Picture book retrospective – The Goblin and the Cupboard

For the last few weeks I’ve been doing a retrospective of my picture books.

The Goblin and the Cupboard, my most recently  published book, was
actually written before any of the others. I wrote it for my son Ray
when he was still at playschool. It’s four interlinked stories about
crossovers between the ‘real’ world and the monster world, and a goblin
who lives between the two. There’s also a collection of short poems,
mostly about animals.

The illustrations are all new, black and white, done in charcoal, with a
bit of digital tittivation here and there. My favourites are the one
where Lucy finds herself in a cellar in the monster house; the one where
the monster writer and the ‘real world’ writer come face to face; and
the illustration to ‘A Cow Should Never Wear a Hat’, one of the poems.

Picture book retrospective – The Fisher Prince

For the next few weeks I’m doing a retrospective of my picture books.

The Fisher Prince is another story co-created with Mollie
Macgregor-Kinnis, and again it’s based on one of Mollie’s dreams, about
a prince who’s only interested in fishing, and who holds a
fishing-themed ball as a means of finding himself a bride. Ayumi, the
lake-keeper’s daughter, and Wendy, the serving-girl who works at the
palace, were both lifted straight from Mollie’s dream. In fact the whole
story, with its proper fairy-tale atmosphere, was pretty much ready-made
in Mollie’s dream, and all I had to do was write it out.

The picture of the magical golden fish which lives in the lake is
adapted from one of Mollie’s glassware designs. My other favourites are
of Khota, Ayumi’s father; and of Nimue, the Lady of the Lake.

Picture book retrospective – The Long Grass

For the next few weeks I’m doing a retrospective of my picture books.

The Long Grass is co-created with Mollie Macgregor-Kinnis, and based on
a couple of Mollie’s dreams: the idea of being told not to go into the
long grass but then going anyway, and visiting the Queen of Hearts who
turns out to be horrible, was in one dream; the black snake was in
another dream.

I spent most of a summer making charcoal drawings of long grass, weeds,
nettle patches, brambles and so forth for this book. It’s a kind of
innocence and experience story, and in a way it resembles Maurice
Sendak’s Where the Wild Things are. My favourite pictures are the ones
of Peter the Hare in the long grass; and Alice, the girl in the story,
setting off into the grass on a hot day, with her house hazed over in
the background.

Picture book retrospective – The Goose Money Box

For the next few weeks I’m doing a retrospective of my picture books.
The Goose Money Box (2020) represented a change of style for me – I
wanted more texture, more of a handmade feel to my illustrations, so
instead of creating them entirely digitally, using Inkscape, I started
drawing them by hand and then using Inkscape to add colour.

Perhaps because of this, The Goose Money Box is one of my personal
favourites. The idea for the story came from a little girl called
Martha, who told me that she’d got a money box shaped liked a goose,
which moved when she put any money in it. Lots of the pictures in the
book are closely based on my house and the surrounding area. The one of
geese flying over a field at sunset is basically the view from our
upstairs window.

Scruffy and the Secret Life of the Queen, by Ewan Pettman

I’ve just been commissioned to design the front cover of this book, which is now available on Amazon (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scruffy-Secret-Life-Queen-Pettman/dp/B09Y28488Z).  

If you’ve ever wondered what the Queen gets up to in her downtime, this is the book for you. Apparently she sits around in a bungalow, eating pizza and watching the soaps on telly. In this story she also gets mixed up with a lost dog called Scruffy who has somehow managed to get a priceless object stowed in the little bag attached to his collar, and who is therefore being pursued by three dopey burglars.

Sprightly comedy for kids: good fun throughout.

Peter McCarey has just announced the completion of his monumental work The Syllabary, which comprises one short poem written for every single-syllable word in the language – 2281 short poems in all.

I wrote a review of this back in 2006, at which point he had already been working on the project for several years, so in total it has taken him more than 2 decades to complete. I’ve gone back to it regularly, and it remains one of my favourite works of hyperliterature. My impression is that it’s got funnier, pithier and more Scottish as it’s gone along. You can find it at http://www.thesyllabary.com/. You can find my review, now somewhat out of date, at http://hyperex.co.uk/reviewsyllabary.php

To celebrate the completion of The Syllabary, Peter has just published two short books of poetry, Orasho and Pogo, both of which are available from Red Squirrel Press.

Picture book retrospective – The Stream

For the next few weeks I’m doing a retrospective of my picture books.
The Stream is an experimental piece – four miniature folk-stories, and a
philosophical reflection, on the subject of a little stream that runs
through the woods just close to my house.

The writing is accompanied by a series of photographs, all of which have
been digitally reprocessed in one way or another.

Picture book retrospective – The Doubter’s Mysteries

For the next few weeks I’m doing a retrospective of my picture books.
The Doubter’s Mysteries is actually an illustrated book rather than a
picture-book – in fact it’s a series of fourteen one-act plays, based on
Bible stories, with fourteen accompanying full-page illustrations.

The idea of the project was to write plays based on Biblical stories in
a down-to-earth style with very little staging, like the Medieval
Mystery Plays; but written from a modern, sceptical, non-religious point
of view.

My favourite illustrations (apart from the picture of Eve and the
Serpent which is on the front cover) are the ones for ‘Cain and Abel’
and ‘Samson’ (the Samson design is loosely based on the Tate & Lyle
Golden Syrup tins I remember from my childhood).