Ok, so I’ve got my new ‘event’ tees ready for headlining the ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival at FairyTale Town in Sacramento, California this weekend! You can probably guess which books I’ll be reading! Details here: https://www.fairytaletown.org/calendar/childrens-book-festival/2018-09-29/
Author Nicola Davies will this autumn sell off artwork donated by illustrators, including me and many, many amazing illustrators, to raise money to help child refugees.
The artwork, which you can find on Instagram under the hashtag #3000chairs, will be given away at an a special event at Foyles Charing Cross on 3rd September. The chairs will be distributed anonymously in exchange for a standard donation on the night.
The money raised will then be donated to Help Refugees, which provides humanitarian aid to and advocacy for refugees around the world.
I am most thrilled that the Mr Panda books won the much coveted Most Polite Award. The Most Polite Award was established by Lee, age 5. Lee also designed and created the eye-catching and totally awesome medal (with help from Mom).
Thank you Lee (and Lee's Mom) for this great honour! Below you can see the award and the award's creator.
Staying true to yourself & being in a minority is not easy. It can be emotionally crippling which is why I had to contribute to this powerful book of LGBTQ+ authors & illustrators curated by Juno Dawson. This book is trailblazing. I know people are weary of showing their true colours for one reason or another, even people in this industry. I understand that. But life is short. Live it.
The short story I've illustrated* is by NY Times bestselling author and YA master, David Levithan. Its title: 'As the Philadelphia Queer Youth Choir Sings Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’…' It's beautiful. You can pre-order this powerful book from Waterstones. Proud will publish by Stripes in March 2019.
Last year I held two art competitions for Swindon Libraries: Design a Doughnut and the When I Grow Up art comp. We received hundreds of amazing entries from across the borough. This summer I'm launching a brand new creative competition with Swindon Libraries - Design Mr Panda's Hat! 15 winners will receive a signed book (and possibly some extra bonus goodies!) and the overall winner will receive a class visit from yours truly.
How will you design Mr Panda's hat? Patterned? Full of doughnuts? Stickers? Pick up an entry form at your local library from this Saturday the 21st of July! This art comp is for Swindon Borough only. You can pick up a competition sheet from any one of Swindon Borough's 15 Libraries. Deadline: Sept 9th. I can't wait to see all the entries!
Today I had the pleasure of visiting Whitchurch Primary School in Hertfordshire. Super school librarian and award-winning book blogger, Jo Clarke (AKA Book Lover Jo) had invited along to read some of my books to their pupils alongside pupils from Long Parrish Primary (who bussed their way to Whitchurch). It was a full house and the pupils were so prepped and engaged that they practically read along with me. I read Please Mr Panda (I can't not read this book); we journeyed through the detailed visuals of When I Grow Up; we met the Monster in the Hood; and I taught everyone how to draw Mr Panda by only using shapes and letters. They especially enjoyed listening to Monster in the Hood. Bookstore, P&G Wells, kindly attended with a piles of books. Here are some photos from the day courtesy of Jo and Dave from P&G Wells. Oh and if you're not already familiar with Jo's Clarke's book blog, I recommend you go check it out: https://bookloverjo.wordpress.com/
Out now in the UK!
You may remember the big cover reveal of Tim Minchin's When I Grow Up at Waterstones Piccadilly last Oct. Well, I'm so pleased to see that Waterstones are still displaying my artwork from the book, as you can see from these photos. This time they've added speech bubbles. I can't help but wonder where window designer, Annie, stores my giant illustrations! I absolutely love what she's done here.
There's just no stopping Mr Panda. As if four picture books wasn't enough, Mr Panda is now applying his dry wit to board books (board books are like picture books but smaller, thicker and biteable). Mr Panda's Colours and Mr Panda's Feelings were both released last month in the UK. I know many Americans are wondering when they'll publish Stateside (gotta love Twitter). The honest answer is: I don't know. Watch this space, I guess. For now though, you can order them from pretty much any UK bookstore.
I had such fun drawing these board books. I hope you like them!
Here are just a few press cuttings. I've been meaning to upload these for a while. I never want to become complacent or take any of this for granted which is why I keep all the articles I can get my hands on. My mum keeps them, too, and my dad has an actual scrap book.
I've sort of fallen behind with my 'event' blog posts. What can I say? I've been busy. Below are just a few photos from recent events.
Receiving proofs in the post is always exciting. This particular soon-to-be-published book, Amazing, was inspired by my time working part time as a Special Needs Support Worker at Swindon College and it's one of very few trade picture books that feature a wheelchair user, the main character, on its cover. But in this, the wheelchair is merely incidental, which is not something you often come across in picture books.
I often stick to limited colour palettes, with the exception of Tim Minchin's When I Grow Up, but I wanted this book to be really colourful and commercial-looking, because when was the last time you saw a disabled character on the front cover of a picture book in your local supermarket? Only a very small percentage of (usually highly commercial) picture books make it into the supermarkets. Most are licensed character books, like Peppa Pig or Frozen.
I'm fortunate in that all of my books are (or have been) stocked in the high street (Waterstones, Barnes and Noble, Smiths) and I'm forever grateful to all the indie bookstores who stock my books, not to mention libraries! The Mr Panda books have even made it into Sainsburys (UK) and Target (USA) and other supermarkets around the world. That said, I'm really hoping this book receives the same level of support.
Below is a peek at the proofs. Amazing is set to publish first in the UK in Jan '19.
Suffice to say, this book features the planets of our Solar System (and little Pluto), but if you look hard enough you might just find the following.
1. Sputnik 1 - The first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957, orbiting for three weeks before its batteries died.
2. Voyager 1 - A space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977 as art of the Voyager program to study the outer Solar System
3. Laika - Laika was a Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth.
4. Lunar Rover - A lunar rover or Moon rover is a space exploration vehicle designed to move across the surface of the Moon.
5. Curiosity - Curiosity is a car-sized rover designed to explore Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission.
6. Face on Mars - The "Face on Mars" was photographed by the Viking 1 spacecraft as it made its way to the Red Planet. The image shows what seems to be a giant humanoid face, carved out of or even built onto the surface of Mars.
7. Crop Circle - Crop Circles are geometric patterns that appear mysteriously in crop fields. The term was first coined in the early 1980s by Colin Andrews. Although obscure natural causes or alien origins of crop circles are suggested by theorists, there is no scientific evidence for such explanations.
8. International Space Station - The International Space Station is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit.
9. The American Flag - NASA's Apollo 11 blasted to the moon on July 16, 1969. Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins were the astronauts on Apollo 11. Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon. They both planted the U.S. flag there.
10. Mice on the Moon - The myth that the moon is made of cheese has been around for millennia. The best-known early citation dates to 1546, and can be found in The Proverbs of John Heywood (which can be read in its entirety here). The document is a compendium of some of the titular author’s most famous sayings, such as “the more, the merrier,” “a penny for your thoughts,” and “Rome was not built in a day.” At one point, he jokingly states “the moon is made of greene cheese” (in this context, “greene” refers to the food’s age rather than its color).
11. A subtle reference to a popular American science fiction television series and movie franchise.
12. Mr Panda - Mr Panda is from my ongoing 'Mr Panda' series. He also appears in The Queen's Handbag and The Queen's Present.
13. Another nod to a popular American science fiction television series from the 1960s (this time, in the text).
14. The Queen's Hat - The Queen's Hat appears four times in this book.
15. The Sneaky Swan - This thieving swan stars in The Queen's Handbag, but he also make a brief appearance in The Queen's Present, too.
16. Royal Guard and Police Officers - These characters are from The Queen's Hat and The Queen's Handbag, respectively.
17. Blip - Blip stars in her very own book called Unplugged, but she does manage to make a cameo in The Queen's Lift-off.
18. A Lizard - This lizard is from my book, Green Lizards Vs Red Rectangles.
19. The Alien Butler - The Alien Butler has replaced the Queen's actual butler in this book, as he follows the hoards of astronauts through space with a tray of tea.
20. An Elf - This elf is from The Queen's Present.
21. A Comet - An icy small Solar System body that, when passing close to the Sun, warms and begins to release gases, a process called outgassing.
22. The Asteroid Belt - The asteroid belt is the circumstellar disc in the Solar System located roughly between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter.
23. Contents from The Queen's Handbag including lipstick, perfume, a notepad, crossword puzzle, pen, a safety pin, compact mirror, spectacles, sweets and doggy treats for her corgi.
24. The Alien Queen and Space Corgi
25. Big Ben - Yes, Big Ben, a nod to the first book in The Queen Collection, is somewhere in this book.
Ok, so I've decided to scan and post as much fan art as I can, as and when I receive it. This brilliant drawing is by Sakura, age 9. My Japanese publisher, Hyoronsha, sent this over. Isn't it great? I love that Blip is in this, too!
Yay! Mr Panda’s Colours is one of the Guardian newspaper’s ‘best baby books’ this summer. Thank you to Ruth Swindon from Bookworm Ltd and Natasha Redford from Chicken and Frog Bookshop.