Tag Archive: roald dahl

  1. BathKidsLitFest Day 9: Zombies “Don’t split up. Don’t turn the lights off. Don’t do anything they do in horror films.”

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    Need to know what to do in the event of a zombie apocalypse? Charlie Higson will tell you. Of course, as zombies don’t exist, it’s unlikely that there’ll ever be a zombie apocalypse. Then again, he has written an incredible series that makes it all seem so possible. So, he suggests: “Don’t split up. Don’t turn the lights off. Don’t do anything they do in horror films. Be sensible.”

    In his Enemy series, a sickness has swept through the population, affecting everyone aged over fourteen. Those adults that survive, “Sickos”, are hungry for children. “A lot of kids get eaten and lots of adults get their brains bashed out,” says Higson cheerfully.

    It’s a bit like the medieval epics that he loved to read as a child: the power goes off, there are no adults to work anything, and so the children are plunged back into a world of books, swords and spears. Unfortunately there aren’t really any kids formed in the mould of the heroes of Greek mythology. But then again, “in the real world there aren’t heroes.” But still, the kids find themselves to be more than capable of all sorts of heroic acts.

    Higson is joined on stage by the dark master of horror, Darren Shan, whose Zom-B series follows the fortunes of the teenager B Smith as she battles against racism, zombies, psychotic clowns and killer babies. “It’s never too early to tell children that we live in a dangerous world, but that we can overcome the danger,” Shan decides merrily. He’s spent a good eight years working on the series, and although it’s something of a relief to have reached the end (well nearly, a thirteenth volume will yet appear), he’s also a bit sad to step away from the all-consuming world of his terrifying series.

    Both concur that horror is a fantastic genre to work in, best served in book form. Films and computer games have to meet multiple criteria set by classification boards before being released to the general public for consumption, books much less so. And books allow an author to deal with all sorts of issues – death, disease, fear and loss – in a fantasy (and therefore, essentially safe) way, continuing a long tradition of gruesome tales for children that historically bridged the gap between Roald Dahl and adult fiction.

    Shan and Higson relish the freedoms of writing for kids. Adults are a bit boring, really, and don’t get as involved in what they’re reading as teenagers and children. Moreover, it’s fun. “You might be writing some of the first books that a child may read,” says Higson. Shan adds delightedly “you could get to really scare some kids, scar them for life!”

    And then we go out into the dark night with Higson’s consoling words ringing in our ears: “If you think about it, zombies are a bit crap. An organised army could take them out easily. They’re already dead and pretty stupid. The zombie apocalypse would be over in about half an hour.”

    Claudia Pugh-Thomas at Charlie Higson and Darren Shan The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival



  2. Lois Edwards (Age 9) Questions Shifty McGifty illustrator Steven Lenton: On Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton & Judith Kerr

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    In the run up to the 2015  Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival which starts tomorrow, Monkton Combe Prep School in Bath, held a workshop with Steven Lenton, who is famous for illustrating the Shifty McGifty books and lots of other stories.

    By Lois Edwards (Age 9)

    The workshop started with him reading a few stories to us and then he taught us how to draw some of the dog characters from the stories.

    I thought it was very good because he showed us a really easy way to draw the characters and I have been drawing them at home on my own too. Afterwards I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with Steven and ask him some questions about his illustrations.

    Lois: Was art your favourite subject in school?

    Steven: It was. I really liked writing and drawing at primary school and secondary school, so yes art was definitely always my favourite.

    Lois: Are you working on a book at the moment?

    Steven: Yes, we’ve just finished Shifty McGifty 3 and we’ve just started on Shifty McGifty 4

    Lois: Do you keep an ideas book for doodling in?

    Steven: I do. I keep a small sketch book on me at all times, because I might wake up at midnight with a really good idea or I might be on the bus or the train or in the car (not driving of course!) and come up with another idea and want to write it down quickly. So having a book with you all the time to make notes is a really good idea.

    Lois: What other illustrators do you admire?

    Steven: When I was growing up I loved Quentin Blake who does all the Roald Dahl book illustrations like the BFG. There’s also a lady who I really like, who designs a lot of Disney books called Mary Blair. I also really like Judith Kerr who did the Tiger who came to tea, she’s going to be at the Bath Literature Festival this year. That’s probably enough isn’t it. I could go on all day! (On Thursday 1 October Bath Festivals is auctioning over 60 original, unique, illustrations by Bath Children’s Literature Festival illustrators including Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo) and Chris Riddell (Goth Girl) click here for more information)

    Lois: Did anyone inspire you to become an illustrator?

    Steven: My teachers at primary school did. Mrs Wood who was my very first teacher was very good at art and I’ve had really good teachers all through my life. So yes teachers really are the main influence. And then I like to read up about other artists in the library and I used to enjoy watching animations on tv, and I knew I wanted to create my own characters so anything that involved characters I liked.

    Lois: Do you prefer to draw with a pencil and paper or on a computer?

    Steven:  Well I use both. It’s funny you should ask that because I always start off with a sketch book with pencil and paper and then I scan it into the computer and then I colour everything in. So everything you see in colour in my work is all done in photoshop on the computer. So I use a really good mixture of both

    Lois: Do you just illustrate books or do you draw other things too?

    Steven: I do draw other things too. I still do bits of animation and I design characters for TV commercials as well , I also design greeting cards and advent calendars. So yes lots of other different things that i try and do in between doing the books.

    Lois: If you were writing a book would you start with the story or the drawings?

    Steven: I would say neither, I start with the idea. So if you get an idea and it’s easier to explain it and write it down first then it would be the words but if you come up with a really good idea for a character it might be quicker to draw the character first. So it depends on the idea but the idea comes first.

    Lois: If you could illustrate any book in the whole world, which would you pick?

    Steven: Hmmm, well there’s a book with lots of dotty dogs in it and that would be my dream job. I think I’d like to design a really nice big book like Peter Pan, a real classic. I love the Far Away Tree books too by Enid Blyton, I’d love to illustrate those, or Alice in Wonderland as well would be really nice.

    Lois: I can see you like drawing dogs, do you have a pet dog?

    Steven: I do have a pet dog, she’s a Jack Russel and she’s a rescue dog called Holly. She’s getting on a bit, she’s 11 or 12 now and she can be quite grump

    Shifty Mcgifty illustrator Steven Lenton is appearing with Tracey Corderoy at the Festival on Sunday 27 September at 10.30am at the Mission Theatre in Bath to book tickets click here

    To see the full 2015 Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival programme click here. Bath Box Office 01225 463362