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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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United Kingdom
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.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Guest blogger, Joyce Dunbar tells me about her latest picture book Puss Jekyll, Cat Hyde:

Puss Jekyll, Cat Hyde, (illustrated by Jill Barton, published by Frances Lincoln), is a cat with nine lives.

    I wrote it 15 years ago. My then agent, Gina Pollinger, said the text was 'like a fine wine.' But while publishers admired it, they said it would not make a picture book for children. I made some clumsy alterations, adding a child dreamer, but that didn't work, so it sat on my file for another 11 years.
    Then one day, circa 2008, I bundled up a few cat pieces and sent them to my new agent. She picked this one out, and to my surprise, Puffin took it on for their new 'Picture Book Boutique.' We had a lovely dinner in the Strand so that I could meet the illustrator, Jill Barton, to discuss possibilities - a rare enough encounter in itself since publishers on the whole prefer to keep the two species apart.
    Jill, like me, has had an enjoyable run of bears, ducks, rabbits, and so on, but was longing to do something darker. I wondered how she would handle the text. When the bold, graphite images arrived, I danced around the house with excitement. It was so clean, clear and bold, and so different.
    Puffin was equally enthusiastic - but then came the 2009 recession. Not only our book, but quite a few of the boutique books bit the dust. The Americans were no longer buying. There was a half hearted attempt to format it as a cute Mother's Day gift book, with sugar almond background colours and a smaller format. Jill was horrified. I thought it was better than nothing. Even so, 3 months before publication, compelled by market forces, Puffin pulled the plug completely.
    To their great credit, Jill's agent and mine sped round in a taxi together to protest, but to no avail. I showed it to Henry Layte, publisher and owner of our new independent Book shop, and he rewarded me with words of great praise. I didn't expect them to make a difference. But then, wonder of  wonders, within a few months, Frances Lincoln picked it up.
    Working with the first basic layouts they wrought a subtle transformation: Maurice Lyon, the editor, coaxed me into working on the punctuation, which ended up as supremely elegant as our cat, and Jill revisited some of the spreads, doing two complete new ones. The whole thing was watched over by Judith Escreet, the art editor. There was a bit of a fracas about an elusive vole, but finally the finished copies were in our tremulous, thankful hands.
    On Thursday 25th at the Book Hive, we had a wonderful launch. The shop was filled with well wishers and the book was a sell out. It also coincided perfectly with Hallowe'en, when 'good things of day begin to droop and drowse, and night's dark agents to their preys do rouse.' Spot on!
    So we are now feeling very chuffed and purry. It has been a long and difficult journey, but what a gloriously happy ending - so far.


  1. It's a very beautiful book, both aurally and visually, and I'm so glad that you fought for it. Children can really enjoy the darker side of things if they're handled in the right way. And I'm sure they'll recognise the truth of how real cats are, and thrill to it. Lovely!

  2. It looks gorgeous! Congratulations.

  3. Yes, I think this book is very unusual and special. It's great that Frances Lincoln published it.