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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.

Sunday, 28 April 2013


Nurit Serfaty is a renowned Israeli illustrator whose whole family are involved with children’s books. We became friends when she first came to visit her daughter and granddaughters who live opposite me in Cambridge. Since then, we meet every time she comes over to talk about children’s books. We discovered we had so much in common; besides both having overseas grandchildren we're both illustrators running small publishing companies and do a lot of school visits. In this interview with Nurit, I want to share some of her lovely images done in a great variety of media and find out more about the fascinating differences between the children’s book world of Israel and that of the UK.
 The Wedding written by Nurit Zarchi     Watercolours 

G: Of course the greatest difference between your books and ours is that yours read from right to left which feels very strange to us.

N: Yes, we read and write from right to left, and in a way, I guess we also “illustrate from right to left” - this is something that is done in an unconscious way, just as you probably “illustrate from left to right” - when a character leaves his home and go on a journey, he would walk from right to left, in a Hebrew book (and probably the other way, in an English book). So when translating a book into English, we would sometimes flip the illustrations as well.
G: And the other way round too, I suppose: an Israeli co edition of a UK picture book might need its illustrations flipped round so they read pictorially from right to left.

I have another question: Israel is a much smaller country than the UK, what impact does this have on your children’s publishing industry?
Guava Juice written by Tamar Addar          Ink on paper

N: Not only is Israel a small country, about 50% of the population does not buy books very often (mainly Arab societies and orthodox Jewish, who have their own markets). So we are actually talking about even a smaller number of people (There are 8 million Israeli citizens).
    Yet, Israel has a very live and active book industry. According to the data I found online, every year there are about 6000 new titles (according to the national library of Israel every 80 minutes a new title is published), out of which 600 children's books.  About 34 million books are sold every year, 17 million of which are fiction and non fiction.
    Israelis like buying their own books and "own" them, and until recently borrowing books in libraries was not very common. Also, in Israel most children’s books are printed as hard covers. It probably has to do with the way books are marketed or the way the Israeli reader is used to see his books- soft covers are mainly for notebooks and activity books. If a picture book is printed as soft cover it won’t be treated as “high quality” book.
Under Grandpa's Umbrella written by Raphaella Serfaty       Acrylic on paper

G: So there's a lot book purchasing going on. Does this mean, in Israel, it is easier for mid-list authors and illustrators to earn a living than in the UK where it is pretty difficult?

N: Although there's a need for new children's books all the time, authors and illustrators are not well compensated. The agreements signed with publishers are very strict - some times you get royalties only after the first edition (about 2000 copies) is sold (this is mostly relevant to authors, as illustrators are normally paid a one-time fee and not royalties). New authors and illustrators might be asked to pay some of the printing and marketing fees.
     This is why I, along with my husband, Lavish, and our two daughters - Shulamit and Raphaella decided to establish our own publish company. Jolly Giraffe.
Where Are the Clouds Going to? written by Lea Tzur     Papercuts

G: I’d love to hear more about your publishing company and the physical books you publish - I'll devote another post to your apps.
N: Our publishing company found the niche of preschool visits where I run my visits and also sells books. Preschools have budget for birthday gifts and end of the year events (like you have for Christmas here), and we sometimes manage to market our books as an idea for these occasions. In these cases a preschool might buy 30 copies of a book. 
Animal Tales  written by Ayala Yiftach     Digital illustration
We publish our own books, which we write, illustrate and design, as well as other authors’ books.
I would say half of the manuscripts we published are children’s books and half are more like Memoirs. Israel is a relatively young country and people feel they need to tell their personal stories - whether it’s to share childhood memories from their mother land, to recount how they survived the Holocaust, to tell how they immigrated to Israel or to commemorate a personal event.

G: You are illustrating a children's book about the Holocaust. Can you say a little about it? 

N:  It’s a story about a little girl who survived the war together with her mother. The author of the story gave me a photo album with pictures of her family. I thought it would be nice to integrate the photos in the illustrations, making a collage of my illustrations and the original photos. For the illustrations themselves I used watercolors and then added some airbrush effects on photoshop.
G: These pictures are still at the rough stage, but they are so full of feeling, I know this is going to be a moving and powerful book, Nurit. Thank you so much for allowing us an early glimpse of it and also for sharing this perspective on Israeli picture books.



Sunday, 14 April 2013


I've known Amanda Hall a long time and have always admired her work. So it's great to see her books doing well and her illustrations selling in the Chris Beetles Gallery. As my blog guest, I shall be asking Amanda about her books and illustrations and I'd like to start by asking about exhibiting and selling artwork; something illustrators can do but writers can't.
G:   What is it like exhibiting at the Chris Beetles Gallery, Amanda?
A: The Chris Beetles Gallery has been in Ryder Street, St James's, since 1975. Sited just off London's Piccadilly, it specialises in illustration as well as traditional British water colours, oils and sculptures, and there is now another gallery for photographs in Swallow Street. I've been on this wonderful gallery's mailing list for many years and originally met Chris Beetles in the mid 90s, after my book The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales  (Barefoot Books) .
 I popped into the gallery a few years ago (having just bought a hat from Lock and Co. nearby!) and was delighted to find that Chris remembered my work and was interested in seeing what I had been up to during the intervening years. Although I believe he had looked at images on my website, he always likes to see the original illustrations, so I made a couple of trips down from Cambridge to show him my current work. He very much liked my illustrations for The Lion Classic Aesop's Fables (Lion Children's Books) 
and decided to include most of the originals in his 2011 show THE ILLUSTRATORS: The British Art of Illustration, the winter exhibition he stages between November and January every year. My pictures have been met with enthusiasm by the public and have continued to sell from the gallery's website, Chris Beetles . This last year, many of the images from my most recent publication -The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers) were included in his 2012 winter show and have also been met with interest by the art-buying public.
 So, to answer your question, Gillian--it's great to have this very special outlet for my original artwork!
G: Your illustrations obviously bowled Chris Beetles over, Amanda. But perhaps the hat did too! I 'll have to invest in a hat like your fur one see if it does the trick for me. I’d love to know more about how you go about doing your illustrations.


A: Like a lot of illustrators I have evolved my own approach to create my illustrations. I began using pencil crayons at college, and there was a real vogue for using crayon at the time. I also worked in water colour, but only started putting the two together later. I also explored crosshatching, working in black ink for the very dark Gothic effect I was after at the time.
Now I usually work on stretched water colour paper with a smooth surface. I begin with pencil lines, based on the design in my rough (approved by the client), which I then paint into using water colour inks. I prefer these to solid water colour paints, as they are cleaner, purer colours. Once that stage is complete and dry, I rub out all the pencil lines and start working further into the image either with pencil crayon, gouache or acrylic inks and paints, depending on the effect I want for the particular commission. This final stage takes a long time, as I build up layers of colour slowly and carefully.

G: Thank you, Amanda, for sharing all this and good luck with your new project which I gather is top secret.
The roughs and corresponding artwork above belongs to:

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
Written by Michelle Markel
US Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Year of publication: 2012
Hardcover picturebook
34 pages
Ages 5-9
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5364-6

Meanwhile, I'm off to buy a fur hat as winter doesn't seem to be ending this year.

Sunday, 7 April 2013


Top 10 things to do before you’re 10 according to The Primary Times are: 

  1. Build sandcastles on the beach
  2. Go to the zoo
  3. Learn to ride a bike
  4. Go to a theme park
  5. Go sledging
  6. Bake a cake
  7. Swim in the sea
  8. Camp under the stars
  9. Be cheered on at school sports day
  10. Eat round a camp fire
Interestingly the list is breaking away from today’s stringent health and safety rules.  I’d like to add number 11: Make a dam.  That’s what these little boys loved doing.
 One of them told me exactly how they built their dams and I put it all in the book We're Going to Build a Dam
Things I did as before I was 10:
make a den in the woods, play on a raft on a pond and make up a story and illustrate it!

Any other suggestions?