Wednesday, 10 December 2014



By Oili Tanninen
Published by Tate Publishing



HIPPU was first published in 1967, and feels as fresh and current alongside anything in today's book market. Oili Tanninen is one of Finland's most cherished author/illustrators and has illustrated over twenty children's books, winning her several major awards including the Hans Christen Andersen Cerificate of Honour.

Published by Tate Publishing, this is the first time HIPPU has become available in English, and is undoubtably destined to become a classic worldwide. This lovely edition is a minature 15cm squared hardback which is ideal for tiny hands to hold.  


 HIPPU tells the story of a mouse called Hippu, and one day he sees a homeless dog (called Heppu) outside his house and decides to invite him in. They eat their favourite things, play dress up and go for a walk together. The moral being that its good to share with people less fortunate than us and that friendship (whether it be with animals or people) is rewarding in itself. 



Created using a limited colour palette of red, black and white and simple paper cut out shapes, the imagery is bold and striking and especially appealing to young children. The contrasting colours favor our main characters, with them being the main focal point as they sit on white or red backgrounds. You can see that illustrators around today like Chris Haughton have been inspired by Tanninen with the her unique simplity to paper cut-out illustration and bold colour choices. Here's hoping she'll influence many more illustrators to come...   

HIPPU is available to buy now from the Tate bookshop and from their online store.

Charlotte Voake interview

I got the chance to interview the splendid Charlotte Voake, an illustrator that you will find on most children's bookshelves. She has illustrated over 50 books, many of which have become household favourites.

Born and raised in Wales, Charlotte says that book illustration is “the only thing I ever wanted to do” and she certainly has made a brilliant career of it. Skipping formal training in art, she studied art history at London University and worked at an art gallery before embarking on a freelance career in illustration. Charlotte lives in Surrey, England, with her husband and two children.

BWB: You worked on The Owl and the Pussy-cat not so long ago. What was it like working with Julia Donaldson?

CV: Julia is lovely to work with - I think she is very interested in how her texts are illustrated - and from an illustrator's point of view she is a visual writer, by which I mean she gives lots of visual clues  to get your teeth into!

BWB: The Owl and the Pussy-cat has seen many illustrators produce their versions of the famous characters. What attracted you to the project and what did you set out to do differently?

CV: Actually I illustrated  Julia's first, then Puffin asked me to illustrate the original version as a pair to The Further Adventures.I might have approached the original quite differently if it has been stand-alone - perhaps!

BWB: You both returned to the Owl and the Pussy-Cat with 'The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat'.As this was new text, did you feel more comfortable making your mark on such a well known tale? 

CV: There is quite a bit more text in Julia's sequel, and she has woven in many more characters from Lear's Nonsense Rhymes, including Aunt Jobiska and her cat with crimson whiskers. It was fun developing them. Edward Lear's original is a shorter poem with very little text on each page. I used a number of characters from Julia's story to make a sub-text in pictures. So it was a bit topsy -turvy  doing the second one first and the first one second, but I particularly enjoyed the jigsaw aspect of working that way.

BWB: Has the way you work changed from when you first started in the book industry?

CV: Not the way I work, which is still on  paper using a pen and watercolour, but computers make a huge difference to the way a book is designed once I deliver the illustrations. It's still a very labour intensive process but so much easier to manipulate images on a screen. And if I make a  bad mistake on a drawing it can be photoshopped out.Wonderful!

BWB: Do you use computer software for any stage in your illustration process?

CV: No, I don't use a computer at all except to do research. It makes a huge difference to be able to look things up easily - for example the candelabra on the Pobble's table!

BWB: Which book are you most proud of?

CV: I think I like Aesop's Fables the best.

BWB: Your career pans over 35 years. What stands out as the biggest highlight for you?

CV: One of the biggest highlights has been meeting Julia!

BWB: Can you tell us what your working day is like?  

CV: I work at home in a nice white room which is often horribly untidy.
I go for a 2 mile walk most mornings with a friend and have breakfast when I get home. We have some hens so I quite often have a boiled egg.
I have recently found out how to make proper frothy milk for a cappucino so I  am going through a phase of having one or two of those at 11am.
Sometimes I work really hard, and late, which is fine unless I am having a real tussle with a drawing. Sometimes I make soup and practise my violin for a change!

BWB: Any plans for another Ginger book? 

CV: I would really like to do a Ginger counting book.

Many thanks to Charlotte for taking the time to answer my questions and huge thanks to Laura for putting me in touch with her.

The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat

The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat

Written by Julia Donaldson, Illustrated by Charlotte Voake
Published by Puffin 


The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat was actually published in August 2013, where Julia Donaldson created a lovely sequel that is respectful and an appropriate follow on from The Owl and the Pussy-cat.

This adventure follows the Owl and the Pussy-cat, who set off to travel far from the safety of the Bong-tree glade in search of the thief who has stolen their beautiful golden ring. Children will be sure to recognise the familiar characters and places from Lear’s classic poem in this delightful sequel.



Julia has done a great job in following the structure of the original poem, very Lear-like, and with Charlotte Voake’s adorable illustrations. I believe children and adults alike will enjoy this second book just as much as the first! 



This paperback edition even comes with the added bonus of a CD which includes two readings of the story by the author and a musical arrangement, performed by Julia and Malcolm Donaldson. A lovely gift for any age.



The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat is available to buy in all good bookshops and on the Puffin website. Watch out for my interview with Charlotte Voake coming soon!

The Owl and the Pussy-cat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat

Written by Edward Lear, Foreword by Julia Donaldson, Illustrated by Charlotte Voake
Published by Puffin 


Earlier this autumn, Puffin published a stunning picture book edition of Edward Lear’s classic poem, The Owl and the Pussy-cat, illustrated by Charlotte Voake and introduced by Julia Donaldson. The perfect companion to The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat. 

This classic poem was first published during 1871 (as part of ‘Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets) and tells the story of the love between the title characters who marry in the land ‘where the Bong-tree grows’. The narrative poetry is beautifully illustrated by Charlotte Voake, who has done it true justice with her use of watercolour, capturing the essence of Lear’s ‘sketchy fluid style’, as noted by Julia Donaldson.



The foreword, written by Julia Donaldson, lovingly tells us about her Granny introducing her to Edward Lear’s poetry, and liking best the longer poems with their spirit of adventure. Julia likes The Owl and the Pussy-cat for its happy story of courtship and marriage and despite its humour and nonsense, for being charmingly romantic. 



Julia also brings up an interesting point that although this poem was voted the nation’s favourite children’s poem, she fears that it is more known to grown ups than to children, which I would agree with, but hope this lovely edition will change that. 

The Owl and the Pussy-cat is available to buy in all good bookshops and on the Puffin website. Watch out for my interview with Charlotte Voake coming soon!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Beatrice Alemagna interview

Beatrice Alemagna is one of my favourite illustrators, so it was an absolute honour to get the chance to ask her some questions about her work, life and latest book Little Big Boubo.

Beatrice was born in Bologna, Italy, in 1973. When she was a child her biggest heroes were Pippi Longstocking, Marcovaldo, Karlsson on the roof, Silvester and Meffi. At eight she decided that, whatever the cost, once grown up she would become a "painter and writer of novels". Beatrice has had 29 books published so far and these have been translated into over 14 languages. She currently lives in Paris.

BWB: What inspired you to write Little Big Boubo?

BA: Since I became a mother (almost four years ago) the child took a central position in my work.
I feel like exploring his issues and the phases he is going through. Obviously my daughter has inspired the book. During this delicate period between two and three years, in which children don't know whether they should define themselves as "little" (like a baby) or already claim to be "big" (like a grown up person). During this time, what it's surprising is that they, by themselves, change their perception respect to their interest. One is "big" or "little" respect to what he desires, at a certain time.

BWB: I love the size of the book for Little Big Boubo. Was this purposely designed for little hands?

BA: Absolutely. As you can see in the little movie I made to present the book, it's easy and pleasant to manipulate the book with tiny hands.

Little big Boubo from Beatrice Alemagna on Vimeo.

BWB: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

BA: I have lived a lot of beautiful moments. One of them was to receive a letter from Tomi Ungerer telling me that he would love to meet me because he loved my work.

BWB: A Lion in Paris is one of my favourite books of yours. Which title are you most proud of?

BA: Besides the Lion in Paris (which is not only the story of a stranger in the unknown town, but also my own autobiography), currently my favorite books (and for different purpose) are : Jo singe garçon, The five Misfits (to be released in 2015 by wide eyed Editions) and the Marvelous Fluffy squishy itty bitty (provisional title, 2015 Thames & Hudson).

BWB: You use collage a lot in your work, what inspired this love?  

BA: Collage allows to get out of your own stereotype, to draw with the obstacle of scissors, and this is very inspiring, for me.

BWB: You're originally from Italy but now live in Paris. Would you say that Paris is now your home forever?

BA: I really cannot answer to this question! Only life will tell.

BWB: A lot of your books feature animals, do you prefer to draw these over people?

BA: I don't have any preferences, in fact I have always loved to tell stories of children, directly related to reality, it's been only a few years since I started to use the animal as a way to talk about the child. And it is a very new and pleasant thing.

BWB: What usually fuels your next book or illustration? 

BA: The love of discovery and change.

Thank you to Beatrice for taking the time to answer my questions - a lovely insight to what inspires you and your wonderful work. Also thank you to Hester for making it possible. If you'd like to see more of Beatrice's work visit her website at

Little Big Boubo

Little Big Boubo

By Beatrice Alemagna
Published by Tate Publishing

Little Big Boubo is the latest book from award-winning illustrator Beatrice Alemagna, who has had 29 books published to date. This charming book offers a tender and humorous reflection on the delightful age of toddlerhood.

Meet Boubo, he’s eager to prove that he’s no longer a baby anymore! Boubo can already ride a bike, has big eyes, a big boy’s nose and four big teeth. He only has to wear a nappy one day a week (like adults!) and can even walk backwards without almost falling over. He’s not scared of heights, and can order his own meal at a restaurant - but never has peas!  

This isn’t your usual brightly coloured picture book. Beatrice uses her familiar style of collage and pencil to create illustrations filled with warmth and charm. Even the unusually small book size adds to its charm and allows small hands to handle it with ease. 

There are lots of things to explore on every spread. Beatrice's attention to detail throughout the book is directed to keep children focused on everything from the text to the expertly layed out illustrations. With numerous things to count like people in queues and fruit lined up on a wall. There's also an emphasis on size throughout the book. Boubo's big bike (with very large wheels), the tiny ladybird on Boubo's nose when he's stressing he has a 'big boy's nose and the towering size of his mother who appears at the end of the book. 

Of course the biggest thing in this book isn't Boubo, it's the love his mother has for him and you can't get any bigger than that! Little Big Boubo is available to buy now in the Tate bookshop and on their online store.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014



Written by Jenny Offill, Illustrated by Chris Appelhans
Published by Orion Children's Books

As a parent, have you ever dreaded the words; ‘I want a pet!’? If that time hasn't come yet (and it will) be very careful what you agree to... 

Sparky! is about a little girl desperate for a pet, any pet will do, but her mum says; 'No, no, no!' However, after a month of asking every day (and constantly without fail), her mother finally says; 'You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed'. So it’s off to the library where the little girl finds the one animal that can meet her mum’s request. What’s the one animal that sleeps for days at a time, hardly moves and will eat the leaves out in the garden? Why a Sloth of course, the laziest, sleepiest animal in the world. 

Meet Sparky, the girl’s new pet sloth. He likes to sleep a lot and is not very good at playing games (except maybe Statues). But soon after Sparky arrives, the little girl’s friend, Mary Potts, comes over to investigate. She isn’t impressed with Sparky at all, as her cat can dance and her parrot knows at least twenty words! The little girl decides to prove that Sparky can do tricks, and organises a Trained Sloth Extravaganza! However it doesn’t work out quite that way. On the day of the reveal, the only trick that Sparky is any good at is playing dead, as he doesn’t like to move! Though Sparky may not know any tricks, the little girl still loves him to bits.

The book is illustrated by uber talented Chris Appelhans, who has worked across animated feature films such as Coraline, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Princess and the Frog. His illustrations for Sparky! bring a sleepy, dreamy feel to Jenny's words, making this a book that's perfect for bed time (be like Sparky and sleep like a sloth!).

Sparky is very cute and children will be wanting sloths for pets! (you have been warned!). Sparky! is out now in all good bookshops and available to buy on the Orion Childrens website.

Sophy Henn interview

I absolutely loved Where Bear? and was dying to know more about the making of the book and the author/illustrator Sophy Henn. So what better way to get answers to all these questions by asking Sophy heself!

Sophy Henn lives and works in Sussex, England. She studied Fashion at Central Saint Martins, accidentally had a London based career as an Art Director in advertising, then completed an MA in Illustration at University of Brighton.

Now she writes and illustrates children’s books in her studio, with a large cup of tea by her side, and can’t quite believe her luck. Sophy is also this year's World Book Day illustrator. Check out her beautiful illustrations on the website here.

BWB: Who's your favourite fictional bear?

SH: Until trying to answer this question I had no idea there were so many bears I love! There's Baloo for 'Bare Necessities', Paddington for his utter adorableness, Fozzi for his fart shoes and Super Ted for pure nostalgia. But if I had to pick one above all the others it would be Pooh. He's satisfyingly cuddly without be too cute, he gets things wrong as well as occasionally right, which is always reassuring, he occasionally stumbles upon a heartbreakingly beautiful insight and there's a contentment about him which makes it a very cosy read. In all honestly it's the whole gang I love, my daughter did too, and it's always good to share!

BWB: How long did Where Bear? take to produce from the initial idea to the finished artwork?

SH: Where Bear? started as a scribble, then a while later a painting popped up, and so it continued for about 3-4 years, with varying intensity. When I was working on Where Bear? it was alongside freelance illustrating, running my greetings card business and for two years, my MA in Illustration. At the time I had no agent, no book deal and no idea what would happen, so there was no pressure to get it finished. Now I am lucky enough to be under contract with Puffin, my timescales have shrunk somewhat!

BWB: In Where Bear? the bear wants to find his real home - find out who he really is. Was this inspired by anything in your life?

SH: Everyone wants to find their spot, I suppose, that place where we 'fit' and feel happy. So maybe subconsciously there is a little of my own experience in there. But Bear's search for home was also partly inspired by people's desire to reorganise nature. Exotic pets and wild animals in captivity break my heart and the solution could be really straight forward, as the Boy's practical, innocent approach demonstrates. He just wants to find the place where Bear can be Bear. Home!

BWB: You were published for the first time this year. Was it a long and hard journey to get a publishing deal?

SH: I was hugely fortunate to land Paul at Bell Lomax Morton as my agent and he made the publishing deal side of things very painless. But when your work is out there, for the first time, in a field you are passionate about, it still felt like forever!

BWB: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

SH: I was going to say doing a presentation at a Puffin Showcase last year. I was on after Allan Allbergh (one of my childhood favourites) and before Lauren Child ( my daughter's favourite and huge inspiration), which was petrifying and awesome all at the same time! Then the bookshop and school visits are really fun too. But I think the highest highlight was when a Mum who had recieived an advance copy of Where Bear? tweeted that her daughter had asked for a re-read "Again, Again!", it was my first feedback and I burst into tears! Of joy, obviously!

BWB: What artists tool could you not live without?

SH: A 2B pencil. Boring but true! Can I have one with an eraser on the end please?

BWB: If you weren't a writer/illustrator what would you like to be?

SH: A tap dancer! Completely unrealistic, but I would absolutely love to don a sparkly bowler, catch a cane and tip tap around the place.

BWB: What picture books would you like to find in your Christmas stocking this year?

SH: That is an almost impossible question. I try not to look too closely at what's around in the picture book world as there are so many amazing books out there I tend to want to run and hide. So I've picked a Christmas theme to limit my choices...

Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas. I love Tim Burton.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss. Dr Seuss was a genius.

Olive the Other Reindeer by J.otto Seibold and Vivien Walsh, because it looks beautiful.

Snow Day by Richard Curtis and Rebecca Cobb. 
Rebecca's illustrations are beautiful and Richard Curtis is a bit good a holiday sentiment!

Snow by Sam Usher looks wonderful!

Oh and I'd love a signed, 1st edition of The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter please.

I know I've forgotten some, but I'd best stop there, I don't want to appear greedy!!!

BWB: Favourite picture book of all time?

SH: I have to pick just one?!!! Double hard, but it has to be Oh the Places You'll Go! by Dr Seuss. How he simplifies the complexities of the journey of life into a rhyming picture book is beyond me. It's sentimental and so insightful, but in no way cheesy or preachy. Brilliant!

BWB: You clearly love to draw bears. Is there anything you dread drawing?

SH: Hands! I'm getting better but if I can put them in a pocket I will! Just don't tell anyone!

Thank you, Sophy, for being the perfect guest! Where Bear! is available to buy now in all good bookshops.

Where Bear?

Where Bear?

By Sophy Henn
Published by Puffin


Where Bear? is Sophy Henn’s first picture book and what a lovely book it is! This is a tale of a little boy and a bear, of friendship, finding where home is and knowing when to let go. 

This adorable book is about a bear cub who once lived with a little boy, but when this bear grew and grew and grew into a big bear and did things that big bears do (eating lots of food, bathing in ponds and roaring), the boy knows its time to find a new place for the bear to live where he can be bearish and big. But where? 

The boy and the bear visit lots of different places; a toy shop - but these bears are the stuffed kind, the zoo - but this ends up making bear sad. They also try the circus, the woods, a cave and even a jungle - but nothing is right. You may have noticed that Bear, isn’t your run of the mill normal brown bear, he is a white bear… or to be more precise, a POLAR BEAR! And where do polar bears like to live? The Arctic of course! But don’t worry, even the long distance can’t stop them from being the best of friends. 

This is another book with cute endpapers adorned with hiding, roaring and jumping out bears. The pages are simply illustrated, with mostly solid colour backgrounds or limited use of colour, which allows the eye to be drawn to the two main characters. The boy and the bear are very cute with their big eyes and you won’t be able to not root for them in finding the right home for bear. Where Bear? is simple, moving, and fun all rolled into one lovely picture book! You and your little ones will love this boy and bear’s journey in finding a place called home.  

Where Bear? is available in all good bookshops and from the Puffin website. Up next, my beartastic interview with the extremeley cuddly Sophy Henn!