Sunday, 8 February 2015

Princess Daisy Book Launch and Children's Event...

To celebrate the publication of Princess Daisy & the Dragon & the Nincompoop Knights last Thursday, we held a book launch party at Pickled Pepper Books.

Pickled Pepper Books in Crouch End, North London

We put up bespoke bunting, balloons, and baskets of goody bags along with an exhibition of original artwork and prints from the book.

Goody bags full of badges, bookmarks, lollipops and stickers

The Princess Daisy exhibition featuring original artwork and prints

Medieval bunting!

The evening was a great success and it was lovely to see friends, family, work colleagues and fellow authors and illustrators all having a lovely time.  

Kate Wilson and myself mid speeches

My wonderful niece Hannah who I based the character Princess Daisy on was on hand to help me sign the books:

Hannah on spelling duty!

Then two days later on Saturday morning it was time for the premier children's event for Princess Daisy!

It was another shop full!  This time filled with lots of children keen to hear the story and to join in with some dragon drawing and crown/tiara making which they really got stuck into:

Settling in ready for storytelling and dragon drawing

Some Shifty McGifty fans travelled afar too to hear the first book reading and to meet the beautiful, especially hand-made baby dragon!

Big Shifty & Sam fan Amelia, now a big Dragon fan!

Sienna and Monet making a Dragon sandwich!

A wonderful supporter of my work, Jo Byatt

A big thank you to Pickled Pepper Books and all the parents and children who came along on Saturday.

It's been a wonderful start for the book and I have had lots of tweets and photos of Princess Daisy on book store shelves from independent shops to WHSmith and Waterstones:

Two happy customers in WHSmith

Waterstones in Doncaster

I think my favourite tweet has to be from a lady who's 3 year old was inspired by the story to make their own Playmobil Princess Daisy character riding on her cow - how fab !:

It's so lovely to see that the book has inspired readers already and has captured the imaginations of children around the UK.

I will be updating the blog soon with some exciting activity sheets so keep a look out for more Princess Daisy, the Dragon and those Nincompoop Knights very soon!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Birth of a Baby Dragon!

Today is a big day for me as my first self-penned picture book and a very personal project 'Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights' is published today.

I'd like to take this opportunity to describe how the book came to fruition from a little idea to a big, bold, pink picture book!

I absolutely love all things fairy tale and have always dreamed of creating my own fairy tale world one day. So it was a real thrill when Kate from Nosy Crow called me a couple of years ago to say that she liked my idea for a little fairy tale story that I had emailed to her.

From a little idea originally entitled 'The Knitted Knight' inspired by the image of a knight wearing knitted armour which was in turn inspired by a slot on Anneka Rice's Radio 2 show called 'Knight in Shiny Pyjamas' (don't ask – inspiration comes in all forms!) we have created a lovely, funny fairy tale that I hope will inspire and entertain new generations of fairy tale lovers.

The very first sketch of the 'Knitted Knight.'

Developing the story, tweaking the plot details and designing fresh, appealing characters took quite a long time but the past couple of years has been really fun sketching, writing, meeting and collaborating with the Nosy Crow team.  Princess Daisy's editor Louise has really helped me to get the best from my initial idea and guided me with my first written text and designer Steph has been very generous with her gold foil and helped make the book look really special.

Initial layout ideas from my sketchbook.
Nincompoop Knight character development

The book has changed quite a lot from its inception with various ideas for endings (one involving the Dragon wearing a 'onesie' which didn't make the final cut!) and originally the story was in prose, but we felt that it would be a more fun and entertaining book if we made it a really fun rhyming tale.

Princess Daisy character development

Once the book was finished and sent off to the printers it was time for a glass (bottle) of vino then on to plan a bit of marketing and publicity which is one of my favourite parts of the book publishing process.

I designed a book trailer, bookmarks, badges, bunting, stickers and postcards all ready for the launch this evening.

Watch the book trailer HERE

A still from the book trailer.
A very pink, very spotty goody bag!

Badge making - my new favourite hobby.

I was really excited to be able to create a lovely window display in Pickled Pepper Books, the venue for the books exhibition, launch party and first children's event this Saturday where I will be reading the book with ALL the voices, drawing some dragons and doing some crafty crown-making!

Part of the window display at Pickled Pepper Books in Crouch End, London.

The piece de resistance is the real life Baby Dragon which is going to accompany me to all of my school and festival events!  Of course she isn't a REAL dragon, but for the children who I read to, the Baby Dragon will come to life and will be a real highlight for them.  I can't wait to see their faces when I introduce them to this super cute creation! 

Baby Dragon Puppet Design
My lovely mum looking after the Dragon
I would like to thank everyone at Nosy Crow for helping me to create such a fun book, it really has been a wonderfully collaborative effort.  Also thank you to my fantastic family and friends for their ongoing support.

I hope that everyone who reads Princess Daisy will enjoy it and have a good giggle as they read the very silly antics of the Nincompoop Knights!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Good luck to all my new characters flying to Frankfurt!

Tomorrow marks the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair - an important time for publishers, authors and illustrators around the globe!

I am thrilled this year to have two picture books being shown at the fair.

The first is with publisher Nosy Crow and is my first author illustrator title 'Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights.'  A funny tale of a plucky princess's adventure to save her village from a 'terrifying' dragon…

Here is the front and back wrap-around cover featuring delicious gold foil, designed by myself and the wonderful Stephanie Amster.

And a little exclusive to my blog - here are a few sketches of early concept art from the initial stages of the books development…

Princess Daisy is a fun, feisty princess inspired by my neice Hannah and I can't wait for everyone to read the book next year!

The second book is my first picture book with Orchard Books, a collaboration with the fabulous author Greg Gormley entitled ' The Fairytale Fixer and the Witch.'

This is a lovely story in which we are introduced to Agnes and her sidekick Minnie the sausage dog.  Lots of fairytale characters pop up in the most unexpected places in Agnes's house and they need her help to hide because THE WITCH IS COMING!!!!

Here is a spread from the book - the unicorns bottom is in Agnes's way here!

This is one of the thumbnail sketches for this spread;

And here is the finished spread;

Amongst other characters Agnes has to help a beautiful Mermaid hide too - here she is!

There are lots of little nods to lots of favourite fairytales in this book - the whale pattern on this shower curtain for example inspired by Pinnochio;

Good luck to the teams at Nosy Crow and Orchard, I hope that Daisy and Agnes do us all proud!

All images © Steven Lenton

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Making of Radley's Twelve Days of Christmas...

This summer my publisher Nosy Crow asked me if I would be up for taking on a little challenge - could I help them to create a 32 page picture book within a 6 week period?  ABSOLUTELY I said in the meeting - lets do it! (GULP I said to myself on my tube journey home - what have I agreed to!?)

The book project was born largely from Nosy Crow's collaboration with John Lewis on their 2012 'The Snowman's Journey' picture book based the christmas advert of the same name.  For this, Nosy Crow had managed to design, print and deliver a beautiful picture book within a matter of days.  Radley, being one of John Lewis' concessions had heard about this amazing turnaround and approached Nosy Crow with the idea of creating an exclusive, stylishly charming christmas picture book within a short space of time.  Kate Wilson suggested a new take on the classic christmas song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' and the creative teams of both Nosy Crow and Radley and myself got our heads together and worked out the look and feel of the book.

Below is a visual diary of the process we went through to design the finished book which publishes on this very day, 1st November 2013.

First came the character design for both protagonists, Radley the dog and the True Love.

Here are a few initial designs from my sketchbook.  Radley the dog was fairly easy to grasp for two reasons.  Firstly, he couldn't stray too far away from the proportions of the Radley logo and secondly after drawing umpteen dogs in Shifty McGfity & Slippery Sam, I was well practiced in creating little Scottie dogs!

The True Love character was trickier to get just right, as human characters often are.  It was very important that the young lady in the book had a sense of style in-keeping with the Radley aesthetic whilst maintaining an appealing children's book character.  It took time, but we got her in the end;

Her clothes we key and the teams at Nosy Crow and Radley sent me many mood boards and fashion ideas to help create the perfect 'Radley Girl';

Eventually we got the balance between character, clothes and pose just right and here she is!

With the characters, style and overall feel of the book decided upon, it was time to start laying out the pages.  In an early meeting, Camilla Reid the Editorial Director from Nosy Crow had created some rough but perfectly formed layouts which I took my (dog) lead from.

It was a help that the text was incredibly solid - The Twelve Days of Christmas is a great, fun song full of repetition and rhythm - the only problem that faced us, well Stephanie Amster, lead designer at Nosy Crow was the increasing amount of words on each page - as you can see below - the text grows and grows along with the amount of gifts the True Love receives!

Then once everything had been agreed by both teams over numerous bottles of water, packets of biscuits and handbag discussion (can you spot how many Radley bags are in the book…) it was time for me to scan in my drawings and start tweaking, adding details and COLOUR - all during the hottest days of the summer!

Using Photoshop I built up layers of pastel-styled colour until I was happy.  We all decided the palette in this book was really important - a slightly muted, stylish range of colour and textures was the order of the day…and here are two of the finished pieces;

So just a few weeks later we had a full set - 32 coloured pages, title pages, end papers and eventually a cover - beautifully put together by Steph who is the MASTER of the beautiful book spine!

£2 from the sale of every book is donated to the Kids Company children's charity which I am really thrilled about as this charity does so much for children in need of help and support - especially at Christmas time.

Special mention has to go to the wondrously talented Yasmeen Ismail who created the beautiful ribbon-styled text for the cover.

A huge thank you to everybody involved - it really was a pleasure to work on and I think we all relished the challenge of the incredibly tight deadline - the quality of the book certainly hasn't suffered as a result!  Oooh and did I mention it has spot UV on the cover to give it that special Christmas magic!

That wasn't the end though - then it was marketing time!  With my background in animation and my directional relationship with Picasso Pictures (where I am currently directing the Holland & Barrett commercials plug, plug) everyone agreed that it would be lovely if we could create a couple of book trailers.  So it was literally back to the drawing board to create some simple storyboards…

Once the boards were signed off, I created an animatic (the filmed version of the storyboard with a few moving bits and pieces, camera moves etc) for each trailer.  I then passed this over to Melissa Venet, senior producer at Picasso Pictures and Linda Kalcov who created the beautiful animation of Radley - Linda really brought him to life! 

Here is a screen grab from part of the animation process - adding the texture in After FX;

Take a look at the first trailer HERE and the second trailer HERE!

And today (1st November) the book was published and is available online and in-store at

Here are some photos of the beautiful stores in Covent Garden, Bath, Cambridge and Cheltenham  - it's so exciting to see our characters and ideas in actual windows in actual shops in actual cities!

WAIT - don't go yet!!!!  One more thing I nearly forgot to tell you.  

There is a little Robin hidden somewhere on each double page of the book - happy Robin spotting!

And finally a special thank you to my parents who put up with me working throughout our Cotswold holiday in the intense heat of the hottest days of the year - love you lots x