By Jamie Smith
I feel very lucky to be illustrating Ann Cameron’s series; the stories are jam packed with special moments and the characters are so vividly drawn. This makes illustrating the books a lot of fun – and there are always lots of options for the cover illustration.
I grew up in a family of four with a younger brother and unruly dog, so I really relate to the stories. For this reason the Tiger Tells All cover is one of my favourite illustrations. I’ve spent many hours chasing dogs around a back garden, with cats fleeing up trees and discarded socks strewn across the lawn. I too would struggle to resist dipping my finger into a voluminous lemon pudding, such as the one found in The Julian Stories. I really enjoyed this cover and one day soon I will follow the recipe in the back of the book, and see if it’s possible for the pudding to see out an evening unscathed.
My path always seemed destined towards a career in illustration, from the moment my grandmother first stepped into my classroom as a substitute teacher and instructed us to draw something. My efforts were doubled; I surrounded myself with coloured crayons (no doubt a little pink tongue was protruding from the corner of my mouth!) and produced a colourful hamster. It actually looked like a hamster, and from that day forward a sketchbook was my constant companion, even on holiday. I would devour comics, studying the artwork of Leo Baxendale in the Beano and recreating his characters.
My working process today is constantly evolving, and sometimes it still involves coloured crayons. I started life as a watercolour, dip pen and ink artist, but the Ann Cameron books are created with an array of pencils and some splashes of paint, and are brought together on the computer.
John Burningham was the first illustrator of children’s books to demand my attention, and though my influences are numerous and change daily I always return to the likes of Ronald Searle and Edward Gorey. There are so many characters that I would have loved to create, but I do have serious beard envy when it comes to Quentin Blake’s Mr Twit.
I work in a little studio at the bottom of my garden, flanked by apple trees and in the company of a huge array of birds and hungry insects. I could do with a friend like Gloria, to point out when my backside is covered with ants!
Jamie Smith illustrates the Julian and Huey books by Ann Cameron. To see Jamie’s work in action, check out Tiger Tells All, The Julian Stories and Julian’s Glorious Summer!
I live part of the year in Guatemala, and part in Portland, Oregon, USA. One summer day in Portland I was walking in a park with two friends, Cati, who teaches seventh grade, and Dave, a doctor, who started telling me about their dog and cat. Their dog, Tiger, was very smart and very patient, and took care of the cat, who was a terrible risk-taker. The cat climbed up a tree and sat on a branch a man was sawing off the tree. The cat actually got stuck in the toilet while trying to drink the toilet water. And then, unnoticed, the cat jumped into the freezer with all the frozen food, and Cati didn’t notice and shut her inside. Could the wise dog save her from that? He did.
Tiger – what a hero! I wanted to write about him and her. I didn’t need to make anything up. The whole plot for the book had just fallen into my lap. All I needed to do to write it was to see things from Tiger’s point of view. I wrote Tiger Tells All in just three weeks, and it turned out really good and funny. Just as if Tiger was dictating it to me. Maybe he was!
Ann Cameron is the author of seventeen books, including the timeless series of stories featuring brothers Julian and Huey, and she has been a finalist for the U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Please visit anncameronbooks.com for further information about Ann and her books.
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Our most prolific author this year, Malaika Rose Stanley, launched her latest book, Miss Bubble’s Troubles, yesterday at Brecknock Primary School. Around 100 students from Years 1 – 4 attended the very special occasion. Malaika read an extract from Miss Bubble’s Troubles and then asked students to help her perform the “Brecknock Rap”: an original rap about Brecknock school and students, which Malaika composed herself. At the end of the launch, students helped Malaika officially ‘launch’ the book by counting down from ten to blast off! The launch was also attend by journalists from the Camden Gazette, Ham & High and Islington Gazette.
This morning Ben Morley, the author of The Silence Seeker, dropped into our office from Singapore during his holiday in London.
After a minute’s silence, Ben enthralled an audience with an intimate reading. The publicity director, managing director and production controller were among those who enjoyed the story and asked Ben questions. Although we can’t repeat the magic of the book read aloud, you can see a video Q & A with Ben below.
What inspired Ben to write The Silence Seeker
Ben Morley on… Favourite books
Ben Morley on… The Crown Prince of Brunei
Ben Morley on… Being a writer
Ben Morley on… Workshopping the book
It’s time to put dads, step-dads and grandads back in the limelight. Here are some lovely picture books that do just that…
Equipped with a range of beautiful Tamarind picture books, Verna Wilkins visited Whitefriars School in Harrow. The head teacher Lynne Pritchard requested the visit because she is aware of “the importance of adequately meeting the educational needs of all the children, regardless of their ethnic origin.”
Tamarind books focus on universal themes, making them accessible and engaging resources for use all year round, and not only to be dusted off in Black History Month each October. Verna highlighted the curriculum topics, early socialisation themes, shared experiences and family life in the books. One powerful example, The Silence Seeker is popular because of the interwoven themes of migration, the value of silence, noisy city life and friendship without words. The lyrical writing and stylish illustrations widens its appeal to older children.
With the Tamarind range on board, the teachers felt able to deliver a truly multicultural curriculum. The head teacher was so inspired that she bought 44 Tamarind titles for the school and for her charity Red Earth, which trains teachers in Uganda. Through working with Tamarind, Lynne has become excited and equipped to integrate multicultural books across the curriculum. Lynne’s particularly keen to take The Day Rains Fell to Uganda on her next trip, and to take Verna too!
Verna founded Tamarind to address the issue of inclusion in early years education. Her work with schools over 20 years has shown how much personal value children feel when they see themselves reflected in their learning materials.
Donna Panton’s independent business, Colourful Kids, was founded only about a year ago, but it is already established in North West London as a great source of books and toys that reflect children from diverse backgrounds.
In November 2009, Colourful Kids held a launch event to celebrate its new online buying tool. Tamarind supplied activity packs and posters for children attending the event, which we’re told went down a storm. After an inspiring speech from Tamarind founder Verna Wilkins, £500 worth of books was sold in 30 minutes!
On Wednesday 7th October, illustrator Patrice Aggs came up from Sussex to meet author Odette Elliott and launch their picture book My Big Brother JJ. The launch was held at a school local to Odette, Leopold Primary School, Willesden. The event was covered in the local press, and sales were organised by the Willesden Bookshop. Every copy of JJ sold out on the day, and 50 Tamarind catalogues were also snapped up by parents. Willesden Bookshop have arranged a further book signing date with Odette for lucky locals.