Category Archives: Guest Posts and Interviews

Interview with Stupendously Talented Author Caryl Hart

Caryl Hart is the stupendously talented award-winning author of amazing picture books such as Supermarket Zoo, Rhino, What Rhino?, The Princess and the Peas, Whiffy Wilson, and more. She is now also the stupendously talented author of early reader chapter books for children of all ages about Foxy DuBois and Alphonso Alligator.

Whiffy Wilson - The Wolf Who Wouldn't Go to School: Caryl Hart & Leonie Lord (Orchard Books, 2014)Hello, Caryl. Our first question is from your big fan Mighty-Girl (7) who is a writer and very interested in the writing process. She asks, what is your next book going to be? 

Hi! The next book to come out is a new story about Whiffy Wilson.  It’s called Whiffy Wilson, the Wolf who Wouldn’t go to School, published by Orchard Books.

Luckily, Dotty is on hand to sort him out.  She takes him to her school and Whiffy is suprised to discover that school is actually lots of fun.  What a silly wolf he is!

I also have another Princess book coming out with Nosy Crow and a new Albie book next year with Simon & Schuster.

The next thing I’m starting work on is a series of three chapter books for 6-8 year olds for Nosy Crow.  It’s going to be about a girl called Little Pip and her friend Mervin Marvin.  It’s not out till 2016 though because I’m waiting for a very special illustrator to find time in her extremely busy schedule.

I’m also working on some baby books, but I don’t know if they’ll be published.  We’ll have to wait and see!

Wow, that sounds really busy! And great news for us: more Whiffy Wilson, Princesses, Albie and chapter books – perfect! The Princess and the Peas is one of Danger Girl (4)’s favourite books ever. Did you have a favourite book when you were little, and what was it?

My favourite book was Snuffy written by Dick Bruna. He also wrote the Miffy books and Snuffy was similar.  It was about a little brown dog who helps a lady find her lost child.  Snuffy gives the child a ride on his back when he takes her home.  I always wanted to be the lost child being taken back to her mummy!

Foxy Tales The Cunning Plan: Caryl Hart & Alex T Smith (Hodder Children's Books, 2014)I’ve not heard of that book, it sounds so lovely! Being lost is one of a child’s biggest fears and a theme that seems to inspire a lot of picture books. What books inspire or influence your writing?

Oh gosh, so many!  But the book that really inspired me to have a go at writing myself was Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury.  I adore the rhythm of Martin’s words and love Helen’s watercolour illustrations.  I think its a very clever book.

I also love Shirley Hughes – she writes great stories and beautiful, simple poems that I think children really relate to.  My children memorised lots of her poems when they were very small and we used to chant them together on long journeys.

Lots of my books have a moral or a message for the readers, and I think I get this from Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales, which I read over and over as a child. They were written in verse and are wonderful stories about naughty children getting what they deserve including being eaten by lions and burned alive!  Not very nice, I suppose, but very funny!!

Those are all fabulous choices, and thank-you for reminding me about Cautionary Tales, I must see if Mighty Girl likes them, I loved them when I was little too!

Caryl Hart & Mighty Girl, Feb 2013

Caryl & Mighty Girl at the Red House Children’s Book Awards, Feb 2013

Before you go back to creating more wonderful stories, could you tell us about your event at Hoo’s Kids Book Fest?

I’m going to be reading from Foxy Tales, the Cunning Plan and Alex T Smith is going to be drawing some pictures.  He might even draw Alphonso in his knickers if you’re lucky!

We’ll also tell you a bit about how the book came about and how much fun it’s been to create it together. I’ve also heard a rumour that Alex is bringing his little dog Coco, but you’ll have to wait and see if that rumour is true!

How exciting! We can’t wait to see you there. The whole day sounds wonderful! How excited are you to be appearing at Hoo’s Kids Book Fest?

Like.. VERY!!

Thank-you so much for answering our questions, and we look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

Caryl will be appearing at Hoo’s Kids Book Fest this Sunday with the equally stupendously talented Alex T Smith, talking about Foxy Tales, and being generally awesome.

Interview: Laura Kantor, author of The Colourblind Chameleon

We are so lucky in the Chaos household, we are inundated with wonderful books to read. But it does mean that I get a little backlogged when it comes to writing about them. This isn’t necessarily an issue for large publishers, but I also like to support small indies and I can’t always guarantee a timely review.

I love the look of The Colourblind Chameleon, and I especially love the message that it’s okay to be different and you can be yourself rather than pretend to be someone you’re not (something I’ve personally struggled with, and still not quite there at almost forty, so a very important message for children of all ages!)

With a release date just before Christmas (it’s out now!), I asked Laura if she’d do an interview for Child-Led Chaos about The Colourblind Chameleon and her plans for the future. Luckily for us, she agreed.

The Colourblind Chameleon: Laura Kantor & Sarah Ray

Who are you?! 😉
Hello, I’m Laura Kantor, author of The Colourblind Chameleon and Founder of Squidgy Face Books! I’m originally from Coventry, England but currently live in Singapore with my boyfriend, James.

Can you tell us a bit about The Colourblind Chameleon?
The Colourblind Chameleon is one of the first stories I’ve written, and mine and Sarah’s very first published book! It’s a rhyming story for children which  follows a very special chameleon who doesn’t ‘fit in’ with the rest. At first, he really struggles to be like the other chameleons, but eventually he realises that it’s not just good to be different, it’s a lot more fun! It has an important message for children that being different is a good thing, and not to worry about not fitting in, because everyone will find their place eventually.

I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve with the book. I really think it has something for everyone – colourful, hilarious drawings which will make children and adults laugh, but an important underlying message for the reader.

What inspired you to write this story?
When I first started writing stories, they always starred animals with very unusual features (mostly inspired by friends & family – to their horror!). It is really important to me that each book has a clear message for children, particularly around being different and self-esteem.

The Colourblind Chameleon evolved from several other stories i’d written about different animals, and just popped into my head one day. I grabbed a pen and paper and before I knew it, the story was complete!

The Colourblind Chameleon: Laura Kantor & Sarah Ray

How did you work on character design and the look of the book?
Sarah Ray: I started off by drawing lots and lots of chameleons (from photos, unfortunately I don’t have a pet one) and from there, kept the features that represented the Chameleon and gave it character, i.e the big boggly eyes, funny feet and curly tail.   The main character wanted to be a bit different to the others, so i put him in wellies and pants, for added fun! And also so that he was easily recognisable when he was changing colour throughout the book.  I gave his friends slightly different ‘hair’ styles and linked it all together with colour and humour.

I also drew a little blue bug on most of the pages and had fun hiding him – can you find him?

You’re supporting “Baby Lifeline” can you tell us more about the charity and why you chose it?
When I decided to self publish, I really wanted to make a difference to my local community, as well as give people great books to read! Finding a great charity was easy – Baby Lifeline. When my sister was born, she was 11 weeks premature, and the odds of survival were against her. Baby Lifeline is a local charity (based in Coventry) which raises money for special care baby units and maternity equipment nationwide, and they are the reason my sister is alive today.  As I am abroad so much, I always miss the events and fun runs that my family attend, so this is my way of giving back.

What do you think are the benefits (and drawbacks!) of independent publishing?
Pros: Having total control of the work, from the creative elements to the marketing (which I absolutely loved!) and actually being able to have a book out there for people to buy! Honestly, watching my friends and family read my book is so amazing , and hearing all the positive feedback has been a dream come true.

Cons: It’s a lot of work, and it can be quite scary! I particularly struggled when creating the actual eBook, everything kept going wrong and no one seemed to actually know what to do, so it was a bit of worry. Luckily everything is sorted now!

Do you have any future projects you’d like to share?
Well, we have lots of other fun and exciting stories in the pipeline, featuring snails, bees and worms to name a few! I’d also love to create an interactive children’s book, so if The Colourblind Chameleon is successful, this is definitely something we can work on in the near future.

If you’d like to preview or buy a copy of The Colourblind Chameleon you can click on any of the links below:
iTunes | Amazon | Google Play | Barnes & Noble

For more information please visit:,

I like to give huge thanks to Laura and Sarah for this interview, and best wishes for The Colourblind Chameleon.

Belle & Boo and Mandy Sutcliffe

As part of the Blog Tour to promote the first two Belle and Boo Activity Books (reviewed here), we were given the chance to interview Mandy Sutcliffe. I asked our lovely local school if they’d ask the children for any questions and the KS1 class (5, 6 & 7 year olds) came up with the following:

Belle & Boo Stories

Children: How many books are there about Belle and Boo?
Mandy: There are 3 books currently in print ‘Belle & Boo and the Birthday Surprise’ ‘Goodnight Kiss’ and ‘Yummy Scrummy Day’ and a Christmas book out this September

Belle & BooChildren: Is there a reason that both names begin with B?
Mandy: As soon as I first drew the pair I knew their names were Belle & Boo, it was just a lovely coincidence that they began with the same letter.

Children: Are they based on a real child and a real toy?
Mandy: Belle is based a little bit on me as a child, I had the same hair style, mind you my mum based my hair on my favourite story book character Milly-Molly-Mandy, so there is that influence also. I had a pet rabbit when I was a child although he was pure white and called chalky. 

Children: What makes them best friends?
Mandy: Because they do everything together, because Belle looks after Boo and Boo makes Belle laugh a lot.

Children: Why isn’t there any other characters in the story? [They were read “The Goodnight Kiss” only]
Mandy: The only other characters that feature so far are the other toys, Snuffly Elephant, Raggedy Doll, & Yellow Duck. 

Belle & BooChildren: What else do they like doing together?
Mandy: They love to climb trees, kick leaves, bake cakes (especially carrot cake), draw, paint and sing.

Children: Who else lives in the house?
Mandy: The other toys & a few mice.

Children: How long does it take to illustrate a Belle and Boo book?
Mandy: Approximately 3 months, some spreads are super quick to draw and others can take a little bit too long, when that happens I try to leave the one I am struggling with and work on another and then come back to the troublesome one, that usually works.

Children: Does Belle have any other favourite toys?
Mandy: Yes she loves all her toys but Boo is definitely her absolute favourite.

Mandy Sutcliffe

Thank-you so much Mandy for answering our questions; lovely Sarah from Hachette for organising everything; and of course the staff and children at our local school for the questions.

We also have part four of the exclusive blog tour downloads, click on the image below to collect the hangers for your wardrobe.

Belle and Boo exclusive downloads

Collect the rest of the exclusive downloads by visiting the blogs below:
Colouring-in Dress-up Belle from Read It, Daddy
Belle’s Summer Outfits from StorySeekers
Belle’s Wardrobe from Book Sniffer
Belle’s Winter Outfits from Library Mice

Red House Children’s Book Award Blog Tour: Caryl Hart

Welcome to Child-Led Chaos and the fifth day of the Red House Children’s Book Award blog tour! I have a sneaky feeling you might find a closely related post at Babbleabout, as well as the list of the whole tour in my earlier post.

I’m delighted to be hosting Caryl Hart for her nomination in the Younger Children category for Welcome to Alien School. I ‘met’ Caryl on Twitter. Before that, the Chaos household hadn’t read any of her books (although I didn’t realise Rhino, What Rhino? that we’d heard and loved was one of hers.) I’d won copies of Supermarket Zoo and How to Grow a Dinosaur which she signed for MG & DG. Shortly after this Welcome to Alien School, the third in the series, was published and I bought it straight away (not to mention several others!)

Later today I have the honour of meeting Caryl in person so it’s even more special to me that she’s guest posting here for her Children’s Book Award nomination. I am so pleased that Welcome to Alien School has been shortlisted, and thrilled to welcome Caryl to Child-Led Chaos:

A Life in the Day of a Children’s Author

Before I became a full time writer, I found mornings unbearably stressful. I hated nagging the kids to get ready for school and would often end up shouting. Not a good way to start the day.  Now, six years after leaving work, the mornings are almost pleasant. The kids get themselves ready, my husband does the school run and I set my own agenda.  Amazingly, I earn more now than I did working three days a week, and I’m much, MUCH happier.

If I’m doing a school visit or library workshop, I usually head off early, having coerced various friends into walking the dog and collecting the kids from school.  Luckily, my valiant husband is an expert at getting the kids up and out in the morning.

Writing Day

If I’m having a writing day, I take the dog for a good stomp along the river.  It’s a national nature reserve and very, very beautiful. Even if I start the morning feeling glum, walking the dog always puts me in a good mood and I have written many a rhyme in my head whilst pounding along the footpath.

Then it’s down to work. On a good day, I can write three or four picture book spreads.  That’s about 200 words. It doesn’t sound like much, but for me this is REALLY good going!  Most days, I don’t write anything comprehensible, just lots and lots of notes.  More like verbal sketches than text. And then suddenly part of the story will come together and I’ll write it down properly. I spend a lot of time thinking out the details of a story, and then editing and re-editing to make the text as tight as possible.

I absolutely love the discipline of writing picture books.  With only around 800 words to play with, it’s a real challenge to make my stories exciting, meaningful, funny, believable, sell-able and to my editors’ liking.  Trying to do all this in rhyming verse can leave me ready to hurl the computer out of the window!  But when it works, it’s SO satisfying that I instantly forget the hours of frustration I’ve been through.  Rather like giving birth, actually.

Caryl Hart

At precisely 3.00 pm the Air Raid Siren goes off.  This is my phone telling me to wrench myself away, often mid-flow, and collect the kids from school.  Then I’m on Mum duty, though I do sometimes sneak back to the computer for a bit of extra work if I’m buzzing with ideas.

Evening meals around the table are usually dominated by the children telling funny stories about their day. And even if we don’t manage to eat together, we always end up in a pile on the sofa for a bit of telly and a snuggle before bed.

It’s a good life. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

Welcome to Alien School: Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves (Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, 2012)Welcome to Alien School has been shortlisted in the Younger Children category of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2013. The Red House Children’s Book Award is the only national children’s book award voted for entirely by children. It is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, and sponsored by Red House.

Useful links:

Hugless Douglas Week: Six Questions with David Melling

For the final day of Hugless Douglas Week, David Melling kindly volunteered to be the first interviewee in an ocassional series where I ask Who? What? Why? Where? When? How? to authors and illustrators of children’s books.

David Melling drawingDavid Melling – author and illustrator of children’s books.

My influences, and there are way too many to list here, include the usual suspects: Ronald Searle, Ralph Steadman, Quentin Blake, Maurice Sendak. I won’t keep listing names but I will say particular influences that still inspire me are Asterix and Obelix, Tom and Jerry, Laurel and Hardy…I could go on but think I’ll stop there. Oh, and my kids of course!

SketchingThe book I’d love to write and illustrate is a collection of silly Fairy Tales. I’ve lost track of the number of times a project like this has been close to becoming reality but something always seems to get in the way. But it’s still on my ‘to-do’ list. Perhaps one day.

At the moment I about to start work on the 5th Hugless Douglas book! It hasn’t got a title yet but it’s his birthday. Today, 1st October, is literally Day 1 on this title so I haven’t got much more to say right now. First things first – this Q&A!

My favourite ice cream is vanilla. I know, wild eh?

Sketchbook PagesI’ve always loved reading and drawing and studied art and photography at college. Then, from around the age of 21, for about ten years of concentrated effort and various jobs, I finally realised that what I was really looking for was to illustrate stories! The writing came later but it completed the journey. I’m very fortunate to be able to make up stories and draw pictures all day. Very fortunate!

I create for children simply because most stories that require illustrations are for children. Also, my sense if humour hasn’t really grown up (thank goodness).

Why do children ask so many questions? I guess because they are curious about the world they find themselves in! I remember that phase with my children. That particular phase when everything you say is met by that question ‘Why.” I hope my books, the stories and pictures, fuel that interest. After all, it’s a funny old world, it takes some time getting used to all its little foibles. All children are doing is trying to make sense of it. Then again, aren’t we all!

Presently living in Abingdon, Oxfordshire but grew up in London.

Favourite place to be is either at home with the family or at my studio. I’m afraid I’m irritatingly content!

Illustration from Brilliant the DinosaurThe first published book I illustrated was called Brilliant The Dinosaur by Richard Stilgoe in 1993. Some of you older readers might remember he used to be on TV. He wore quirky knitted jumpers while playing the piano on the news programme Nationwide in the 1970-80’s. Sadly, we never met!

The first book I wrote and illustrated was the picture book The Kiss That Missed in 2002. It’s celebrating 10 years this year!

My favourite period in history? Hmm, I’m not sure I have a favourite but I do like Medieval times…it appeals to my gothic side.

When does the post arrive? Ha! An excellent question! Don’t get me started…

Print from The Kiss That Missed, can be ordered from started creating books soon after spending about 4 years working in a series of London based animation studios. It was way back in the 1980’s and I just loved the way the drawings helped to tell the story, not always with words – Tom and Jerry is a supreme example. It taught me that pictures are just as important as the words to carry a story, sometimes more so. By the time I decided to leave the studios I had bug and knew that story telling with pictures was exactly what I wanted to do.

A picture book can take anything from 3 to 6 months for me. If I break that down it’ll look something like this:
Sketchbook ideas (including written notes), on a particular subject: 2-3 weeks.
Storyboard and first written draft – 2 – 3 weeks.
Pencil roughs on cartridge paper – 4 weeks.
Trace and ink onto watercolour paper – 2 weeks
Painting final artwork – 6 – 8 weeks.

Obviously, this will vary depending on the type of book and whether I come to the drawing board with a vague idea or a very particular idea. It’s not an exact science. You’ll notice that I write and draw and the same time when getting the ideas. For me both disciplines feed off watch other. I know that some author illustrators write first then illustrate. I couldn’t do that. But, of course, everyone is different. It’s whatever works for you!

How long is a piece of string? Well, that’s an easy one; That long.


All images © David Melling, used with permission.
The sample Who? What? Why? Where? When? How? questions can be downloaded here.

Thank-you for sticking with me throughout Hugless Douglas Week. Don’t forget there’s still time to enter the giveaway: deadline extended to Tuesday 9th October. Extra goodies added, and books will be signed (there will some delay in posting while we work out logistics!)

I’d like to offer huge thank-you hugs to Hachette Children’s Books for sending extra prizes and the activity book download to support this week; Helen from CApptivated Kids for the guest post; and most of all to Douglas’ Dad, David Melling, without whom none of this would have been possible.

Hugless Douglas Week: Hugless Douglas App

I’m delighted to have Helen from CApptivated Kids guest post here at Child-Led Chaos today, reviewing the Hugless Douglas iPhone/iPad app. Helen’s blog is full of reviews of apps for small children, and gives me the only positive reason for having an iPad I can think of! A huge thank-you hug to Helen for the review.

Hugless Douglas App Screen Capture

“One spring morning, a big yaaawwwwn came from the back of a deep dark cave.
… I need a hug,” said Douglas.”

And off he goes in search of the perfect hug in this interactive version of the picture book Hugless Douglas by David Melling. My children (aged nearly 5 and not-quite 3) already enjoy the Douglas books, and so we were really pleased to find him in the App Store.

One by one, Douglas carefully considers all the things that make his best hugs so good; they are big, tall, and comfy… but individually, nothing he finds is quite right. Then a rabbit points him in the direction of someone who can combine all these things into one wonderfully huggable package – his mum.

There are some lovely touches which show off the humour and warmth of Douglas’ world. For example, the very charismatic sheep that he scoops up in his arms (surely a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actors) are even more fun when a soundtrack of “baaas” is added. Douglas blowing his nose on the rabbit’s tail got extra giggles from my children, as did his attempt to climb a tree.

It’s nice to see Alan Davies narrate the story. His narration is warm and inviting, while the music by Simon Wallace is reminiscent of a lovely old-fashioned children’s TV series.

There are two extras included – a noughts and crosses game and a hug gallery. The gallery is a very nice feature, as you can email different hug illustrations to your friends and family. I’m sure grandparents would love receiving a Good Night Hug, Cosy Hug or Tummy Hug.

While we really enjoyed using this app, there are some things which we would love to see in any future updates. It would be good if the “Read to Me” option were not just a video of the book, but allowed for the page turns and interactivity currently only available in “Read by Myself”. Secondly, although keywords appear when you touch the illustrations (e.g. Douglas, bed, scarf), this is not consistently applied across the pages. And while the interactive elements definitely add something special to the story, I would have loved to see the app exploit the full possibilities of the iPad a bit more.

Overall, this app is a good value, straight forward version of the picture book, which delivers a warm and cosy hug for Douglas fans.

Hugless Douglas by David Melling, developed by Hachette, compatible with iPhone and iPad. Available from priced at £1.99 at time of writing.