Blackawton Primary School

This morning Philip Reeve & I drove through lots of beautifully misty little lanes to Blackawton Primary School, near Totnes in Devon. The children we found there were enthusiastic, creative, and knew our books well!

Photo from the Blackawton Primary School weekly newsletter

Alice Swan, on the left, was one of the editors I worked with at Faber on The Faber Book of Bedtime Stories and she set up the day, with the generous support of Friends of Blackawaton School (thank you, FOBS!). Helen Perry is the School Administrator and the mastermind who knows how everything in the school works. And Jane Fincham, on the right, arrived with boxes from the Harbour Bookshop in Kingsbridge to make sure everyone could get their own signed and dedicated book.

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Launching The Faber Book of Bedtime Stories!

On Thursday, I went back to London to celebrate the launch of The Faber Book of Bedtime Stories at the Faber offices. It was only the second time I'd been back to London since we moved in January (one school visit for World Book Day), and only the second time I'd ever visited the Faber offices. (The first time was when I was with Philip Reeve, who was dropping off his illustrations to Urgum the Axeman.) ...And I'd never illustrated a 400+ page book with stories by 17 different authors! So this was all A Bit Special.

I brought along my ace author friend Candy Gourlay for moral support. We were the first to arrive, so we took our best Christmas-card-style photos.

Usually when I do a book, I meet up with the publishing team before we start, and go in for meetings, but of course since this book was commissioned in Lockdown, that never happened; I think Designer Emma Eldridge and I saw each other once by Zoom, but otherwise it was mostly email and simply getting on with things. So I was very curious about meeting the team and as many of the authors could get to London for the evening... here they are! Not every single author made it, but it was a very good showing.

Let's see if I can identify everyone... from the left it's Claire Barker (author of the first story in our book 'Clementine and the Mighty Honk'), Pip Jones ('Bug's Bake Off') Emma Carroll ('The Happiness Safari'), Natasha Farrant ('Abi and the Goldfinch'), editor Alice Swan, Lou Kuenzler ('Do You Want to Swap?'), editor Natasha Brown, pubisher Leah Thaxton, Ann Jungman ('The Dinosaur's Egg'), me, Michael Mann ('Bob and Pop'), Reba Khatun ('Caring is Sharing'), Hannah Lee ('The Pink Palace'), Ayesha Braganza ('Fairy Godmothers Don't Exist'), and editor Stella Paskins.

And here's the ever-so-tough DEVON SQUAD (I've cut off the picture so you can't see us all wearing muddy wellies). We'd all come up from the west country: Emma Carrol, Alice Swan, Claire Barker and me.
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Dublin Book Festival 2022

Visiting Halfway Up the Stairs bookshop in Greystones, just outside of Dublin, has been a big goal of mine...

...ever since Kevin beat me to it on our 'Reeve & McIntyre Big Up Bookshops' virtual tour during Lockdown (with Philip Reeve, of course). It was funny walking up to the front of the bookshop, which I could spot from a long way away, because I knew the fittings so well from painting them! You can read Kevin's interview with the owner, Trish Hennessy, here.

Big thanks to everyone who came along to our Unicorn event! There was a great local turnout and it was fun to meet everyone and get drawing.

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Reading Zone Comics Competition!

Are you someone between the ages of 4-16 years, who likes drawing, telling stories and making comics? Here's a competition for you!

Not only that, but Caroline Horn at Reading Zone has worked with me to make three in-depth videos with tips for making your own comics, a valuable resource! Please do share, if there's anyone you know who'd like to encourage people to make comics but isn't quite sure what's involved in it.

Reading Zone is running the competition in partnership with The Phoenix Comic, who publish so many of my comics friends and colleagues, and are the same people I started with, publishing Vern and Lettuce with The DFC (now published by Bog Eyed Books).

There are two categories for the competition: Primary (4-11 years) and Secondary (11-16 years), and some great prizes from The Phoenix! The competition will close on Monday 5th December 2022, with judging by The Phoenix team. The winners will be announced in January 2023.

CLICK HERE for more details, and to access the new Reading Zone resources!

NOTE: For another valuable comics resource, here are my Comic Jam videos with BookTrust, and an article about using them in the classroom.

The Faber Book of Bedtime Stories

Thrilled to present The Faber Book of Bedtime Stories, launching today with my illustrations and stories by 17 different authors! I worked with designer Emma Eldridge to get all the pictures in place, and the editors were Stella Paskins and Natasha Brown, publisher Leah Thaxton, book production by Pedro Nelson, marketing by Sarah Lough, publicity by Bethany Carter and Sarah Connell.

It's a big book, packed with illustrations (which took absolutely ages to paint, but it's worth it!) Here's a little video I made about it, back when I was in the studio in London, where I worked on the book:

A few peeks at the pictures... This one's for 'The Light Bearer' by Lucy Farfort:

And here's another for 'The Dinosaur Egg’ by Ann Jungman:

Available from all good UK bookshops! Here's a link to one of my awesome locals, The Bookery in Crediton, if you'd like to buy it from there.

If you're in the USA, Barnes & Noble are stocking it, but please give a shout in the comments if you spot it at any independent bookshops, I'd love to post a link!

Adventuremice, work in progress

Right now I'm working on a series of books I'm doing with Philip Reeve called Adventuremice, initially inspired by the mouse ship paintings I made during Lockdown. It's taking quite a lot of time because we're doing each page full-colour, old-school watercolour, but I think it will end up looking more lush for that. Here's a piece of two-page artwork (a 'double-page spread' in picture book lingo) that I finished the other day, I like how it came out.

The gaps in the artwork are where the words will go; there's quite a complicated way of doing light-coloured text on black background that made the piece take even longer, but I think that will make it look more luminous.

In other news, I put in a bit of time today painting another shield for Philip and Sarah Reeve's Arthurian Film they're getting ready to shoot this autumn. I really do love painting those shields, there's something so nice about spreading paint on a big surface after all the more fiddly, small-scale illustration work.

Photo by Philip Reeve

Edit: Here are all but two of the shields we've made, laid out:

Photo by Philip Reeve

Hello, Devon!

We've moved! Despite all the massive hills, our town seems to be very, very popular with cyclists, they are everywhere. (Stuart's already keen but I'm not even attempting those hills unless I get an electric bike.)

After six months staying the wonderful Reeve family, who looked after us while we searched (and then waited for) a house, we now have our own place! (Thank you, Reeve family!!!) It's all still chaos and boxes, but we're starting to make it our own. Here's that merchant chest I painted last year, surrounded by artwork that we don't know where to hang yet, and an old coffee set of Stuart's that I never knew he owned:

Here's my sister's painting and an old sideboard that Stuart and I found for £35 at the Mare & Foal charity shop in Newton Abbot - bargain!

We also found some ratty old pine nightstands at Refurnish and I zhuzhed them up a bit with leftover fabric from some of my dresses (mostly sourced from shops in Deptford).

My last studio desk area in London was amazing, all set up just as I wanted it, but the new studio room is pretty bare and cobbled-together-looking right now. And I need to stop fussing over the house and meet my book deadline, so I won't get a chance to fix it up just yet. I also really want to get stuck into local community life and not spend ALL my time at my desk, something that was awfully easy to do when we were in Lockdown. But short-term, I really must finish this book...