Charming young Earthlings enjoying ‘Letters from an Alien Schoolboy’ and ‘Cosmic Custard’

I really enjoyed my visit to the warm and welcoming Just Imagine Story Centre in Chelmsford . It’s a beautiful shop, brimming with wonderful books and exquisite dressing up clothes, too. Downstairs is a spooky dungeon, so it’s a terrific place to drop by, browse and play. I talked to some highly intelligent young Earthlings who all drew magnificent aliens. Then I bored on for hours to some very polite (and talented) adult Earthlings about my life as a Guardian cartoonist and authorene. They all stayed awake and even laughed occasionally. That’s because the shop’s delightful owner, Nikki Gamble, was tickling them with an ostrich feather attached to her little toe. You can’t see Nikki’s feather, but since everyone in Just Imagine has a smile on their face, I KNOW it’s there. Thanks so much Nikki and all of the Children’s Illustrators Group.

SOR and MOT (that's me and Tom, using our alien names)

Meanwhile, Flowkwee, the Alien Schoolboy himself, has shown me his blog about HALLOWEEN but although he thinks he’s so clever, he can’t even spell it right. here’s what he’s written, but you may be able see it on his very own website



I have been informed of a curious Earthling ceremony  called ‘Hallo Ian’ that occurs once every Earth Year on OCTOBER  31st . I don’t know who this ‘Ian’ person is, but you have to say hallo to him anyway if you want to play. You also have to have a fat orange vegetable called a ‘pumpkin’ dressed up to look like a person. Younglings  dress themselves in odd ‘costumes’ called ‘witches’ or ‘ghosts’ and make noises like ‘woo woo’ and bang on doors shouting ‘trickortreat’. Grown ups then open the doors of their dwellings  and give the little savages sweeties!  Sometimes the grown ups give out smaller orange vegetables called ‘tangerines’ but if they do, the younglings are very rude and go ‘yuk’, even though these little vegetables are much better for their chewing blades. As you know if you have read my excellent ‘books’, I have grown very fond of an Earth sweety called ‘chocolate’, so I am going to join my new school friends in their ‘Hallo Ian’ games this year. They say the point is to look scary, but between you and me my friends look like bin liners in bandages. I am going to take off my Earthling disguise and go as myself this year. That should get us lots of sweeties. I love the nice crunchy ‘wrappers’.

Look out for me, I’ll be looking like this.

Here I am with my pet, Pluke

Maybe I’ll come to YOUR house.

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments


Busy week for me, because I really like just sitting around dreaming. Or quietly drawing. But I wish everybody would draw more, so that’s why I mosied along to The Guardian newspaper’s  BIG DRAW last Saturday. Here is just one  of the many many wonderful ALIENS YOU CREATED. (Hope to add more later)


Joshua drew this alien that works if you turn it upside down…… One way it’s called OH and the other, HO.

Oh ho!



Over 350 people took part in masses of activities including drawing cartoon strips, hang out your washing, mono printing, waves will bring your dreams, alien invasion, ideas and expressions, taking a line for a walk, Halloween cards, imagination planning, alien squiggles (that was me), stencilling books, geometric images, random post, fantastic creature collage, using the lightbox to create cartoons and caricatures and drawing music. There was also a range of talks from Posy Simmonds, Martin Rowson, Chris Riddell, Judith Walker and Kevin Whitney

Artists and illustrators involved included Caroline Holden, Marie-Helene Jeeves, Geoff Thompson, Alex Leadbeater, Otto, Steven Appleby, Ros Asquith, (oh, that’s me) Mary Pullen, Michael Challenger, Joanne Ayre, Lawrence Zeegen, Geoff Grandfield, Sally Kindberg, David Page, Jane German, Kipper Williams and Jim Sillavan.

And big thanks to all of you who said such kind things about my humble aliens. Remember to book early next year and get everyone you know DRAWING. Read more here:


I also visited two fabulous schools in Grantham: Harlaxton Primary (hooray) and St Mary’s (Hurrah). Hope to get some pictures of the wonderful aliens the children drew.

AND I have two exhibitions, one at the Karamel Club with Matthew Green and Mark Oliver http://www.karamelclub.co.uk/

and one at Muswell Hill Library with Jane Ray and Kathy Henderson which is 80 years old on October 15th. Now for a nap. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.


Posted in jane ray., THE BIG DRAW | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments


How does the amazing Sarah McIntyre http://www.jabberworks.co.uk/books.php ever get time to draw? Two weeks ago she hosted a great comics event at the Society of Authors

From left to right it’s Sarah McIntyre, comics creator Andi Watson, Walker Books commissioning editor Lizzie Spratt, creator John Aggs, creator Sally Kindberg, The Phoenix Comic editor Will Fickling, creator Patrice Aggs and moderator (and all-round comics expert) Paul Gravett.

Lerryn Korda, comics creator and me, cartoonist Ros Asquith with Gary and Patrice.Keep an eye on the Comica website for loads more excellent events.

Then  just last week Sarah launched launched her second Princess Spaghetti book, a piratey adventure written by Gillian Rogerson, ‘You Can’t Scare a Princess!’

THEN she drew zombie pirates against the clock. Here are all the illustrators who joined in, including me.

From the left, Philip reeve, Sarah McIntyre, Ellen Lindner, Woodrow Phoenix, me, David O’Connell, Alexis Deacon, Gary and Alex Milway.

OK, my dinosaur pirate does look more like a dragon but it was supposed to be T-Rex….


And here’s my lovely agent Jodie Marsh (right) and her lovely assistant Lucy Simmonds. They are always smiling despite being nagged into the ground by wretched authors like myself.

I nicked all these pics from Sarah’s amazing blog http://jabberworks.livejournal.com but she has done so many different things since then that you might not be able to find them any more. Memo to self. Go to a pirate party once a year at least.  AAAR Jim lad. I called myself Jim until I was seven, so it must be in my blood.


Posted in COMICS and PIRATES | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments


Quentin Blake's Funny Prize Drawing

Earthlings, listen here. Perhaps you are not such lousy no-good hopeless duffers as I thought. You seem to have chosen ‘LETTERS FROM AN ALIEN SCHOOLBOY’ to be shortlisted for your so called Roald Dahl ‘Funny’ prize. I don’t really get this Earthling thing about ‘jokes’, especially as you always seem to be laughing at me, but I understand that you mean it kindly, even though the ‘laughing’ noise is so repellently grating that I must turn my ear trumpets to minimal volume to avoid it.  But, who knows, perhaps you will learn something useful from my humble book. The ‘publishers’ (Piccadilly Press), who rejoice in destroying endless forests of the timid vegetables you call ‘trees’, have even made a website:


It is only available on your sad ‘internet’ which is several million times slower than the Interplanet and operates on a mere two dimensions, but you may find it enjoyable, in your way.

My great and serious work of Scientific Exploration 'Letters from an Alien Schoolboy'

Unfortunately there are some other books on the shortlist too, including one by a bizarre Earthling known as Terry Jones, who I gather collaborated in a thing called ‘Monty Python’. Was it about Gorgon’s hairstyles? Do let me know. Perhaps you will find some of these other books even ‘funnier’ than mine. I expect the writers were all trying very hard.


Posted in AWARDS, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

How to Draw Aliens

HOW TO DRAW ALIENS . If you fancy creating your very own alien this Saturday Sept 10th, I’ll be doing a workshop at the Haringey Children’s Literature Festival 1.00-1.40in the Workshop space at Marcus Garvey Library.

This alien is a Baddie, from 'Letters from an A;lien Schoolboy'There’ll be the Word Play Area, the Super Signings Tent, the Story Telling Tent; a Workshop Space, competitions, and THE Stage, featuring back-to-back talks, presentations and readings from a wide variety of authors and illustrators. The days events will also include the official launch of the library’s brand new Reading Garden, created and maintained by volunteers in the community, and a performance of adapted children’s book ‘Aliens Love Underpants’ by Handprint Theatre for an integrated deaf and hearing audience.

Saturday’s events will run from 10.00am until 4.00pm, with events kicking off spectacularly at 10.20am, with comedy writer Annie Caulfield talking about her books on THE Stage. Events throughout the rest of the week will be for class bookings – please call 020 8489 1428.

Authors attending include:

  • Cliff McNish;
  • N. M. Browne;
  • Nikalas & Tim;
  • Ros Asquith;
  • Sally Prue;
  • S. C. Ransom;
  • Linda Newbery;
  • Karen McCrombie;
  • Josh Lacey;
  • Tanya Linch;
  • Lyn Gardner.

Marcus Garvey Library’s Reading Garden will be officially opened on the day by the council, and a food stall will perch itself in the garden, serving tea, and an assortment of tasty foodstuffs throughout the day.

To help you find your way to the festival, there will be a trail of bunting and posters to follow, leading from Seven Sisters tube station (the closest tube to Marcus Garvey Library) all the way to the festival’s door – much like Hansel and Gretel following pebbles, but without a cannibal witch lurking about…we hope.


Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/haringeykidslit

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Haringey-Childrens-Literature-Festival/221084884602768


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Great Big Book of Families’ by Mary Hoffman,  illustrated by me and published by Francis Lincoln has been shortlisted for the School Libraries Association Award.


The GBBF as we now call it, celebrates families in all their variations and has been published in twelve languages.  Just for fun I’m printing the google translate version of a German review from Amazon. I think the reader liked it.

Is an individual family life, which allows all imaginable variations! That this picture-book with the old cliché of propperen, standardised family being duly tidies up already, underpinned the first double-page spread, where it says “long, long time ago saw most families so from:” is shown a Papa, a mama, a young boy, a girl, a dog, a cat and a cute cottage. Curious i asked myself, what i think will follow on the next pages. With adoptive parents, single parents or same sex couples is demonstrating absolute Zeigeist, but this is only the entry in a wonderful, imaginative book, in which (almost) everything is possible. You can stay here in the high-rise building on the caravan up to the Tent. It is the question of whether you actually must go to school or perhaps not even, in the same way, on what species the rentals can be made, because not everyone has enough money to travel. How does it with food, clothing, work, hobbies and domestic animals from? Also here, as well as for many other topics knows the book answers, for the one unusual, for the other but quite usually may be. Because what is normal? “OTHERNESS” must not automatically be wrong. Here it does not need a lot of text, in order to be meaningful, the creative and at the same time funny illustrations speak for themselves. Bravo! A book on the height of its time!

I’m off to Venice now, to write with Mary Hoffman and Michelle Lovric. But I intend to blog  in praise of doodling next week in preparation for THE BIG DRAW, which aims to get everyone drawing. Sharpen your pencils, or your wits, or your peepers. Or all three.

Quentin Blake's lovely logo for the Big Draw


Posted in AWARDS | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Book Award and phonics

I’m thrilled to hear that Letters from an Alien Schoolboy: Has been shortlisted for the Tower Hamlets Book Award – Fronter It was chosen with five other books from 30 titles and the vote is on Nov 25th.Here’s my original drawing for the cover.

First drawing for Alien Schoolboy cover









You can see the final version on my books page  and also take a peek at the second book in the Alien schoolboy series ,’ Cosmic Custard’ which will be out in October.

Bad news for reading though -apparently the government is intending to give all Year One children a phonics reading test to show whether they can spell out words just from the letter sounds. As most parents and teachers know, phonics CAN be a helpful aid to reading, but it can also be useless. If it worked for everything, then ‘Phonics’ itself would be spelled ‘FONIX’. Also, this test, will apparently use made up words…Here’s my Guardian cartoon on this subject.


And  while we’re at it, here’s a grumpy cartoon on the misuse of apostrophes. They’re often called “greengrocers’ apostrophes”, which is unfair on greengrocers but makes for a joke or two.


Posted in Phonics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Ten year olds Can spot a phoney

It’s the end of the world for the News of The World. All writers, not only journalists, might be considering the consequences. Do we hope to use language to illuminate?

I first read the News of The World when I was nine years old and stopped reading it a year later. That’s because it boasted about paying for an operation that made a blind man see and immediately whisked him off to visit the Seven Wonders of the World. He was photographed by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but he didn’t look too happy. I felt he might need a bit more time to accustom himself to seeing. Perhaps he might prefer to look at a sugar lump, or a tree, or his wife’s face, for a few days before being baffled by a pyramid. Even ten year olds -and perhaps especially ten year olds- can tell a phoney story.

But it’s taken the heroic journalist Nick Davies to uncover the real phoneys. There’s a pun there somewhere -ah, phoney hacking? He spent two years on this story. Makes me proud that I draw for the Guardian. And here’s a link to the Guardian editor, talking about it all.

Good  to see someone who weighs things calmly, isn’t it? http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/video/2011/jul/09/phone-hacking-alan-rusbridger-video



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Do we need Princesses?

Goodness, it appears the Royal Family is very expensive. It costs 112 times more than the Irish president and the equivalent of thousands of nurses, police officers and teachers according to a new report. www.republic.org.uk/royalfinances

But if we banned the Monarchy what would that mean for children’s books? Where would we be without Lauren Child’s ‘The Princess and the Pea‘? Or Babette Cole’s Princess Smartypants ?Or Gillian Rogerson and Sarah McIntyre’s  You Can’t Eat a Princess! These are all gorgeously funny books, whose Princesses are far from passive, yet Amazon has 25,028 titles in its children’s books section that feature ‘Princess’. That’s nearly twice as many as titles featuring ponies or football.

This was my-less than subtle- take on the issue way back in 1998 in the ‘Teenage Worrier Pocket Guides Omnibus Edition’.

Have I mellowed since then? I am doing a picture book about a Fairy, as it happens, although rather a fierce one.  But do little girls still genuinely love Princesses, or are they thrust upon them?

And while we’re on the subject, could we please stop referring to any girl, or any princess, with half a brain as ‘feisty’?


Posted in Princess books?, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Welcome to my blog (will I keep it up?)

Hello, welcome to my occasional blog about writing, drawing and anything that takes my fancy.
Here’s a good writer’s tip: ‘Write a little every day without and hope and without despair’
It’s from Danish author Karen von Blixen-Finecke (1885 – 1962); born Karen Christence Dinesen, best known under her pen name Isak Dinesen.

News this June is that my pal Michelle Lovric has had her (adults only)‘The Book of Human Skin’ chosen for the new Channel 4 book club reading list http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/tv-book-club-reading-list-announced and another pal Pam Johnson is having her poem included in Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday book. Maybe it’ll make one of his lyrics…You can read about that here.http://wordsunlimited.typepad.com/words_unlimited/2011/05/70-poets-celebrate-dylan-at-70.html

I went to a party at Monsterville, in Stratford’s Discover Children’s Story Centre, and foolishly scoffed a cocktail called Beauty and the Beast. V.strong and filled with shrubbery, made me feel kind of rubbery. Sarah McIntyre (author of Sheffield book prize winning ‘Morris the Mankiest Monster’) took this pic of me trying on a monster wig. On the right is

Axel Scheffler, (creator of the Gruffalo.) More about this on Sarah’s website and amazing blog (how does she have the energy?) www.jabberworks.co.uk/

Meanwhile I draw a little every day, without hope and without despair….

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 15 Comments