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).
I was so extremely happy to hear that The Girl with the Parrot on her Head is an Honor Book in the Ezra Jack Keats Awards. It’s especially lovely because Keats’ books are glorious, and because these awards are given to “books that portray the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family, and the multicultural nature of our world.”
I was sorry to miss the ceremony in Mississippi, but representatives from Candlewick were there and kindly read out my thanks and posted my award – which I had no idea was an actual shiny thing!
Many thanks to the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation (which does all kinds of excellent stuff) and to Walker and Candlewick for publishing this quite strange book.
I’ve just come back from having the MOST FUN being Festival Illustrator at Chester’s WayWord children’s festival for the second year in a row. This was my first chance to read ALPHONSE, THAT IS NOT OK TO DO! with children (even though it’s not published until 5th March), and to try some monster-themed drawing and making.
At one event we read ALPHONSE and The Girl with the Parrot on her Head and played drawing games together, just as Natalie and Alphonse draw together in the book.
I also ran a monster finger puppet workshop.
And another (with a lot of help from Nicola and Helen of Chester Performs) on stencilling onto canvas bags. It would have been hard to do screen printing (which is how I usually make my illustrations) in this workshop, unless everyone had printed the same image, but the freezer paper stencils were quite magic, and the resulting bags were so cool!
I spent the rest of my time drawing the festival – which was embarrassing as I’m heinously out of practice with observational drawing, but good for me. Here’s one of my drawings – visit WayWord for more (and next year, maybe visit the actual WayWord as it is ALL THE FUN).
The Girl with the Parrot on her Head is published in paperback today! In other newts, today I’m also taking the last bits of artwork for my third book, Hilda and the Runaway Baby, to Walker Books. Weyll, actually the endpapers will be the last bit and I haven’t finished them, but I can scan those myself.
I am a bit late delivering Hilda: I hadn’t really realised before I started making the screenprints how challenging this book would be. I’d already printed illustrations for half of the original version (made during my MA) but ended up re-doing everything, partly because we changed the format from portrait to landscape. There were one or two vignettes I could have kept but they were the easiest prints in the book (and besides, horrors – the wheels of the pram were unfeasibly small!). What made it tricksy was the seven landscapes, all at different times of day and night, and the three village scenes, two of which had to be made at a tiny scale because of the size of my silkscreens. I am now much better at getting two eyes, a mouth and a nose onto a face the size of a lentil – but is this a transferable skill? If you need any bespoke personified lentils please do let me know. Here’s is a detail showing lentils printed yesterday (and Hilda, who I’m going to miss). Hilda and the Runaway Baby will be published in 2017.