I’m extremely happy to say that Alphonse, there’s Mud on the Ceiling! has been shortlisted for Oscar’s Book Prize! The prize celebrates the best pre-school book of the year and is awarded in memory of Oscar Ashton; the winner will be announced on Monday 25th of May. There are five other brilliant books on the shortlist and you can read more about them, Oscar’s Book Prize and Oscar at www.oscarsbookprize.co.uk/.
I’m very happy that my picture book about a small monster learning to read, I Do Not Like Books Anymore! has been chosen by Empathy Lab for their 2020 Read for Empathy Collection, intended as “a diverse collection of books for primary and secondary children, all carefully selected by an expert panel to improve children’s empathy skills.” Founded in response to research suggesting that reading fiction can build our capacity for empathy, Empathy Lab describes empathic concern as “a powerful motivator for helping others, a force for social justice.” Whoop to that.
I loved making I Do Not Like Books Anymore! because the subject was so important to me – and because it’s always fun to spend time with Natalie and Alphonse. But I also felt quite a lot of anxiety about getting it right, and about how it would be received. Natalie’s struggles with reading, and the ways she and Alphonse find of reclaiming books and stories, were largely based on my own experiences as a child. Things I learnt as a Teaching Assistant and while working for an early-years education charity fed into the book too but I’m (obviously) no expert.
I think all that worrying about making A MASSIVE PEDAGOGICAL/DEVELOPMENTAL ERROR has made it extra-lovely that people have responded so positively to the story. The support of wonderful organisations like Empathy Lab and Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) means a lot – as do all the messages I’ve received from individual teachers, librarians and parents. I especially love it when children make their own books in response to the story, as Natalie and Alphonse do: like these ones shared by teacher @today_we_read on instagram or those I’ve been lucky enough to see develop at workshops and events (below is a very excellent book being created at Heffers in Cambridge in 2018).
There are foldable books to download and fill with stories on my Free stuff page, based on the titles of Natalie and Alphonse’s books – but I’m just as excited if children’s stories have nothing to do with Tomato And The Chair or The Magic Pigeon (although I would love to find out what happens in Whale Goes Shopping).
Hamish takes the Train had a joint book launch at Gosh! London with Maisie Paradise Shearring’s very brilliant I’m Actually Really Grown-Up Now and Kate Read’s beautiful debut One Fox (all three are published by Two Hoots). For some reason we did a lot of signing while standing up, and being stripey (this is me and Maisie).
We also did some signing sitting down (this time with Kate in the middle).
And amazingly, some other people turned up too! These are really excellent people, we like them a lot. It was nice that the Two Hoots owl could make it too.
Hamish takes the train is the story of a bear who wants to see the world and of his friend Noreen, a goose. It’s about trains and cranes and friendship and pizza and is available now from Two Hoots Books.
This book has been many years in the making – it took us a long time to decide how I should make the illustrations and in the end they look quite different to the screenprints in my other books. Hamish is illustrated with pencil drawings and black ink washes, coloured and assembled in photoshop. There are more images of the book and of the processes behind it on my Instagram but here is a gif of the layers building up and a picture of some of the ink washes:
My third picturebook starring small monsters Natalie and Alphonse is available now from Walker Books!