America here I come!

I’m juggling all sorts of work at the minute. Much of it is self-inflicted, but that’s no bad thing. It’s a good job I have three heads!

But come this Saturday I shall be in America. It’ll be my first time in the United States, visiting schools in Seattle and Colorado Springs with one of my US publishers Kane Miller. Am I excited? Too right I am, though it does mean I’m leaving behind my family and my This Book is Funny! scheme. And we’ve just had badges made, too :(

Still, once I’m back, and the Brighton Festival is done, I’ll get back to writing and illustrating. Life’s just too exciting for its own good!

Hello Shanghai!

Shanghai PudongHello World!

I’m here in Shanghai, and this is the view from my room. Now there’s a thing. I’ve been mega-upgraded to a riverview suite, with its own sitting room – don’t ask me why, but I’m really not complaining.

I’m visiting The Wellington College International Shanghai School, being looked after like a superstar, and drawing Pigsticks and Harold like there’s no tomorrow. The food is amazing, the people seem genuinely friendly, and I feel like I’ve totally lucked out. I won’t talk about the jetlag, but hey, I have two children and this is what it feels like on most days!

The landscape is so unreal out here. If you look closely at the photo you’ll see the awesome UFO-like Mercedes Benz Arena. It really does look like a spaceship – click on that link to get a better look and you’ll see what I mean. Though there are plenty of sad, depressed buildings to be seen, there are also some real stonkers.


This Book is Funny!

This Book is Funny has been taking shape for a while now, but after a presentation to the Press Association’s Children’s Book Group it seemed right to put it out there.

The scheme is in its infancy. We’re planning to launch with a small-ish trial in mid-April. The trial will be spread out over a limited group of libraries, schools and bookshops, and the idea is simple. We ask people to create displays of funny books, utilising our stickers and posters – the aim being to drive readers to funny books that might not get the press or interest other types of books receive.

This is a philanthropic scheme, which is inclusive and hopefully benefit all involved, from readers to authors to bookshops and libraries.There’s a lot of good will out there, and a lot of people wishing it to succeed, so I’m doing all I can in a very busy year to make it the success it could be.

So, this is a trial to begin with. The posters and stickers are the key to it all, tied to our reviews and newsletter, and we need to see how they work out in the wild to gauge its potential.

If the response is good, then we’ll seek funding to spread it nationwide.

So now you know what I’ve been dreaming of over the past few months!


The different species of funny children’s book

What makes a children’s book funny?

It’s certainly not always fart and burp jokes, although they do feature a lot. No, I’ve pondered this question a lot of late as I’ve been making lists of all the children’s book that have ever made me laugh – and asked others for their favourites too.

(If you want to tell me your favourite in the comments, please do. Things are afoot, and I need all the funny children’s books I can get, old and new!)

While there’s no surefire answer to the funny issue, what’s been interesting is that I’ve seen themes appear within the differing formats – different species, if you will – of children’s funny books.

I thought I’d write them down here, so let’s start with the youngest species and go ever older:

The Picture Book
Picture books often end with a punchline joke, (sometimes it’s the whole reason for the book existing, other times it’s there’s simply to round off the otherwise quite straight story). An example? There are millions, but a GOOD one is I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.

Sometimes the whole concept of the picture book is the funny thing, (an absurd, surreal situation, or an insightful take on everyday life) and both the pictures and words combine to drive the humour from beginning to end. An example? Slow Loris, by Alexis Deacon, or There’s a Lion in my Cornflakes by Michelle Robinson and Jim Field. Many of these books also rely on warm, loveable characters, which always helps to draw you into the jokes.

Young Reader
Next up is the early reader book that exists solely to be funny. The set-up is funny, the characters are mostly absurd/grotesques/silly, and all the daft situations contain jokes. These are often illustrated, and even the illustrations are packed with zany humour. An example? The Twits by Roald Dahl. And don’t forget the gazillion Mr Men and Little Miss books.

Middle Grade
At the early end of middle grade are books much like the last category, most of which take the shape of series. Often taking a cracking premise and rolling with it (and also sometimes containing comic such as in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants). An example? The Scream Street Series by Tommy Donbavand, for example.

Next comes the funny comic/graphic novel. Sometimes full of mad-cap humour, sometimes full of jokes and punchlines, funny comics will always have wonderful artwork. An example? Teenytinysaurs by Gary Northfield.

(Comics are generally the most consistent and brilliantly funny works of fiction – a feat that is often forgotten by people in Britain. But times are changing…)

Middle Grade/YA
Last up, you get the screenplay-esque Middle Grade/YA novels that incorporate witty character dialogue into the plot. Taking their cue from the wisecracking characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show, these books will be a mix of fantasy adventures, rom-coms, and straight stories everyday life. An example? The Bartimeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, too.

If any of you have identified other species, do say so here!

Pigsticks and Harold and the Cybils nomination

It’s been a while since I last posted, much has changed – especially the length of my hair – but much remains the same. I’m writing and reading lots, jotting down ideas and planning ahead. I can already sense that there won’t be enough months in 2015.

However, in some exciting news, Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey is up for a Cybil! It’s a finalist in the Easy Readers category. This has come as a complete surprise and is utterly wonderful.

Hooray for Pigsticks and hooray for the Cybils!

A new hat, a new me!

In the latest instalment, I show off my new hat and discuss the lovely Mumsnet Book of Animal stories.
Also, I get to show off some new LEGO Minifigures, which are currently making me very happy.

A new video diary!

Ok, so we’re getting close to the launch of the Tuptown Thief and I’m thinking about becomning Piggy Stardust for the night. There’ll be songs and all sorts of cake-based fun.

And on this video you’ll see me practise one of the songs. On a banjo. I can only apologise.

A new video diary! And a Pigsticks model…

Well, another week and another diary. This time I show off a few of the Pigsticks roughs that I’ve been working on. I also reveal a finished diorama of Pigsticks and Harold (and a grumpy Bobbins) in detective mode!

The day after the Gary’s Garden Launch party…

Another video diary. Here I get to talk about Gary Northfield, Sarah McIntyre, Philip Reeve, David O’Connell and Pirate George. And there’s even an appearance by Milo the cat. So, it was the launch of Gary’s Garden up at the Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace

My very first video diary!

It seemed like a good thing to do! Long may these diary entries run.