Monday, October 17, 2016

Cheltenham Literature Festival

I went to Cheltenham Literature Festival and read HOW TO FIND GOLD.
The kids were amazing! They drew beautiful crocodiles...

Monday, August 15, 2016

ANNA AND CROCODILE find ADVENTURE in Birmingham, in Foyles.

I had a brilliant time at Foyles in Birmingham doing a reading HOW TO FIND GOLD and then drawing a massive picture with the end it turned into an impromptu book! Here it is.

So there you go, now you've met Crocodile's LARGE FAMILY and seen some strange omens in the upside down world, and you know that there's fine cake to be had by the Dream Lake of the Nose Sharks.

I had prepared a big roll of shapes beforehand...


but managed to leave it on the train.  Amazingly, I was provided by the excellent people at Foyles with a replacement roll and some paint, and it all worked out just fine.
THANK YOU, EXCELLENT PEOPLE!!!! Especially Matt who last minute brought new paint and paper and Andi who organised it all brilliaintly and let me glue a massive book together in the middle of the shop. And also especially everyone who drew this.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Awards and Festivals

Well. I haven't blogged for a while, and it's not because I've been busy with events so much as busy with trying to pay rent... you know what, London rent makes NO SENSE any more.

I should do a proper post about wonderful awards - I am so grateful that I Am Henry Finch won an English Association Award and "Is there a Dog in this Book?" won a FCBG Children's Book award.
But I kept no notes, I was simply overwhelmed and then I had to run off straight to the Hay Festival.
So, I admit it, I'm not very good at social network stuff this month, evidently... just have a bunch of drawings I did at the awards ceremonies and the festival!

Germaine Greer on the left there at the Hay Literature Festival.

More green room sketches from Hay

...more Hay....

Fancy hotel in Hereford where I got to stay, yay

More Hay Festival: Margaret A Boden!!!

Salman Rushdie having a rest at Hay
Sarah McIntyre at the Union Jack Club

There were some children at the Children's Book Award. They were great. We had diner at the Union Jack Club...

...and pudding.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Well, look at us. Here's Alexis giving his bit of the acceptance speech for the 2016 Little Rebels Award at the London Radical Bookfair, with his hand in his pocket as is appropriate, and me making the appropriate face for an award winner, and Wendy Cooling getting ready to hand over the framed trophy, most appropriate of all in every way.

This is hands down the best thing I've won in my whole life. - The Little rebels Award recognises books that celebrate social justice and equality for children aged 0-12 - what could be better?

Don't be too cross that I was reduced to making faces by the end, people said the most wonderful things about "I am Henry Finch".
Kerry Mason of Letterbox Library who runs the award put it like this:
“It’s an absolute gem of a picture book. It deploys the simplest of graphics and text to ponder vast questions about our humanity. Viviane Schwarz’s blood red thumbprint finches get to the beating heart of our existence and Alexis Deacon’s minimalist, beautifully structured, sentences are like a beginner’s course in existentialist thought. This is a book which respects and honours the youngest of readers, believing them capable of and thirsty for philosophical thought.”

Out fellow shortlistees were: Michael Rosen and Neal Layton for Uncle Gobb and the Dread Shed, Gill Lewis with Gorilla Dawn (who won the award in 2015), John Boyne with The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, Yasmeen Ismail’s I’m a Girl, Michael Foreman with The Little Bookshop and the Origami Army! - A strong list!

We had a panel talk with everyone who could make it. It was a sunny day (hence me stealing Alexis' hat), the trees around Goldsmith College were scattering pink petals everywhere. It was a very friendly talk, despite the underlying frustration of an overall lack of "rebellious" picture books being published in the UK. It's hard to not be friendly when pretty much everyone involved still has pink petals stuck somewhere on their head. Michael Foreman pulled his impressive backlist out of a handy suitcase like a stage magician, Alexis and I demonstrated some domestic birdsong and everyone agreed that there should be more rebellious books. I contemplated the 70s German books I had as a child and wondered if I was the only one there who feels that current UK picture books are incredibly tame on the whole, and that the books I learned to read with would knock them sideways...
My favourite book had a page with a naked king that you could glue paper pants on if you thought he deserved them, and my sister made him some that you could take off again just to annoy him. Many times I went holding a book that bothered me up to my mother, asking: "Is this ok???" And she's say: "No, it isn't", or "Yes it is", or "I am not sure", and always "Lets talk about it," but never "They really shouldn't make such confusing books for children!" - Reading the same books again, I still find that they encourage discussion, and I am impressed with my family, and grateful.
So I guess I was lucky. I want all children to be that lucky. I don't want access to information and permission to take agency to be a privilege. Opportunities to be confused and difficult and curious and learning in ways that can't be measured in standardised tests and judged across the board must be a basic right for every child.

It was great to meet the judges and organisers, the fellow artists and book sellers at the fair.
I am enormously heartened seeing the level of political engagement in such a respectful and creative environment.
I've got a bit tired of London lately as everything I love is getting pushed out and shined over gradually, but... we have a new mayor now who I actually voted for, and we still have events like this one, and there is hope. Maybe we can even fix education, eventually.

I am enormously proud to feel that Henry can be a mascot for rebellious thought, until next year. But let's make books fit to dethrone him with panache and kindness and curiosity. Let's keep asking questions as well as explaining what we think we know. Picture books are not just for putting tiny children to sleep peacefully, they are for waking them up as well.

Here's a writeup in the Guardian (just in case you are for example a member of my family and want to see that this is a real award) and here is the proper, detailed official event writeup by Letterbox Library.

Photos copyright Letterbox Library.

Monday, April 11, 2016


Laura Kidd's latest album "Direction of Travel" has just launched digitally, with a music video - and I made the animations on it. Watch and listen!

I am so proud to be part of this - it's an amazing song from a brilliant album.  I had to listen to it a LOT to synch up the drawings, and I still love it.

It took me a week of mostly drawing and redrawing rain drops, with assistance from my niece Paula who did the lettering.

An early test. A bit too inky!

Making a big neat sheet of regular rainfall, painted with a calligraphy brush pen.
Scanned and animated.

Most of the rain is hand-drawn to suit the specific scene, though.

Editing the rainfalls drop by drop to make it look more natural  that they are missing her face...

Experimental digital weather

Drawing a thunderbolt

Extremely helpful cat

All the lettering and some of the rain, by Paula

Zonked assistants


Friday, March 11, 2016

Henry Finch Chalk Drawings

Look at these kids from Oaks Primary school in Birmingham drawing Henry Finch and the Beast for World Book Day...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I forgot to blog about the launch...

The most important thing about launching a new book is that everyone else must know it has happened.
You must take many pictures and remind other people to take many pictures and make an IMPORTANT FACE.

The second most important thing about launching a new book is the CAKE.
We made one that was secretly filled with gold which spilled out when it was first cut, and it had golden marzipan piled on top and it was gilded with edible gold dust.

You also need a CROCODILE. So I crocheted one and had a raffle. As it happened, Crocodile won my friend Lily because she was best at finding hidden raffle tickets (they were mostly in books to do with GOLD).

It was so exciting that no one remembered to take any pictures.
Fortunately, Chris Riddell drew one in his Laureate Log, because he is professional that way.

It was a very good launch.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


HOW TO FIND GOLD is only one of Anna and Crocodile's adventures.
I wrote a few of them down as letters to my team at Walker Books.
Here is a blustery one.

There's a whole book about Anna and Crocodile, called HOW TO FIND GOLD.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Isn't that awesome! First month of the year and Anna and Crocodile win a surprise honour.

I wrote a making-of feature for the Walker Books blog, you can read it here.

I wondered who these instructions were for. Was this a chapter from a pirate primer? Who was reading it now and why? I started to illustrate it, first imagining myself as a small child, practicing to sleep with my eyes open to make sure no one could steal the gold I hadn’t found yet.

“Get yourself a pet that will surprise you at night,” the story recommended. “A crocodile is ideal. Carry one with you wherever you go to build up your strength. Start with a young crocodile. It will grow.”

This was an idea taken from the Greek myth of Milo who carried a calf on his shoulders every day until it grew into a bull and he grew into a mighty Olympian. More importantly, one summer when I was tiny my mother bought me an inflatable crocodile in the supermarket. It was big enough to ride on and intended for the seaside. I carried it everywhere, dragging it by the tail until its snout wore through on the tarmac and it deflated before the holiday even started.

I drew a girl and her toy crocodile. It wasn’t quite right. They just seemed very quiet and small. - I drew them in on a new page and asked the girl some questions about the crocodile. She said it was called Rupert Maureen, and didn’t move unless she threw it and she wasn’t supposed to throw it. I didn’t expect that.

READ THE REST (both of the article and the comic)

Friday, January 8, 2016

MAKING OF "HOW TO FIND GOLD": letting the characters speak

As promised, here is the first of a few MAKING OF posts about How To Find Gold, my new picture book that's just been published (go buy it, thanks)!

I was developing the characters of Anna and Crocodile by letting them act out some of the ideas I had for the book on paper. I had no idea who they were yet. Anna had my haircut (it grew out gradually while I was working on the book) and the crocodile was a toy which Anna had told me was bought from IKEA ("when we got the wardrobes").

This is from the second sketchbook (there were many).

So, yes, that's how I work... I recommend it, it's really rewarding to see what these little made-up people come out with when you just let them run wild.

Next: Painting Like A Child. Watch this Space.