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youth libraries group conference 2013

So last Friday I went to a conference in Birmingham and met all my own book characters there! Ha ha, here's a Vern and Lettuce drawing by blog reviewer Zoe Toft's daughter:

Oh look, here is a Sea Monkey photobombing writer Melvin Burgess!

Photo by Zoe Toft

Those Sea Monkeys were everywhere. Even when Philip Reeve was trying to draw a squirrel.

Philip and I entertained the YLG Sea Monkey army with a reading from Oliver and the Seawigs. I even played solo ukulele (since Philip was going on to Bristol Con and didn't want to haul his instrument around all weekend for one song). But at least he sang with me, I haven't had to sing AND play by myself yet, whew.

Photo by Zoe Toft

One of the great things about these conferences is getting to have longer conversations with people whom I may have met once at a riotously loud party yelled a few inane things back and forth across a room. This time Philip and I got to have a long chat with writer-illustrator Levi Pinifold (whom you may remember won the Greenaway award last year for his Black Dog). He talked about a time and labour-intensive way of painting layers and layers with tempera (mixing his own paints using egg yolk) and about writing a 50,000 word story, only to pare it down to a 300-word picture book. Here's Levi on the left, with our Seawigs publicist Philippa Perry, a nice rep from Templar (can anyone remind me of her name?) and illustrator Michael Foreman.

Here's Team Seawigs! Alesha Bonser coordinated our visit and there in the middle is our Seawigs editor, Clare Whitston. One thing I meant to tell librarians in our talk is that they can download free Seawigs activity sheets to use in their libraries: Make your own Seawig, How to Draw a Sea Monkey, How to KNIT a Sea Monkey! Check 'em out, here on my website (I do that for all my books, feel free to browse).

Of course, everyone had to have a moment with the Kraken.

With all the book stalls there, it was super-exciting to see some books that haven't even come out yet. I bought this amazing book from Marilyn Brocklehurst of the Norfolk Children's Book Centre, Tinder, written by Sally Gardner and illustrated by one of my heroes, David Roberts.

Look at David's amazing linework! And I love the red spot colour, so yummy. The story's brilliant, too, a retelling of The Tinderbox fairytale. It's quite horrific and gory, and I usually hate that sort of thing, but somehow David's pictures manage to replace my sense of horror with fascination, and give me a safe sense of distance, partly from the historical, it-happened-long-ago feel and partly because even the goriest pictures somehow have a slight funny side to them in how they're drawn. Not enough to completely subvert the text, but just enough so it quiets a sense of disgust and makes the reading experience rather cosy. A tale told with the nightlight on. (David did this same thing in his Tales of Terror books with Chris Priestley, which I also love.) But while Tales of Terror are for fairly young readers, Tinder includes references to war, rape and torture, so it's readership will be more young adult and adult.

Hey, look at these trees. I've been paying a lot more attention to how trees are drawn, ever since Philip and I had our year of tree drawing, and David's really good at giving trees a lovely sense of movement and pattern. (I also love what he did with the forest scenes in his Little Red picture book.) Find out more about Tinder on the Hachette website.

After Philip and I taught everyone how to draw a Sea Monkey and sang our sea shanty, mother-son team Caro and Tom Fickling gave a talk about The Phoenix Comic and how comics are one amazing way of getting kids into reading. (You can just about see Jamie Smart's Bunny vs Monkey comic strip on the screen. The Phoenix Comic is primarily aimed at kids aged 8-12 (although I know adults without kids who subscribe to it, and little brothers and sisters who love looking at the pictures before they can even read). But Caro also mentioned that she'd love to start up another comic for a younger readership, and I really hope the team will be able to do it.

Speaking of comics for kids, I just got this lovely book through the post from Walker Books editor Lizzie Spratt (who edited my studio mate's comic book, The Terrible Tales of the Teenytinysaurs. It's exciting to see, as there aren't enough British comics out there for young children. Here's The Adventures of Tooki: The Secret of the Stones by illustrator-writer team Jamie Courtier and Vicky Kimm.

The artwork in the book's very gentle and feels a bit like a cross between Jim Henson, the Richard Scary books, the Smurfs and the Moomins. I love some of the cosy interior scenes:

Although there's a lot of good outdoor action, too:

And peril!

But the book revolves around cosy community, with elements of folkloric mysticism, and I love seeing the critters tucking into their little gourd soups. Tooki's going to be a big hit this Christmas with gentle comics readers of all ages (along with Gary Northfield's Teenytinysaurs). Well done, Walker Books, for diving into this reading niche, mostly only filled right now in Britain by certain strips in The Phoenix Comic and the DFC Library. Find out more about it on the excellent Tooki website.

Big thanks to all the librarian organisers of the YLG conference, and for giving Philip and me the chance to meet so many of you and talk about books! You can read more about the conference over on Zoe Toft's excellent blog.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 28th, 2013 08:02 am (UTC)
From Zoe
Ah, it was a great conference, and so good to see you and Philip there. I'd have loved for there to be some blutack so we could have made a wall of seamonkeys with all the ones we drew - it would have looked great!. Was v impressed with your sea chanty - lovely melody - and the chorus is still going round in my head. Eep eep eep, eep eep eep, eep eep eep, EEP! Eep eep eep, eep eep eep, eep eep eep, EEEEEEP!
Oct. 28th, 2013 09:36 am (UTC)
Re: From Zoe
Yes, I'd have loved to have a Sea Monkey gallery, too! They were fabulous. :D Big thanks to your daughter for the Vern and Lettuce drawing, I was so chuffed to get it! x
Oct. 28th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
Nov. 1st, 2013 11:31 am (UTC)
Eep back! :D
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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