It’s a comfortable affair, hanging out with Chris Riddell and Neil Gaiman. One is in Brighton and the other in New Zealand, but that’s fine. The moderator glowed over them both, but Chris had to point out that he’s less impressive than Neil. (That’s a matter of opinion, but if it makes him happy…) They first bonded over The Graveyard Book a dozen or so years ago.
And before he knew it, Neil discovered that Chris had illustrated most of his books. (You can’t leave a man with a pencil and expect him not to use it.) When it came to Fortunately the Milk Neil was almost going to threaten Chris to make him illustrate it, but luckily he didn’t have to and there was an amicable agreement for some more pictures.
Apparently Chris is the most booked up illustrator in the world (so that doesn’t bode well for when I want him to draw for me), with the wonderful Levi Pinfold coming close behind.
When it came to their latest collaboration, Pirate Stew, Neil told Chris to ‘go wild on this’ so he did. For the book fest event Neil read us the whole book, and Chris retreated from the camera and let his hand draw pictures instead. Much more comfortable for him. Neil had only the one copy of his book, but had given it away to a 7-year-old, so was forced to read from his computer, potentially changing some words here and there.
It’s mostly pirates as babysitters, and stale donuts. Your children will probably want you to read it every night.
During lockdown Chris felt it made no difference, as he’s always in his shed working anyway. But suddenly it was no fun when everyone else did it too. He even found himself wanting to see people. (I’ll come!)
Their advice to children who want to draw or write is to start now. Chris recommends a blank book to fill with pictures, and maybe a passport wallet to tuck your words into (this is what Neil did with Pirate Stew, so he wouldn’t forget).
Or you could turn pirate and break into Chris’s shed and steal his sketchbooks. (This would be a bad thing to do.)