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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...

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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, 28 September 2013


The 2013 Me,Myself, I, Art Competition for pupils aged 4 to 16 years, organised by Chris Hiscock, Cambridge Culture for Children and Young People in partnership with Cambridge Library Service has just had its awards ceremony at Hinchingbrooke House, Huntingdon.

  This was a year-long competition with an exhibition of the finalists’ pictures travelling round various branch libraries in Cambridgeshire. It was the general public who chose the five age category winners announced at the ceremony.

   There was a big gathering, the finalists, their families and teachers all looking very smart, for there were going to be press photos. The children were excited; there was lots of delicious food and cash prizes for the winners and schools, thanks to sponsorship by ESPO. The youngest finalists - some of them very young - clung on tight to their parents throughout.

    There was an exhibition of their work and mine – for I was there to judge the overall winner; not an easy task with such a range of ages. Here are the pictures I had to chose between:

by Gracie Dean, Foundation Stage – a loose, lively painting showing Gracie on the stage fulfilling her ambition to be a singer 
by Aaron Sagoo, KS1 – a sporty, happy self portrait in bold, bright colours

by Francesca Callow, KS2 – a fascinating picture using the original idea of jigsaw puzzle pieces
by Ellie Childs, KS3 – Ellie’s use of colour and design - using the body as a framework - is striking; I saw here a natural illustrator 
by Ali Francis, KS4 – A thoughtful, well observed and imaginative drawing.
It was going to be impossible to choose just one. So I went back to the brief: 
The theme is about you, looking at yourself, your friends, your environment – as it is now, as it might be in the future or as you would like it to be if anything was possible.
And the skill focus is drawing from imagination and/or observation. 
After much deliberation, I chose Francesca Callow’s picture because it met a complex brief with wonderful simplicity; she saw her life as a jigsaw puzzle – such a great idea, for life is like a puzzle; all interlinked, with one action or decision leading to another. And I liked her choice of colour: green, suggesting growth, something natural and environmentally friendly and, superimposed in the middle, a larger piece of the jigsaw, pink and luminous - a portrait of herself. And a very good likeness, too, I discovered, when I met her in person.
I do hope the others weren't too disappointed; they all came so close to winning.
And now I will have a dose of my own medicine; my picture book, We're Going to Build a Dam has been selected for the 3-6 longlist  of the 2014 UKLA Book Awards; the only national awards judged entirely by teachers. I will have to wait until March to hear whether it gets shortlisted. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013


Here is Kevin Crossley-Holland giving the 2013 Pearce Memorial Lecture; the 6th in the series. Kevin’s talk ‘Footprints on the Grass’ was about gardens and children’s books. It left the audience bowled over and silent at the end. Many will want to re-visit it and this can be done as a download from the Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture website.

However, it isn't gardens that I associate Kevin with, but myths and legends. We collaborated, back in 1992, on a book for the Simon & Schuster’s gift series. Norse Myths.
It was a big book with many illustrations and I had to do them at a difficult time of my life. I was moving out of the Mill House in Whittlesford which was, ironically, the next Mill up the river Cam from the one in Shelford where Philippa Pearce had lived in as a child. The move had to be delayed six months as I tried to meet my deadline. 
Looking again at the originals - here the pyre for Balder on Ringhorn - I’m reminded of what a tricky commission it was.
 The stories were epic tales of monsters, giants, dwarfs and men, all set in an Icelandic landscape. Kevin’s re-telling of these myths was vivid, rhythmic and poetic –

‘The elves were there. The dwarfs were there. And hundreds of frost giants and rock giants stood there too, a great gang who had followed Hyrrokin out of Jotunheim. That was a vast concourse, a mingling of mourners and the merely curious on the foreshore, scuffing the strip of sand that never wholly belongs to earth or to sea.’ 

I remember being carried away by Kevin’s story telling which could be very graphic and amusing:
‘Ymir was a frost giant; he was evil from the first. While he slept, he began to sweat. A man and a woman grew out of the ooze under his left armpit, and one of his legs fathered a son on the other leg. Ymir was the forefather of all the frost giants.’
I chose to illustrate Ymir the frost giant as Odin, Vili and Ve hoisted his body onto their shoulders and carted it to the middle of Ginnungagap.
There were many strange creatures to portray: spectres – ‘No sooner was [Balder] asleep than his ghastly skull-guests crept forward yet again, monstrous forms intent on snuffling out the light of him. He threshed and kicked. He called out and his own shout woke him.’
-creatures with extra heads or legs. On the same spread as Balder and his skull-guests is Odin’s horse with its eight legs:
‘Hel’s hound heard Odin coming. The hair on Garm’s throat and chest was caked with blood and he bayed from his cliff cave at the entrance to the underworld. Odin took no notice. He galloped so hard that the frozen ground thrummed under Sleipnir’s eight hooves, and he did not let up until he had reached Hel’s forbidding hall.’
These myths held the violence of the Viking imagination; Kevin captured it in his words and I didn’t tone it down in my pictures:
‘Then Tyr slowly lifted his right arm and put his hand in Fenrir’s mouth…. Fenrir snarled and clamped his teeth; Tyr, bravest of the gods, twisted and cried out, unable and able to bear such pain. The other gods laughed, they knew that Fenrir was bound at last. They all laughed except Tyr: he lost his hand.’  
 Philippa, I remember was appalled at this image – most unsuitable for British children – though Scandinavian children, with more Viking in their blood, didn’t seem to mind it. I was appalled by something else. An error I spotted at proof stage. I'd painted a left hand and not a right hand in the wolf's mouth. I corrected it but Simon and Schuster did not make the alteration, despite the note below written by my editor indicating they needed to r-originate it.
So this is how it is in the published book. I wonder how many children have overcome their horror and spotted the mistake.

Monday, 2 September 2013


Here are some pages of two more stories done by year 8 Beaumont School pupils for their reception class ‘reading buddies.’
One of the things that I was asked to do during my workshop sessions with them was to draw on a flip chart. This is something I do badly – being used to drawing small and looking down at my drawing on a desk, not drawing large and looking up at my drawing on a flip chart. However, a bad drawing always has the desired effect – the pupils don’t feel daunted by it – they even feel they can improve on it.  And then it’s me that’s left daunted by their wonderful work!
 The other important thing to point out is that this wonderful project which promotes writing, illustrating and reading is the brain-child of the Beaumont School librarian – one of a rare and endangered species that needs to be preserved!