Picture book retrospective – The Christmas Robins

For the next few weeks I’m doing a retrospective of my picture books. The fourth title is The Christmas Robins.
Three robins go looking for Christmas. Their names are Robbie, Rupert and Ropey.

This one was based on some robin decorations Mollie made. She brought three of them to work one day, and as soon as I saw them they looked as if they were marching along, and a story started to emerge. My favourite picture is where they meet a grumpy camel belonging to one of the three Kings. He’s very upset at being dragged away from his nice hot home in the desert.

Picture book retrospective – I’m a Parsnip!

For the next few weeks I’m doing a retrospective of my picture books. Third up isĀ I’m a Parsnip!, a light-hearted look at the transgender experience.
Penny the carrot realises that actually she’s a parsnip. She has to explain this to her family and friends, then apply for a procedure to get herself changed. The process turns out to be long, bureaucratic and frustrating.
The book’s based on the experiences of a close relative of mine. Essentially it’s about someone trying to be true to themself. Transgender readers themselves seem to like it, so I’m quite proud of it. My favourite pictures are the ones of Penny’s dad receiving the shocking news, and of Penny herself after her successful procedure.

Picture book retrospective: The Cake Maker of Transylvania

For the next few weeks I’m doing a retrospective of my picture books. The second one is The Cake Maker of Transylvania, a vampire love-story, co-written with Mollie Macgregor-Kinnis.

Hugo the vampire wants to be a baker, because Lydia, the girl he fell in love with when he was small, loves bakers and their cakes. Being a vampire, he fulfills his ambition in a vampiric way – he steals the hearts of beautiful women and bakes them into his cakes to make them extra-delicious. But then he finds himself having to bake a cake for Lydia herself, and instead of stealing her heart he wants to give her his own.

This book, like Pilchards, originated in one of Mollie’s doodles, of a vampire-character cutting into a cake with lots of blood or jam oozing out. Later on she did another doodle which I also transferred into the book – she found a clump of turquoise thread on the floor, glued it to a piece of paper and added arms, legs and a face so it turned into a picture of a girl dancing.

To be honest I find the book as a whole slightly unsatisfactory. The balance between words and pictures isn’t right: too many words on some pages, not enough on others. The pictures themselves waver between cartoonish and realistic. But there’s some good writing, and the idea of cutting out people’s hearts, then offering them back to their owners as gourmet delicacies, has a satisfying symbolism to it. My favourite illustrations show Bangers the butler standing at the front door in the pouring rain, and Lydia in her turquoise party frock doing a little dance with a slice of cake in her hand.

Picture book retrospective – Pilchards

For the next few weeks I’m doing a retrospective of my picture books. The first one is Pilchards, a light-hearted look at bullying and teasing. Two naughty spuds keep shouting “Pilchards!” at a mild-mannered carrot called Kevin.

It’s got a special place in my heart, this one, not least because it’s based on a doodle of a smiling carrot by my friend Mollie, who also suggested that the carrot should be called Pilchards. I worked the idea up into a picture book without telling her, and presented her with the first copy as a surprise, and I can still vividly remember how delighted she was. She kept going through the pages over and over again, finding new things in them. It’s probably the nicest reaction I’ve ever had to something I’ve made.

For me, the whole book has a very sunny feel. All the pictures were created digitally using Inkscape, and I like the bright colours, sharp outlines and simplicity of them; having said which, I think my favourite one is actually the most complex, where Kevin is sitting down to his tea of pilchards on toast, on a gingham table-cloth, with the two naughty spuds tittering outside the window.

The Goblin and the Cupboard

A pretty girl called Lucy has lost her favourite photograph; a naughty boy called Ryan has lost his favourite book; and a monster called Grok has lost his dead rat. The author has also lost his manuscript.

Four intertwined stories about the human world, the monster world, and a goblin who steals things from both; plus a collection of funny poems with black and white illustrations.

For children and adults. Available from Amazon, https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09DD9MQGC