Posted in authors, illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: James Foley


James Foley photoIt’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Alphabet Soup features a book creator every Friday who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today author-illustrator James Foley takes the baton. James Foley is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. He likes working with pen and ink, pencil, charcoal, watercolour, and digital tools. He has illustrated books by other people, and written and illustrated his own books.

He has quite a stack of books behind him now.

Check them out:

His most recent book is the graphic novel Brobot.

Last week AL Tait posed two questions for James. AL asks:

Q. You started out as an illustrator — what made you decide to write In The Lion and Brobot yourself?

A. I’ve always written and illustrated my own stories; it just worked out that my first book was only as the illustrator. It’s easier to break into the industry by working with someone more established, as Norman Jorgensen was. Then I got the opportunity to make In The Lion on my own, which was great. It’s a different experience writing AND illustrating a book yourself, as opposed to illustrating a text written by someone else (as I did with Sigi Cohen for My Dead Bunny) or collaborating with a writer quite closely through the initial process (as I did with Norman Jorgensen for The Last Viking and The Last Viking Returns). Also, when you do the book yourself you get the full royalty … 😉

Q. As an author-illustrator, do you start with the words for a story or start with the pictures?
I usually start with a bit of both — some loose images and a few phrases. I may have a few key scenes playing in my head, but they’re fragments of what the overall story will eventually become. Then I nut out the character designs and the overall storyline at the same time; these two processes feed off each other. A character design may give you a plot idea, and vice versa. Then when the characters and the storyline seem to have settled, I can get started on thumbnails and storyboards, and then final artwork.

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling BeeAnd now James Foley passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Deborah Abela. Deborah is the author of many books. Her most recent title is The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee.

James asks:
Do you find that your characters reflect different aspects of your personality? So the heroic characters might reflect your good side, the villains might reflect your naughty side, the protagonists might share your strengths and weaknesses, etc?

Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators. See you next week!

Visit James Foley’s website for more information about him and his books. You can also read earlier Alphabet Soup interviews with James here and here.




Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Joseph, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret


The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, ISBN 9780439813785

Joseph borrowed a copy of this book from his local library.

Hugo is an orphan and his job is to check that all the clocks in the Paris station are the correct time. It was really his uncle’s job — Hugo can’t show his face to anyone official (like the station inspector) because then they’ll realise his uncle is gone and send Hugo to an orphanage. His uncle’s uncashed cheques are no good because Hugo can’t cash them. One day he finds an automaton his father was working on before he died. When his father’s notebook (the only thing Hugo has left to remind him of his father) is taken away, he relies on a girl called Isabel to get it back.

Will the automaton write him a message that will solve his problems?

This book has words and pictures. It’s a combination of graphic novel and a regular novel and it means you are satisfied that you read about 520 pages, when 284 pages were text-free!

It’s definitely worth reading. It has an original idea and the setting is not something I’d come across in everyday life.

I’d recommend this book to readers aged 9 and over, particularly kids who are fascinated by machinery. I give it five stars.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of On Track. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in authors, illustrator

Stephen Axelsen and The Nelly Gang

Stephen AxelsenToday we welcome Stephen Axelsen to the blog. Stephen is here as part of a blog tour to celebrate the launch of his new graphic novel The Nelly Gang — you can read a review of the book hereWe asked him some questions about how he goes about creating a graphic novel.

The Nelly Gang (cover)How is creating a graphic novel different from writing and illustrating a picture book?
The biggest difference is that a graphic novel has a lot more pictures in it than a regular picture book, so they take much, MUCH, longer to illustrate. The writing takes a bit longer too. The Nelly Gang took more than a year to make. Also in graphic novels the story is mostly told in speech balloons. These balloons have to be designed and positioned so that they are nice and clear and don’t interfere with the pictures.

Why did you choose to tell this story as a graphic novel rather than a picture book or otherwise?
The story would not fit into a picture book, unless it was a very, very thick one. (There are up to 25 pictures on some double pages.) The Nelly Gang could have been a novel, I suppose, but I love drawing the old costumes and wagons and things too much just to use words.

How did you go about creating The Nelly Gang?
The story plan was the first thing put down on paper, but the very, very first ideas were pictures in my head; vague images of things I wanted to draw. Then I wrote the first story plan or plot, after which I began the rough drawings. The drawings would suggest new story ideas, and while rewriting the story NEW picture ideas would pop up, so I’d change the story again. The writing and drawing kept changing each other in an endless loop until I nearly went mad (or maybe I did go mad) and it was time to STOP and call the story finished.

What sort of tools do you use?
I used a mixture of ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ media, which means that I did the drawing outlines with old fashioned pen and ink on paper, then scanned these into my computer where I tidied things up, added the colour then the speech balloons and text.

The Nelly Gang is set in 1860. How did you go about researching for the book?
A lot of my research was done online, but I also travelled to old goldfields, visited Sovereign Hill at Ballarat (which was excellent for picture reference) and even had a paddle steamer ride at Echuca. I had to have a paddle steamer in the story because they are such wonderful things to draw!

Now that The Nelly Gang is out, are you working on something new?
I am working on two big books at once now – a picture book for an American publisher about Joe Dumpty, P.I. (Humpty Dumpty’s brother, who is a Private Investigator.)

AND the sequel to The Nelly Gang, called Nelly and the Dark Circus. As the title suggests it is set mostly in a circus, and Nelly is in it. So is her goat, Queen Victoria, of course. 

Do you have any tips for young graphic novelists?
The best thing to do is look at as many graphic novels as you can find, choose the ones you like best and copy bits of them. Very soon you will start having your own ideas and awaaaay you’ll go!

You can find out more about Stephen Axelsen (and the books he has illustrated and written) when you visit his website. Check out the other stops on his blog tour for more news and information about The Nelly Gang and graphic novels:

Nelly Gang Logo

THE NELLY GANG Blog Tour Schedule

Saturday September 14th  — Launch at The Story Arts Festival, Woodlands of Marburg.  (Launched by Megan Daley)

Monday September 16th — Children’s Books Daily  

Review and Book Launch update + giveaway

Tuesday 17th September —  DeeScribe Writing

Review + five tips on graphic novel making 

Wednesday 18thSeptember — Kids Book Review

Review + giveaway

Thursday 19thSeptember — Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog

Writing and Illustrating Graphic Novels

Friday 20thSeptember — Soup Blog [You’re here!]

Review + interview

Saturday 21st September —  BuzzWords

The Value of History + review

Interview with Stephen Axelsen © 2013 Stephen Axelsen and Rebecca Newman