Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2018

In Spring last year I received a very exciting email from my publisher saying that the Emirate Dubai Literature Festival were interested in having me do an event for them the following year. I hadn’t done a literature festival before or been to Dubai… I was also due to give birth to my first baby in the summer, I said I’d love to but didn’t expect it to come to much…

Two weeks ago, whilst swallowing a massive dose of Impostor Syndrome, I was boarding a  flight to Dubai with my baby and husband in tow! After getting over the initial excitement of flying Business class (the festival is sponsored by Emirate Airlines) I spent half of the flight playing with my massive chair/bed, the other quarter marvelling how far away my husband was sat (he normally always steals the arm rest) and the last quarter explaining to my daughter that future family trips will not involve so much luxury… she took the news hard.(Yes that is the amazing Philip Ardagh in the background if you were wondering!)

The festival kicked off with a brilliant opening ceremony with fantastic poetry readings from some of the many talented poets on the festival line up.

Here’s Harry Baker blowing my mind with his Paper People performance.


The next day was my workshop for “Too Many Carrots”, hosted by the fantastic Helen Farmer. Here we are getting stuck in!

We made some brilliant Rabbit ears…

…and Tortoise shells

It was great to see the ears were still going strong later in the day at another event.

The next day was my bigger event, I read from both my books, “Too Many Carrots” and “A Loud Winter’s Nap” and talked about my process of making a picture book with the brilliant Ciaran Kelly. I was very nervous, I don’t tend to spend much of my time speaking to a room full of people, it was very much outside my comfort zone. Of course the audience was amazing and had some brilliant questions! Massive thanks to the festival staff who were just amazing at taking care of everything too.

The next day was a real highlight, I got to visit a local primary School and do some more arts and crafts, talk about my books. The pupils were really great at getting involved, there was some intense glitter application, with outstanding results!

The festival was an amazing and surreal experience for many reasons and I’m so incredibly grateful for all those that made it possible for me to be part of it. Here are some other snaps from my time away.

At the signing table with “A Loud Winter’s Nap” and “Too Many Carrots.”

Finding my book for sale in Arabic Seeing some sights!

Thanks again to everyone at the festival for making this happen, special thanks to Gillian, Yvette, Mary Ann, Jo and Flora for putting up with my countless emails and making sure everything run smoothly. 

You can buy copies of both my books from here  and here.






“A Loud Winter’s Nap”

As I sit here writing this post I swig my tea quickly and chomp on some sugary biscuits to stay focused. My baby girl was 7 months old yesterday and after sleeping for a blissful 12 hour straight each night for the last week or so… she relapsed.

At 5am this morning I was resting my forehead on the edge of her crib begging her to sleep, she’d been awake since 11pm. Apparently the early hours are perfect timing for practicing crawling in our cot as well as sampling some new sounds we’ve learnt that can only be likened to a dinosaur reciting the alphabet in latin. Suffice to stay my daughter’s new nickname is Mabeasauros (her actual name is Mabel) and my sleepy self has new found empathy for the main character in my new picture book, “A Loud Winter’s Nap.”

Having said all this, it’s pretty clear my new story isn’t really about being sleepy.  True, Tortoises hibernate and so my main man, Tortoise should be trying to get to sleep but the premise of my book is more about his reluctance to try new things. I think the older we get the worse we get for assuming we won’t like something and so never partake or engage in that particular thing. I think it’s an important trait to learn to explore new things, open our minds to the less obvious, the less safe the more unknown.  For children it can be as small as a new vegetable they’ve yet to try or new game they haven’t played. There’s a tendency to assume, “I won’t like it” and so, “I don’t like it” and why is that? “I just don’t.” Hence the repetitive retort of Tortoise throughout “A Loud winter’s Nap.”

I had so much fun creating this book, we have all the same characters from “Too Many Carrots,” apart from “Bird” (who has migrated for winter) instead we have winter bird “Robin.” I loved being able to explore their personalities more and also to show some more of their world and this time in winter too.

Work in progress of construction worker Beaver.

There was lots of snow photography reference required as we didn’t have much snow at the time.

Tortoise was going to need lots of different ‘beds’ to try get to sleep in throughout the story. I had a lot of fun exploring different options for these, from make shift tree houses to tents as well as Robin’s house and the rebuilt Beaver “River Cottage.”

Tortoise’s first bed was the most like the treehouse I wish I’d had as a child. Unfortunately my back garden was very lacking in trees!

Beaver’s River Cottage on the drawing board and it being used in the final spread after being scanned and dropped into photoshop.

In “Too Many Carrots”, Bird had a cosy nest with lots of fluffy blankets as his home however I felt given Robin would be enduring the colder months, his house should be more substantial…


As always figuring out the copyright page illustration was one of my favourite bits of this project. In “Too Many Carrots” we had a peek into Rabbit’s burrow (minus the many carrots) to see his collection of carrot memorabilia. For “A Loud Winter’s Nap”, I decided to illustrate the contents of Tortoise’s overnight bag, which is the red and white spotty bundle he carries through out the story. I loved the chance to include extra items in there that I didn’t manage to put in the main story illustrations such as his ‘Torteas” chamomile herbal tea. 

“A Loud Winter’s Nap” is out now and available to buy here.


Runaway Baby Brother

My new picture book “Runaway Baby Brother” came out this week and I’m so excited for you to see it! After making “Runaway Egg” with Random House I was so thrilled that they wanted to do a second title with me. I still felt there was more story for Chick and his younger brother “Egg.”

At the end of “Runaway Egg“, Chick’s little brother had hatched so it was fun to figure out how to differentiate between the two chicks, an obvious move was to pop Little Brother in a half shell diaper/nappy!

This time round we focused more on the two main characters and their interactions together.


As always, one of my favourite bits of the process was figuring out Chicks many different facial expressions to show his growing annoyance at Little Brother’s presence.

Above are some character paintings from my drawing board, I tend to work much bigger than the final version and shrink down after scanning.

The cover for the book went through many options and the final version was quite far away from where we started. I originally wanted to show more of the farmyard environment however we decided to focus more on the two characters.

Early thumbnails for cover optionsOnce the focus on the two chicks was decided it was finding somewhere on the farm to show them…There was a strong feeling that we needed the cover to look different from it’s prequel “Runaway Egg” so we introduced a night sky. This is a rough pencil coloured up in photoshop so the team could see my plans for the colour palette…
Artwork stage…

Final version!

Runaway Baby Brother is available to buy now, here.

#picturebook#giveaway #competition #eastergift#newbabygift #kidlit #childrenspublishing#easterchicks #easter #siblings#siblinglove #runawaybabybrother

Making of “Too Many Carrots”

One of my favourite parts of illustrating “Too many Carrots” was the cover. I did it last and it involved so many carrots that I needed 3 pieces of paper! I tried to take some photos as I went…


All my work starts with HB pencil.


I use a mixture of watercolour and indian ink and build up in layers.














Once scanned it’s time for editing in photoshop and add in extra leafy details.


Working progress of cover on my screen.


Final product! (Image taken from @leah_Cook instagram)

Making of “Too Many Carrots”

Quite often I get asked about my process of painting, I thought it would be good to share some work in progress photographs I took whilst painting final artwork for “Too Many Carrots”. This first one was a lot of fun to draw, it shows Rabbit’s last stop in the story in which he overfills Beaver’s house with too many carrots…


Here’s the final version that got used in the book.19-20-AW

Here’s some other process pictures of another page in “Too Many Carrots.”


Here’s the final version that got used in the book.


So there has been quite the break since my previous post, apologies about that, quite a lot has happened since. My second picture book “Too Many Carrots” was published by Capstone US in February and was Barnes and Noble’s “Picture Book of the Month“! I got to do some fantastic book events in London and in my home town in Middlesbrough.

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I moved studios to an old converted London Warehouse. I got a new studio buddy, the very talented Jemima Hetherington (view her work here).

The lovely people at Curious Fox (Capstone) came to film me in my new studio too- if you’d like to hear me waffling on you can see the video here.

Last but not least, I also got married!   Danby-Castle-Wedding-Katy-Ross-51

[Photo credit Laura Babb Photography]

More updates coming soon!


First Bear and Duck Event!

So it’s been a long time since I wrote on here (for more recent updates it’s worth checking my Facebook page) however I felt yesterday’s event deserved a proper blog post!

The lovely staff at Carnegie Library Herne Hill, invited me to do a book reading in their children’s room followed by some Bear and Duck themed arts and crafts.


Here’s me doing some last minute preparations (calm before the storm).


I brought some early paintings in for the children to see how Bear and Duck came about then did my first official book read.

Safe to say one of the scarier things I’ve ever done!


(We had some keen audience members though which was great!)


Then on to the arts and crafts!






The bear ears were very popular!




But the duck feet seemed to encouraged some great quaking noises!









The best bit was at the end of the morning when we were packing up and we heard Bear and Duck being read all over again.


Big thanks to Carnegie Library for having me. An even bigger thank you to my amazing friend Ellen for helping me to cut out all those templates and for the brilliant photography!

If you’d like to buy your own copy of Bear and Duck you can do here.



Animal Teachers

51OItgSoBfL._SX342_Late last year my lovely Agent Kirsten, from Bright, contacted me to say Blue Apple had a brief for me. It was to Illustrate a new book by Janet Halfmann called Animal Teachers. So exciting!

The book was all about how different animals teach they’re young to do things, from swimming to cracking nuts. To illustrate the interaction between teacher and child was an interesting part of the brief, Elliott from Blue Apple was also eager to show the world each animal inhabited. A lot of research was spent looking at the types of places each animal was from, the types of flowers and trees they would sit in and the colour palette for each location.

My favourite thing to draw is animals, their textures and mannerisms are constant source of inspiration for me. Also because the book involved some animals I was unable to observe in real life it justified several hours research on youtube watching gems like this:


I gathered a lot of visual reference at the beginning of a brief. It was good for me to understand how the different animals moved, how they stood, how their hair fell, before I started sketching.



I’d do quick pencil sketches and more finished versions in ink to get an idea of how I’d demonstrate all this.

Early experimenting…


Once I was more familiar with the different animals I did rough pencil sketches of the animals and from that figured out the most interesting composition for the activity they were doing then built their environment around them.

Here’s some early sketches of an otter pup splashing around for the “Swimming Lessons” spread.



I ended up going with the top option so I could make more of Mama Otters shape in the final composition, I love the long smooth lines of otters. see final spread below.


Below I have done a quick step by step of the process I went through for most of the  spreads in the book. People are sometimes surprised when I say I use photoshop for my work, assuming all of the drawing is drawn together in a big scene. My normal method (because I like to draw and paint on a larger scale) is to draw the different elements on separate bits of paper, I use a mixture of watercolour, ink and white acrylic paint. Then I scan the drawings and arrange and overlay them all together in photoshop. Hopefully the sequence below explains this better.

A rough pencil sketch of layout for “Food Lessons” spread.


Very rough idea of colour palette blocking areas out in photoshop.Image

Here I’ve started dropping in early painted up versions of the elements. After seeing it on screen, Mama Hen is redrawn with more red and white to give better contrast and chicks are repainted brighter with more fuzz!




Chicks and Mama have been redrawn and now have a nice sandy floor to stand on.Image


We have sky! Some green as I was worried it was looking too much like a desert and an extra coloured up chick -we lost a chick from the initial sketch, sounds a bit brutal now I’m typing it!



Some countryside flowers to help give a sense of place and because I like to do this.




And here’s the final spread after the designer has dropped in the text.




If you’d like to buy a copy of Animal Teachers you can pre-order a copy here.

Thanks for reading



Always been a big fan of maps, my boyfriend and I have a wide assortment around the flat.

Here are two different styles I’m trying out for Paris and London.



So it’s been a very long time since I last updated the blog. I have moved into the modern world and started a facebook page which has regular updates you can check it out here.

I’ve been busy since my last post with my lovely agents at Bright, you can see some of my art licensing commissions below

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Large card range for Clare Maddicott

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Christmas range for Milkwood Publishing