Here it is! The cover of Goodnight, Mr Panda! Do you like his onesie? This one's not out until next year so you'll have to be really patient, like the little Penguin in I'll Wait, Mr Panda.
Here's the cover of When I Grow Up, which you can now preorder from just about anywhere! It was a real privilege and honour to illustrate Tim Minchin's words.
I really struggled to read books when I was young.
My first Early Reader was Plop, the Owl who was Afraid of the Dark, and I absolutely loved all those choose-your-own-adventure books from the 80's where you'd die like 5 times before reaching the grand finale, but I cannot remember my first non-picture book, and by non-picture book I mean a piece of literature completely devoid of illustration. Why is that, I wonder?
What I do remember though is struggling to read beyond the first few chapters of any non-picture book, fiction or non-fiction. If the book had no illustrations whatsoever, I wasn't interested. It's a shame really, because I missed out. Of course, I was encouraged to read by my parents and my teachers and librarians, and there were books all around. But for me the leap from picture books to chapter books was too big. I just couldn't jump that far. Nowadays there's a plethora of heavily illustrated chapter books, which is fantastic, but I really can't recall that many from back in the 80s.
I found reading at school particularly challenging. Maybe I had a short attention span or was easily distracted. Nothing really excited me the same way pictures did, but I had outgrown all the illustrated books at school.
Then I discovered another form of lit, in a gas station. It combined complex narratives and diverse themes with amazing illustrations. The perfect combo. I was 10 or 11 when I bought my first comic book. It was Uncanny X-Men issue 220 (and this was way before 'ole Wolverine and co had crossed beyond comic book fandom into the mainstream). "What does Uncanny mean?" I remember thinking to myself. I took the comic home. I read it, and read it again and again and again. Of course, it ended with a cliffhanger. I wanted more. More from Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri. (I should add that I was well aware of British comic books like Dandy and Beano, which I loved, but US comics were clearly very different and sated my appetite for meatier, longer, more grown-up stories.)
Before long I was hooked. Really hooked. Comic books were a revelation to me. The stories were spectacular and the characters, in spite of their powers, were real. I couldn't get enough. Real people with real lives and real challenges. I could not wait until the next instalment of X-Men, so I started reading The Avengers and X-Factor and Spiderman and Spider-Ham and She-Hulk and Elf Quest and The New Mutants, which quickly became a favourite probably because the characters were teenagers and the artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Still it wasn't enough, so I started buying back issues and reading whole series' of discontinued titles. I loved discovering obscure comics, mini-series' and one-offs.
By the time I was 14 I had acquired hundreds of comics, and not just Marvel. I had branched out to DC, Dark Horse, Harvey and Image. My first graphic novel was Watchmen, which was probably a little too adult for an adolescent. I devoured it in one sitting.
I was fully immersed. All the while my reading skills were improving, my vocabulary expanding (I wonder how many other 10 year olds knew what Uncanny meant) and I felt every emotion under the sun by living vicariously through my comic book heroes.
As an adult I can look back and fully acknowledge that comic books were my bridge between illustrated books and all other forms of literature. I'm currently knee deep in John Grisham's new thriller, and I've just finished an awesome graphic novel called Patience, by Daniel Clowes.
I'll end this blog post by saying that, if you or someone you know really struggles to reach Chapter 3 in any kind of book, you should buy a comic book! You might never look back.
Below are a bunch of comic book covers from the same month in late 80s, around the time I started collecting. I absolutely loved these Marvel 25th Anniversary covers, if only I had collected them all!
Mr Panda and Swindon Libraries invite you to design your own doughnut this summer! It can be any kind of a doughnut: a monster doughnut, an arty doughnut, a magic doughnut!
Three winners will be chosen by Mr Panda’s creator, Steve Antony, and will each receive fun prizes, including three signed books!
The winners will be announced by Steve Antony at the Summer Reading Challenge Event, Central Library, September 25th, 6pm.
Pick up an entry form at any Swindon Library from 15th July. Design your doughnut by 2nd September.
Have fun and good luck!
From Steve Antony and Swindon Libraries
Chinese edition of Green Lizards Vs Red Rectangles read aloud and discussed on a popular Taiwanese TV show.
More details on this coming soon...
Scholastic has announced a global deal for a new magical picture book inspired by When I Grow Up, Tim Minchin's hit song from the acclaimed and multi-award-winning Matilda the Musical.
The book will be illustrated by Steve and will imagine life from a child’s viewpoint, with all the humour and poignancy of the song.
Tim says: “I feel incredibly lucky to be able to lend my lyrics to a children’s book. I adore Steve’s work, and it’s been a thrill to watch him develop his gorgeous illustrations. I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands.”
Steve says: “I feel so lucky and honoured to be working on such an exciting and unique picture book project with Tim and the team at Scholastic. Adapting Tim’s beautiful and emotive song into a visual narrative really is a dream job and has allowed me and my inner child to indulge in a world of imagination, fun, hope and possibility.”
‘When I Grow Up’ by Tim Minchin and Steve Antony will publish in the UK in October 2017.
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.