Jean-Jacques Sempé

Happy New Year to one and all! 

I had a lovely peaceful christmas break, but I'm sorry for the long radio silence. Before the year ended I spent a few weeks in Paris. The trip was very beautiful and full of great discoveries. A good friend came out to visit for the weekend, and we went to the free Sempé exhibition at Hôtel de Ville. It had over 300 original drawings, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it (see a video of the exhibition here).

If you aren't familiar with Sempé I encourage you to look out some of his books. I really enjoyed seeing his covers for The New Yorker, and his more experimental work, the sheer volume of work was astounding. It was also the first exhibition I've been to where the crowd were all smiling broadly, and laughing, as they walked around. 

I also wanted to share this excellent clip of the title credits for the Petit Nicolas film they made in 2009. The film is shot in live action, but they used the original Sempé drawings for the credits, in a very inventive way. Take a look! 


Otto out in the world

My newest book 'Otto the Book Bear' is out in America on January 31st next year, published by Disney-Hyperion. I've had my first two reviews through recently, this LOVELY review from Publisher's Weekly, and I've just heard that Otto has been given a Kirkus Star! This is very exciting, Kirkus are infamously tough critics, so I'm thrilled to have a great review from them here. 

You can also see Otto being read by Kym Marsh on CBeebies Bedtime Stories, next Friday 2nd December at 6.45pm! 


Live Twitter chat... Win a signed drawing!

I'll be doing a live Twitter chat this Friday 28th Oct at 1pm. If you have a question for me please tweet it to @TescoMagazine or @KatieCleminson and use the hashtag #kidsbookclub. There are copies of 'Otto' to win, and I'm going to give a signed drawing for the best question. 

Also, if you'd like to hear Caroline Quentin reading my book 'Otto', go here


I'm working long hours trying to finish my book. All this overtime reminded me of something very beautiful that I hadn't yet shared on here... 

I was shown this animation during a lecture at Art School, and I hope to one day create something even a tenth as great as this. I wish there was a better quality version online, or that I could buy it somewhere...


 Ps. If you enjoyed that, here is another very beautiful animation


Help the monsters...

You may or may not have heard of the Ministry of Stories in Hoxton, London. The front of the shop is a monster supplies store, but hidden away at the back is a creative writing centre for children. Volunteers, including authors and writers, all help the children to develop their writing skills. The store was set up by the brilliant Nick Hornby, who was inspired by  Dave Eggers genius '826 Valencia' project. 

The Ministry of Stories have an exciting new project which I was honoured to do some illustrations for... but we need your help... In the ministry's own words...

This Hallowe’en, we’re hoping to publish our first book-length project of children’s work, The Awfully Bad Guide to Monster Housekeeping

150 local primary school children, five very talented poets and five leading children’s book illustrators have worked in teams to create a new up-to-date version of the book, with sections on Fashion and Grooming, the Alphabet, Food and Recipes, Home and Recreation and those all important tips for correct monster Etiquette. Together, these four little books will make up the all-new Awfully Bad Guide to Monster Housekeeping, ready for a new generation of little (and big) monsters to enjoy.

We are now looking to raise £1000 to enable us to actually publish the book. A team of professional designers and editors are giving their time for free and we hope to launch it in time for Hallowe’en. All the children who tapped into their imaginations will receive a copy of their work that they can present to their friends and family and treasure for many years to come. The achievement of seeing their ideas in print will provide a great boost in writing confidence. And by supporting us with a pledge of just £20 upwards, you can get your hands on the complete set of four books. Please support the Ministry of Stories today by pledging at


This is a fantastic project, and I've seen the finished books, trust me they are WONDERFUL. Please help if you can!

Viviane Schwarz is a Greenaway-shortlisted, Booktrust Best New Illustrator, Roald Dahl Funny Prize-nominated, Author/Illustrator genius. You will probably know her from her fantastic 'There Are Cats In This Book' series, and her new book with Alexis Deacon 'A Place to Call Home'. (if you follow her blog you will also know she has a graphic novel called 'The Sleepwalkers' coming out soon.)

I saw Viv earlier in the year at the London Book Fair, for a Best New Illustrators talk we were both part of, and we had a very interesting disussion about the future of digital books. I've spoken to a few people about this subject, but none so interesting as Viv. So I asked her if she would let me hold a little interview about it for my blog... This will be the first of a series, in which I will ask fellow illustrators for their opinion on a specific subject. I hope you enjoy reading this, I found it fascinating, do let me know your thoughts in the comments box. Thanks again Viv,for taking the time to do this! Click below to read the full interview  


Read More

What Katie Has Been Doing....

Here's an update of things I've been up to now Otto has been relased onto the shelves. Firstly, I had a whole bunch of events to do when Otto was released in July. My absolute favourite were the two events I did at the Just Imagine Story Centre in Chelmsford, Essex. Just Imagine is the creation of Nikki Gamble, who is an expert on children's books, and knows everyone in the industry. My two events held there (one for adults, one for children) were just a joy. If you live anywhere in the area, it's definitely worth a visit. Nikki asked me to do an Otto window display for her shop, picture below of the large Otto I made for it. The hardest part of that day was climbing down into the window, in a dress, without showing Chelmsford more than I'd have liked to. Thankfully I managed it, although one man did walk past the window twice (which Nikki found very funny, ha!) 

I also went to Waterstone's Piccadilly to draw Otto on their chalkboards, I visited some schools, and held mask-making workshops at a couple of bookshops. It was a thrill to read Otto to children for the first time, and he proved very popular! In other Otto news, he was picked as Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week. I'm a Times reader, and so seeing little Otto in The Sunday Times made my heart pound with excitement! Otto also had a very lovely review on LibraryMice and over at Playing By the Book. I also picked my '8 books en route to becoming an illustrator' for Zoe at PBTB, you can read it here.


Keep Our Secrets

The extraordinary McSweeney's have teamed up with Jordan Crane to create this innovative new children's book. There is much talk of how the publishing world will evolve at present, and here is yet another example that it's full of surprises. (And not always of the digital nature.)



The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore iPad App Trailer from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.


If you haven't seen the Morris Lessmore app yet, you must watch the trailer above, it's beautifully made. 

Also, some very welcome news on The Bookseller that Channel 4 may be launching a children's book club. Fingers crossed it all goes ahead!

trial and error

I thought for my next post I'd talk about artwork trials. However the trial always leads on to the final artwork so this post is about that whole stage, working on the image until you have 'the one'.

I've always thought 'trial' was an accurate word for it. It's often not only challenging, but you've now stepped from the land of roughs into the choppy seas of doing real artwork... and undoubtedly your final deadline is now a lot closer than you'd first planned. This is what you've been working towards, and as the artwork begins I tend to feel a panic rising.The artwork of my dreams isn't what is appearing on the page, I convince myself my new batch of paper is more absorbent than the last, my inks are all the wrong colours, and that drinking four cups of coffee is essential. At this stage I'm like a hermit, locked away, either busily drawing or gazing out the window searching the horizon for ideas.

I've looked out some examples from Otto of the artwork stage. These three pieces all have a different story, and I suppose I wanted to do this blog-post to show that I didn't draw Otto in half an hour whilst having my lunch. 

The window scene as I've mentioned before, was important as it's a sad moment in the story. The image on the left below is the first proper trial I did, and I wanted it to be muted, wintery and a little desolate. However as the text is already making you feel sad, it was felt the image could be a bit brighter. So I turned the snow into rain, I put leaves on the trees, and took away a lot of the blue and the image on the right is the final from the book.


These two images are of a city scene from the story, this was a spread I was excited to draw as I had lots of ideas of how it could be. It started off with not many characters, but quickly became a large bustling scene. It's one of my favourites from the book, because it was a challenge to do.


The image above is an early colour piece, which even though we didn't use it, the palette I chose was just what I was aiming for, so it proved useful. (The image on the right is a section of the final image we used instead.) 

I hope this gives you a little taste of how the images develop, and that some just flow together easily, whilst others are trial and error.