Tag Archives: Nick Sharratt

Bookwitch bites #148

The trip to Spain might have been fake – fake Spain with rain, not so much fake trip – but this week Kirkland Ciccone went to Sweden. Only in cyberspace, but it’s hard to travel these days, so it will have to do. I’ve been itching to have a photo published on Boktugg, and when Kirkie ended up on my television screen last Thursday, I decided to send in my picture of the occasion, and they’ve printed not only the photo, but my words about him, including the murderous porridge.

I must think before I press send…

This week gave us the long nominations lists for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals for 2021, and as always, they are good lists. They give pleasure and hope to those on them, and I feel considerable guilt for having read only a few. But those few were Very Good. I’m sure they will make the longlists and maybe the shortlists too. Even if only one – in each category – can win.

Somewhere you can win a bit more easily is when it comes to pay. Equal pay. I had kept a link to something from absolutely ages ago, but ended up never getting to it to comment, so deleted it. Now in The Bokseller I see that the gender pay gap at PRH – Penguin Random House – has widened. That’s what I would call going in the wrong direction. If you really, really want to improve pay equality, you do. More money to the women, and not necessarily less to the men, but not increasing their salaries disproportionately. Pay is something you can determine in an office. No need to wait for pandemics to end or for politicians to grow sensible.

And the same goes for reviews of children’s books. Last year The Bookseller reports only 4.9% of book reviews were for children’s books, and a year later this had managed to slide down to 4.3%. 50% is too much to hope for, I suppose, but maybe a little more than barely 5%? I forget who said this in the last few days, but children’s books matter more, because they shape their readers into the kind of people they will grow up to be. I do my best, but as you well know, that is not a lot, and my viral reading has plummeted.

My local newspaper has launched this year’s charitable collection for Christmas presents for children who might not get any. I am gearing up to give them books again. Especially with the above in mind, but also with that in mind, I fear that plastic toys in primary colours will be more welcome. At least by the adults sorting the gifts. Except I know there are children who don’t actually own any books, and who would be happy to be given one.

And finally, thirty years on, we are looking at the last book by Jacqueline Wilson to be illustrated by Nick Sharratt. Not that we have been wanting this to end, but as they say, the time has come for Nick to concentrate on his own work. Here at Bookwitch Towers we will be forever grateful for the way he has captured Jacqueline’s characters and made so many children want to read her books. I have on occasion wanted to simply sit there and stroke the gorgeous covers, especially that pink one over fifteen years ago. And who can beat Tracy Beaker?

Gruffalos, Conjurors and Teeny Weeny Genies

I caught most of Nick Sharratt’s post-breakfast drawing session this morning. It was seahorses and jellyfish and catfish and dogfish. He – and his red and white shirtsleeves – made it look really easy to draw.

It is the kind of thing you get online with the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year. And yes, it’s online, so not ‘real’, but you only have to crawl out of bed and make it as far as the computer…

Then I backtracked to a watch-again event from Saturday morning, Gruffalos, Conjurors and Teeny Weeny Genies, with Julia Donaldson, Nick Sharratt, and Axel Scheffler.

For her 22nd bookfest Julia sat at home and read from her books, which included a reading in the garden, assisted by her physically distanced grandchildren.

Nick, wearing a fetching lilac-starred shirt this time, read one of his own books, before teaching the audience to draw a book like that themselves. I think I could do that! A carrot shape here, and a butterbean shape there. It’s not hard. And then he put on his conjuror’s hat.

Over to Axel Scheffler, Julia’s mostest illustrator, in his sunny garden, with what looked suspiciously like bird poo on the table he was using. He showed us how he drew Zog and the Flying Doctors, who right now have to wear PPE. We got to see the doctors both with and without their protective clothing. Zog, being a dragon, apparently is not believed to need protection, even against a virus.

And to finish off, Julia got out her Gruffalo, which she has acted at countless events for over twenty years. This time her sweet-singing husband Malcolm was roped in to act all the parts except the mouse which was played by Julia. They were in the woods. Well, you would be with a Gruffalo, wouldn’t you?

It was actually quite fun. This is the advantage with online filmed events; because in Charlotte Square you can’t suddenly go out into any woods, nor can Malcolm switch so seamlessly between being a fox or an owl or a snake. That mouse really saw him off.

So yes, this was quite entertaining, even for old witches. (But the four minute wait at the beginning, primarily seeing the names of the – very important – sponsors, was possibly on the long side for your typical three-year-old?)

Audible?

For her current commute, Daughter needs audio books. They will keep her sane and entertained during the 25 minutes on the S-Bahn and the 5 to 10 on the bus. Twice a day, five days a week. I understand that’s about the equivalent of The Hunger Games. (Not that I applaud her choice.)

Now, I have to admit here that I have not studied the finer details of having an Audible membership. Daughter has, and while she’s not thrilled with the cost, she hasn’t come up with anything better. There probably isn’t anything better, i.e. cheaper per hour.

When they were still cassette tapes I used to buy a lot. They were expensive, but I felt the benefits outweighed the cost, and there were four of us who would potentially listen, one at a time. Son wore out our copy of Kim, so bought a more hardwearing version of this Kipling story when he got older but still wanted to re-listen. As for Harry Potter, I winced when paying, but knew it was worth it.

I also frequented the mobile library when it stopped down the road, and borrowed a lot of audio cassettes, mostly for Son. That’s how I discovered children weren’t meant to read Terry Pratchett… Or Agatha Christie.

Thinking back to this time, I remembered that I must have contacted the library service at some point, about audio books for Daughter, who at that time really needed them to access literature at all. Somebody very nice provided her with a library card that allowed her free audio books, and I proceeded to request books from the mobile library, and every time they came, they would wave their latest haul at me. It was great.

Until the time we lost the nice and friendly crew and the replacement librarian got fed up with looking out for my requests, and told me so in no uncertain terms.

So that was that. Daughter learned to read for pleasure, mainly thanks to Nick Sharratt. But on her commute she prefers sound to paper. If only it wasn’t so expensive!

I recalled the event in Edinburgh in August where Sally Gardner ‘suggested to someone in the audience that if they can get a certificate from their GP that their child is dyslexic, then they have the right to access audio books for the blind and partially sighted.’ That’s probably similar to what I arranged for Daughter 15 to 20 years ago. I don’t know what would happen today.

Discovered from one author that the seemingly fair free exchange of a book if you don’t like it, can be abused. Readers listen to one book and then return it and read another for the same cost. Not surprisingly that money doesn’t then benefit either the author of the book or the narrator.

We looked at the audio books in the sale over Christmas, but there wasn’t much to her tastes. I went through my library and suggested really good books, that it would be worth paying for. Most of them weren’t available on audio…

The #21 profile – Nick Sharratt

Scottish Friendly (such a Friendly sounding, and Scottish name, don’t you think?) are currently trundling Nick Sharratt round Liverpool. Lucky Liverpool! We are all very lucky that there still are some who take books for children seriously. The Bookwitch family have always treasured Nick’s services to reading, as without him and Tracy Beaker – and I do mean the pictures – Daughter wouldn’t be where she is today. Although I think she should have pestered him that time they were on the same train. Unless that would have killed a new book idea…

Here is Nick now, with bats for tats:

Nick Sharratt

How many books did you write/illustrate before the one that was your first published book?

None. I was primarily a magazine illustrator when I found myself commissioned by Oxford University Press to illustrate my first picture book, ‘Noisy Poems’, and as I remember it, the first book that I wrote as well as illustrated (‘I Look Like This’, now called ‘What Do I Look Like?’) was coaxed out of me by my editor at Walker Books.

Best place for inspiration?

A very long train or plane journey. Nothing to distract from truly getting to grips with an idea in one’s head.

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

Never thought about it.

What would you never write about?

Can’t see myself writing a violent crime thriller somehow.

Through your illustrating: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

I was placed next to the actress Fenella Fielding at a book festival dinner once. (I loved Carry On films as a boy and Carry On Screaming was a particular favourite.) She was delightful.

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

Timothy Pope’s dad in my Shark in the Park books. He’s a bit of a rocker.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

Good. Please can I have animated films made of several of my books?

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

Will you draw a bat for me so that I can have it turned into a tattoo?

Do you have any unexpected skills?

I can juggle with jellies – and frequently do.

The Famous Five or Narnia?

The Famous Five. I liked the sound the hot chocolate and Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe though.

Who is your most favourite Swede?

I have four equally favourite Swedes and they comprised Abba. (Yes, I know Anni-Frid was born in Norway.)

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

By height.

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

If you have to choose between reading or drawing, which would it be?

Please don’t ask me such an unsettling question!

Sorry. Didn’t mean to. Getting some hot chocolate ready as I write. But NO jellies.

I do like a man who knows his Norwegians. And for some idiotic reason when Nick said he organises his books by height – which is quite sensible – I visualised them all high up, because he is so tall. (Yes, those are his feet down there.)

Nick Sharratt's socks

Bookbug and the Bookwitch

You know it’s bad when you spy someone like Ross Collins across the room, and instead of scurrying over to say hello, you remain seated, because you’re so knackered that nothing will make you give up sitting, now that you have bagged a chair. (Not literally, I hasten to add. I have every reason to believe the chair is still at the National Library of Scotland.)

The Bookbug Picture Book Prize 2017

It was the very first Bookbug Picture Book Prize last night, and despite my home town throwing heavy-ish snow at me, I made it to Edinburgh, where they had no snow at all.

All three shortlisted authors were there, Alison Murray, Ross Collins and Nick Sharratt. There was mingling – or there was sitting on a chair, in my case – over wine/specially ordered tap water for me – and canapés. The nice men who were offering round the eats almost became my bffs through their sheer insistence that I have another one. And another one.

Bookbug mingling

Spoke to a very nice librarian who had come much farther than I had, and also through snow. We talked about how wonderful it is that all P1 children in Scotland have been given their own copies of all three shortlisted books. She asked which was my favourite (none of this bland ‘have you read any of them?’), and luckily we agreed on which one was best (out of three very good books).

Nick Sharratt, Alison Murray, Ross Collins and Bookbug

Then there were speeches, and after that the prizes were handed out, with Nick Sharratt being the overall winner with Shark in the Park on a Windy Day. Bookbug himself arrived and seemed really pleased to see us. Nick had to make a speech, which he claimed made him nervous. He did well.

Nick Sharratt, Ross Collins, Bookbug and Alison Murray

Vivian French was in the audience, and I made a special point of going over to introduce myself after all these years. She’s not so scary after all.

Balancing a small container of lettuce and prawns with tiny plastic spoon, I made my way over to Ross Collins, who I’ve emailed with but never met. He took my presence well, and he could chat while holding not only his own prawn thing but a glass of wine and his prize and an envelope which he hoped contained money…

As I did my last turn round the room I happened upon Scottish Booktrust’s strawberry milkshake Beth, so we chatted about her next book van passenger, who just happens to be Nick Sharratt, who will be driven to Liverpool. Where, he told me when I caught up with him, he’s never been. ‘My nice librarian’ got to him first, and had her photo taken with Nick, who was wearing an arty combination of three-piece tweed suit with orange tie.

Nick Sharratt and librarian

After this I Cinderella-ed myself away, since the trains still are doing inconvenient things like not running late enough. Walked past my cathedral which, even if I say so myself, looked splendid in the dark, with the moon hanging over its shoulder.

St Giles' Cathedral

And there was still far too much frozen snow when I got home.

Nick Sharratt and Aoife (3) read Shark in the Park on a Windy day

Carl Larssongården

It’s probably a fair assumption to make that most Swedes would like to live in Carl Larsson’s home. And of those who don’t, quite a few might not actively object if they ended up there.

I have friends who used to live next door to Carl Larsson’s home, and it was they who gave me this book, by Torsten Gunnarsson and Ulla Eliasson, about his house for my birthday this year.

Sundborn

In a way Swedes don’t need books like these; we seem to be sufficiently familiar with Carl’s home anyway. But the pictures are nice to look at, both the photos of the house and the paintings by Carl. And looking at them we see not only a home that would still be just about perfect to move into, despite it now being more than a hundred years later, but it looks pretty much like some house many of us have known at some point in our lives.

It makes me think of my grandfather’s house, which was nowhere near as big or fancy, and it was more recent, but there is still that Larsson vibe in my memories.

Swedes know the house from countless postcards and Christmas cards, not to mention Christmas wrapping paper. We have all torn pictures of the garden or the Larsson family in our eagerness to see what’s inside our parcel.

At some point I talked to Nick Sharratt about this. Maybe when he heard where I come from, he told me about having slept in Carl’s bed. It appears visiting artists can do that, under some circumstances. When I heard about it I felt this seemed quite reasonable. But I understand the bed was short. Nick isn’t. Oh, well.

The bed is in the book (and somehow I can’t stop wondering what the guest artist does when visitors who’ve paid to see the house turn up.)

As I said, Carl Larsson’s style is never wrong. Except it wasn’t his, but his wife’s. She did all the work, and we still know it by Carl’s name.

3 bookbug picture book treats

Alison Murrey, Hare and Tortoise

It will always be the first time for someone, even with a well known tale like the one about the Hare and Tortoise. I like the version by Alison Murray which, along with the other two books mentioned below, has been shortlisted for the Bookbug Picture Book Prize.

The illustrations are both sweet and funny, and there is something satisfyingly endearing about the silly hare and the hardworking tortoise. It works every time.

Ross Collins, There's a Bear on my Chair

In Ross Collins’s There’s a Bear on My Chair I didn’t predict what was going to happen, which made it much more fun for me. The pictures are lovely on their own, or you could just ‘read’ without reading if you wanted to. The poor little mouse who has to think of ways to get silly big bear off his chair. It’s poetic, too, and reads rather like a Dr Seuss story.

Lovely book.

Nick Sharratt, Shark in the Park on a Windy Day

With Nick Sharratt’s Shark in the Park, on the other hand, I could see exactly how it must end. It’s the cry wolf scenario. You keep thinking there’s a shark in the park, and then it turns there isn’t.

Until, well, until there is.

As always, cheery colours, in that loveable style Nick has. Just watch how you go in the park. It might even be preferable to have a bear on your chair. Or to be the silly hare.

The Children’s Launderette was here

Scottish Friendly book tour banner

When my window situation prevented me from seeing Chris Riddell in Edinburgh three weeks ago I was a bit upset. But when Chris came to Stirling yesterday – which I have to say was awfully convenient – I was happy again. I wish people would do this more often.

And then – me being me – I spent the morning wondering why I do these things; blogging in general, and arranging to see Laureates in particular. I can tell you why now. It’s because people like Chris Riddell are so very lovely to meet and talk to. They make you feel all nice and warm inside.

Children's Launderette

He had been invited by Scottish Friendly to be taken round the country by Scottish Book Trust in their friendly little book van, visiting as many schools as can be fitted into a week. That’s two a day, plus interviews with radio stations and Bookwitches and that kind of thing.

Tiny Vader

I joined them at Riverside Primary where the children were being mesmerised by Chris as I arrived (it’s not always easy to work out how to enter schools these days) and I had some time sitting in on the questions and answers session. They had put answers on cards in a cheerfully lit box, and Chris drew some cards to answer, and then he drew the answers on a thingummy which enabled everyone to see his hand and the drawing on a big screen on the wall.

Chris Riddell, the pizza tester

Little Cameron was quite taken when Chris drew him a personal Tiny Vader (really Darth Teddi), and that was after we’d seen [a drawing of] the scalpel that airport security had removed from Chris’s possession the other day, leaving his pencil blunter than it wants to be. If Chris didn’t draw, he’d be a [fat] pizza tester, and he rather hopes to be drawing until he’s very old (=for ever and ever). And if that lets us see lots more drawings of his drawers and other garments, that is fine with me. This Children’s Launderette is fun.

Chris Riddell

The session over-ran. Obviously. The queue for the book signing took forever, as it should. Chris gave the children attention and answered more questions. Scottish Book Trust’s Beth ran back to the van for more books when required. Her colleague Tom and I photographed the children’s own drawings, which were very good.

Riverside Primary drawings

Scottish Friendly Children's Book Tour

Eventually it was time to squeeze them and me into the van, recently used by, and now decorated by, Sarah McIntyre. Fuelled by enormous chocolate buttons we drove to Toast (yes it was warm), and found they were about to close, but this was quickly resolved by going next door to Frankie & Benny’s, where the old witch had tea, the Laureate drank wine – because he could – and the young ones ordered attractive looking, but dubiously colourful shakes.

Yes, I did mention I was interviewing Chris, didn’t I? We got through all the important stuff, like his passion for reading and libraries and their future, before he was to be driven to a live radio interview in Perth. But apparently I shouldn’t feel sorry for him, for having such a busy schedule. Chris thrives on it. So far he’s eaten pizza three times, going from not so good to pretty decent. Somewhere in Perth clearly has a duty to come up with a spectacular one. And then an even better one in Aberdeen.

As Beth and Tom began hustling Chris out the door, I managed to get my copy of The Graveyard Book out for a little doodle, next to where Neil Gaiman had already given me a tombstone…

The Graveyard Book and Chris Riddell

Little Bookbugs

FREE TO USE - Kids in Scotland Illustrate a Love of Reading with first-ever Bookbug Picture Book Prize

Can you tell what this is? Dear reader, below you have the happy faces of three illustrators whose books have been shortlisted for the very first Bookbug Picture Book Prize, set up to celebrate the most popular picture books by Scottish authors or illustrators. It is run by Scottish Book Trust with support from Creative Scotland.

Ross Collins

Alison Murray

Nick Sharratt

Ross Collins, Alison Murray and Nick Sharratt are the worthy hopefuls. The winner will be announced on 12th January next year. Shortlisted authors and illustrators receive £500 per book, and the winner will receive £3,000.

Ross Collins, There's a Bear on my Chair

And there’s even more to smile about, as all three books will be handed out to every child in Primary 1 during Book Week Scotland in November. Long may this continue! (With new books every time. Obviously.)

Alison Murrey, Hare and Tortoise

Nick Sharratt, Shark in the Park on a Windy Day

I just don’t know which cover I like the best, as they are all rather sweet and funny. Best shirt prize will have to go to Nick Sharratt, however, and that’s not counting the chair back that gets me every time…

(Bookbug photo by Rob McDougall)

On doing the impossible

The good thing about the Edinburgh International Book Festival is how impossible it is. The many famous and wonderful authors it will be impossible to see there, simply because they have so many such people coming.

The 2016 programme was unveiled yesterday and I have scanned it for the best and most interesting events. Of which there are a lot. So to begin with I will plan not to see quite a few tremendously big names in the book business, since even at a distance I can tell I can’t possibly get them on to my wishlist. Then comes that list, and then comes the more realistic list, and finally comes the actual list I will actually be able to do.

Maybe.

Best of all would be to have no opinion, but to go along one day, or two, and pick something off that day’s menu, where tickets are still available. That would be excellent.

I can’t do that.

There is a follow-on from last year’s YA debate with Daniel Hahn, and Anthony McGowan and Elizabeth Wein among others. Chris Riddell will deliver the Siobhan Dowd Trust Memorial Lecture, making it unmissable, and Michael Grant is back in town with his WWII alternate history.

Meg Rosoff will be talking about Jonathan Unleashed, and Francesca Simon is ‘doing away with’ Horrid Henry! Cornelia Funke and Vivian French have things to say about dyslexia, Nick Sharratt will talk nonsense (poetry), and Theresa Breslin and Debi Gliori and Lari Don and all those other lovely Scottish authors are coming.

Debut writer Kathy Evans is talking to Jo Cotterill, and Lucy Coats has some more Myths up her sleeve. And so does Kate Leiper, I believe.

Jackie Kay is doing stuff, and many of our finest crime writers are coming along to kill and thrill, and there are Swedes and other Nordic authors; some expected, others more unexpected. Quite a number of children’s authors are doing adult events, which I think is a good idea. Politicians will be there, talking about all sorts of things.

I know I’ve already mentioned Daniel Hahn, but as usual he will be doing so much that he should try and get a rest in now. Just in case. Hadley Freeman is coming, which makes me quite excited. Lemn Sissay.

Who have I forgotten? You see, it’s impossible. There are so many!