My cat dressed up for the occasion.
The proofs for my third picture book (my second with Hodder Children's Books) arrived in the post yesterday! Here is a ridiculously tiny sneak peek. This one is going to the Bologna Children's Book Fair in a few weeks, and its publication date for the hardback edition is next Jan; and it features two of my favourite things in the whole wide world.
'The Queen's Hat' will be my first published picture book! But why would you make a book about a daredevil Queen chasing her hat all over London, you might ask?
Back in April 2011, I saw a photo in a news article of the Queen holding on to her hat on a blustery day while visiting Prince William. Immediately, a funny story unravelled in my mind about the Queen chasing her windswept hat all around London.
As a fan of Pop Art, I envisioned the book as a sort of 'pop arty' picture book featuring iconic British images, like Big Ben, the Union Jack, double decker buses and umbrellas. The whole idea of creating a picture book with strong shapes and bold visuals with a fun, page-turning narrative inspired me to draw a rough story board of the Queen chasing her hat through London, closely followed by her royal guards and excitable corgi. 'The Queen's Hat' was an obvious title choice.
The next day, I showed the storyboard to Paula Metcalf, one of my tutors on the MA Children's Book Illustration course, and she encouraged me to finish the book in time for an approaching contest. I had only a few weeks to do this, but I did manage to finish most of it, even though many of the spreads were a little rushed.
Shortly after I found out that 'The Queen's Hat' was unsuccessful in the contest, I received an unexpected postcard from Ronald Searle complimenting me on an illustration from the book, which he'd seen on my website! The reason he had visited my site was because, earlier that year, I emailed his agent to express my appreciation for having been highly commended for the Searle Award for Creativity (for a different picture book). I didn't expect a response, and I certainly didn't expect a handwritten one from Searle himself! His encouraging comments spurred me on to complete the 'The Queen's Hat'.
Over a year later, I finished it just in the nick of time for my class's graduation show, along with two other picture books - and, later that year, Hodder Children's Books offered me a book deal!
'The Queen's Hat' is definitely the kind of book I would have liked pouring over as a child. My family and I moved from the UK to New Mexico when I was 8 after my mum married my American step-dad. Although I was happy in the States, I did miss my home, my dad and my grandparents. They would often send things over like crisps, chocolates, comic strips from the tabloids, and Beano magazines. So, while developing 'The Queen's Hat', I think I may have subconsciously channelled my inner child that enjoyed the nostalgia gifts from home evoked.
'The Queen's Hat' will be published by Hodder Children's Books first in hardback on May 1st and then in paperback on October 2nd.
SPOILER ALERT! 'The Queen's Hat' features swinging spider monkeys, a pigmy hippo, a fish on a busby, a giraffe, a hissing cobra and a komodo dragon, amongst other things - and that's just on one spread!
Here is the front cover of 'The Queen's Hat' - my first picture book publication! It will be published first in hardback in the UK on May 1st by Hodder Children's Books - so that's 95 days until publication... and counting.
What started out as a university project has evolved into a full-blown picture book!
At the risk of sounding over dramatic, a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into this, and I couldn't be happier with the end result. If you like London, the Queen, or picking out interesting and amusing details in illustrations, then I think you might like this book (or at least I hope you will)!
My second picture book, 'Betty Goes Bananas', will be published first in hardback in the UK on August 31st by Oxford University Press. I had great fun developing the character for this book. Betty is very expressive. I tried to capture her character with bold lines and expressive mark-making. I even used banana paper to fit the theme.
Let's just say that Betty, the toddler gorilla with the pink ribbon in her hair, has a few tantrums herself - and over what: a banana?! I'm sure everyone probably knows one or two 'Betty's' - I do!
The Queen's Hat Hardback (Hodder Children's Books) May 2014
A sudden gust of wind sets off a marvellous adventure for the Queen, lots of Queen's Men, and one very special hat. Just where will that hat land? A witty and stylish celebration of London, the Queen, and the new royal baby.
Pre-order online or at your local bookshop.
Betty Goes Bananas Hardback (Oxford University Press) Aug 2014
Who would have thought a banana could cause such a BIG drama?
Pre-order online or at your local bookshop.
A spread from 'The Queen's Hat', to be published by Hodder Children's Books in May '14. Can you spot the odd one out of all the Queen's men?
Hodder Children's Books will be publishing 'The Queen's Hat' in hardback in May 2014! Below is an image from the book.