25 Oct 2012

Marc Boutavant

Marc Boutavant is one of my favourite illustrators. And my favourite of his books is Another Night Before Christmas, written by Carol Ann Duffy. It's a bit early to be talking about Christmas books, but illustrating a Christmas Catalogue cover today has put me in the Christmas mood.

Carol Ann Duffy's text is wonderful. It's such a modern Christmas tale, with cash machines, traffic jams and shopping malls, but it still keeps that childhood magical Christmas feeling. It brings back all of those lovely Christmas memories, whilst not being schmaltzy or sentimental.

On the night before Christmas, a child in a house,

as the whole family slept, behaved just like a mouse,

and crept on soft toes down red-carpeted stairs.

Her hand held the paw of her favourite bear...

I used to read it again and again with my little girl, who now looks a bit like the girl in the book, it is a pleasure to read, and I don't save it for Christmas, it's too good for that.

Sadly it has gone out of print. John Murray, please bring it back!

2 Oct 2012

'How to Hide a Lion' Launch Party

My new book, 'How To Hide A Lion' is set in a town that is based on my new home town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. So when I thought about having a launch party, Berwick Town Hall seemed like the perfect place.

In the run up to the launch, I visited 3 local schools, Spittal First School, Tweedmouth West First School, and Scremerston First School. I worked with over 350 children, each one making something to contribute towards making a model town of Berwick. The work they did was wonderful, what amazed me most was the variety of the work. When I asked them to make fishing boats, each one was completely different. There are some genuinely beautiful things, I think we have some very talented children and inspiring teachers in Berwick.

But at this stage I still had no idea how all of the models would work together, would they be too small in such a large hall? Would anybody even come to see it?

But my fears were unfounded. The night before the launch we had access to the town hall, and as we set up the model Berwick, we began to see how wonderful it was going to be.

I went to sleep that night feeling quietly confident that model Berwick looked great, and that we'd have lots of happy visitors.

The next day was a sunny day. We put up the banner and the big lion sign, and opened the doors. Within minutes the hall was full of people, which was wonderful to see. I recognised lots of faces from the schools I'd visited, and they were so excited to their work.

This is one of the activity tables. The children drew some fantastic lions and Berwick houses.

By the end of the day we had sold out of everything! Alison ran around to a few local shops scooping up their stock. It is always hard to judge how many books you will need.

Thank you so much to all the teachers and children I met when I visited the schools, and thanks to everyone who came along to support us. Thanks to my friend and fellow illustrator Vanessa Cabban for taking lots of these photos for me.