Friday, 26 August 2016

Interview with Clive McFarland

Clive grew up in Northern Ireland before taking a ship to England to study at Liverpool School of Art and Design.  Discovering his love for children’s picture books he combined it with his love of nature. His art is inspired by the shapes and emotion he finds in landscape and natural imagery. His debut picture book A Bed for Bear and follow up The Fox and the Wild are available now. His third book Caterpillar Dreams will be released in early 2017.

BWB: A Bed For Bear was your debut picture book for HarperCollins. Can you tell us what inspired the story?

CM: I wanted to make a book about finding a place to belong. Originally the story was set in an urban town where bears lived. Even though town seemed the perfect place to live for many different types of bear (like brown bears, polar bears and pandas), it was a place where Bernard the Bear felt he didn’t belong. HarperCollins liked the main character but envisaged a bedtime story. That set Bernard on a different path and I started over with something simpler. I felt a book to be read at bedtime should be quiet. I wanted things to be understated and for the art not to be too cluttered or busy. Setting the story in a wood seemed a better fit. Bernard still feels that he isn’t in the right place and goes looking for the perfect place to sleep.

I owe a lot to my editor David Linker. We worked on A Bed for Bear for a long time. He helped me find the right voice and establish the kind of stories I want to tell.

BWB: Bears focus in a lot of your illustrations, is there a reason for this?

CM: Maybe I was drawing a lot of bears because I had a story in mind. I haven’t created any since I completed A Bed for Bear and decided not to work on a couple of bear books from other publishers after that. I had created a bear character I was fond of and wanted to do something different. I’d love to visit Bernard’s world again though.

BWB: Who is your favourite fictional bear?

CM: I grew up with and love the original Winnie-the-Pooh stories by AA Milne, illustrated by EH Shepard. Paddington Bear is a close second. Bernard’s yellow scarf is a little nod to Rupert Bear.

BWB: Your illustration process of collage is seen throughout your work. Has this process changed in any way to meet picture book deadlines?

CM: My process hasn’t changed much but I am working digitally more which means it’s easier to make changes to the art. I am able to make more polished work this way and it can be a bit faster. I allow myself to use only hand-painted textures and try to keep true to the limitations of traditional cut-out illustration.

BWB: Can you tell us what are you working on right now?

CM: My latest book Caterpillar Dreams is publishing with HarperCollins early next year. It’s a story about a caterpillar called Henri who dreams of exploring the world and sets off on a journey beyond the safety of his garden. I haven’t seen the final book yet but it's finished and I’m very excited for the book to be released. 

Right now I’m in the process of illustrating a counting book to be published by Nancy Paulsen Books, which is an honour. I’m also writing new stories and hoping they might be on a bookshelf in the not too distant future.

A Bed For Bear

A Bed For Bear

By Clive McFarland
Published by Harper Collins

It's bedtime for Bernard but the bear cave is crowded and very uncomfortable. What is a bear to do when there's no good place to sleep? The debut picture book from the fab Clive McFarland, sees him bring his signature collage style to this endearing tale of a sleepy bear.

Bernard searches high and low for the perfect place to sleep in this lovely bedtime story from Clive. It's nearly winter and Bernard is getting ready to hibernate. There's just one problem, how can Bernard be expected to sleep in a bear cave? It's too noisy, too big and too crowded! So Bernard sets off in finding the perfect place to sleep. He comes to a pond and asks a frog if he can try out his lily pad. But being wet wasn't very comfy. He then comes across a nest in a tree. But the nest didn't feel right. He then asks a rabbit if he can try out his burrow. But it was a bit of a tight fit. 

It's only when Bernard comes across a mouse that he explains the perfect bed he'd like to sleep in. The mouse has the right place in mind and takes Bernard to it. They arrive at the interesting bed. It was dry and calm, with lots of space and plenty of company. The perfect place for bears, his bear cave. And Bernard slept all winter, the perfect bed for bear.

I've been a fan of Clive's since I first seen his work pop up on twitter a couple of years ago. His unmistakable collage style is striking and full of character. A Bed For Bear is illustrated beautifully, with textured illustrations that pop off the pages. The story is a classic one, inspired from fairytales such as Goldilocks and the three Bears. A great bedtime read that you will never bore of, and will hopefully help your little cubs drop off to dreamland. 

A Bed For Bear is available to buy now at all good bookshops and on the Harper Collins website here. If you'd like to know more about how Clive made the book, check out the interview I had with him here. I also recommend checking out the trailer below as it's one of my favourites!

A BED FOR BEAR by Clive McFarland - Book Trailer from Paper Panther on Vimeo.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Interview with David Litchfield

David Litchfield is an illustrator from Bedfordshire in the U.K. He is represented by The Bright Agency. David first started to draw when he was very young, creating Star Wars and Indiana Jones ‘mash up’ comics for his older brother and sister. Since then David’s work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, books and on T-shirts. He has also exhibited his illustrations in both solo and group shows in the U.K, Europe and America.

BWB: What inspired The Bear and the Piano?

DL: Lots of things really. The idea initially came from a very quick sketch I drew in my sketchbook of a tuxedo wearing bear playing piano. I really liked the idea of these two different worlds colliding. The big scary grizzly bear playing soft tender piano music. But the story line reflects a lot of the decisions we have to make when we are following our dreams and have to step out of our comfort zones.

BWB: Will there be another book featuring the musical bear?

DL: Yes indeed there will be. I don't think I can say too much about it as Its very, very earl days. I'm very excited by it though as its not a traditional sequel and t takes the story in a very cool and interesting direction. 

BWB: Are you musical at all?

DL: A bit. I used to play guitar in bands a few years ago. But the only person who hears me play now is my 4 year old son. He thinks I rock :)

BWB: You’ve created quite a few book covers over your career so far. Which one is your favourite to date?

DL: I loved the one I did recently for the re-issue of 'The Jungle Book' by Faber Classics. It was such a big honour to have been asked and I think I did a pretty ok job.

BWB: Can you tell us what you’re currently working on?

DL: Well, I'm getting ready for the release of two book I illustrated which are coming out this September, 'The Building Boy' by Ross Montgomery and 'Miss Muffet, Or What Came After' by Marilyn Singer. Thats all hugely exciting.

But, I have just finished my second author/illustrator book 'Grandad's Secret Giant'  which is not out until April 2017. Its an idea I have had in my mind for quite some time so I'm really happy that I was given the opportunity to create it. I can't wait to hear what people think to it.

This summer is a busy one as I'm working on a few other books that will all be published over the next couple of years. Today I'm making a start on the final artwork for Teresa Heapy's  book 'The Marvellous Moon Map'. Its published next year by Penguin Random House and its going to be bloomin brilliant.

Massive bear hugs to David and Ellen for making this interview a superb one! If you want to see more David's beautiful work visit his website here. David’s award winning first picture book ‘The Bear & The Piano’ (published by Frances Lincoln) is out now. 

The Bear and the Piano

The Bear and the Piano

By David Litchfield
Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books

This is the debut picture book from illustration talent, David Litchfield. Inspired by David's personal love of music, forests and the White Stripes song; 'Little Room', David takes us on a musical journey that's more furry than you'd expect... 

One day, a bear cub finds something strange in the forest. And when he touched the keys it made a strange and awful sound. So he left, but he returned the next day, and the day after that. And for the following days, months and years. Eventually the sound that came out from the thing was no longer awful, instead it was beautiful. And his magical melodies were enjoyed by all the other bears in the forest. But one day a father and daughter see the bear perform, and insist he returns with them to the city to play for huge audiences.

The city is everything Bear thought it would be, but something is not quite right. He yearns to be somewhere else, and that place being where he loved to play, back in the forest. One night he decides to return and leave the city behind. But when he arrives back at the clearing where he used to play there is no one there, even the piano has disappeared. Had his friends forgotten about him? Were they angry he left? He then spots a friend, the friend runs off and the bear follows. Then he sees it, his piano, and surrounded by newspaper clippings, memorabilia and LPs he had recorded. His friends weren't angry, they were proud. 

David's illustrations have a whimsical and classical feel to them. Using mainly Photoshop to create his images, he produces large scale scenes that are littered with detail. The story has a dreamy fairytale feel to it, with the message that even if you're not around the people you love, they will never forget you. The bear doesn't forget his roots and returns to the forest to share his talent with the family and friends he loves. An endearing tale that is sure to be a modern classic for years to come.

The Bear and the Piano is available to buy in hardback and paperback from all good bookshops and from the Quarto website here. If you'd like to know more about David, have a gander at the interview he did with me here

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Interview with Michelle Robinson

Michelle grew up in Gloucestershire. Before she started writing funny stories for children, Michelle wrote copy and devised websites for some of the world's biggest brands. She always dreamed of becoming an author like her hero, Roald Dahl. She shares his birthday and his love of chocolate, but she is much, much shorter. Michelle lives in Frome with her husband and young son and daughter. 

BWB: What gave you the idea to write A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting?

MR: Walking in the woods in Canada. Various family members gave us conflicting advice on what to do if we encountered a bear. For example, "Don't use soap or perfume, bears are attracted to it" versus "Do wear perfume, they'll realise you're human and stay away". Or "Wear something bright so you don't get shot by a hunter" versus "If you wear something bright the bears will spot you and attack." There were so many of these crazy tips that by the time we went to the woods we were convinced of our own doom. Thankfully we didn't have to put our muddled knowledge to the test. 

BWB: David Roberts is renowned for illustrating fantastic bears. Was he your personal choice to illustrate A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting? 

MR: David Roberts is renowned for illustrating fantastic *everything*. I've been a fan since forever and I couldn't believe it when I heard he would be illustrating my story. I still can't quite believe it, actually. 

BWB: Who is your favourite fictional bear?

MR: Winnie the Pooh. I love the pairing of A.A. Milne's voice and E.H. Shepard's drawings. The humour and tenderness that runs through their books is exquisite. 

BWB: Why do you think bears are such a popular animal in the picture book world?

MR: I really don't know why it should be that bears have such timeless appeal. It's not as though bear is a man's best friend, after all. And as you'll find out in 'A Beginner's Guide to Bear Spotting', real bears certainly aren't as cuddly as the stuffed variety. I wonder why bears are the go-to stuffed animal? If someone had thought to create a different soft toy all those years ago, might this blog post be about the enduring appeal of the gnu? The mind boggles.

BWB: Any plans to work with David again?

MR: Happily, yes! A follow up to Bear Spotting is on the way - and I still can't quite believe my luck.

Huge bear cuddles to the fantastic, Michelle, for taking part in my Q&A and being super generous for offering a personally signed copy of A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting to one lucky tweeter! If you want to enter visit twitter here and RT and follow. To find out loads more about Michelle and her amazing work, visit her website hereA Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting to available to buy now in all good bookshops and on the Bloomsbury website.

A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting

A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting

By Michelle Robinson & David Roberts
Published by Bloomsbury

Fanatical about bears? Ever wanted to see one out in the wild? Well this is the perfect beginners guide to spotting them! Superstars, Michelle Robinson and David Roberts come together to bring us the ultimate bear spotting guide.

In this read aloud picture book, a young novice bear spotter ventures into the woods in the hope of seeing a bear. The only thing is this little adventurer doesn't realise a real bear is a lot more dangerous than their favourite cuddly teddy bear! What ensues is a funny (and sometimes scary) guide to coming face to face with a couple of bears and what not to do if you need to avoid being eaten!

You couldn't get a better picture book team up than this! With Michelle's chatty and witty writing style and David's whimsy illustrations (beautifully inked and textured drawings adorn each spread), A Beginner's Guide to Bear Spotting is a fantastic and refreshing picture book. 

David's illustrations are top notch, with parts of the book mimicking a field guide, with the use of similar typography and graph paper. 

I love Michelle's tone of voice in this book, reminding me of mockumentry's and Monty Python sketches. The fact the protagonist also doesn't have a gender makes this a book the reader can put themselves in. An extremely funny read with an ending that will have any child snuggling up to a teddy instead of wanting to meet a real breathing bear! Here's hoping there's more fantastic books from this talented duo coming soon (pretty please?).

A Beginner's Guide to Bear Spotting is available to buy now at all good bookshops and online at Bloomsbury here. If you would love the chance to win a personally signed copy of the book check out the competition on twitter here. I also caught up with Michelle to ask her some bear related questions, check out the interview here.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Interview with Chris Haughton

Chris Haughton is an Irish designer and illustrator. He was listed in Time Magazine's DESIGN 100 for the work he’s done for fair trade company People Tree. Chris has published four books and one app. His books, A BIT LOST, OH NO GEORGE!, SHH! we have a plan and Goodnight Everyone have been translated into more than 24 languages and won awards in 10 countries such as Dutch Picturebook of the Year, the Childrens Book Ireland Bisto Award and the Association of Illustrators award.

BWB: Why did you choose bears to be the main focus in Goodnight Everyone?

CH: The book is about scale, about tiredness growing and growing and so the main characters needed to be largest animals in the forest. And so there is a connection to the constellations of Ursa Major and minor. 

BWB: Goodnight Everyone is your fourth book for Walker. Have you found that your process has changed since your debut, A Bit Lost?

CH: Not so much really! The first book was done with a Korean publisher. Walker has edited the other three. They have all taken about 2 years to make. And started and developed in similar ways. 

BWB: What inspires your colour palettes?

CH: I just pick one or two colours that I like and add a few harmonious colours and just take it from there. I just try to make it as colourful as possible but while also making it cohesive.

BWB: Who's your favourite fictional bear?

CH: Pooh.

BWB: You collaborate with a lot of illustrators. If you were to create a picture book with one other illustrator who would that be?

CH: Jon Klassen ....or maybe Beatrice Alemagna ...or Sanna Annukka. 

Thank you Chris for being part of this Q&A! If you'd like to know more about Chris' process on Goodnight Everyone take a look at the blog post on his site here.

Goodnight Everyone

Goodnight Everyone

By Chris Haughton
Published by Walker

In Chris Haughton's fourth book for Walker, Goodnight Everyone is a stunningly illustrated bedtime book, bringing together Chris' signature block colour illustration and beautiful storytelling once again.

The sun is going down and everyone is sleepy in the forest. Mice, hares, deer and bears are getting ready to go to bed. They all settle down to rest. Great Big Bear has a great big stretch, but little bear isn't sleepy at all, not one little bit. Little Bear wants to play, he asks the other forest animals if they want to join him but they're all too tired. Eventually Little Bear has a great, big, enormous stretch and gets carried off to bed. The mice are asleep. Goodnight mice. The hares are asleep. Goodnight hares. The deer are asleep. Goodnight deer. Little bear gets a great big goodnight kiss. Goodnight bears. Goodnight everyone.

Goodnight Everyone is Chris' first venture into the recently popular bedtime book world. From all the bedtime books I have read, Goodnight Everyone is by far the most beautiful and easiest to read. The story encourages readers to repetitively yawn and to slowly wind down to eventually fall fast asleep. Chris creates sublime, starry night time scenes, filled with soft sleepy animals that will make your little one want to join them as they rest to go fast asleep. The colours used are calming and even sleep inducing - with an emphasis on purples and blues. I especially loved the end papers which had a star map and order of the planets.

This is a perfect bedtime read, and great for parents and children to snuggle up and share together. If you want to find out more about Chris and his creative journey to illustrating and writing Goodnight Everyone, then check out the interview I had with him here. The trailer for the book is also worth a look and can be seen below. Goodnight Everyone is available to buy now from all good bookshops and from the Walker Books website here.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Interview with Sophy Henn

Sophy Henn lives and works in Sussex, England. 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. Where Bear?, her first book, was nominated for both the Kate Greenaway Medal and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize in 2015. Pom Pom Gets the Grumps won Junior Design Awards Best Book of the Year 2015, and Sophy won Best Emerging Talent (Children's Author). She was also the World Book Day Illustrator for 2015 and 2016.

BWB: This is your third Pom Pom picture book. Out of the three which one is your favourite?

SH: Oh heavens, that's like asking someone to chose between their children! Hmmm. I have a huge soft spot for Grumps as it was the original Pom Pom. I didn't know he would have a series at that point and it was written as a stand alone book. The story is based on the real life events that inspired Pom Pom. A lovely little girl having a bit of a moment and telling everyone to "GO AWAY" over and over until everyone did. Then she got a bit worried and we heard her calling out for everyone in a very little, worried voice. Being a toddler is so tricky, all these new situations, emotions and hormones, you are constantly having to work out the 'right' response to things and trying to remember to keep things in check. The idea behind Grumps was to reassure the reader that everyone has bad days, but it's not the end of the world, you just have to own your mistakes and say sorry. Oh, and to make the reader laugh, obviously! But getting to create Champion and Super as well was amazing. Showing the different aspects of Pom Pom has been lovely, I think Super in particular shows another side of Pom Pom, a little more introspective and unsure of himself. So basically I love them all equally (but maybe one a little bit more for sentimental reasons)! 

BWB: I think Pom Pom would make a great preschool tv show. Would you ever consider going that direction with him?

SH: Thank you! It's funny, but a few people have said that since Pom Pom is Super has come out and having thought about it I could imagine Pom Pom tearing it up on the TV! I love a lot of Pre School TV and I have done my fair share of viewing ( I was in the original Balamory and Bob the Builder era!), I might even be known to watch the occasional episode of Hey Duggee!, which is amazing. The spirit of the Pom Pom books is a positive one, celebrating different characters and the joy, excitement and occasional upset that comes with being so little and discovering new things all the time.  I think so long as the programme stayed true to that, the illustration style and characters, then I would definitely consider a Pom Pom TV show. I am now imagining the theme tune!

BWB: Are pandas your favourite type of bear? If so, why?

SH: I love all bears! But Pom Pom had to be a panda, even before he got his name! As I mentioned before the inspiration came from a momentarily furious little girl but I knew I didn't want the character to be a little girl or boy as that seemed too gender specific so I started thinking about animals. I love the You Tube clip Pandas on a Slide, the Pandas are just so happy and laid back, rolling into on another and lolling about at the bottom of the slide, in no hurry to move on or get out of the way of the next sliding Panda. There are no sudden movements, they all just seem very happy. The idea of combining a furious little person with a chilled out, cute and cuddly Panda made me laugh and Pom Pom was born!

BWB: Can we expect more adventures with Pom Pom soon?

SH: Oh I hope so! Pom Pom is always in my mind, I am always jotting down things I have seen or overheard that seem Pom Pom-ish to me! My next book is about a human girl though...

BWB: Who is your favourite fictional bear and why?

SH: Oh heavens, that's like the first question...almost impossible to answer, there are lots of excellent bears about, Balloo, Paddington, Mr.Panda (I'm a stickler for manners!), Jon Klasson's bear with the missing hat, Fred the Bear and of course David Litchfield's piano playing bear. But if I am only allowed one then I think I am going to have to go for the classic....Winnie the Pooh. AA Milne's stories and the themes within them are timeless, endearing, joyous and occasionally heartbreaking, I have learnt many a life lesson from Winnie the Pooh. And EH Shepard's beautiful and seemingly effortless illustrations give such heart to the characters. Winnie's top spot was cemented by my daughter loving him too, though she called him Winnie-a-pooh. Bless!

Thank you to Sophy for once again letting me pick her brains! If you would like to see more of her wonderful work check out her website here. Pom Pom is Super is available to buy now at all good bookshops.

POM POM is Super

POM POM is Super

By Sophy Henn
Published by Puffin

Pom Pom is back again and he's more SUPER than ever! In his third outing, Pom Pom is discovering all his friends have 'super' talents - but what makes him special? Another gem from super talented Sophy Henn has landed!

One morning Pom Pom bursts from his bed, he's super excited that his friends are coming round to play. He gets everything ready; his best toys all out and lined up and lots and lots of snacks. DING DONG! went the doorbell. His first guest was here! Buddy flashes in and announces that he's Buddy the FANTASTIC Footballing Flash! Then Rocco turns up dressed as The Ant King, along with SCOUT the SPECTACULAR! Last to arrive is Baxter, dressed as Twinkly Twirly TORNADO BEAR. 

All his friends all looked super, and Pom Pom wanted to be super too, but what was he super at? He tried juggling but that didn't end well (especially when you use biscuits), he gives being a super-duper tidy-upper a go (but he decides that's not really something he wanted to be super at), maybe he was a superhero that could fly? Unfortunately Pom Pom finds out that Pandas aren't meant to leave the ground and comes down with a thump. With a little help from his friends, Pom Pom discovers that he's not just super at one thing, he's SHOUTY HULA DISCO Pom Pom!

All the usual ingredients are here; Sophy's colourful and bright illustrations we've come to recognise through all her books and a heart warming, funny story about friendship and finding out what you're good at. Of course this Pom Pom outing has that extra dash of 'super' which makes it the perfect book for your little superheroes.

Pom Pom is Super is available to buy now at all good bookshops and online at Puffin here. I caught up with Sophy to get more Pom Pom exclusives and ask her some bear related questions. Check out the interview here.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Hilda And The Stone Forest

Hilda And The Stone Forest

By Luke Pearson
Published by Flying Eye Books

Hilda is back for her fifth adventure and what a thrilling adventure awaits! Filled with a host of characters from the previous instalments, this is definitely a welcome return for everybody's favourite blue haired adventurer.  

Hilda is spending more time outside than inside and her mother doesn't approve of her constant adventure seeking. The story begins with Hilda chasing a piece of earth that has four legs, on top is the house of a family of invisible tiny elves. Hilda eventually outsmarts the runaway turf and returns the house to its village, with Hilda now feeling responsible for the helpless invisible folk that live there - she's somewhat become a Superhero to them that constantly saves the day.

With Hilda rarely at home, her mother starts to get anxious about where Hilda is spending all her time. Things come to a boiling point when Hilda gets grounded for sneaking out to take a flight on the huge talking raven and after days of being stuck inside, Hilda can't take anymore and decides to use Tontu to slip away to see the fireworks at the Bird Parade. It's only when she's stepping through a crack in the wall that her mother comes in to make amends and they end up in the stone forest. 

Hilda, twig and her mother embark on a way to get back to Trolberg, but instead find trolls and lots of them. They get discovered when a baby troll sniffs them out and mayhem erupts when the other trolls are alerted of their presence. Luckily, by using a pile of food the trolls have stolen, Hilda, Twig and her mother manage to sneak out and see Trolberg in the distance. But their ordeal isn't over yet when Twig is left behind and Hilda's mother returns to save Twig from a two headed troll. 

Inside the trolls world, Hilda's mum quickly gets stuck in what looks like a dead end and its Hilda's impatience that gets her out. A chase from the two headed troll has Hilda and company on a run for their lives, but not all trolls are bad, as Hilda's mum finds out. With a troll and it's offspring putting them up for the night and helping them find the outside world again her faith is restored - but what will the next morning bring? 

Hilda And The Stone Forest is another thrilling instalment to the series and ends on a cliffhanger that will have you wanting the next book already (please hurry Luke!). If you're a fan already (and if you're not, why not?) you won't need a review to tell you how brilliant this series is, but be rest-assured that Luke's art is once again top notch and Flying Eye have pulled out all the stops to create a beautiful book to present it all (the usual spot varnish cover with cloth spine adorns the hardcover). All in all a must buy for young and old, Hilda is a great read for one and all. Hilda And The Stone Forest is out the 1st September in all good bookshops and available to buy on the Flying Eye Books website

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Touch Think Learn: ABC

Touch Think Learn: ABC

By Xavier Deneux
Published by Chronicle Books

Using the same innovative production technique used in the acclaimed TouchThinkLearn series, here is an alphabet book like no other, which literally adds a new dimension to learning your ABC's!

This is an ABC book with a difference, you can touch and feel every letter throughout the book, and each one is designed in relation to an animal, place or object. Raised die-cut pieces nestled in mirroring indented cut-outs engage readers on both visual and tactile levels. The illustration style is graphic, using simple shapes and bold colours. A joy to look at as well as feel!

Touch Think Learn: ABC is a wonderful addition to any young child's learning library. It's beautiful to look at and each page shows how much thought and detail has gone in to designing each little bit. From a parents point of view I can't recommend this more - I for one will be looking at purchasing the rest of the series. It's available to buy now from all good bookshops and from the Chronicle Books website.