I’m a guest Blogger. . .

On a site called ‘Picture Book Den’. Which is a blog dedicated to the Picture Book, with posts from it’s resident writers and from guest bloggers. I came across the site a few weeks ago and liked it very much. I cheekily asked them if they would be interested in a guest post from me, and they said ‘yes’ which was nice of them 😉

Anyway, it’s up today, so here I am writing a blog post about a blog post. I might get caught in some sort of literary feedback loop but it’s worth the risk.


is the link. The pics are a bit small but I’m hoping they can fix that. You can click on them to see a bigger version I think.

Happy Easter x


Margaret Mahy stamps!

Many years ago I was given the job of illustrating a story Margaret Mahy had written. Her agent at the time, the late Vanessa Hamilton, was at J.M. Dent and had published my first picture book not long before. Both she and Margaret weren’t sure that the story would work as a picture book and wondered what I could make of it as it seemed rather repetitive and bit strange. It sounded like it might have been about to be shelved. It was about a boy who looked like a shark. . .

I wasn’t really sure about it at first but I didn’t really know what does or doesn’t make a good picture book as I was just starting out pretty much fresh from Art School. I liked the idea of making a boy look like a shark, that was right up my street, so I played around with it, did some drawings and sent them off to Vanessa. They met with approval from her and from Margaret, and that was how ‘The Great White Man Eating Shark’ came about.


I mention this because I got a nice package in the post today. Margaret sadly died last year, and the New Zealand post office are issuing a set of commemorative stamps to recognise her genius and her importance to Children’s Books and to New Zealand and World literature. The Great White Man-Eating Shark is the $2.40 stamp! With Norvin, the boy who looked like a shark rampaging across it. Norvin also got major billing on the First Day Cover envelope. Needless to say I am pleased and proud.


I illustrated four books in all for Margaret over the years, ‘The Great White Man-Eating Shark’, my favourite, ‘The Three-Legged Cat’, ‘Beaten By a Balloon’, and ‘Simply Delicious!’

There was a really excellent animation made of ‘Shark’ directed by Euan Frizzell, who also sadly died last year. Have a look, it’s great. it won a prize at the Ottawa Animation festival back in the day.


Music – A bit of what’s loosely known as ’60’s Garage’

Or ‘Garage Rock’, not a term I like as it implies rather too much rock and not enough pop.

I think I’ll bung the odd interesting and cool youtube vid in between other posts.

Because –

a.) It’s fun and I like it.

b.) I like it and it’s fun.

Sir Douglas Quintet – She’s About A Mover – YouTube


Photo from the website of the bass player of the Sir Douglas Quintet, Jack Barber

Dig that organ sound 😉 ‘Based’ on Ray Charles’s ‘What I’d Say’ but not so it hurts. Classic!

Just a link as you have to sign up to some fancy upgrade to play videos within a blog page it seems. And anyway i don’t want to take traffic away from anyone, even Youtube. . .

Fuji x100 wide angle


Fishermens’ huts at Southwold

I really like my x100. In fact, since I flogged my Nikon D90 and a few lenses to pay for a second hand X100 a year and a bit ago, if not longer, I have hardly ever felt the need for anything else. Maybe once or twice, when stuck at the back of a crowd, I might have wished for a zoom lens, but that’s about it. The trouble is, that when the idea of going just a bit wider gets mentioned, I can’t helping thinking it would be a nice option.

A 35mm equiv lens is a great focal distance for all sorts of situations, but I have to admit to the niggling desire for something a touch wider sometimes. It doesn’t help that I am used to my little Ricoh GX200 (my other favourite camera, but for different reasons) and it’s wide angle to short-tele zoom lens. I found that the distance I chose to stand from my subject was automatically right for a 28 or 24mm lens. I kept having to take two steps back to get the framing right with my x100. I’m more at ease with it now, and I can guess better, but it made me realise that I am comfortable with a 24/28mm equiv lens and enjoy the slight distortions and the ability to fit a lot in the frame that it brings.


Fishermens’ boats and tractors at Southwold

So I did some research into what was available. Obviously, the fuji add on 28mm equiv made especially for the x100 would be first choice, but for around £250 they can keep it. That left a few options made for earlier cameras of other makes. Others have posted at length about this so I won’t go into tedious detail. Suffice it to say I hit ebay and tried a dead cheapie from the far east. I wasn’t very impressed. I tried a huge minolta, which was soft at the edges and just too bleedin big. I tried a raynox, which was the same only smaller, and eventually hit on the nikon WC-E68. This was still a touch soft at the edges but better than all the others, imho. I find it perfectly usable.

My X100 with the Nikon WC-E68

My X100 with the Nikon WC-E68

So really I am just endorsing the Nikon as a reasonably priced (I paid around £50 I think on ebay) alternative to the fuji wide adaptor. You need a 49-52 step down ring. (The x100 is 49mm and the nikon fits 52mm) I fitted it on top of the uv filter/lens protector as that way I have less fiddling about to do when I want to remove the nikon and I couldn’t see any difference in the quality of test shots with and without the filter. The only issue is that as the lens is very convex, there is no lens cap available. I use a soft lens bag with an elastic band round it to protect it when not in use. Not high tech I know, but it protects it OK from casual scratches etc. Knocks and bangs would be a different matter, but then I try not to bash my camera about 😉


Fishermens’ boatyard and tractor at Southwold

I’ve been trying to keep it on my camera for an extended period, to give it a good run and see if I like what I can do with it. So far I am pleased. For the type of shots I like it works fine. And the whole shebang still fits in my jacket pocket, just.

All shots taken with the WC-E68 in place

I’m Not Reading!


World Rights Boxer Books. www.boxerbooks.com

(the cover pic is linked to Amazon uk, but it can be bought from bookshops, they pay tax I believe. . . )

Here be my latest book!

Only just out, as of a few days ago, published by Boxer Books both here and in The United States. There will no doubt be other language editions forthcoming. It will be being toted round at Bologna to grab some co-editions. That makes six ‘I’m Not!’ books in the series now.

(I’m Not Cute! I’m Not Scared! I’m Not Santa! I’m Not Sleepy! I’m Not Ready! and now I’m Not Reading!)

Baby Owl is getting to be a brand 😉 Well. . . in a small way at least.

The other good news about this book is that it got a good review in a prestigious American book magazine/website called Kirkus Review. So I am feeling quite pleased right now, as long as I don’t think about the state of children’s publishing at the moment and get depressed again. . .


Text reproduced below. I hope I’m allowed to do this.

“Baby Owl’s plan to read a story to his toy, Owly (not the delightful comic-book character, but adorable just the same), turns viral.

Tiny Chick promises to sit quietly if he can listen also. But here come his brothers and sisters, followed by his cousins, all jumping on poor Baby Owl’s lap, pushing and shoving and all but pulverizing him. He protests and demands quiet, but when even more chicks join in, all his good intentions are brought crashing down by the frightening over-exuberance of his audience, and he calls for help. Dad comes to the rescue, and along with the chicks’ mom, he brings order to the chaos so Baby Owl can read the story without further ado. Allen’s latest adventure starring the endearing Baby Owl displays a nice mix of charm and mayhem, but that moment when Owl disappears in the crowd of crazed chicks is downright terrifying. So what will young readers find here? Is it a lesson in the joys of reading or a warning about mob rule, at least as it pertains to demented chicks, or perhaps a homily about trusting wise and loving parents? It’s all there, and Allen’s sharp, bright digital cartoons make it all work. Even the endpapers are filled with those goofy little chicks, not appearing the least bit threatening. A sweet, cozy ending suggests a perfect bedtime story.

Fun and reassuring. (Picture book. 3-6)”

Bologna by the skin of my teeth. . .

Phew. I spent a pretty frantic couple of days last week getting a project ready for my main publisher, for presentation at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which is either imminent, already happening or just happened, depending when you read this (it happens sometime around the end of March) . OK, big deal, you say, all illustrators do that. Yeah, but this was for an idea that was only semi worked out and wasn’t even on the radar for publication as far as either myself or my publisher was concerned the week before.

Feeling somewhat dejected that my small stack of picture book ideas had been turned down, and pondering the rough drawings I had done for one of these rejects, thinking that there was something there worth pursuing if only I could bring it to the fore. . . I sat down with my trusty notebook and slowly but surely wrestled it into the shape of something much more solid and joined up. So much so, that I emailed it back to my publisher as I know he liked the drawings and the basic concept. He liked it, and after a short pause, sent me an email saying

‘Decide on a title and I need a cover by tomorrow – OK? Don’t you love this business?’

(the catalogue for the book fair was being printed next day!) Talk about getting in under the wire!

So, the rough dummy  of my possible next book will be doing the rounds at Bologna. Let’s hope it gets a good response.

News flash. It made the cover of the brochure. Nice. . .

it might just be about a cat. . . .


World Rights Boxer Books. www.boxerbooks.com

Crawled out from under me stone again, innit. . .

I have decided to start posting stuff again. Yay!

I had lots of ideas about how I was going to use this space to share stuff I was doing, but I got bogged down somewhat by worrying about whether I should put my photographic noodlings and my surface design noodlings etc alongside my bona fide actual children’s book stuff, and whether anyone gave a stuff either way. I couldn’t decide, so catatonia set in and I let it all slide.

But now I have decided that I don’t actually give a stuff either way myself, which frees me up to post whatever I flamin’ well like and if anyone reads it, well that’s a bonus. I might even try facebook and twitter again. . . I said ‘might’. . .

To mark this epoch defining moment I have changed the template to this rather fun chalkboard one. Hope you like it.

I’ll get round to some actual content in a bit, just saying hello again really and setting out my intention fwiw.