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25th March 2020

Presenting Matthew Land’s updated portfolio

We love nurturing new talent and last year were thrilled to welcome supremely talented young illustrator Matthew Land to Arena. We thought we would add some new illustrations to Matthew’s online portfolio showcasing his particular skill in character work. His online gallery now features some stunning pattern design, recent editorial work and some rather lovely illustrations for His Dark Materials and Howl’s Moving Castle.


Here’s a small selection of new work, but do pop over to look at Matthew’s online portfolio in its entirety.


Let’s find out a little more about Matthew. He grew up on a dairy farm somewhere in the welsh hills and in spite of his great love and appreciation of the outdoors he steered clear of a career in the family business (mostly but not completely because he doesn’t digest dairy well). Instead, he read and drew almost compulsively and has continued to do so because he never especially wanted a proper job. He graduated from University College Falmouth in 2012.

Wanting a change of scene Matthew moved to Edinburgh and worked as a children’s bookseller in Blackwell’s Bookshop, which then took him to Oxford and rekindled his passion for fiction and storytelling. Matthew has picked up his pencils again and for the time being is back in Wales, currently skulking in the studio he’s rigged together in his grandmother’s attic.

Matthew is influenced by heroes from the golden age of British book illustration, including Arthur Rackham, Beatrix Potter and William Heath Robinson. He utilizes ink linework and watercolour and a touch of digital tweaking to breathe life into his unusual characters.

In his spare time, Matthew is ticking National Trust properties off his ‘to visit’ list from which he draws a lot of inspiration and detail and because of the gift shops.

You can view Matthews online portfolio HERE or follow him on Instagram and Twitter, for more information about working with him please email info@arenaillustration.com

Here is a special illustration Matthew created for this news post, it’s an annotated diagram of his workspace, which is currently situated in his grandmother’s attic as of March 2020.

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  1. The cuckoo clock he tells people is an inherited antique, that he bought from wish.com 
  2. A selection of his favourite illustrated middle grade novels, which are the things he would most likely save out of everything in the event of a fire
  3. A cacti he planted in a panda egg cup which is positively flourishing under his continued lack of attention
  4.  Ribena from Monday
  5. A concoction of brown inks he mixed together to make brown ink, which he uses for the majority of linework in his illustrations
  6. Custom watercolour palette sourced from all over*  *the internet
  7. Easy access humbugs
  8. Ribena from Tuesday
  9. Discarded sketches of the same *bleep*ing thing over and over and over again
  10. Primark Hogwarts™ slippers
  11. His grandmother’s cat that he has been secreting extra meals to for quite some time now, because he likes fat cats
  12. Ribena from Wednesday
  13. Foxes Chunky Cookies 
  14. Ribena from last Saturday
  15. A rabbit hole of YouTube nail art tutorials
  16. Ribena from today
  17.  His collection of Observer Guides because they look super vintagey and cool
18th March 2020

Penguin and Moose Illustrated by Anna Chernyshova

All the way from state side comes an utterly charming picture book illustrated by Anna Chernyshova publishing in America with Worthy Kids Penguin and Moose looks set to fly sky high with its jolly illustrations and Hannah C Halls gently lyrical text.


Penguin and Moose enjoy and unlikely friendship, portly little penguin and cumbersome Moose together try to conquer the skills required to fly. From balloons, treetop starts, cocooning like a caterpillar. The more they desperately try to get airborne, but no matter how hard they try, Penguin remains firmly on the ground. At the end of the day, a tired and disappointed Penguin realises that he has something better than the ability to fly, he has a friend that supports and loves him no matter what. This series debut celebrates the power of friendship and acceptance.


Anna’s skill for creating engaging and entertaining characters beams from the pages of this special book. Hearts will be stolen by this delightful black and white penguin and we look forward to seeing what adventures this delightful duo come up with next.


Having trained in academic drawing in Russia, Anna spent her MA discovering her own personal visual language by experimenting with a looser quality of mark making and simplifying form – she continues to enjoy experimenting with different media and textures which she combines digitally. Anna takes her inspiration from Soviet and American illustrators of the 1920’s to 50’s. She’s also inspired by the world around her and loves to sketch the places, people and animals that she observes on a daily basis.


You can view Anna’s online portfolio HERE or follow her on Instagram and Twitter. For more information about working with Anna please email info@arenaillustration.com




11th March 2020

And the Nominations are… King Coo The Curse of the Mummy’s Gold

It has been a thrilling time for awards nominations and the excitement continues with the announcement of the Alligators Mouth Awards for Highly Illustrated Fiction.

The Alligator’s Mouth children’s bookshop and The Bright Agency launched the children’s book prize last year to celebrate the best books for 6-8-year-olds. Ten books have been long-listed for The Alligator’s Mouth Award 2020, which champions both authors and illustrators of highly illustrated children’s fiction.

Books wholesaler Gardners, an official partner of the award for 2020, are offering independent bookshops across the UK a 52.5% discount on all ten longlisted titles throughout March, April and May.

Tony West and Margaret Wallace-Jones of The Alligator’s Mouth said: ‘It is a highlight of our year to see the submissions for this award. We are so excited by the quality and range of the longlist – every school should have copies of these beautiful and engaging books, which will help children to become confident readers.’


This year we are delighted that Adam Stower’s King Coo: The Curse of the Mummy’s Gold, published by David Fickling Books is on the long-list for this exciting new award.

The Curse of the Mummy’s Gold is the second hilarious illustrated fiction title in Adam’s King Coo series as ever adventure levels are still set to HIGH, Ben Pole is back at school and back in trouble!

A band of burglars and an ancient mystical curse have him in a terrifying tangle. Who will save the day? Will they catch the Midnight Mob? Will Ben survive breakfast? He needs a genius. He needs a fearless bearded girl. He needs KING COO! These books are highly illustrated throughout with Adam’s charming characterful creations and provide the perfect rip roaring, laugh out loud stories for newly immersing independent readers.


Read more about King Coo and the Curse of the Mummy’s gold on our previous blog post HERE 

Here is Adam introducing Coo and her Wombat side kick in a special video from his studio in Brighton.

Three Minutes of Bearded Genius with Adam Stower


The awards shortlist will be announced on Thursday 30th April. The winning book will be announced at a ceremony in London on Thursday 4th June.


Keep up to date with the awards at www.thealligatorsmouth.co.uk/award and on Twitter by following #AlligatorsAward


Wishing Adam and Coo the best of luck and fingers firmly crossed for the shortlist. If you would like to know more about working with Adam please email us info@arenaillustration.com or view his online portfolio HERE, Adam can also be found on Instagram and Twitter.


11th March 2020

The CILIP Kate Greenaway Longlist Announced

The CILIP Kate Greenaway longlist has been announced, we always await the listings with baited breath hoping to see some of our supremely talented illustrators recognised for this prestigious award.

Celebrating the best in children’s writing and illustration respectively, the Medals are unique in being judged by children’s librarians, while the Shadowers’ Choice Award, recently added to the Awards ceremony celebrations, is voted for by children and young people who shadow the Medals. The 40-strong list of titles for the 2020 Medals (20 on each longlist) was selected from a total of 162 nominations, read by an expert volunteer team of 14 children’s and youth librarians from across the UK.



This year we were thrilled that former medal winner Levi Pinfold has been long-listed for the 2020 medal for his stunning collaboration with author David Almond in The Dam, published by Walker Studio.

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The Dam is a poetic tale based on the true story of the flooding of the Kielder Valley. Rich in folk music and legend. Years ago, before a great dam was built to fill the valley with water, there were farms and homesteads in that valley and musicians who livened their rooms with song. After the village was abandoned and before the waters rushed in, a father and daughter returned there. The girl began to play her fiddle, bringing her tune to one empty house after another — for this was the last time that music would be heard in that place. With exquisite artwork by Levi Pinfold, David Almond’s lyrical narrative — inspired by a true tale — pays homage to his friends Mike and Kathryn Tickell and all the musicians of Northumberland, to show that music is ancient and unstoppable and that dams and lakes cannot overwhelm it.

Levi’s peacefully dramatic paintings gently complement David’s delicate text in this immersive and soul penetrating picture book.

You can a selection of our favourite most breath-taking paintings as featured in The Dam published by Walker Books HERE.

Levi previously won the Kate Greenaway Medal for his picture book Black Dog published by Templar Publishing and most recently Won the CILIP Amnesty Honour for A Song from Somewhere Else written by A F Harold and published by Bloomsbury. You can see Levi talking about his work on that book over on our Video blog HERE

Levi currently lives with his wife and dog in New South Wales, Australia with a lot of open space and very few distractions. His online portfolio including his work for the Harry Potter series and a number of his award-winning picture books can be viewed HERE or you can follow him on Instagram HERE

For more information regarding working with Levi Pinfold please email info@arenaillustration.com



4th March 2020


At Arena HQ we always get tremendously excited in the lead up to World Book Day, it’s such a big event in the children’s book publishing world and one which second to none gets kids reading with its accessible £1 book token scheme.

Join the campaign to get the Nation sharing stories from breakfast to bedtime and help change children’s lives by making story-sharing a habit of a lifetime. Schools, bookshops, libraries, businesses and homes nationwide are invited to join in the fun and pleasures of reading and SHARE A STORY on World Book Day… and every day. Check out the World Book Day website for more information and watch their new SHARE A STORY Author and Illustrator Masterclasses.  Discover how Alex T. Smith turns himself into a ‘Story Detective’ to find ideas for his books, from finding stories hidden by his grandad to listening in on conversations around him:

Each year we celebrate a cornucopia of little book worms dressed as pirates, pups, menaces, monsters and trolls all inspired by the work of our clever illustrators. It’s such a privilege to see those avid readers and book fans pay homage to their favourite reads and nothing but a delight to see them celebrate reading and the joys of escaping into a good book.


There are lots and lots of bookish events happening this week to celebrate, you can find out more about those HERE and also don’t forget to pop along to your local book shop or library this Thursday to choose yourself a brand new book to enjoy!


We would love to see your little ones costumes this year so do tweet us or tag us on Instagram.


In the meantime here are a few costume ideas in case you are stuck for ideas…


Pirate Fancy Dress inspired by Jonny Duddle’s The Pirate Cruncher


Troll Fancy Dress inspired by Adam Stower’s The Troll and the Oliver


Claude Fancy Dress inspired by Alex T Smith’s Claude stories


Harry Potter Fancy Dress inspired by Levi Pinfolds Harry Potter illustrations


Dinosaur Fancy Dress inspired by Jonny Duddle’s Gigantosaurus


Dennis the Menace inspired by Steve May’s illustrations