Thursday 19 May 2016

Harold's Hungry Eyes Blog Tour

It is great fun being part of blog tours for new and inventive books being published. We love the classics, and they feature heavily on our creaking bookshelves, but there is something thoroughly exciting about getting a first glance at the dream-weaving, toddler-taming classics of tomorrow. We particularly love great illustration. Kevin Waldron, author of Harold’s Hungry Eyes from creative publisher Phaidon, has used line drawings, block colours and photographic collage to produce a quirky and original picture book. His exceedingly cute, wide-eyed Boston terrier Harold is torn between his twin loves: his smelly old chair and his insatiable appetite for treats. He is content, until the morning he discovers that his beloved couch has been confined to the jaws of a departing refuse-collecting truck. Hot in pursuit, he sets off across an alien city and finally, utterly lost and without the chair, he finds his way home using his rumbling stomach to guide him. 

In scenes, reminiscent of the fertile imagination of a Magritte landscape, hungry Harold sees over-sized pieces of food at every juncture: raspberry hydrants, pizza windows, street lamp sundaes, as he searches for clues to get him home for his breakfast. Waldron hopes, with his surreal cityscapes, to inspire his young readers to use their own imagination when observing objects in their everyday life. Given that toddlers seem to constantly graze and chart distance and hours by access to snacks, perhaps they are not so far removed from this kindred canine - the book certainly gripped the imagination of both Culturebabies.

We leapt at the opportunity to ask Kevin a few further questions about his creative process and influences and display some of his original notebooks and images used in creating the book:

- What inspired you to write the book? Where did the idea come from?

I’ve been drawing black and white cats for years, it’s like hand writing to me at this stage! So I thought I’d draw some black and white dogs. I’ve always had a soft spot for Boston terriers. Around that time I was making a lot of collage art for my own amusement. I brought everything along to a meeting with Phaidon, not with anything in mind particularly, and they saw potential for a children’s book. Making art purely for fun is a great way to start. 

- Is Harold based on a real canine? 

suppose he is an amalgamation of all the dogs I knew growing up! I like to watch the vastly wide variety of breeds in the dog runs here in New York - it’s fun and helped when I was drawing Harold’s body position, the position of his ears, etc.

- The illustrations are reminiscent of a surrealist landscape- rather like a Magritte. Are they inspired by this sort of art? What are your other artistic influences?
Probably more from eastern European illustrators and artists from the 60s & 70s - Květa Pacovská , Janusz StannyBohumil Stepan, etc. (I've since checked these out and their work is extremely interesting)

who is your favourite artist and why?

I don’t have a favourite artist. Some things stick with you for a lifetime I’m sure, depending on when you were exposed to them, but one thing leads to another to another… I could only say what I’m into now, this month or this week! I was very keen on the paintings of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner a few weeks ago. 

what childhood book influenced you the most?

I have always drawn, I have always wanted to draw but I didn’t know I wanted to make children’s books until I was in my twenties. There are lots of books I discovered then that had a profound effect on me, but from my childhood I just remember what kind of books would appeal to me. Mr Tickle was a favourite! “today looks very much like a tickling day” he thought to himself.

do you exchange a lot of thoughts and ideas with the other author/illustrators you share a studio with? (Oliver Jeffers and Jon Burgerman)

Absolutely, I’m very fortunate in that regard. I’ve learned a lot not just from my peers’ opinions but my own interpretation of their tastes if that makes sense?! A defining moment for me was when I was asked for my opinion on some work and I realised that everything I was saying was equally meant for me. It echoed in my head for weeks and finally started to manifest itself on paper! 

what comes first - the story or the images when you are writing?

The very genesis for me is always a drawing in my notebook. There is always a ‘first time’ that I draw a character even if I’ve tried twenty times. One scrawl will have a mystery that I try to unravel the best I can.  

 - where do you go to get inspiration for a new book?

The answers are usually somewhere in your notebooks already. But I do like to pair visual ideas; it’s like a hook to me. So sometimes if I’m starting a book I’ll go to the library and pull out books from any section I think might be applicable or catch my eye. At the moment I work at a rate of one of my own books to two of another author’s. I wouldn’t accept another author’s text if it didn’t inspire me.

- If you could curate an exhibition with five great artists and five illustrators to show children the breath of creativity in art & imagination. Who would you choose?

If you don’t mind I’d like to amend your question to suit myself, much like a politican! I would like to show the children five animated shorts, because the people involved in creating these marvels are artists, illustrators, storytellers, innovators all rolled into one. 

The Hedgehog in the Fog (1975) directed by YuriyNorshteyn 

The Oompahs (1952) directed by Robert Cannon

Creature Comforts (1989) by Nick Park

Betty Boo in Snow White (1933) directed by Dave Fleischer 

Windy Day (1968) directed by John & Faith Hubley 

Phaidon have created an activity pack and desktop wallpaper to accompany this book. The activity pack can be downloaded here and a desktop wallpaper image is available here 
Harold's Hungry Eyes was published this week.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

For the Love of Peppa a few years ago now, I sat with tiny Culturebaby, sipping tea and listening to my Oxbridge English graduate friend grappling with Beowulf no longer, but the educational merits of a cartoon about a toddler pig. "It's how (small person) first learned about recycling" she added, inadvertently wielding a pair of maracas. Years later I too am there: regularly finding myself in serious discussions with other parents about Mummy's pig's feminism, Miss Rabbit's empowering yet exhausting work ethic and the various schools of thought on Daddy Pig's place in the family. Does mummy pig really undermine him?
I've become rather a fan of these endearing characters and a set of picture books, which simply but cleverly address every manner of toddler quandry and new experience in an encouraging way. Peppa is, of course, the stereotypical pre-schooler, and for all her swimming, recycling and artistic experimentation, she likes nothing more than jumping in muddy puddles. Peppa appears to be a right of passage for toddlers and parents alike, so it was perhaps entirely fitting that I found myself on my birthday this year wedged between two delighted pre-schoolers being serenaded by a host of oversized porcine puppets. had a fantastic time a couple of years ago at a theatrical production of Peppa Pig, and were therefore delighted to be invited to review this brand new Peppa Pig live stage show, Peppa Pig's Surprise, which is touring the UK and Ireland over fifteen months. Featuring household favourites such as 'Jumping in Muddy Puddles' and the unintelligible yet dangerous earworm "Bing Bong Boo", this production was a joy from start to finish. We get to as much theatre as we can with the children from classical ballets to children's animated tales, but there is something completely delightful about seeing characters so ingrained in your toddler's psyche that they are the truest of friends, come to life before their eyes.
Following a typical toddlerish day hanging out with their friends, Peppa and George's parents decide to surprise them with a trip to the seaside. Using puppets, songs, interactive props and exciting moments of audience engagement, the Fiery Light theatre company brings these childhood names and their infectious joie de vivre alive. The tale is funny and simple with mishaps galore. The sing-along songs from BAFTA award-winning Mani Svavarsson are genuinely memorable. The characters, with their excitement of discovery, pleasure in the simplest of things and the joy of friendship, strike a chord with toddlers. We particularly liked a rock pool scene featuring giant glowing fish, dancing sea horses and scuttling crabs. Using puppets and clever lighting, the staging of this section was extremely successful. our thorough enjoyment of this performance (which you can book here), we can't wait to meet another set of household friends over the summer. Makka Pakka, Upsy Daisy and pals are touring from this month. For tickets for In the Night Garden Live you can book here.

Twitter: @peppapiglive 
Website and show details: 
We received tickets in exchange for a review to a performance at Wimbledon theatre. All views are very much my own. Photographs are courtesy of Dan Tsantilis and the Peppa Pig Tour.
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