Thursday, 23 October 2008


My little nephew will be taking a couple of days break from being naughty round his own house next week to come and be naughty round mine. Elliot takes a little too much pleasure in playing tricks and winding me up and with Elodie's help he always gets the better of me. He's six years old, he's brighter than me (top of his class at reading and writing etc) and it'll take all my cunning and guile to avenge myself in a chess-like tactical battle of wits from which there can be only one winner.
Anyway, my chums at b small publishing kindly sent me Korean versions of four Science Around You books through the post today. I illustrated these books last year for them and although my Korean's a bit rusty, I reckon Elliot probably hasn't even seen the Korean alphabet before.
So when he's round I'm going to ask how he's getting on at school, to which he'll tell me he's top of his class. I'll then give him one of the Korean Science Around You books to look at and when he tells me he can't read it because the writing's 'funny', I'm going to convince him he's dyslexic!
Check...and mate.

Friday, 17 October 2008


These cute kittens were drawn by my wonderful daughter, Elodie. She was five when she did them and they were used to illustrate Diary Days by Ghillian Potts, published by Random House. I really enjoyed that job because of Elodie's involvement and she still helps her old dad out from time to time by adding illustrations to other books or colouring-in or just coming up with fantastic ideas.

Entirely due to Elodie's influence I should think, Diary Days was voted amongst the Jabberwocky Top Ten children's books (3-4 years) for October 2005.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


When I was at school (Chatham Grammar School for Boys, fact fans) I had a mate called Stuart Rowland who was great but completely off his chump. He blew his eyebrows off in a chemistry misadventure when he was 15 and they grew back very thinly and made his eyes look bigger than they really were. They were big and round like burger baps and in certain lights he looked like Sebastian, the crab from The Little Mermaid.

The reason I'm sharing this with you is because I occasionally like to sneak people I knew (I don't know anyone anymore) into my work to keep me amused. This drawing is one I did for The Grandson Boy by W J Corbett some years ago and published by Scholastic.

Look at his bewildered little face in the picture. Now that's the same look Stuart used to give whenever Mr Bronson caught him sneaking out to buy a cheeky pie at break. And it's the same look Stuart used to give whenever 'Bullet' Baxter caught him sneaking back in again.

Stu was a good friend and the sort of fella that would do anything for anyone. Like Frank Spencer would. With similar results.

Monday, 13 October 2008


Here's a market stall belonging to Mr Rummage from a book series I did a couple years ago. This is no ordinary stall though and all the objects on it belong to famous historical figures. There's a piece of moon rock brought back by Neil Armstrong for instance but what other hidden treasures were sneaked in?

Well, at the front of the stall in the big picture frame is my grandad Ted and just to the right of that is a teddy bear belonging to my daughter. To the right of the bear is a blue/white pot holding my old hockey stick and my uncle Ian's old tennis racket and behind the racket is a Dalek plunger. There's also a Dalek eye poking out from the white bag to the right of the steps. At the base of the steps in the the little blue pot is Dr Who's classic sonic screwdriver. His scarf can be seen hanging from the hat stand on the left of the picture next to an antique standing lamp which used to be in my bedroom when I was growing up. Behind the stall is one of Elvis Presley's jumpsuits.

It's quite a regular thing with me that I shove a Dr Who reference into my books when I can. I like to see if it gets spotted and if I'm told to take it out. Some are obvious but some are more subtle and I'll put up a little post later along the line revealing more cheeky secrets of where to find others...oh, you lucky people.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


Look at this cheeky little fella up to some high jinx on my washing line this morning. Look at him, six feet up in the air without a net. It's ridiculous.

I adopted this snail when I stopped a child from kicking him into the road yesterday. He's missing part of his shell and was tugging on old Leighton's heart strings when I decided to raise him as my own and teach him in the ways of the circus. And look, he's really taken to it bless him- he may even be my best ever student but it's early days.

When he's not performing, I allow him to live on my canna which is like a five star hotel to a snail. He's got a leaf on the top floor.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


When I was five Tom Baker was Doctor Who on the telly and he was my hero. His companion was Sarah and she was played by Elisabeth Sladen, my first crush. I loved Sarah and although my adoration was deep and true, I was pleased it was her facing monsters every Saturday teatime instead of me. I used to have the odd nightmare but found their adventures too irresistable not to watch.

But Sarah left the series and I grew up (sort of) and my feelings remained hidden until 1992 when the twenty one year old me found out Elisabeth Sladen would be doing an autograph signing session in London. So the portrait above is one of two exact portraits I did of her (taken from a photo in the second Doctor Who Monster Book, fact fans). I kept one which she signed and I gave her the other and she was lovely about it. She accepted the drawing, put her arm round me and kissed me on the cheek in front of a load of other Doctor Who anoraks. And in that moment I was five years old again.

Now, quite rightly, Elisabeth's back on telly and fighting the monsters once more in the brilliant Sarah Jane Adventures and, quite rightly, my little girl's a fan too. Our Sarah Jane x.

Monday, 6 October 2008


Aye, aye...this little girl's in a hurry. She's probably off to the shops to buy Fifty French Phrases, a new language book written by Susan Martineau and published by b small . Only she's wasting her time as I've only just finished illustrating it and it's not out yet.

Thursday, 2 October 2008


I've a conker that's been in my family for generations. It's been handed down from father to son since 1862 and I'm the present custodian. Withered by age and cracked by battle when passed to me as a proud 2,379er, I took it upon myself to retire the conker from active service.
The conker (Mortal Konker we named it) was on its last string when I performed necessary surgery which was vital if I was to keep the family tradition of 'pass the conker' going. I took a frail and weak conker and entombed it in an impregnable protective casing. This is the Dalek of all conkers but how did I pimp my conker? Well...
  • Delicately, the rotting inners were ripped out of it and replaced with industrial strength modelling clay.
  • 9 feet of sellotape was wound tightly round it's new buffed up body.
  • Within the sellotape layers of foam were placed to cushion mighty blows from challenging conkers.
  • A metal cap that keeps my toilet seat in place was removed, washed and bleached and washed again and placed on the topside surface of Mortal Konker to protect it from mighty blows from challenging conkers. My toilet seat was now rendered useless.
  • But it ain't all defence, Chester! Five small protrudencies have been strategically placed around Mortal Konker's circumference to rain mighty blows down on challenging conkers.
  • And all this is secured in place by a red rubber band kindly donated by Steve, my postman and 2 more feet of sellotape.
So the family tradition of 'pass the conker' will continue for several more generations yet, but the other family tradition of 'pass the toilet seat' ends with me.