turning tales on moon lane into a giant picture book

WHAT is going on here?, you may ask!

You’d never think that Tales on Moon Lane in London’s Herne Hill, such a lovely, orderly little bookshop could turn into a den of TOTAL CARNAGE.

Well, unless you unleash this crew on it. Under the destructive influence of David Maybury from Children’s Books Ireland at The Sun Comes Out on Moon Lane festival, illustrators Gary Northfield, Chris Haughton, Alex Milway, Chris Judge, Bruce Ingman and I wreaked havoc on this place. …I mean, we turned the whole shop into a picture book with the aid of 50 children. Well, that was the brief anyway.

Here’s the lull before the storm, when we were broken into groups. I brought along my neighbour friend, who did a great job reading a couple of my books to the 7- and 8-year-olds while we illustrators put out heads together and figured out exactly how we’d attack the project.

Each illustrator picked a character from his or her book. I chose Morris, ‘cos I figured that if everything turned into a sea of muddy brown paint, we could still add flies and it wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate. Here’s my group, giving their best manky monster growls.

The first page (or possibly the cover) of our picture book was the front window, and Chris Haughton started with George the dog, from his book, Oh No, George! He broke the job up into segments, and each kid painted a bit of the dog.

Then Bruce Ingman joined in with his pencil character and a sausage. I can’t quite remember how they interacted with George the dog, but somehow they did.

Oh, the sausage’s name is Melvin.

When they moved over to Alex Milway’s section of the wall, the kids were plunged into yeti territory. I can’t recall if the yeti were coming to save the sausage or eat it. There were also a king and queen spider that entered the story and played a fairly major role on that page.

When Morris jumped into the story, the kids and I decided to show Morris dunking the sausage head-first into the toilet, with George clamping firmly onto its backside.

There’s a reason the lower half of the wall has much more complexity than the upper half.

Ah, and the yeti has arrived, and is pretty put out by the proceedings. The queen spider finds it fairly foul, too. And we have an army of spiders, worms, rats and flies diving into the action. For some reason, I thought Chris Judge had the panel on the other side of the room, next to Bruce, but somehow, during all the chaos, his dark monster showed up right next to Morris. I didn’t even see that happen.

You’re seeing these panels with the kids standing back from them, but in reality, much of the time they had kids two deep clustered up against them, all wielding gloopy paintbrushes.

Gary Northfield’s wall was next.

All the characters got flushed down the toilet and came bursting up through a hole in the sewer with a massive KERSPLODGE.

George is still seeking sausages.

A delicate close-up:

But painting the walls in the shop wasn’t enough. We had to paint ourselves into the book, too.


David Maybury took it upon himself to decorate Chris Haughton, while bookshop owner and writer Tamara MacFarlane looked on bemusedly.

Can you believe it? Even with 50 kids who all had hands like these, somehow the shop wasn’t ruined! I do not know how that happened, there was gloppy paint everywhere, and the whole centre book display and white sofa weren’t even covered up. Kind of a miracle, really.

This chappie’s moustache was quite dignified and restrained, and no, he did not drop that plate of gloopy gunge.

A few more pics to give you a feel for the day:

We weren’t allowed to give David Maybury any caffeine, but still…

Isn’t this a magnificent front window?

Here’s Chris, inspecting one of his George manifestations.

When we were finished painting, all the kids sat down on the floor and we went around ‘reading’ the whole picture book. Somehow, it kind of made sense.

And when the kids had left, David cracked open the bubbly.

Here’s Tales on Moon Lane’s back room signing wall, to which we added some doodles. See if you can spot mine next time you visit.

A little pub stop:

Then back to the shop to kick off the launch of The Sun Comes Out on Moon Lane festival! Here’s David Maybury giving a little speech, followed by shop manager George Hanratty.

Several student illustators brought along some mockup books they’d made on their courses.

And here’s my lovely picture book designer, Rebecca Essilifie! She designed my first Princess Spaghetti book and is putting finishing touches on my upcoming book with Scholatic, Superkid.

So a fabulous day was had by all. Do visit the website for The Sun Comes Out on Moon Lane to find out about their star-studded lineup! It runs from now until Saturday, 7 July.

Edit: Ah! Here’s a new video, with each of the illustrators talking through their pages of the book!

And you can read a brand-new festival-related interview of me by Damyanti Patel over on her Overdue Books blog!

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