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PAM ROYDS 1924 - 2016

Pam Royds on Grasmere , 1971 with Sally Christie, children’s author and daughter of Philippa Pearce. I was just twenty two when I fir...

About Me

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My blog is about writing and illustrating children's books which I have been doing since 1974. www.gillianmcclure.com has all my books. I also have another blog: www.paulcoltman.blogspot.com where I publish my father's poems.

Friday, 24 December 2010


I'm with my Canadian grandchildren again sharing with them some old well-loved books:
Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas

Judith Kerr's Mog's Christmas

and Tomie de Paola's The Christmas Pageant.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


In his book How Santa Claus Had A Long And Difficult Journey Delivering His Presents, published by Longman Young Books in 1970, Fernando Krahn's pictures tell a story that should be read by anyone setting out on a long and difficult journey, like me, to deliver presents overseas -

who is about to spend the festive season grounded at Heathrow with thousands of others, all waiting for the same Christmas miracle -

- that British Airlines will lay on angels.

Friday, 17 December 2010


I walked by a barn in the fens in the summer and heard a great GOBBLE of turkeys coming from inside.

I walked by the barn in the winter and the GOBBLE was gone.

Friday, 10 December 2010


Every year around this time the All Party Writers Group holds its winter drinks reception at the House of Commons. This year the invitation came from John Whittingdale MP, Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport  Select Committee.  We gathered, on a freezing night in a very warm marquee on The Terrace. Authors at this party are expected to take the opportunity of lobbying MPs and Lords about issues that matter to us -the current one being where PLR is going to end up after the cuts - hopefully with ALCS. I spotted Nicholas Allan and Michelle Magorian who, like me, hadn't found a Minister to harangue and were enjoying the wine and canopees. Then came the 2010 Educational Writers' Award presentation. ALCS and the Society of Authors created this award in 2008 to 'celebrate educational writing that inspires creativity and encourages students to read widely and build up their understanding of a subject beyond the requirements of exam specifications.' It's the only UK award that focuses on educational non-fiction and they always hand out the prizes at this party.

Bill Bryson won it with A Really Short History of Nearly Everything  - and was very generous to his publisher, Random House, when he was receiving prize money in a large white envelope, saying it was very little to do with him and mostly to do with them. So various people from Random House walked away with large white envelopes too!

Friday, 3 December 2010


A little bit of snow can turn the world upside down.  As airports close and trains leave passengers stranded, global companies find they are running their businesses in unlikely places. This week  Plaister Press (a company in its infancy) has had to share its very modest premises in Cambridge with a Canadian Shipping Company,a Swedish Mining Company and a London Advertising Company. All were impressed by the excellent wireless connection on offer. Plaister Press, in return, received some good tips on accountancy, marketing and invoicing systems in the hope that ,one day, it too will be global!

Thursday, 25 November 2010


There's a a wonderful small independent bookshop in Alfriston, East Sussex, run by Cate Olson and Nash Robbins. It has recently moved premises and, as you can see from the picture, has a covered archway housing their second-hand books in a way that reminds me of the bookstalls along the Seine in Paris.  The new books are in the small shop on the right. Through the archway is a courtyard (where they keep chickens) leading to a renovated barn.  It is here that they put on events. 

I did a workshop there a couple of weekends ago, showing children my original arwork, sketches and roughs and getting them to make their own little books. It was a well organised, ticketed event, with refreshments laid on. The  price of the ticket included a signed copy of one of my books for each child. We all had a lot of fun and shared our stories at the end.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


As I sit at my desk and look out at the November rain, conscious of an absence of light for most of the day, I recall where I was a year ago - travelling down the Queensland coast in a camper van named Rattles, with my middle son:

snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef

bathing in a pool with white parakeets,

lying on the surf beaches

then meeting a dingo, driving Rattles down an isolated track, getting stuck in sand, digging in vain with a plastic dust pan for five hours, and finally being rescued -
so that I could return to my own safe, wet island to enjoy the November rain for a little longer.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Last night there was a meeting of Thrale's; a newly formed group of writers - adult and childrens - meeting at Lady Cavendish College in Cambridge. There was wine and snacks and socialising and we all brought one of our books. Then the lights were dimmed and Chris Priestley entertained us with a ghost story; The Demon Bench End from Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror; a story set in Cambridge which starts to get nasty in Grantchester Meadows. Not very nice having to cycle home afterwards on a dark, wet, November night.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


There's a workshop I give in Primary Schools where I ask children to draw a place they know really well - where they can look around and know exactly what is there. It could be their bedroom, their garden, a playground. Once I have them in this familiar place, they have to think of something that could be the entry point to an imaginary world.  This task always grabs their imagination; even the most unimaginative pupils come up with a point of entry: a shaft of light from a window falling on a certain floor board in their bedroom; a particular wood pattern on the garden fence that looks like a door; a swing in the playground that, when it reaches a certain height, catapaults them into another world. The key point is to establish a very real and ordinary world before attempting to enter any imaginary world. 
    The illustrators here draw two such very ordinary places - Arthur Rackham, a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland and Pauline Baynes, a wardrobe in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Neither of them show the entry actually taking place; that is left for the text to describe and the reader to imagine. But in a picture book, more is shown in the illustrations. I talk about this in the previous post GOING BETWEEN WORLDS where I illustrate the scary moment of entry into the world inside a tree in The Little White Sprite.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


There's always a scary moment, going between worlds - a shock when Alice falls through the rabbit hole or, in The Lion the Witch and theWardrobe, when Lucy pushes through the fur coats at the back of the wardrobe and  finds herself standing in the middle of a dark,snowy forest.
'Lucy felt a little frightened but she felt very inquisitive and excited as well'. 
In my new book, The Little White Sprite, I've used these three feelings:  fear, curiosity and excitement in a story suitable for picture book age, where a child squeezes through a hole in a hollow tree and enters another world. This is the picture that shows the scary moment of entry. I make sure I follow it with a much more reassuring one once the child finds his feet. I won't give away what happens but, once in this 'other' world, the child will have to eventually find his way out again and arrive safely back with his family.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


The other day, I looked through the completed spreads of my new picture book. I find, if I refrain from looking at them for several days, I can see everything afresh and any anomalies jump out at me. As I followed the visual sequence, my eye moved smoothly from page to page until I reached the tenth spread when I got a colour jolt where there was a sharp colour change, quite out of sync with the rhythm of the story. I'd forgotten I still had spread  9 on its board and so had accidently jumped from spread 8 to spread 10.   Had I needed a climax there, a colour jolt like this would have been a good way of achieving it.
    So it was with relief I inserted spread 9 in its correct position and could see it act as a colour transition, in harmony with a change taking place in the story at that point.
  I'd always known that each page of a picture book has its own feeling and atmosphere but I don't think I'd been fully conscious, while painting, of the subtle part colour plays in the dynamic and overall rhythm of a story.

Sunday, 3 October 2010


This year the Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture was given by Michael Morpurgo in the Seven Stories Children's Book Centre in Newcastle. It's normally held at Homerton College in Cambridge. Here some of the Cambridge contingent, among them Morag Stiles and Diana Boston, are met by the Collection Director, Sarah Lawrence.
Michael talked about following in Philippa Pearce's footsteps. Afterwards he and his wife, Clare, joined  members of the Pearce Memorial Lecture committee and Seven Stories for dinner at the Hotel du Vin.
    The following day a group of us was shown around the archive which is in Gateshead, some distance from the Seven Stories Centre. I loved seeing the artists' dummies and roughs. On this occasion, Sarah got out ones by Harold Jones, Edward Ardizonne and John Lawrence as well as showing us the new Enid Blyton archive.
Follow the link to find out more about the Pearce Memorial Lecture: http://www.pearcelecture.com/ and come along next year to hear Philip Pullman.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


I'd love to have a dog but cannot, so I draw them instead. Dogs feature in the three books I'm currently working on. There's a small dog with those little eyebrows that dogs sometimes have in The Little White Sprite. In the story, it's the dog who sees the boy disapppear through a hole in an old hollow tree. And it's the dog who is able to call him back to 'where he belongs' - back to his family.

In the book that is to follow The Little White Sprite the dog is large and shaggy. I once had a dog like that - half sheepdog, half wolf hound. This story explores a friendship between a little girl and her Dear Old Dog - a friendship that doesn't always run smoothly.

Now I'm beginning to think of another story and another dog- one that manages to undo all the hardwork of two boys. I think it will have to be one of those sharp nosed whispy dogs, though I do like this little terrier called Buttons:

Friday, 10 September 2010


When I called my blog Granny's Tale I had in mind my father, Paul Coltman's poem, Granny's Tale. Here's an extract from the first issue of Words-the New Literary Forum by Phillip Vine about Granny's Tale:
'In 1980 four of the United Kingdom's foremost poets met together under the auspices of the Arvon Poetry Foundation to decide upon that year's prizewinning poems in one of the most prestigious of the national poetry competitions. This foursome, who in 1984 might have formed the final shortlist for the vacant Poet Laureateship, were struggling for agreement upon a poem called GRANNY'S TALE. Seamus Heaney did not like it much  and talked of its whimsicality; Ted Hughes was explaining that when he started reading it he thought it was mere whimsy but that it had got a hold on him and he now thought it "strong"; Charles Causley, however, was the poem's strongest advocate, talking of its brilliance and of the "real invention of its language" and describing it as a "tour de force. In the final analysis, all four judges, including Philip Larkin, agreed that it was one of the most original poems in the competition and awarded it a fourth prize of £250'.

In 1985 Granny's Tale was published by Andre Deutsch and Farrar Strauss and Giroux with my illustrations as a sort of cross-over book for both adults and children. This proved a bit innovative at that time and, despite being highly Commended in the Kate Greenaway Award, it didn't take off.

The granny I painted was inspired by two old sisters living in a remote part of Southern Ireland - the Miss Collins. I'd visited them once with my father-in-law, a man of the cloth. He warned me not to accept any food  or drink unless it was pure spirits on account of the filthy state of their cottage. The old ladies, in sack cloth aprons, were delighted with our visit and were not at all put out when I refused a raw egg to suck. They enjoyed being sketched. 

As I'll shortly be changing the name and URL of this blog, I'd like to make this post an epitaph to both Granny's Tales.

Sunday, 5 September 2010


I find August a relaxing month even when I work right through it - something to do with everyone around me going away and leaving behind a quiet absence - or recollections of all those long gone August seaside holidays which cast a pleasant atmosphere over my working day. I recall it rained a lot on those holidays confining three energetic boys and a very large dog to a small cottage for hours on end. It was John Verney's books that always saved the day - each holiday he leant us a new one for reading aloud - Friday's Tunnel, February's Road, Seven Sunflower SeedsSamson's Hoard were the ones I remember.

They were humorous and had rip roaring adventures and everyone became absorbed  and listened quietly until the sun came out again.

Later, I read Going to the Wars, a story of Verney's time with the North Somerset Yeomanry and then the Royal Armoured Corps after war broke out in 1939.  It was a wonderful book crying out for a sequel about his escape from an Italian POW camp, but nobody could persuade him to revisit that time of his life and he settled down to humorous painting. I still have his Dodo-pad and one of his Culpepper Cushions and my last memory of him was in his studio, painting chests of drawers with naughty knobs.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


What sends children peacefully to sleep? Last week I travelled to a wedding in Sweden with my two Canadian grandhildren. An important role for me, Granny, was to help wide awake, jet lagged, overtired grandchildren fall asleep - on flights, in churches on mattresses on the floor and in strange hotel rooms. I discovered an unlikely book that did the trick - Nicky and the Big Bad Wolves by Valeri Gorbachev.

It was so scary it ought to have done the opposite. On Amazon it had 'nightmares' emblazoned across it as if to excuse the scariness and say to over-protective parents the book was OK to read as nightmare therapy. But my two and a half year old grandson didn't need nightmare therapy. He just wanted to see some very scary wolves. He would stare intensely for around ten minutes at each page of yellow eyes, pink tongues and white fangs.

I was left to guess what was going through his mind - the process of absorbing fear seemed to require the utmost concentration and this was what stilled him. The cosy pages with Mother rabbit didn't have the same impact and when there were no more wolves left to look at he just wanted me to flick quickly through the remaining pages, reach the happy ending before promptly falling asleep.
    Like Fairy Tales, Nicky and the Big Bad Wolves seems to make children confront extreme feelings deep within them. Doing so is evidently a tiring business.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


The house over the road is let to visiting scholars and an Israeli family moved in last winter. It was several months before I met the mother in the street with her young daughters. Assuming she was a scholar I asked her about her research at the university. She told me her husband was working at the university but she was a children's author/illustrator - Raphaella Serfaty. http://www.raphaellaserfaty.com/

But that wasn't all - her sister Shulamit Serfaty was also an author/illustrator -

 her mother Nurit Serfaty too - nominated in the IBBY Honour List of 2004 -

and, with her father a designer, I discovered the Serfaty family run their own publishing house -The Jolly Giraffe.


When I heard all this, I was in the process of creating my own publishing house, Plaister Press.
Suddenly, the small street in Cambridge where I live and work opened out and embraced a wider world.