I sometimes hear people say things like 'Libraries are the beating hearts of our communities.' but does our UK government fully understand just how true this is?
Can our government really justify the closure of literally hundreds of libraries across the UK? The Borough of Swindon, in which I live, is shockingly set to lose 10 of its 15.
The Bookseller Magazine has been closely covering this national crisis and have kindly published my open letter to Swindon Council, which you can read here: http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/open-letter-swindon-council-446346
To find out more on the ongoing campaign to save Swindon Libraries please follow Save Swindon Libraries. Thanks to the campaign, the total number of libraries to be retained has increased from one to five. What the campaign has managed to achieve so far is an absolute inspiration.
We all have the right to a quality library service and to be heard. It's not just my Borough. Visit My Library By Right for more on the nationwide campaign.
I've personally emailed each and every Swindon Councillor to direct them to my open letter and would like to add that those who've responded are very much in favour of saving our libraries - as with almost everything, it boils down to money. I am hopeful a way will be found to keep as many of our libraries open as possible.
The Bologna Children's Book Fair runs for four days. On the fourth day, publishers begin packing up for the journey home, but they don't always take all their books with them. This is something my Bologna buddy and fellow author-illustrator, Elena Arévalo Melville, discovered, so we challenged ourselves to collect as many books as possible to donate to IBBY. IBBY stands for International Board on Books for Young People and is a non-profit organisation that represents an international network of people from 75 countries; at the fair their Italian branch had a sign asking for book donations for refugee children.
Elena and I went on a mission to collect as many donations as possible. Hachette leant us a red trolley, and off we went. We hashtagged our spree with #HelpIbbyBCBF16. It was a race against time; we wanted to collect as many books as possible before the publishers all packed up; and we had a flight to catch, too.
Two or so hours later, we had 100's of books for IBBY. IBBY were delighted. It was magical moment. It felt empowering. In our own little way, we helped.
We'd like to thank all the publishers who kindly donated so, so many books!
I had intended to post this blog shortly after the Fair, which took place in April, but didn't due to one reason or another. This morning, I found it sitting in my 'drafts', so here it is... Below are some photos of the event. For a much better blog post about our spree, which includes more details, please visit Elena's blog HERE.
I've fallen slightly behind with my blog, so here some tweets from the past few weeks which feature...
- my day at the Oxfordshire Awards Ceremony (where Please Mr Panda won Best Picture Book)
- drawing The World's Longest Landscape with Nicholas Allan at Dulwich Gallery for The Big Draw
- Halloween Mr Pandas!
- Thame Lit Fest, Gloucester Waterstones Event, and more
More amazing Mr Panda costumes! pic.twitter.com/RlsWAwwkEa— Steve Antony (@MrSteveAntony) November 1, 2016
In 3 days we've created a drawing measuring 300 metres. WOW. Thank you to all our guest illustrators and talented visitors! pic.twitter.com/RWHpAzxtHU— Dulwich Pic Gallery (@DulwichGallery) October 16, 2016
Last week I launched my 9th author-illustrator picture book, The Queen's Present, at Waterstones' flagship in Piccadilly, London, and in the process raised enough cash for literacy charity, Beanstalk, to support four pupils for a whole year. It was a festive affair. There was mulled wine, mince pies and a fab turnout of lovely people, including friends, family, my publisher and agent, Beanstalk volunteers, fellow authors, booksellers, librarians and several curious customers. The icing on the cake was a delicious Christmas bake, by Great British Bake Off winner, Frances Quinn. It was very nice of Waterstones to allow us to take over the children's department. THANK YOU, Waterstones; and thank you to all who donated! Below are some tweets from the event.
Her name is Blip, and you'll be seeing more from her next year.
What can I say? I'm thrilled, honoured and over the moon that two of my books have been nominated for the 2017 Kate Greenaway Medal. Thank you to the librarians who voted for my books! You can see the whole list HERE.
London's Kew Gardens is beautiful. What a fantastic setting to hold a story-time event. A couple of weekends ago a whole host of authors held events at Write on Kew, including me. There, I read the newly-released The Queen's Present for the very first time to an audience. Afterwards, I took a leisurely stroll around the magical gardens. Below are some pics from the day, along with a video all about Kew Gardens.
A couple of weeks ago I visited Wokingham Libraries for a day of events. I think it was my fourth, or maybe fifth, visit to the Wokingham Library. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Elizabeth (pictured below) was the first librarian to contact me about holding a library event, way back in the summer of 2014, not too long after the release of my first picture book: The Queen's Hat. Elizabeth recently won the Public Librarian of the Year Award from CILIP (Chartered Institution of Library and Information Professionals) for all of her hard work and boundless enthusiasm!
The highlight of the day was the MR PANDA CAKE, baked by Wokingham Librarian, Claire Groves (AKA Chocolatey's Cakes). It was delicious. Slicing it felt a bit wrong, but it tasted so good. Just check out the rainbow coloured layers inside Mr Panda (below).
Claire and I visited several schools in the area, and the last story-time event of the day took place in Wokingham Library, where I met some little (and big) fans of The Queen's Hat and Mr Panda books.
All in all, another fun day with Wokingham Libraries!
Last week I visited around 20 bookstores from Gloucester to Glasgow for Books Are My Bag, a nationwide campaign to celebrate bookshops. It was a whistle-stop tour incorporated into a weeklong road-trip to a close friend's wedding in Gretna Green. Each visit was somewhat spontaneous. Every time we took a pitstop, we sought out the nearest bookstores. Most of the stores we visited were Waterstones and WHSmiths, but we did stumble across the award-winning Booka Bookshop in Oswestry - a shop conveniently located near some friends - and Blackwell's and Forbidden Planet in Edinburgh.
It was great to meet and chat to so many booksellers, including fellow twitterers. I don't think I've ever visited so many bookstores in one week. From what I can recall, we swung by Gloucester, Worcester, Telford, Wolverhampton, Oswestry, Chester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Blackpool and Stoke-on-Trent. It was a little crazy, I admit, but it was so fun! The only problem now... I need a new bookshelf.
Cheltenham Festival was such fun. My event was based on Monster in the Hood and Betty Goes Bananas. The audience were brilliant and so were their Monster drawings! Below are some pictures and a couple of tweets from the day.
First, a hat-chase through London. Then, a swan-chase across the UK. Now, it's a race against time as The Queen goes global in search of the perfect present on Christmas Eve! The Queen's Present is out in the UK this October in hardback.
There are several picture books that tackle difficult subjects and they each have something unique to offer.
My desire was to simplify to its core what is an anything but simple subject so that people can add their own interpretations and apply it to just about any kind of conflict.
Everything in GREEN LIZARDS VS RED RECTANGLES was intentional - the digitally drawn faceless rectangles, the hand drawn characteristic lizards, the death, the life, the hope, the two complimenting colours, the word TRUCE.
WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR and ENOUGH IS ENOUGH are the two statements that really stand out and that was absolutely intentional because what are we/you fighting for and when is 'enough enough' in any kind of altercation, disagreement or war?
It's also an exercise in design, which was initially inspired by '8 Red Rectangles' by Malevich. Even I didn't know how these two entities would visually resolve their differences until the end of drawing this story. And despite it's overall simplistic design, it was not a simple task to populate this book with so many lizards and rectangles. And because of my red-green colourblindness (oh, the irony) I have developed a very effective but very tedious and time-consuming process to render my final illustrations. Let's just say that this is compiled from HUNDREDS of layers in Photoshop. Nor was it easy to work out the visual actions and reactions, but it was fun.
And if you look closely, there are some sad scenes. At one point I actually got really emotional drawing these little reptiles. Each lizard has its own story. If you get this book, really take a good look - A REALLY GOOD LOOK - at all the lizards. They're not all fighting. In fact, most are NOT fighting. And the ones that are fighting are inadvertently hurting other lizards. Hang on, are the rectangles JUST lifeless objects? Are the lizards fighting against themselves without even realising it? You could get really deep with this... I did.
I realise it was a bold move to include a 'death'. But that was the catalyst for the 'biggest war ever'. Often, war is because war was, until someone has the audacity to pose the most direct question of all, or proclaim that enough really is enough. I did intentionally soften this scene by using the word 'squashed'. And, if you look closely, you might spot a little bandaged lizard on every page after the 'squash' so maybe she/he is ok after all. That's up to you.
It's been really great to see how classes have interpreted the book and how they've taken my 'simple' take on war and turned it into a lengthy discussion. I had a really interesting chat about the book with some college teens recently. Why rectangles? Why red? Why green? Why are they fighting? Why are we fighting? One person even suggested that the war started because a lizard and rectangle were in love (they got this from the final 'kiss' scene on the hardback's endpapers).
The book doesn't explain why they are warring or how it all started. I don't know why the war started, I just know they're at war and that war is getting them nowhere.
The two sides are very different from each other but they have one thing in common - the book. Perhaps they are just fighting for space.
I could go on and on about how I important I feel this book is and how it can be as simple or as complex as you would like it to be. Even though it tackles a weighty subject, it's actually quite a fun book, if you want it to be, and could lead to discussions about 'working together'. I know it's not commercial, but I don't care about that. Maybe it will go under the radar. Who knows? I wrote this book because I felt compelled to do so, and I'm really glad that I did.
You can buy the book here, or your fav bookstore, or you can borrow it from your nearest library.
Coming in 2017. You're welcome. :-)