Bologna Children's Book Fair 2014

For anyone involved in children's books but particularly for those of us who tell stories with images, the Bologna Children's Book Fair presents a unique chance to see the industry at large and to discover where our work fits in. Because it fits somewhere.  All within walking distance of the best ice cream imaginable!



Not every book we make will fit in with the same publisher necessarily, so the fair allows us to get a feel for what it is that each publishing house is about. If we are lucky we also get the chance to meet the people who define the character of those publishing houses.  First time round, it was so vast, so daunting, embarking on this search of mutual selection. But every year gets better, faces become familiar and meetings feel more like conversations. Although every Bologna Book Fair is great, 2014 will be hard to top for me.

When I went to the fair for the second time in 2012, I knew more or less who I wanted to show my dummy to, although I did not have an appointment. Being part of the team who started our stand (Cambridge School of Art) gave me a sense of belonging, a backstage view of the fair, and a little bit of extra courage.  All those beautiful books had been book projects once, just as mine was. 


With Bianca in front of the enormous poster of my book!

Bianca Lazzaro is my editor at Donzelli Editore. She was the first person outside of the MA to see my dummy.  From our first conversation I was completely at ease, she is an adorable person, as is Carmine Donzelli. So a great highlight of this fair has been spending time with them and getting to know them better. Both of them make me want to learn Italian more than ever as I can only touch the surface of what our conversations would be like if language allowed.  But even with the language barriers and the difficulties that come with distance, working with them has been a real pleasure and a great learning experience. It was during this fair, however, with the launch of the book, that I've begun to see just how my book fits in with what else they do.





It is clear to me that Niente Pricippe Ranocchio has their full backing and their belief gives me immense confidence in my writing (with words and pictures).  Carmine in this video gives an interview on monday, first day of the fair and mentions Niente from around minute 7:40


Thanks for this photo Zack Rock!

As Niente Principe Ranocchio was launched during the fair we arranged two book signings sessions for tuesday and wednesday and left the possibility open for another one on thursday. They were surreal!  It was an amazing privilege to do book signings between two very well established italian artists: Arianna Papini and Fabian Negrin.  It was a real treat to dedicate my books with love and care to every person who bought it.  It was nice to meet italian librarians, teachers, journalists and other illustrators (from all over) who were discovering my book right there and then.  I would have happily stayed there and signed for hours, except all the copies in the fair ran out by Wednesday noon!

But particularly special was to sign books for Steve, Daisy, Suzanne, Vic, Martin and of course Emily all of who have known this book from when it was an idea.  Drawing for them (and Catalina, Becky, Trudy, Zack, Sarah, Renata, Simona...) at the fair was the best bit by far. I dearly missed those who could not make it to the fair this year, but we will always have Bologna! The camaraderie encouraged in our course is consolidating into friendships and professional collaborations which will see us return to the fair year after year to support each other and to celebrate together our books. It was a real pleasure to see how my friend's publishers are backing their books:  Steve Antony's amazing books The Queen's Hat, Please Mr Panda (with Hodder) and Betty goes Bananas (with OUP); Suzanne Barton's The Dawn Chorus (with Bloomsbury); and so many more in the pipelines!


Thanks Emily for this picture!

Outside of the stand (and the fair) it was great to meet new people, make new friends and get an even wider perspective of those who make and value children's books. And with old friends the luxury of hours and hours...

As for the next book and what the future holds, well, a conversation with Sunkyung Cho was very timely to see my book as a step in a path that will make more sense when I look at it retrospectively. I just need to keep a clear vision of where I aim to go, even if it is too far to discern in detail.



This has been the fair that launched my first book. 

I called on Neil Burden on the last day, he is always so welcoming at Child's Play.  He asked me what it was like now that I was a published author/illustrator, and even tough we talked about it then, I don't think the realisation hit me properly until Saturday morning.  The sky was black turning into blue.  I was riding alone in the back of the taxi heading for the airport and it was at that moment, with Bologna fading into a motorway,  that I first though of myself as published. I don't understand why it happened then, but it did and it made me smile. Well, it still does.

Spring cleaning.

After much removal and filing and destroying, it turns out there is a huge surface to work on top of my plan chest. 


Here's a little selection of my much loved tools.  Third from the top is one of my old time favourite pencils. It is at least 20 years old, and you can no longer buy something this well made anywhere. Some were made in countries that no longer exist, but they still work! Ah the beauty of a well crafted useful object! Bottom ones are a more recent discovery, artist quality wax crayons. Grainy, flowy, really vibrant, a delight over acrylic.


Yeti and Eye- for loAf

Here are the two characters I have been developing for my comic "Yeti and Eye"
Yeti is actually having two forms. I'm excited about the shape this is taking, even though these two have not started plotting any threads yet.
It will come, well, it must because deadline is looming....




World Book Day 2013 St Matthew's School

I had a most excellent reading and drawing session with the children of year 4 in St Mathews in Cambridge on March 7th. I read from my new book project Mr Dodd'd Odd Day and talked a little bit about the book making process and I was so delighted to hear the children't comments and suggestions on how to make the book better. Their input and their reactions to the book were amazing, and as it is work in progress it was great to see what their response to it was.

After reading they began to work on enormous pieces of paper in small groups to create their own cities, inspired by Mr Dodd's urban setting.

And here are their amazing cities:














Auction for Bologna Stand



Last wednesday we had the great auction of originals and prints to collect funds for our group stand at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. More than K£1 was raised thanks to the great initiative of my friend Mel, who organised the event, and the determination and care of Pam, who as always made sure it was a smoothly run operation, and a small but very efficient group of helpers.

There were over 140 donated pieces and they were ALL snapped up. We came home with some beautiful new artwork by Becky, Jin and Emma.

Vic took home my toothy donation, Thank you everyone!

MA Children's Book Illustration/Degree Show at Foyles



 Early in the morning panels left the van and somehow made it up to the 3rd floor.

Then white paint was applied to old smudges in walls and plinths.

Work was set on the floor.

Pam and Martin curated the show by allocating spaces so our work complemented eachother. 
The show would look amazing!


Then we all helped each other to put our work up so it looked its best.



Set up took most of the day on friday. 
Great camaraderie sweetened the task for our group.


 But by early evening it was done.
All we needed now was visitors and their feedback.



This is what my bit of wall looked like.
 I was so lucky to be between Steve and Jin.



Emily's cake was a hit during and after our private view.




Lots of families of my colleagues were there on the last saturday and it was a pleasure to meet them. 

As we pulled it down we were all slightly, well, gutted. 
We do not want this to end. Next stop:  Cambridge.



Thanks for the photos Steve and Daisy!


Degree Show!!!


If you find yourself in London between 4th and 9th of February, please come to Foyles bookshop and visit our show!

Happy new year!


Yes, we are half way down the first month of this very exciting year. I've been working quite hard on my masters degree project, degree show (invite will follow) and upcoming book... and further in the horizon Bologna. 

 Happy New(ish) year to all!






Bologna 2012!

Wednesday after our party. Our faces tell only part of an incredible adventure. 
The work of months rewarded us so handsomely. It was great fun to travel and explore with my friends from the Ma Children's Book Illustration, and to make new friendships and acquaintances in the wider publishing world as well. 
I can't wait to hear and share all of our stories of these exceptional four days.

Tuesday afternoon and the stand is just as busy as from the start of the fair.


Tuesday morning before opening time. Dummies were displayed in the front and interviews with publishers and agents took place in the back room. Thank you to all who visited us!

Martin Salisbury, Pam Smy and John Lawrence on sunday afternoon hanging the panels. 
Sunday morning and generic stand (25)B69 is about to be transformed by Caroline Tye's amazing design.