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22nd May 2019

A spotters guide to Graham Carter

Graham Carter is one of the most exciting printmakers in the UK. His unique and distinctive work is influenced largely by nature and the secrets of the animal kingdom and there’s a familiar theme to Graham‘s recent work and the theme is feathered.

April saw the publication of Rebirding by Benedict MacDonald featuring a breathtaking cover illustration by Graham. A book which explores biodiversity and rewilding.

Benedict is a keen naturalist and conservation writer, also working in TV most notably on Sir David Attenborough’s Our Planet: series. As a fan of Graham’s print work Benedict immediately chose him to illustrate the cover of his new book. Working closely together, Graham created not only an eye-catching image but one that conveyed the main theme of this book which looks at the key reasons why species are vanishing.

With landscapes becoming ever more tamed and less diverse trapping tiny pockets of wildlife, this book explores how Britain has relied on modified farmland ecosystems rather than restoring natural habitats, consequently failing to halt the decline in wildlife.

Rebirding is a timely reminder of the fragility of the natural world and how species such as cuckoos, turtle doves and honey-bees tragically face impending extinction.

This book offers a simple solution by proposing the restoration of native landscapes, our wildlife and rural jobs, ensuring the stable future of rural communities and the natural world which they support and nurture.



“Rebirding is beautifully written, based on deep, personal experience and a genuine love of the subject. It also benefits from the heady enthusiasm of youth. You may not have come across Ben Macdonald before now; but believe me, you will hear a lot more from him in the future.” –Stephen Moss

“The type of book that grabs and keeps my attention. I recommend it highly – you should read it and I think you may well enjoy it a lot.” –Mark Avery

“A book about a key subject at a key time, passionate and deeply thought-through. Anyone concerned with the future of the natural world in Britain will want to read it. It is a beautifully written, thoughtful and, yes, provocative book.” –Martin Harper, Conservation Director, RSPB

“This is a wonderful book, visionary, illuminating and fascinating. It will help accelerate the rewilding revolution now beginning in Britain.” –George Monbiot

Grab a copy of Rebirding HERE 

You can view Graham’s portfolio HERE or follow him on Instagram and Twitter



Graham’s very first picture book, Otto Blotter Bird Spotter publishes in October with Andersen Press.


Otto Blotter Bird Spotter, Graham’s debut picture book is visually pleasing and filled to the brim with humour and charm perfectly complimenting the rich autumnal hues in Grahams illustrations, delivering design lead story telling in bucket loads,.

The Blotter family are avid bird spotters, who stay in their hide all day. All except for Otto – he’d rather go out and have big adventures. When he follows the BIGGEST footprints he’s ever seen, he finds an extraordinary baby bird all on its own. Otto’s new friend soon reveals a very special ability: camouflage! But the bird keeps growing and growing, and Otto begins to suspect it may have a family after all… perhaps the time has come to take him home?

More on this in a future blog post! Keep your eyes peeled.


15th May 2019

A Planet Full of Plastic by Neal Layton

Neal Layton - A Planet Full of Plastic

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The recent  BBC television series Blue Planet 2 highlighted the devastating threat posed to the planets oceans by over use of plastics and the ireprable damage they are causing to our marine life, Sir David Attenborough urged people to use less plastic immediately and since the series aired it is estimated that 88% of viewers have dramatically cut their plastic use.

In June we will be celebrating the publication of award winning author and illustrator Neal Layton’s A Planet Full of Plastic, an approachable honest look at recycling, it’s uses, environmental impact and it’s invention. This brilliant educational book will get young readers excited about how they can make a difference to keep Planet Earth happy.

“Everything is made of stuff. Some things are made of paper, like this book. And some things are made of PLASTIC. If you look around you, plastic is everywhere. Even in places where it’s not meant to be. If it drops to the ground, it doesn’t rot away – it sticks around for ever.”


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We asked Neal to tell us a little bit about his work on this special book…

A Planet Full of Plastic really was a book I felt I HAD to write.  I felt I knew a bit about the plastic problem, after all I had a’ keep-cup’ but making this book really was an enlightening journey for me.

The first thing I did when researching was to start keeping all the plastic packaging that came into our house. Quite quickly this became unmanageable because of the sheer volume of packed, bags, bottle tops, tubs that started filling up my studio. It really did surprise me just how quickly it accumulated, and sadly a lot of it was not recyclable.

Also when we were out and about as a family I also asked my daughters to tell me if they saw any plastic pollution. They were very helpful in this! Every bit we found we photographed, and then collected to dispose of properly, but again quite quickly we had to limit the game as there was just SO much, and we found we were spending all our time photographing and collecting rubbish. NB: We still do 2 minute beach and park cleans though!!

I also had a lot of help from Clare Seek, a local environmentalist and mum, and David Jones, who is also an environmentalist, underwater photographer and one of the leading experts on microplastics in the world and because of their invaluable help this book is dedicated to them.

One of the nicest things about making this book was the help I received from everyone I met along the way, whether they were environmentalists, scientists, families, children… I got  a real sense everyone  ‘wanting to do something’ about the problem, and that is something I wanted to put into the book.

Because making it is my way of ‘doing something’ to help the problem, and researching, writing and illustrating it really was a life changing experience for me.

My hope is that people reading it might experience something similar.






Neal’s brilliantly evocative collage illustrations make this an accessible and engaging read, an essential educational tool for classrooms and libraries and the perfect read for young nature lovers.

A Planet Full of Plastic publishes with Hachette Children’s Books (@wrenandrookbook) – You can pre-order a copy HERE

View Neal’s online portfolio HERE or follow him on Instagram and Twitter 


Here are TEN TOP TIPS for reducing your plastic usage.

1- Use a reusable coffee cup – around 2.5 billion coffee cups are discarded each year.

2- Have a water bottle to hand – plastic bottles are the most frequently found items on beach clear ups.

3- Say no to plastic cutlery.

4- Avoid disposable drinking straws.

5- Ditch clingfilm and use foil instead which can be recycled.

6- Tea bags are coated in plastic use loose leaf tea and a strainer instead

7- Try not to chew gum, it’s made of plastic and there are alternatives available.

8- Ditch glitter for biodegradable glitter

9- Consider having your milk delivered by a milkman – glass bottles can be easily reused.

10- Choose wine with sustainable corks instead of plastic corks


Tips for Kids!

1- Choose an ice cream cone instead of a pot! a tasty way to reduce your plastic consumption.

2- Think carefully about what you put in birthday party goody bags, less plastic toys more thoughtful recyclable items, seeds perhaps? or home made biscuits.

3- Wrap your lunchbox sandwiches in baking parchment, you can even decorate it with stickers!


7th May 2019

The Goblins are coming! with a new look created by Jonny Duddle

They’re mean, they’re green, they’re tooled up to the hilt and ready for mayhem!  Philip Reeve‘s Goblins in all their gory glory are back with a brand new Jonny Duddle make over.



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Skarper and his dastardly Goblin gang first hit the book shelves in 2012 with bold covers designed by Dave Semple, Scholastic decided to relaunch them this spring with action packed movie style covers by Arena Illustrator Jonny Duddle. Jonny is known as a go to artists for character work and we think you’ll agree he’s certainly captured an air of mischief and mayhem in these new look covers.

A wild world of magical creatures and heroic adventure from the extraordinary imagination of Philip Reeve. The squabbling goblins who live in the great towers of Clovenstone spend their time fighting and looting. Only clever young Skarper understands that dark magic created by a vanquished sorcerer is rising again.


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Goblins Vs Dwarves Another fantastically exciting novel set in a land of magic from the award-winning Philip Reeve. The heroes of GOBLINS continue their adventures outside the walls of Clovenstone castle. Awaiting Skarper and Henwyn are powerful dark forces that must be vanquished, monstrous creatures to be fought, and astonishing mysteries to be solved.


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Goblin Quest set in a land of magic from the award-winning Philip Reeve. The heroes of GOBLINS continue their adventures outside the walls of Clovenstone castle. Awaiting Skarper and Henwyn are powerful dark forces that must be vanquished, monstrous creatures to be fought, and astonishing mysteries to be solved.


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Jonny Duddle Goblins sketches

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Here are a few of Jonny’s incredible pencil development sketches for some of the key characters from the series, with guidance from the Scholastic design team and Philip’s brilliant texts the stitched cloaks, gnarled faces and tin pot hats emerged into fully fledged gruesome goblins complete with clubs, swords and bad attitudes!


Introducing the goblins gang…


Skarper small in stature but cunning and knowledgable this Ginger goblin has a glint of yellow mischief in his boggling eyes.


King Knobbler, don’t let his battle scars and grumpy demeanour fool you, he wears frilly pink knickers under his trousers… tehehee


Breslaw… Might be missing an eye, an ear a leg and half a tail but he’s got his remaining eye on the rest of the gang to keep them in check, especially Skarper!


Gutgust … He’s a big lad and tough too but he’s not the brightest bulb in the pack.


You can view Jonny’s online portfolio, packed with dinosaurs, pirates and much much more HERE.. OR follow him on Instagram and Twitter 

1st May 2019

Back of the Net with Spike Gerrell and Football School

Football School Star Players Illustrated by Spike Gerrell


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The squad is expanding and the cup is in sight as we celebrate the imminent publication of Football School Star Players written by Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton and illustrated by Norwich City fan Spike Gerrell Published by Walker Books.



Spike has an incredible talent for creating recognisable characters using the simple line illustrations and since graduating from St. Martins in the late 80s, has been supplying his trademark ‘spiky nosed’ creations to a whole host of clients. With a fresh adaptable style and an almost super human skill for turning jobs around quickly Spike is in great demand and with his thoughtful use of humour and ability to translate complex subjects into easy to digest visuals. Football School Star Players  will be the 5th book in the series with a 6th, Season 4 Where Football Celebrates the World publishing in September.


Here’s a word from Spike about his work on this series and his love for the beautiful game…

The nice thing for me is that I’m not just an illustrator who happens to draw Football School, I’m also someone, like so many others, for whom football has been an integral part of my life.
I’m a fan and I’ve spent most of my life not feeling complete without a ball at my feet.
So to be drawing pictures of some of my footballing heroes is a particular delight for me.

The selection of the Star Players, I think, is key to the success of the book.
These are people who have been included not just for having been great players on the pitch.
They have also contributed to the game, or the world, as role models
or inventors or as beacons of hope. They are all forces for good. Both Edin Dzeko and Luka Modric’s stories as children of the Balkans conflict are truly inspiring.

The irrepressible Craig Johnston’s invention of the Predator boot is a great example of creativity, perseverance and innovation. And it was especially good to be able to draw the mighty Cyrille
Regis, who is one of my own personal heroes. For the drawings, I was very keen to not caricature the players. My plan was to allow them to fit into the simple and cartoony style of our Football School series.




Check out these fascinating football facts to whet your appetite…

Did you know… Ronaldo’s nickname was O Fenomeno, or The Phenomenon, which helped distinguish him from the other Ronaldos.

Pele was actually called Edison after Thomas Edison, the American inventor of the lightbulb.

Harry Kane scored 6 goals in the 2018 World Cup

Footballs used in blind football matches are filled with ball bearings so that the players can hear them rattling.

Pele scored 1282 goals in 1367 matches



Football School Star Players Illustrated by Spike Gerrell

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This collection of fifty bite sized biographies brings together the incredible true stories of the game’s greatest legends who changed the world of football. Empowering and inspirational, this is the perfect book to get young fans dreaming big both on and off the pitch.

What made Pele the greatest player of all time? How did Nadia Nadim flee from Afghanistan and end up playing for Manchester City? Who was the Liverpool player who invented the world’s most popular football boot?

This crowd pleasing series has hit the premier league proving a huge hit with readers of all ages. Grab a copy HERE and subscribe to the Football School YouTube channel HERE


Spike and Ben Lyttleton at Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club, where they entertained hundreds of school children with Spike drawing live




Spike and Ben Lyttleton at The Lollies where Season Two was shortlisted


Visit Spike’s online portfolio HERE or visit his website HERE , you can also find him on Twitter and Instagram



Football School series Illustrated by Spike Gerrell


24th April 2019

Stagdale Part 1 by Frances Castle

Are you ready to take a trip to Stagdale? Prepare to enter a world of mystery and intrigue set in the stunning British countryside with Frances Castle’s atmospheric and visually arresting graphic novel.

Stagdale Part 1 and badge - Clay Pipe Music

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It’s the summer of 1975 and despite the addition of a new housing estate the ancient village of Stagdale remains an insular place suspicious of change. Nestled into the chalk-scared valley lies Stagdale Manor, home to Lord Ethelbert, a self-proclaimed descendant of a Saxon King. Once grand, the estate is slowly slipping into a state of dilapidation. Hoping to find a new life for themselves, 12-year-old Kathy and her recently divorced mother rent an old damp cottage from Lord Ethelbert on the outskirts of the village.

Stagdale Part 1 - The day we arrived at Stagdale

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Stagdale Part 1 - Flying Ant day

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Stagdale Part 1 - settling in

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It’s not long before Kathy befriends local boy Joe who enjoys telling her stories about village life, both past and present. He takes her to the museum and shows her the empty glass case where the Stag Jewel, a Saxon gold amulet in the shape of a deer’s head, used to be displayed. The jewel was thought to have once brought Stagdale prosperity and luck, but according to local legend it was stolen by a German boy who lived in Kathy’s house during World War Two.

Stagdale Part 1 - inside the museum

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REVIEWS for Stagdale

Review by Karl Andy Foster for the Association of Illustrators

“‘Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again’. This quote from Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca comes to my mind when I reflect on the structure that Frances Castle has constructed for her tale of things remembered past. In the first part of Stagdale, nostalgia is as vivid as the swallows that dart about in the cauldron heat of the summer of 1975. The drawing style and character design of this credible world combines modulated lines with delicate textures and sumptuous colour with somber tones.

Kathy is uprooted from London by the acrimonious separation of her parents. She has arrived at the place where her mother’s ancestors come from so it’s part homecoming. The Brontésque atmosphere that Castle conjures out of the hot summer night sky takes me back to the tales I read as a boy and how my imagination soared when I thought of the mysterious world just beyond in the shadows.

Stagdale is the location deep in the Cumbrian National Park, a picture postcard, chocolate box English Village where all is not well. Castle employs a bright pastel  palette for daytime and sultry inky one for night. Colour signifies much more than the passing of time in this story. While her mother concentrates on making a home for them, Kathy tries to cope in these unfamiliar circumstances. She finds some comfort in her friendship with Joe but the Bloat family who live opposite are proof that she’ll need to keep her wits about her. Working with the familiar tropes that represent English rural life and the stereotypes real or imagined that make things tick Castle positions Kathy into a world where there is an ancient wrong that must be investigated.

The layers of the story are further enhanced by the surprising discovery that many years ago another unhappy child lived in the cottage. Max a boy from Germany has hidden something in the cottage that takes us from rolling English hills to the mechanised jackboot of history. All is certainly not well!

This A5 landscape format aids the sweeping scene depicted on the front and back of the book. The narrative is enhanced by the delicate end papers that contain subtle nods to the events within. Frances’ illustrations are a treat for the eyes and it’s the beautifully crafted details that make this an impressive piece of work. Of particular note for me is the spread showing the centre of the village, with its austere war memorial and ubiquitous shopping trolley half submerged in the river. The village is well maintained on one side but not the other why is this? Inside the Stagedale Stores with its supply of long ago sweets and the strange shadowy figure standing in the back. The Stagdale museum scene with its pitiful contents is still however pregnant with clues. The use of familiar tropes such as lightening and rain help us to appreciate the tension and eeriness of the place especially at night time.

If you were alive in 1970’s Britain the fashions, sweets for sale and the pace of village life will be familiar to you even if you never lived in a village. There is the power of the cultural collective conscience at work here, something that has been lost in modern times. I look forward to reading further chapters from this story to see if Kathy can make a success of her new life, whether she will discover more about Max the German boy and what actually did happen to the Stagdale Jewel!”


“Stagdale is more than a lovely curio, its intersection of music and graphic storytelling offers a vivid experience and fresh possibilities” - Concrete Islands

“Now I’m itching for part 2 and beyond. It’s so good I just want to sit with each panel, soaking it in” - @sixty4k on Instagram

I like very much the tension between the reassuring familiarity of the world Frances summons up with her images (in the spirit of Bawden and Ravilious) and the canker within  –  just as poisonous then as it is now.”- Kevin Crossley-Holland


Find out more about Frances and her work, check out her online portfolio HERE, visit her website HERE, follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Grab a copy of Stagdale HERE

The soundtrack to Stagdale …

Frances Castle set up the boutique record label Clay Pipe Music, to create beautifully designed and illustrated, limited edition vinyl LPs. The first part of Stagdale will be released through Clay Pipe along with a flexi disc and download EP of Moog based electronica by The Hardy Tree (Frances’ musical alter ego) that soundtracks the story.

You can listen to the Stagdale EP over on Spotify.. CLICK HERE