By Jamie Smith
I feel very lucky to be illustrating Ann Cameron’s series; the stories are jam packed with special moments and the characters are so vividly drawn. This makes illustrating the books a lot of fun – and there are always lots of options for the cover illustration.
I grew up in a family of four with a younger brother and unruly dog, so I really relate to the stories. For this reason the Tiger Tells All cover is one of my favourite illustrations. I’ve spent many hours chasing dogs around a back garden, with cats fleeing up trees and discarded socks strewn across the lawn. I too would struggle to resist dipping my finger into a voluminous lemon pudding, such as the one found in The Julian Stories. I really enjoyed this cover and one day soon I will follow the recipe in the back of the book, and see if it’s possible for the pudding to see out an evening unscathed.
My path always seemed destined towards a career in illustration, from the moment my grandmother first stepped into my classroom as a substitute teacher and instructed us to draw something. My efforts were doubled; I surrounded myself with coloured crayons (no doubt a little pink tongue was protruding from the corner of my mouth!) and produced a colourful hamster. It actually looked like a hamster, and from that day forward a sketchbook was my constant companion, even on holiday. I would devour comics, studying the artwork of Leo Baxendale in the Beano and recreating his characters.
My working process today is constantly evolving, and sometimes it still involves coloured crayons. I started life as a watercolour, dip pen and ink artist, but the Ann Cameron books are created with an array of pencils and some splashes of paint, and are brought together on the computer.
John Burningham was the first illustrator of children’s books to demand my attention, and though my influences are numerous and change daily I always return to the likes of Ronald Searle and Edward Gorey. There are so many characters that I would have loved to create, but I do have serious beard envy when it comes to Quentin Blake’s Mr Twit.
I work in a little studio at the bottom of my garden, flanked by apple trees and in the company of a huge array of birds and hungry insects. I could do with a friend like Gloria, to point out when my backside is covered with ants!
Jamie Smith illustrates the Julian and Huey books by Ann Cameron. To see Jamie’s work in action, check out Tiger Tells All, The Julian Stories and Julian’s Glorious Summer!
I live part of the year in Guatemala, and part in Portland, Oregon, USA. One summer day in Portland I was walking in a park with two friends, Cati, who teaches seventh grade, and Dave, a doctor, who started telling me about their dog and cat. Their dog, Tiger, was very smart and very patient, and took care of the cat, who was a terrible risk-taker. The cat climbed up a tree and sat on a branch a man was sawing off the tree. The cat actually got stuck in the toilet while trying to drink the toilet water. And then, unnoticed, the cat jumped into the freezer with all the frozen food, and Cati didn’t notice and shut her inside. Could the wise dog save her from that? He did.
Tiger – what a hero! I wanted to write about him and her. I didn’t need to make anything up. The whole plot for the book had just fallen into my lap. All I needed to do to write it was to see things from Tiger’s point of view. I wrote Tiger Tells All in just three weeks, and it turned out really good and funny. Just as if Tiger was dictating it to me. Maybe he was!
Ann Cameron is the author of seventeen books, including the timeless series of stories featuring brothers Julian and Huey, and she has been a finalist for the U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Please visit anncameronbooks.com for further information about Ann and her books.
As Black History Month comes to an end, we wanted to share this inspiring guest post from debut author Madhvi Ramani.
One of the highlights of the London Olympics was watching Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, run the 100 metre race.
For me, the greatest athlete of all time is Jesse Owens, who competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. At that time, Hitler was in power and wanted to use the games to prove that the Aryans – white, Nordic people characterised by fair hair and blue eyes – were superior to other races. Owens destroyed this myth when he won the 100 metres, 200 metres, 4x100metre relay and the long jump, setting three world records.
Jesse Owens faced racism at home in the USA as well as in Hitler’s Germany. For example, he was not allowed to stay in the same hotels as his fellow white athletes. Upon returning home after winning 4 gold medals, New York City honoured him with a parade and reception. However, to get to his own party, he had to use the service elevator at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel where it was being held.
Unlike the white American athletes, who were invited to meet President Roosevelt after the games, Jesse Owens and the other black American athletes were never even sent a telegram of congratulations.
It’s amazing that under such circumstances, Jesse Owens was able to strive and win. The way that he described running can inspire us in our own lives:
“You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”
I think of that whenever I walk down the long street near the Olympic Stadium in Berlin that was named after him.
by Madhvi Ramani.
Madhvi Ramani’s debut children’s book Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed is out now!
This week Olympic silver medalist Christine Ohuruogu, helped us celebrate Black History Month with a wonderful day of events in East London. Fans were able to ask Christine questions and have their copies of Camp Gold signed.
In the morning she spoke to hundreds of fans at the Stratford Picture House before moving onto Redbridge Primary School. She was given a more than warm welcome by the students who had made a giant banner for her.
Christine was kind enough to let the students (and some members of staff!) try on her silver medal. We can confirm that it’s very heavy!
It was a fantastic day with a sporting superstar. What more could we ask for?
Don’t you sometimes wish you could skip all those long, boring journeys and just get from one place to another at the click of a button?
In my book Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed, my character discovers a way to do exactly that! Just imagine being able to go anywhere in world in an instant! Impossible! I hear you cry, but there are scientists working on it at this very moment. It’s called teleportation.
Teleportation means that you would be able to get from one place to another in seconds.
This year, scientists have been able to teleport a teeny particle called a photon a distance of 140 kilometres. It’s still a long way from people being able to get around without using cars, buses, trains, and planes, but it’s a start.
So, what would you use teleportation for? To get to school in the mornings? To go to a warm sandy beach? The North Pole? Maybe even the moon?
Right now, I would teleport myself to the kitchen to make a nice cup of tea…
You can follow Madhvi on Twitter at @madhviramani and Tamarind at @TamarindBooks
Download the latest Children’s Reading Partners Chatterbooks poster featuring Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed here.
I love travelling, which is partly why I wrote Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed, a story about a girl who has all sorts of adventures using her aunt’s travelling machine!
My love of travelling has also landed me in some tricky situations, so here are my top tips to help you avoid getting into a pickle when you hit the road!
1. Never go for a morning jog in Mumbai
I should have guessed it was a stupid idea just by looking around.
No one jogs on the streets of Mumbai. Probably because they don’t want to navigate around cars, rickshaws, carts, buses, motorbikes, hoards of people and street vendors on dusty pavements that end abruptly in the middle of the road, and be looked at as if they are barking mad. Which, if you’re jogging on the streets of Mumbai, you probably are.
2. Don’t leave buying a guide book till you get to the airport
Planning is the key to good travelling. A guide book is the best way to find out what to see, how to get around and all that other important stuff.
When I went to South America, I bought the guidebook at Heathrow Airport. I was going to read it on the plane, but there were films to watch, meals to eat, naps to be had, and an international rugby team occupying the rows around me to chat to.
When I landed in Chile, I discovered that I had no idea what to do next – terrifying!
3. Beware of local fashions
It’s fun and practical to dress like the locals. However, some of the clothes you buy in other countries may never be worn at home. Take my colourful, hand-knitted jumper. It’s perfectly okay wear in a supermarket in Peru, but in the UK, people give you funny looks.
4. Learn the language
Speak as much as possible and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I learnt this in Spain, where I became fluent in Spanish. I also discovered a handy little trick. If you don’t know the Spanish word for something, just put an a or an o at the end of the English word and bingo! Accent becomes acento, band becomes banda, and camel becomes camello.
This rule does not always work though. Once, when I wanted to say, I’m embarrassed, estoy embarazada, everyone looked at me in surprise. I had just told them I was pregnant.
5. Be prepared to be surprised
Before going to the Alps, I watched loads of YouTube video on how to ski. I practiced in my living room. I was sure it was going to be a breeze. When I got to the mountain, I fell flat on my face! It’s the same with travelling – you can prepare all you want, but it’s surprising. Enjoy your experiences and even if you get into a muddle, you’ll laugh about it afterwards.
On Saturday, founder of Tamarind Books, Verna Wilkins, showcased Tamarind at the Grenada Olympic House in Central London. During the Olympics from 4pm to 10pm each day, Grenada Olympic House is celebrating all things Grenadian. There are various exhibitions including carnival costumes, art and crafts and photography. Plus there is live music and poetry.
Last weekend hundreds of Grenadians and friends attended a reception hosted by Her excellency Ruth Elizabeth Rouse. Guests of honour included the Minister of Sport and L/Cpl Dr Johnson Beharry VC – a Grenadian who is the youngest person to receive the Victoria Cross.
There is live TV coverage throughout the exhibition. Every day brings a new programme of activities and fun especially now that Kirani James, the young Grenadian won gold!!
For further information click here.
Letterbox Library turned 29 this year. An independent children’s bookseller, a workers’ cooperative (in this, the International Year of Cooperatives) and a not-for-profit social enterprise, our survival is something to shout about.
When people ask what Letterbox Library does, we can simply say we are a children’s booksellers but this really doesn’t begin to describe what we do. It would be more accurate to say that we are a specialist children’s book selector. We exist to research, source and provide children’s books which reflect the diverse world we live in– in other words we seek out books which allow children to see themselves and which encourage them to explore & respect lives and worlds ‘different’ from their own.
Back in 1983, Letterbox Library specialised in anti-sexist and multicultural books; 2 single mums ran the co-op from a front room in Hackney with a little catalogue listing all of 16 books! Now, Letterbox Library has evolved and matured into a book selector with a website and catalogue of over 400 titles. We do all we can to ensure that our collection, as much as possible, shows children the incredible diversity of our local and global communities in terms of race, ethnicity, faith, ability, family background and so on.
We also specialise in hard-to-find issue-led titles, such as bereavement, family breakdown, bullying. Just as importantly, we are also passionate about resisting commercial trends; we want instead to offer children real choices in what they read. We have to stay flexible: our communities are forever changing and teachers, parents and carers often phone us with new needs and requests which we try to fill.
We’re delighted to have been invited by Tamarind to blog here. From their earliest days Tamarind have been publishers after our own heart: from their representations of children -who just happen to be Black- enjoying first experiences (losing a first tooth, feeding the ducks!) to their bright contemporary portrayals of Black UK heroes to admire and emulate. Their list is pretty unbeatable and we have happily stocked almost every one of their titles.
It is the work and values of publishers such as Tamarind- and the passion of people such as ourselves- which are starting to change the landscape of UK publishing. Books do now show a world which is a little closer to the world our children actually live in- but there is still some way to go before the choices are as rich as they could be. We need many more books, both realist and fantasy, which just happen to have disabled or BME (Black Minority Ethnic) characters as the stars; we need a few less fairies & knights and many more titles which show girls and boys living beyond the very limiting gender roles society decrees; we need many more lesbian and gay portrayals pitched at primary ages and beyond to counteract the terrible realities of homophobic bullying in schools; we need fewer fiction titles showing ‘Africa’ as a single continent in a perpetual spiral of civil war & famine and rather more titles describing contemporary, complex, even happy (!) lives in specific African countries…
For now, the journey goes on- there are still so many gaps to fill, so many lives to represent, still so many stereotypes to fall by the wayside. When we are further down that road, when children and the adults who take care of them feel we are much further down that road- then, and only then, will Letterbox Library close its business, with a smile!
Follow Letterbox Libraries on Twitter @Letterboxlib
Check out their website – http://www.letterboxlibrary.com/
On Monday we welcomed Michael Williams to Tamarind HQ. The author of Now is the Time for Running is in the UK to celebrate the publication of his book. Here are a few snapshots of his time with us.
During his visit, Michael gave a wonderful speech. He spoke about his life-long ambition to have a book published in the UK. We’re thrilled that we helped him to achieve this goal!
Michael is also here to work on the Cape Town Opera’s production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. As well as being an author, Michael is the Managing Director of the Cape Town Opera in South Africa. He’s a very busy man indeed! Tonight, members of the Tamarind and Random House Children’s Publishers teams will be watching the production of Porgy and Bess at the London Coliseum with Michael. There will be pictures and news to follow!
Here in the Random House offices, we are getting excited about the Olympics and even more so about our fantastic new Olympic titles! Camp Gold: Running Stars and Camp Gold: Going for Gold by Olympic runner Christine Ohuruogu and Sporting Heroes are published today. To celebrate we got some of the team to share their sporting heroes with us.