Journalist & author, Graham Marks, interviewed me about about my life and journey towards the publication of my picture book debut, 'The Queen's Hat', for the Hodder Children's website. Press HERE to read it on Hodder Children's website.
I was lucky enough to get featured in this awesome magazine, which is chocked full of art, books, comics, and lots of fun!
It was just like sitting at home, drawing and minding my own business. The only difference was that I was in front of a giant window, a busy road, smart phone photographers, window tapping children and double-decker buses.
And another thing - Malorie Blackman officially opened the children's book department of Foyles's brand-spanking new flagship London store, while I sketched.
So, what did I choose to draw? A 'The Queen's Hat' A-Z of London!
The night before I had a nightmare that my mind would go blank on the day, so I made sure that I was prepared by doing a practice run on the floor of the train that morning. The trickier letters were Y, J and I. V was tricky too, but I saved a photograph of the V&A on my phone just in case I forgot what it looked like.
When I arrived at Foyles I went up to a room on the 6th floor. Here's a pic of me nervously waiting. Note The Union Jack tee. I thought it would be good to dress appropriately.
The time whizzed by!! It was so fun doing that.
Once finished, I went to a nearby coffee shop with Jo, from Foyles, Lucy and Lucy's husband (I'm terrible at remembering names) and had a Glazed and Confused doughnut, which somehow seemed weirdly appropriate because my next book with Hodder, Please Mr Panda, features doughnuts. Apologies for not remembering the name of this homely, yet quirky, little nook (like I said: names, terrible).
We then went back to Foyles, I signed a stack of books and headed off to ELCAF - the annual comics and arts festival that's never to be missed!
I got a bit lost on the way, but managed to sneak in at 6:30PM. Unfortunately, my phone was dead at this point in the day, so I've no photos of ELCAF. There, I met my good friends, Brolly Lolly, a very talented bunch of fellow MA graduates. They had a table and lots of stunning art on it. I also saw some people I hadn't seen for ages, like Alexis Deacon, Stephen Chan and Emma Carlisle. I also met Viviane Schwarz for the first time, which was great. I bought lots of things. I had to, because I had a £50 note in my wallet (which, by the way, is highly unusual) that my dad had given me as a birthday gift a short while ago.
Somewhere between dumping my things under Brolly Lolly's table and shopping, I lost my A2 pad filled with my A-Z train journey sketches. So someone somewhere has them. Oh well. But because of this unfortunate fact, I don't have any close-up sketches of my A-Z to show you. Instead, here is a list. You'll have to use your imagination to visualise the artwork. (The actual drawings done in the window are safely stashed away in Foyles.)
A - Art Galleries
B - Big Ben
C - Cab
D - Double-decker
E - Eye
F - Foyles
G - Guard
H - Harrods
I - 'I Heart London' tee
J - Jam (traffic)
K - Kew Gardens
L - London Underground
M - Made in Chelsea
N - Number 10
O - Olympics (The Queen parachuting)
P - Phone box
Q - Queen
R - Rain
S - Shard
T - Tower Bridge
U - Union Jack umbrella
V - V&A
W - Wimbledon
X - X-mas shopping
Y - Yum (fish & chips)
Z - Zoo
Right, now I'm off to read these books (below).
If you want to read a WAY BETTER blog about ELCAF, which has lots of photos, check out Sarah McIntyre's blog HERE!
Look what arrived in the post this morning. An advance copy of 'Betty Goes Bananas' via Oxford University Press!
I'm so happy with the book! You really have to hold this book to fully appreciate it. It's a neat package of reds, yellows and pinks. The vignettes of Betty's mood swings sit perfectly on each page, as she takes us on an emotional roller-coaster. If you follow my work, you'll already know about this tempestuous toddler. But if you don't, here's a bit about Betty.
Betty is a gorilla. A toddler gorilla that wears a pretty pink bow and a pink and yellow dress. Betty has tantrums. Big tantrums. But luckily she's got a toucan companion to appease her anger. Poor guy. In her picture book debut, Betty finds a banana that just won't open. That's how the story starts.
So where did I get the idea? It came from one of my sketches: a gorilla in a dress about to slip up on a banana with the caption - Betty Goes Bananas - above it. Oxford University Press (OUP) loved the character (and the caption) and suggested that I explore temper tantrums as a theme for Betty's story.
I researched temper tantrums, developed Betty in a style that matched her bold personality, created a secondary 'parent/guardian' character (a long-suffering toucan), bought some banana paper, and then illustrated the story. I think it was about three weeks after my initial meet with OUP that I showed them my rough dummy for 'Betty Goes Bananas': a conceptual, brightly coloured and character-focused picture book aimed at 0+ that explores the seemingly illogical ups and downs of toddler tantrums that both parents/guardians and toddlers deal with.
'Betty Goes Bananas' is to be published by Oxford University Press on August 7th (UK). You can pre-order it from lots of online shops - just Google Betty Goes Bananas.
Here's a little something I did for Magpie That, a fantastic website that has lots of cool book trailers, reviews, videos, interviews, picture book blogs and all things related. It's also been voted a Top 100 UK Educational Bog by UK Ed Chat, and it's not hard to see why.
A brilliant site, and if (like me) you like picture book awesomeness, then you need to go check it out: magpiethat.com.
You can also follow the magpie on Twitter.
It turns out that this blog post is by far THE most visited page on my site, so here's all you need to know about Mr Panda, including links to activities and lesson tips.
'Please Mr Panda' (or 'Please, Mr. Panda' in some territories) was published at the end of 2014. The response has been incredible! It was Barnes & Nobles' Children's Book of the Month and read in over 640 of their branches at the same time across the States for their first Story Time event in January 2015.
The Times chose it as their Children's Book of the Week in December 2014. It's had fantastic reviews by The New York Times, School Library Journal, The Bookseller, Kirkus, and lots of blogs have featured it, including Buzzfeed and Huffington Post.
But what I've loved the most is when people have that lightbulb moment and 'get' the story, especially at events - which can be really fun. The responses have ranged from complete befuddlement to laugh-out-loud hysteria. But one thing is for sure, Mr Panda always gets his point across - which is, if you want one of his doughnuts, you had better say PLEASE!
The hashtag #pleasemrpanda is being used on both Twitter and instagram. Some of the photos have been hilarious and very sweet, too. Below are just a few.
I've had some lovely emails and tweets about the book. One parent contacted me to say that 'Please Mr Panda' was the first book her son was able to read and understand all by himself, despite his learning difficulties.
Some children even dressed up as Mr Panda for World Book Day (below).
But it seems as though Mr Panda is not just for the kids. 'Please Mr Panda' was voted 'book of the year' by a high school in the States.
And the bookstore displays I've seen (below) have just blown me away.
I've written a blog about Lesson Tips here.
I've got activity sheets here.
Here's an interview where I talk about how being red-green colour-deficient has heavily influenced the way in which I approach colour for all of my books, including 'Please Mr Panda'.
Scroll down for the 'Please Mr Panda' video trailer, or press here.
'Please Mr Panda' (or 'Please, Mr. Panda') is available in the States, Canada, UK, Australia and lots of other countries. It'll be translated into several languages, including French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Korean.
The book's available in most bookstores, I think. It's recently been made available in Target in the States. Or you could just buy it online or borrow it from your local library.
Thank you for visiting my site! Please feel free to have a look around. Below are a bunch of Mr Panda photos and tweets. Speaking of tweets, you are welcome to tweet Mr Panda photos to @MrSteveAntony. I'll be sure to retweet. I'm on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr, too.
My cat dressed up for the occasion.
My very first blog post!
I've got some pretty amazing news. Hodder Children's Books will be publishing my first picture book, 'The Queen's Hat', in hardback in May 2014! I hope you like it!