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.

We Found A Hat

We Found A Hat

By Jon Klassen 
Published by Walker Books

Jon Klassen returns with the final chapter of the 'Hat' trilogy. This time round two turtles find a very good looking hat in the desert...

Two turtles have found a hat. They found it together. The hat looks good on both of them. But there is only one hat. We Found A Hat is a hilarious and heart felt story about friendship and what is really more important than a good looking hat. 

Unlike the previous 'Hat' books the story is spilt in to three parts, giving it a slight 'film noir' tone. The story is perfectly paced and delivers visual comedy and deadpan humour that Jon Klassen excels at.  

For Jon Klassen fans this is the momentous book they have all been waiting for. Much like the previous books, We Found A Hat has the same tone we have become familiar with in Jon's work. His use of expressive eyes and heavily textured artwork. the book is beautifully designed with classical feeling typography and a rich feeling colour palette. You can't help loving the characters Jon creates, and the turtles in this book are just as lovable. Beautifully rendered in a harsh and hostile environment, the turtles eyes help direct the humour with the absolute minimal of actions. 

Jon has created a tale full of friendship and longing that, in its own quiet way, is deeply moving. This final book is about friendship and knowing when to make the right choice, even if that hat does look darn good on you. It may be the last book of this kind, but I'm sure Jon has a lot more of these classics under his hat...

A happy ending (no animals being eaten in this one!) to a perfect trilogy. We Found A Hat is available to buy in the UK from the 11th October. To pre-order this book visit the Walker Books website here. If you want to know more about Jon and his 'Hat' books, check out my Q&A with him here.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

The Perfect Picnic

The Perfect Picnic

By Ciara Flood 
Published by Templar Publishing

Squirrel and Mole are the best of friends, they do everything together. And when Squirrel announces they should go on a picnic it must be the most perfect picnic ever! Which means no butter on the sandwiches!

Squirrel and Mole are inseparable. They dance together, bake cakes together, ride bikes together and especially love painting together. One day they decide to go on a picnic together and Squirrel wants everything to be perfect. Once they have packed and set out, Squirrel is determined to find the perfect picnic spot. They end up searching everywhere due to Squirrel finding fault in every spot they come to. Does the perfect picnic spot exist?

Ciara Flood is the author of Those Pesky Rabbits, and The Perfect Picnic is another triumph of a picture book. Ultimately it is a story about friendship and how sometimes we make compromises to keep our friends happy - especially perfectionists! Full of laughs and gorgeous illustrations, The Perfect Picnic makes a lovely bedtime read and is sure to tickle your funny bones!

The Perfect Picnic is available to buy now from all good bookshops and from the Templar publishing website here.

Kings of the Castle

Kings of the Castle

By Victoria Turnbull 
Published by Templar Publishing

Prepare yourself for a sweet, sweet story about friendship, team work and adventure from the creator that brought us The Sea Tiger.

George didn’t want to waste the night moonbathing. He wanted to build a sandcastle that would turn any monster green eyed with envy. His pet Boris is no help and only wants to fetch sticks. George is just about defeated, but when he meets the strangest creature he has ever seen, the night takes an unexpected turn and an impossible friendship makes his dreams become possible. 

Just like her debut, The Sea Tiger, Victoria has come up trumps with a beautifully imagined story, along with her whimsical illustrations. I especially loved the gatefold centre which reveals a castle of ginormous proportions - a sand castle that's definitely fit for a king. 

At the heart of the story is a beautiful message about friendship and not letting things like language get in the way. Nothing in this world is impossible, with there always being a solution to every problem. By working together George and Nepo create the most amazing castle which cements their friendship forever. Children are sure to love this imaginative tale - especially George's pet, Boris. Another great night time tale from Victoria that is sure to become a modern classic.

Kings of the Castle is available to buy now from all good bookshops and from the Templar publishing website here.

Mr Mustachio

Mr Mustachio

By Yasmin Finch & Abigail Tompkins 
Published by Maverick Publishing

This is the debut book from creative duo Yasmin Finch and Abigail Tompkins and tells the tale of a man with the longest, most wondrous moustache you have ever seen!

Mr Mustachio has the most fantabulous moustache. When he goes out he marches prodly down the street as he moustache flies wildly in the wind. Tall children have to duck beneath it, small children try to snatch it and birds like to nest in it. One day Mr Mustachio goes for a picnic in the local park and gets a little carries away on the roundabout, with his wondrous moustache becoming tangled all over the place. He becomes stuck fast and needs someone to help him untangle. Everyone comes to try and help but it's no good and eventually the only way to free him is to snip his moustache off!

A fun story about lost and change, Mr Mustachio tries his best to hold on to something he loves but eventually needs to call defeat and embrace change. A wonderfully quirky story that is sure to bring a chuckle at bedtime and to encourage children to try new things.

Mr Mustachio is available to buy now at all good bookshops and online from the Maverick books website here.

The New LiBEARian

The New LiBEARian

By Alison Donald & Alex Willmore 
Published by Maverick Publishing

The power of stories are a magical part of a child's life, and reading to a child opens up their imagination and lets them enjoy a world that anyone can visit. The New LiBEARian explores just that... 

It's storytime at the library but Miss Merryweather, the librarian, is missing! The children search for her high and low but they can't find her anywhere. Then Dee stumbles across a set of footprints that doesn't belong to an adult or to a kid - who or what made them? The children run through the bookshelves, through a galaxy, into an ocean and down a runaway, only to find a new librarian in the shape of a big hairy bear. Will this new librarian read them a story? Something they're not usually allowed to read? Will it read them a scary one? 

The New LiBEARian is an exploration into the world of stories and how powerful they can be. The children are transported to a world where anything can happen, where worlds and new exciting characters come to life - in the library! This debut book by Alison Donald and Alex Willmore is a fantastic mix of nostalgic and modern at the same time. With a little bit of magic thrown in, this book is sure to please both book and bear lovers! This is a lovely picturebook to share with your little one or to read aloud to a group of children in a library. It might may well inspire them to go exploring the library themselves and discover new worlds themselves.

The New LiBEARian is available to buy at all good bookshops and online at the Maverick books website here.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Warning! This Book May Contain Rabbits!

Warning! This Book May Contain Rabbits!

By Tim Warnes 
Published by Little Tiger Press

If you were to find a top hat with the label “Warning: Do Not Touch!”, would you touch it? In the hilarious Warning! This Book May Contain Rabbits! Mole’s best friend, the Lumpy Bumpy Thing (name given by Mole), finds a hat with a very clear warning, but what harm could come from a hat. Well in this case, a lot of trouble, this is a magic hat and every time the Lumpy Bumpy Thing takes the hat off his head a white rabbit appears. It isn’t long before there are just too many rabbits for Mole to label and when the rabbits notice Mole’s vegetable patch they have to act quick to get rid of them.

This is a very funny and entertaining book, children and parents will especially love Mole’s extreme labelling of everything - great for early readers that will help expand their vocabulary and may inspire a love for words. Warning! This book will definitely have you laughing out loud!

Warning! This Book May Contain Rabbits! is available to buy now at all good bookshops and online at the Little Tiger Press website.



By Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman 
Published by Little Tiger Press

When Mouse finds his new home, he thinks it's perfect with just enough room for his stuff. But who's that growling? And who's that taking over the bathroom or sliding down the banister? There's some very big animals already living in the house - will there be enough room for little Mouse? Well with a squish-squash-squeeze, there just might be!

A tale about unexpected friendship and determination, this book will delight children 3+, as they discover the bear, crocodile and tiger with a few surprises along the way. And it features an exciting pop-up, pull out ending, what more could you want from this talented author/illustrator team who have exceeded again in creating a brilliant fun picture book.

SQUISH SQUASH SQUEEZE! is available to buy now at all good bookshops and online at the Little Tiger Press website.



By Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes 
Published by Little Tiger Press

Archie is back! The fourth in the Archie series following No!, Why? and More! Any parents with impatient toddlers will be able to relate to this book!

Archie is finding waiting a little bit hard and wants everything now! Filling up the paddling pool is taking too long, unwrapping presents is taking too long, waiting for artwork to dry is just too long for little Archie. But when his parents announce they're going on holiday in a few days time, Archie has to learn patience, with the help of some distractions of course.

Now! Is just as funny as the previous books, and with an adorable but mischievous Archie, you can't help but love him. A picture book that can be used to discuss patience with your little ones. It’s available ‘Now!’ at all good bookshops and online at Little Tiger Press.

Goodnight Tiger

Goodnight Tiger

By Timothy Knapman and Laura Hughes 
Published by Little Tiger Press

Little Tiger Press have released some delightful animal based picture books this year that are jam packed with cute animals, fun antics and laugh out loud moments. Goodnight Tiger is another addition to this great selection and will have your little one's roaring for more!

Emily can't get to sleep and no wonder, what with all the bellowing and stomping going on, but it's not coming from outside, it's coming from her jungle wallpaper. All of the animals can't get to sleep and Emily tries to help them. Maybe with a bath, hot chocolate and some lullabies, it might help however with being in a jungle it doesn't quite work out. But of course! a bedtime story is the answer and soon has all the animals fast asleep allowing Emily to finally get some sleep. But when Emily wakes up there’s a big and furry surprise on her bed!

Goodnight Tiger is a fun filled, animal packed bedtime story and it's great for reinforcing bath and bedtime routines too. A delightful read with lovely illustrations. Available in all good bookshops and online at Little Tiger Press.