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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.

Saturday, 30 January 2010


Here are some oast houses in Kent. They remind me of childhood holidays at my grandmother's house when we used to go hop picking. My sister and I didn't do much picking; we preferred playing among the hop vines.
But the families from the East End of London, who were picking hops alongside us, had hands stained brown from picking. 

Recently I gathered some visual reference on hop picking from the Museum of Kent Life near Maidstone with the view to doing a story set in 1940 when the Battle of Britain was taking place in the skies over the Kent hop fields:

I found out that the hoppers who used to come to Kent by train from London were known among the locals as 'the London bug-squashers'.

Perhaps the story I had in mind had too specific a theme for the picture book market today and might be better approached as a longer book with chapters and black and white drawings - a variation on the evacuation stories set in WW2.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


I've taken my light box and and work-in-progress and transferred my studio for a few days to Kent where I'm house -sitting one dog, one nephew, six quails and some hens. I'm close to the Stodmarsh bird reserve where cormorants roost and nest in dead trees that rise out of the water. It has a primordial atmosphere.

...just seen the fox go by. It'll be feeding its cubs and knows exactly where the quails and hens live. The last time I house sat here I was late locking them in and they were all taken.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


In  Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce there's a grandfather clock that strikes thirteen in the middle of the night. Tom discovers time does strange things at that hour.
Below is Philippa's own grandfather clock decorated by Anthony Maitland with images from her book:

On my kitchen wall there are three clocks. It feels as if time is moving about when I look at them -but in a more mundane way. There will be many grannies with families overseas who have clocks like mine, helping them avoid waking people up in the middle of the night.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.

T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets, Burnt Norton

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


It was after being impressed by the intelligence of a six-year-old who happened to have a large head and very spindly legs that I started to draw children like that. He has become the child proto-type I carry in my head for all my child characters.
Quentin Blake, in a review of Selkie in Books For Keeps said 'there was something reminiscent of the fairyland illustrations of Dicky Doyle' in my illustrations.

Dicky Doyle was a Victorian illustrator, 1824- 1883, who also went in for large heads.  Perhaps that was what Quentin Blake was referring to. Here are two examples of Dicky Doyle's work:

And here is a page from Selkie with that child with the large head and spindly legs:

Sunday, 17 January 2010


Some think the Kindle e-book signals the death of the book as we know it; that the cool thing is to have books downloaded onto hand held devices. But here's something quite different coming from a very 'in' magazine in Australia - the Vice Magazine. In the Student Guide is an article called Get Smart. I'm quoting from Read:
'Books are important...Penguin Classics are acceptable on the condition they are out of print. New copies are rather 'low rent' for the serious intellectual, because ideally you want to look like you grew up with such books strewn carelessly all over the house, and when you wish to bone up on Galbraith, you don't bother with a bookstore, you languidly fetch a copy from the family library.

For this reason, out of print, dog-eared Pelican books with the blue and white covers are highly desirable. Forget about bookmarks: you know the page you want because you've read it a dozen times already, remember?

And from Read Some More:
Good topics include design, psychology, (leftist) economics and philosophy. Anything that's likely to have a difficult to learn, semi-technical vocabulary attached to it that'll intimidate anyone who happens to peer over your shoulder on the bus. Schopenhauer, Marx, Freud, Derrida and Lacan all score well here. Thick books are awkward, cumbersome and ugly. Stick to thin books. Thick books are for people at airports. Thin books look austere and poetic.'

If you were to go to General Pants Co - an Aussi high street fashion clothing store you'd find, in accessories, not Kindles with downloads but a selection of orange and white Penguin books. They are called 'Popular Penguins' with a mixture of fiction and nonfiction. The range is broad, from Hardy, Austen and Wilde to Nick Hornby, Roald Dahl and Donna Tartt.

Does the thin, old, foxed Penguin really think he can engage in battle with the e book Goliath?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


I thought I'd pick up on a couple of points made by Lisa Jardine in a Point of View last week: that books are meant for sharing; not something envisaged by those marketing the Kindle in this Year of the Electronic Book.

 'Passing a book from hand to hand' was what was expected to happen to this Penguin re-printed in 1941- the blurry type reads:

Leave this book at a Post Office when you have read it, so that men and women in the Services may enjoy it too.

- something one wouldn't want to do to a Kindle.  However, a Kindle with all its downloads would have been ideal in a soldier's haversack - better in many ways than this WW2 equivalent -The Knapsack published in 1939 for 'the soldier on active service' - a pocket book of Prose and Verse compiled by Herbert Read.

It has Pages for Notes and Additions. A Kindle could easily supply Additions but not Notes - for as Lisa Jardine observed there is no way of annotating a Kindle or filling the margins with private jottings.

Kindles are purely functional with no human story attached whereas this worn copy of The Knapsack does have a story. It survived Dunkirk along with the soldier who read it and scribbled in it. They were recued by a paddle steamer, the Medway Queen.
The soldier was my father and the book will always be cherished.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


When I sketch children, I sketch them as I see them - in proportion. However, when I start to put children into a story I alter their proportions. I see children differently when they become characters playing a part in the narrative. They often have to pit their wits against the challenges, quests and villains in my stories and so, although diminutive, they have to act far older than their size dictates. Here are Queenie and Ben in the rough and penultimate page of my book Tom Finger.

Mario, in this rough and first page from Mario's Angels, is also small yet in the story he feels grown up enough to offer help to the fresco artist, Giotto.

I suppose inside every child is a future adult so I try to capture a sense of that in my child characters.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Last year I had my most successful book signing ever - with a queue going across a school hall and out of the door. The trouble was I had two broken wrists. I'll not forget the agony and ecstasy of signing so many  books with arms in plaster.

Giving a signed copy of a book to your grandchild is very special and it's not hard these days to find an author or an illustrator to sign your book when good independent bookshops hold frequent author/ illustrator events. Here are a variety of signatures. Michael Rosen's:

Michael Morpurgo's with a little squiggle:


If you're lucky you might get several squiggles:

 Philip Ardagh adds a special authenticity stamp to his signature:


And something extra over the page:

Some illustrators like to do a little drawing

- that is if they haven't broken both their wrists.

Friday, 1 January 2010


January is the month the Fens can freeze and there's skating on the flooded fields out at Earith, Upware and Welney.  If you go through the ice you won't drown.

Not so on the Lake of Menteith in Scotland when Bonspiels were held in 1079 and 1981 and skaters had to make way for the curlers; there the water was very deep.

Oh dear is that a Mothercare pram in the middle of the lake ?

At the Bonspiels the curlers drank so much the local pub ran dry and a mist of whisky fumes hung over the ice but no one fell through.

This photo taken on Pulborough wild brooks reminds me of the boys in the short story Sliding by Leslie Norris:
'Then, unexpectantly, without warning, he found himself free of the binding friction that held him. He had begun to glide.'
Last year I too briefly experienced the magic of gliding without friction, propelled by the wind over the ice at Earith. And then I fell and was brought down to earth with two broken wrists. This New Year resolution is to avoid skating backwards and stay upright.