hold it and see other people enjoying it. I also can't wait to use everything I have learned from this experience on my next project. 

BWB: How did the idea for Arthur and the Golden Rope come about?

JTS: The idea came from loving illustrators like Tom Gauld & Mike Magnolia who can take huge ideas from mythology or literature and make them there own. Really the first idea I had was something along the lines of Hellboy for kids although this changed a lot as the story grew. 

BWB: Who and what inspires your work?

JTS: The boring answer is anything and everything but I especially love going to museums. I don't think I ever walk away from a trip to the Natural History Museum without an idea for an illustration or two.  This also goes for the Hunterian although those ideas are normally a lot stranger! 

BWB: I adore your illustration style. Is it mostly digital or do you have a technique you prefer to use over software?

JTS: Thank you! I draw everything in pencil and then colour using Photoshop. One thing I focus on is still trying keep my work looking loose and hand drawn so I limit myself to only a few brushes in Photoshop. 

BWB: How long did Arthur and the Golden Rope take to produce from the first idea to the finished book in your hands?

JTS: The whole process took nearly four years! This was because we made a version which was never released as we weren't happy with some of the elements. Obviously I am really happy with how it turned out so I have no regrets. 

BWB: Any plans for a follow up?

JTS: We have a basic outline for the second story now which I am really happy with. It still needs a few tweaks but I will hopefully get started on it later this year for a 2017 release.

Huge thanks to Joe and Emma at Flying Eye Books for making this interview happen. Arthur and the Golden Rope is available to buy at all good booksellers and on the Flying Eye Books website. Check out my review right here

Arthur and the Golden Rope

Arthur and the Golden Rope

By Joe Todd-Stanton 
Published by Flying Eye Books

Come with us now on a journey through time and space, to a world filled with vikings, magical objects, powerful gods and mythical beasts and your new favourite book series from new talent, Joe Todd-Stanton.

Imagine a vault so cavernous that it could contain the world’s greatest treasures, from mummified remains of ancient monarchs to glistening swords brandished by legendary warriors. How did Professor Brownstone come into possession of such a collection? Hear the tale of the very first Brownstone and his quest for the golden rope as we travel back to the land of the Vikings. A place filled with magical objects, powerful gods and legendary beasts to be conquered!

This is a thrilling tale about an unlikely hero who uses his intellect to become a great warrior. I couldn't put this book down. Joe's illustrations are full of depth and immense detail and on top of that we have a wondrous story to boot! I love Arthur's character, a little adventurer that loves to explore and do the right thing. Throw in a huge dash of mythology and you have a story that any fantasy book fan will adore. If you're a Hilda fan then this will definitely whet your appetite - and that's coming from a huge Hilda fan.

Overall Arthur and the Golden Rope is a wondrous debut from a brand new talent that's one to watch. I'm sure there will be more great treasures from Joe very soon...

Arthur and the Golden Rope is available to buy from all good booksellers and from the Flying Eye Books website here. To find out more about its creator, I interviewed Joe about all sorts here.

The Pirate Cruncher

The Pirate Cruncher

By Jonny Duddle 
Published by Templar Publishing

Another one of Jonny Duddle's classic pirate books gets the board book treatment in this special edition. So if you missed it first time round, beware of the pirate cruncher!

An old pirate tells a tavern full of salty sea dogs about an island bursting with hidden treasure. Once they’ve set sail for the mysterious island, he tells them it is guarded by the terrible Pirate-Cruncher. The greed of the pirates gets the better of them and lets just say the treasure they seek is in safe hands...

Much like Jonny's other pirate titles, The Pirate Cruncher isn't your typical pirate picture book - full of humour and more colourful characters, this is a pirate story with a bite! Jonny flexes his signature style, and the level of detail is phenomenal. Again this board book comes with a surprise flap out spread that reveals something the pirates are unaware of and will certainly having young pirate fans chuckling. A great board book for the pirate in you!

The Pirate Cruncher is available to buy now in this new board book edition from all good bookshops and from online retailers.

The Pirates Next Door

The Pirates Next Door

By Jonny Duddle 
Published by Templar Publishing

Ever wanted pirates for next door neighbours? This story from the wonderful Jonny Duddle may make you think twice. Now in a smaller, board book format, there's another chance to catch this one if you missed it first time around...

The Jolley-Rogers family are moving to Dull-on-Sea, a quiet seaside town. Stopping to fix their ship, this pirate family get the whole town gossiping. Ignoring the grown-ups’ disapproval, Matilda from next door becomes friends with the youngest pirate son. But the rest of the town are not impressed with their new pirate neighbours and demand the council have them removed from their little town. Although the pirates aren't looking to stay for long, they still leave quite a generous present on their departure that leaves a lasting impression...

If you're not familiar with the original print of this book, it's a humorous rhyming tale with a surprise flap out spread towards the end. It's a delightful story about not stereotyping people at first glance. Pirates obviously have a reputation for not being the nicest of people, but this family of pirates are there to change that misconception. Filled with Jonny's beautifully rendered style, each spread is jam packed with detail and great character illustration. A must buy for any pirate fan! 

The Pirates Next Door is available to buy in a new board back edition from all good bookshops and online.

Monday, 17 October 2016



By Ben Newman 
Published by Flying Eye Books

I'm a huge fan of Ben's work, so to find out he was creating a new picture book for Flying Eye was a nice surprise. Ben's latest book is firmly back on earth and is about a little mouse that's the bravest animal there ever was...

BOO! introduces us to a whole cast of colourful characters in this debut picture book from Ben Newman. But who is scarier than who? The story starts with a very brave mouse who claims she is the bravest animal there is. But she is soon scared off by a bigger and braver owl. The owl then proclaims he is the bravest and wisest animal there is - that is until a monkey comes along and scares the owl off. With each spread comes a bigger and fiercer animal, that is until our cover star appears again and scares the biggest animal straight off the page. Bigger doesn't always mean braver!

This is a beautiful picture book. Filled with Ben's signature style, he uses bold colours and shapes to create engaging characters that just pop off the pages. A really fun read before bed time that's sure to get a giggle at the end of the story.

I always enjoy a well crafted endpaper and these endpapers are cleverly thought out. The cover of the book has die-cut circles in the title and when you open the book up it reveals a very scary crocodile! The endpapers at the back reveal the cast of characters showing who scares who - although the next line shows what happens when a certain little rodent intervenes.

Another great title from the folks at Flying Eye books that will keep young and old entertained. BOO! is available to buy at all good booksellers and on the Flying Eye Books website here.

Friday, 7 October 2016

A Child of Books

A Child of Books

By Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston 
Published by Walker Books

This is the first illustrated collaboration Oliver Jeffers has created in picture book form. A Child of Books is a shared venture with typographical artist, Sam Winston. And through their love of words and art, the duo have created an artistically balanced picture book which shows what it means to discover the world of stories.  

In this inspiring, lyrical tale about the rewards of reading and sharing stories, a little girl sails her raft "across a sea of words" to arrive at the house of a small boy. There she invites him to come away with her on an adventure. Guided by his new friend, the boy unlocks his imagination and a lifetime of magic lies ahead of him… But who will be next?

This is a love letter to the world of fiction. It's about holding on to your imagination and not growing up. Sam's typography is just breathtaking, with my favourite page being the sea of words. Sam's typographical landscapes are beautifully shaped from excerpts of children’s classics including Treasure Island, Little Women and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Oliver's illustrations are not his usual, using a much simpler, elegant line and simple washes to illustrate his characters. 

This isn't your usual 'run of the mill' picture book. From the cover you are presented with a piece of art. The cover art's original canvas is an actual book - a concept that's not entirely new coming from the man who painted it, as An Incredible Book Eating Boy was entirely illustrated on book covers and pages of found books. Oliver Jeffers is not someone who rests on his laurels. He continues to evolve and collaborate with authors and illustrators the world over. This new venture sees him join forces with UK artist Sam Winston, who specialises in using typography to create art. A Child of Books marries the two quite effortlessly, creating a picture book that could easily have been just one illustrator as there isn't a visual divide in style. It's a clever joint effort, as there isn't an ego fighting for space on the page, with Oliver even taking a step back to an older style he adopted earlier in his career to illustrate the story here. 

All in all this is a beautiful picture book - it is a piece of art and another triumph for the super talented Oliver Jeffers. A perfect book for all ages and a great present to give to any book lover.

A Child of Books is available to buy now at all good bookshops and from the Walker Books website.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Interview with Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen is a Canadian writer and illustrator of children's books and an animator. He won both the American Caldecott Medal and the British Kate Greenaway Medal for children's book illustration, recognizing the 2012 picture book This is Not My Hat, which he also wrote. He is the first person to win both awards for the same work.

 We Found A Hat is your third and final book in the 'hat' series. Did you always intend to produce three of these books when you came up with the first book, I Want My Hat Back?

JK: I think I always liked the idea of a set of three, but I didn't know that hats were going to be the central theme. For a while I thought the cast of animals in "I Want My Hat Back" would be in all three books, but when I tried more stories with them it just felt like going back to the well. Once I'd figured that out I wrote a few drafts of a book about fish and they didn't concern hats, but the more I wrestled with the text the more it changed until I woke up one morning and I had written another book about fish and a hat, and I liked it, so I guess then the theme was sort of set. 

BWB: Why turtles? 

JK: I had a few criteria for the animals in this book. I wanted them to be kind of sedentary animals, not very physical. I wanted them to be close to identical with small variations, and shell patterns are good for that. The other thing turtles are great for is focusing the audience. My stories use the characters' eyes a lot, and turtles are so stiff that you know you're not going to get a lot of information from how they are standing or posed, especially not how I draw them, so the only place you can look for clues is their eyes.  

 Which is your favourite of the trilogy?

JK: Right now it's this last one. It took longer to figure out, and I think the kind of story I wanted to try and tell changed in that time. This book feels fuller to me than the other ones, somehow. I think I Want My Hat Back will always be special to me because it kind of arrived mysteriously one evening and I think it still works, and This Is Not My Hat was received so generously by everybody and I do like how that one ends especially, but both those books have a little coldness to them that I don't think this last one has. I think the coldness was on purpose when I did it, but I wanted this one to deal with a relationship that needed establishing and that was something I hadn't had the guts to try before.

BWB: Were you shocked when I Want My Hat Back became such a huge success?

JK: Absolutely. I still am. It's far enough back now that there are kids who had it and have grown out of it and weirdly that gives you a clearer sense of scale of how far it wandered around out there. It's an amazing gift to get, I don't really know how else to put it.

BWB: When you wrote the sequels to I Want My Hat Back, did bringing the bear back ever cross your mind? (especially as he was such an iconic and unforgettable character)

JK: Yes I did try it but like I said it felt a little like going back to the well. I think there was also a lot of fear on my end of writing still. It was the first book I'd ever done by myself and I worried that going back would reveal how accidental it had actually been, that I didn't really have a handle on it after all. I think the thing that I still like most about that book and those characters is that they really did make a little world in my head even though you see so little of it. It felt like a real place and they felt like they all had lives they went back to after that story was over. I think going back in might have broken that a little.

BWB: You have been creating picture books for over 6 years now. Has the way you write and illustrate changed from when you first started?

JK: I won't say I've gotten more confident. Every single new book is terrifying. But I am learning to trust the process more. At the beginning I needed everything to be just so in my head before I started. I didn't have any faith that my skills as either a writer or an illustrator were going to reveal anything along the way. The idea going in had to be as tight as possible to survive whatever flaws I had as the person who had to see it through to the end. But now, and with this last book especially, I'm starting to see that you can get very interesting stuff if you let go of the idea that you know exactly what you want from the start and you keep an eye on where the thing wants to go on its own. It's a much more interesting way to work, and I think you get to some stuff that feels a lot more like it belongs to you than if you were just looking for an idea that was going to feel universal and bulletproof.

BWB: You're also known for your work on animated films such as Coraline. Is this a medium that still interests you creatively?

JK: Yes I do miss animation sometimes. There are storytelling tools in film that you don't get with books. Books - picture books especially - are so clean and economical and you have so much control because it's just you, but animation and film gives you some amazing tools. Movement and acting and sound and editing. I also just miss working in a group and seeing what comes out of that. I think it's a really neat time to be a designer and a storyteller. Games and apps and what's going on in TV have really opened up some amazing new territory and it would be really fun to get into that stuff. I'll try to make books as long as they let me but I think I'll probably try and wander off a few times into those other things too. 

BWB: Have there been any new talents in the book world that have caught your attention?

JK: Oh man I have so many pals who are making books now, it's so great. Look up all these guys, they've all started making their own books this year or last (in no particular order):

Brenden Wenzel, Vera Brosgol, Lucy Ruth Cummins, Kate Beaton, Ryan North, Chris Turnham, Chris Appelhans, Emily Carroll, Steve Wolfhard I'm forgetting everybody but that's a good start. Oh and you know who I haven't met but I love his stuff is William Grill. Some guys just plain make you jealous.

A huge thank you to Jon (I am raising my hat to you) and Marina for taking the time to answer my questions. We Found A Hat is available to buy from the 11th October in the UK. Read my review here.