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Author: Steven Lenton

Incr-edible International Literacy Day-inspired Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam!

Today’s guest blog post is by Steven Lenton, illustrator of the Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam series of picture books and illustrated fiction.

September the 8th is International Literacy Day, a day which aims to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies all around the world, so a very important day indeed.

There are lots of events and projects taking place in conjunction with #InternationalLiteracyDay and I was really pleased when my Uni pal, Janette McPherson, got in touch earlier this year about her group of international professional cake artists who were planning something special for this day.

The bakers hold an annual themed Cake-a-thon where they choose a theme and cake artists from around the world design and make incredible cakes. This year they chose well-loved storybooks by their favourite authors and illustrators, bringing the characters to life in cake form!

I was paws-itively thrilled when Janette told me that she had chosen Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam as her story. Her children are huge Shifty and Sam fans and as they are baker dogs who (now!) love nothing more than baking cakes (and solving mysteries!), what a fitting choice. Tracey Corderoy and I are huge fans and love baking ourselves and are even enjoying the new series of The Great British Bake Off – oh go on its not that bad!

Also, Nosy Crow is THE go-to publisher for all things cake, in meetings, at parties, even just on your average week day, the Nosy Crow nest is a veritable picnic basket of baked delights, so for Shifty and Sam to be made into sponge, well what a treat…and here they are!

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I do not know how Janette has created such faithful recreations of not only the characters but also the poses and props from the books – just how is Shifty holding up such a huge cake?!

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Here is Janette with Shifty and Sam (and can you find spider?).  Shifty measures a whopping 26 inches tall!  The attention to detail is just phenomenal and the, ahem, icing on the cake, each character is made of a rich chocolate cake filled with STRAWBERRY MILKSHAKE butter cream! Shifty and Sam would just LOVE these creations and Tracey and I certainly do – we just wish Janette wasn’t up in the far reaches of Scotland else we would be insisting on sampling a slice – but where would we start?! We couldn’t possibly EAT them…..could we Tracey?!

Other creations include characters from:

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Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

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You Can’t Eat A Princess! by Gillian Rogerson and Sarah McIntyre

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Dirty Bertie by David Roberts

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Oi Frog! by Jim Field and Kes Gray

A huge thank you to Janette and all the cake artists involved for choosing our characters and for inspiring and encouraging children to pick up and read a storybook.

The group are also raising funds for Motor Neurone Disease, with Nosy Crow and other publishers donating books for this cause.  For more information on this and to see all the other wonderful cakes visit www.cakestoriesmatter.com or www.facebook.com/cakestoriesmatter.

 

 

A book launch fit for a princess!

Last week we published Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights, written and illustrated by Steven Lenton – and in today’s guest post, Steven shares with us how he celebrated the book’s launch!

To celebrate the publication of Princess Daisy & the Dragon & the Nincompoop Knights last Thursday, we held a book launch party at Pickled Pepper Books. We put up bespoke bunting, balloons, and baskets of goody bags along with an exhibition of original artwork and prints from the book.

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.

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

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:

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

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:

I think my favourite tweet has to be from a lady whose 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.

Thank you, Steven! Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights is out now – you can take a look inside the book and watch a trailer below, and order it online here.

A book launch fit for a princess!

Last week we published Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights, written and illustrated by Steven Lenton – and in today’s guest post, Steven shares with us how he celebrated the book’s launch!

To celebrate the publication of Princess Daisy & the Dragon & the Nincompoop Knights last Thursday, we held a book launch party at Pickled Pepper Books. We put up bespoke bunting, balloons, and baskets of goody bags along with an exhibition of original artwork and prints from the book.

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.

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

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:

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

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:

I think my favourite tweet has to be from a lady whose 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.

Thank you, Steven! Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights is out now – you can take a look inside the book and watch a trailer below, and order it online here.

How I made Princess Daisy: a guest post by Steven Lenton

Yesterday was publication day for a fantastic new picture book, Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights, written and illustrated by Steven Lenton – and today, Steven shares with us what went into creating this brilliant 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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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!

Thank you, Steven! Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights is out now – you can take a look inside the book below, and order it online here.

The Making of Radley’s Twelve Days of Christmas – a guest post by illustrator Steven Lenton

Today’s guest post is by illustrator Steven Lenton, who has kindly allowed us to re-post this from his own blog, on the making of the Radley’s Twelve Days of Christmas book.

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 (use the arrow to scroll):

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 and 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 – faced 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 animatic 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 now the book has been published and is available online and in-store at radley.co.uk. 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

Thank you, Steven, for your incredible work! Radley’s The Twelve Days of Christmas is on sale now in Radley stores or from www.radley.co.uk.

Shifty, Sam and the Summer Reading Challenge

A guest post by Steven Lenton, illustrator for Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam.

Tracey Corderoy and I were thrilled when Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam was chosen as one of the books that children will be encouraged to read during this year’s Summer Reading Challenge.

This week I helped to launch this fantastic initiative by setting up a Shifty and Sam exhibition featuring original sketches and artwork from the book at Hornsey Library in Crouch End.

Then on Tuesday at the library we had a visit from a local school and we unveiled how the challenge works; by reading six library books over the summer holidays children can collect smelly stickers and a gold medal – a fun and simple way to encourage reading over a period when reading can often be the last thing on a child’s mind!

This years theme is ‘Creepy House’, so Shifty and Sam’s sneaky antics work perfectly here! The material is illustrated by Chris Riddell so is beautifully designed to help children want to collect all the characters.

The children really enjoyed my reading of the book and they were VERY excited about getting their own copy so they could spot all the hidden spiders. They were a wonderful group and asked lots of great questions – the most popular being ‘Please can I have the Shifty and Sam toys?’ Unfortunately they couldn’t, as we have lots more events lined up and Shifty and Sam will be by my side at all times!

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam is out now. The book is available to online here, and you can take a look inside below. For more information about the Summer Reading Challenge, visit their website, here.

The world of Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam – a guest post by Steven Lenton

A guest post by Steven Lenton, illustrator for Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam.

This week is terribly exciting for me as Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam is published on Thursday.

Growing up in the family pom-pom business surrounded by promotional items I have always loved a character-based product and a bit of quirky marketing.

I couldn’t resist therefore, making some fun little bits and pieces for Shifty and Sam.

Here are some of the things that have kept me busy in the (dog) lead up to the book’s publication.

My wonderful dad Martin bought me the best Christmas present this year – plush robber dogs! These gorgeous toys have accompanied Tracey and I to all the Shifty and Sam events so far – they will be exhausted by the end of the year!

I thought it would be fun to put up some WANTED posters a few weeks ago to introduce the characters.

I then designed some flyers and posters advertising the ‘Art of Shifty and Sam Exhibition’ – currently on at The Haberdashery in Crouch End. My little dog Holly and I spent a lovely sunny Sunday last week popping flyers through letterboxes and talking to shop keepers about the book.

Next, I designed some fabric featuring Shifty and Sam and got it printed by a great company in the US. My lovely mum Barbara then helped me to sew them all together – we had a lovely time chatting, drinking tea and eating her delicious home-made banana bread – thanks mum!

The book launch takes place on Thursday at the exhibition space so this week I have been preparing little party SWAG bags containing some little treats – badges, bookmarks, stickers and pom-pom spiders!

Also on publication day Tracey and I will be launching ‘The Robber Dog Blog’ which will be the best place for Shifty and Sam news, events, activity sheets and fun facts!

As soon as I started designing Shifty I knew I wanted to create a fun book trailer. I direct and design animation for television, so it was lovely to animate Shifty, Sam and some other naughty characters!

Creating this book with Tracey Corderoy and all the team at Nosy Crow has been a fantastic experience and I really hope that children and parents will enjoy the cheeky robber dogs’ antics!

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam is out on Thursday. You can pre-order the book here, and take a look inside below.

My first book event – a guest post by Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam illustrator, Steven Lenton

Last week I was invited to talk at the Nosy Crow Author and Illustrator panel as part of the YLG Conference in Central London.

As the title of this blog post suggests, this was my very first book event and I was rather nervous to say the least.

I am used to talking about Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam with the Nosy Crow team, my students at City Lit and my family and friends, but this was to be the first time I would talk about my experience and designs to a fresh audience.

On top of this, I was in the esteemed company of three very successful and established authors – Tracey Corderoy, Lyn Gardner and Philip Ardagh. The cherry on top of this excitingly nerve-enducing line up was one of my illustrator idols – Axel Scheffler.

Our merry band followed an informative and humorous talk on the future of children’s publishing by Kate Wilson, where we witnessed, amongst other things, the magic of Stories Aloud.

Philip talked about The Grunts series of books whilst Axel drew a fantastic Sunny, one of the characters from said book. They made a terrifically fun and entertaining presentation which was followed by Lyn Gardner who discussed the motivation behind her Olivia fiction series.

Then it was the turn of Tracey and myself. Tracey introduced our characters and her original inspiration behind Shifty and Sam and read, again for the first time, their story which went down a treat – phew! Tracey also debuted her newest, now infamous ‘story sack’ which we will use at all our Shifty and Sam events – cleverly designed as Shifty’s SWAG bag!

I then spoke about my design process and ideas behind the two protagonists and some of their fellow dog cast in the book – it was very strange standing in front of my designs on a large screen but I didn’t spot any mistakes, again, phew!

The audience of librarians really enjoyed our presentations and we had some great chats with them during the Q&A session and beyond.

Being given this opportunity to talk about my first book has given me a taste for future book events and I can’t wait to do more of them with Tracey throughout 2013!

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam will be out in May 2013 – but you can take a look inside now!