The book: Giraffes Can’t Dance Colouring and Puzzle Fun (Orchard Books)
Giraffes Can’t Dance is one of the eight World Book Day books. Did you know that it would become such a well-loved classic?
Not at all – but I knew there was something magical about the story. I had a dream of lots of African animals walking towards a bonfire on a moonlit night just before I was given the story – that’s what gave me the idea for the colours and of putting in the fire with all the flickering shadows.
Lots of your illustrations are of jungle animals – which one is the most tricky to draw?
Elephants are my favourite – and it’s fiddly getting their head and neck just right. I wanted to be an elephant when I was small but my mum said it might be a bit difficult, so I started drawing them instead.
Any tips for aspiring illustrators?
My advice is to keep drawing – like all things in life you have to keep going when things get tough, you come out the other end stronger and having picked something up.
What’s the best thing about being a children’s book illustrator?
When things are going well and I get in the flow, and the colours, the lines and expressions are all turning out just right, it feels very exciting – as if I’m flying. I do think I’ve got the best job in the world.
Paint, pencils, crayons – which art materials do you use?
I use a dip pen with Indian ink for the line and watercolours and acrylic inks for the colour.
You’re a father of three, do your children tell you what they think of your work?
Yes, and they come up with ideas for improvements sometimes. They say they like my books – of course they could be just saying that to be kind to their old dad!
The book: Tom Gates: Best Book Day Ever! (So Far) (Scholastic)
Why is World Book Day so important? And how does it feel to be involved?
It feels fantastic to be involved with World Book Day. I wish I’d had World Book Day when I was at school. It’s a really brilliant way to get children reading new books.
Did you base Tom Gates on anyone?
Tom Gates is really a mixture of me as a child, my own children and some of the kids I was at school with.
What comes first, words or pictures?
Both together. I rough out the whole book by hand with pictures. Then I transcribe the story into a Word document, which helps to spot mistakes.
Do you get a lot of fan mail?
I recently got a request for my autograph followed by a PS that said, “I don’t suppose you know Fernando Torres (he’s a Chelsea footballer in case you don’t know) as well? Because I’d really like his autograph too.” I did laugh!