I am very excited to be able to write here once again: “Hooray, it’s publication day!”
Yes, today Squishy McFluff: Tea with the Queen officially hits the shelves – and this is especially exciting because it’s Squishy’s first ever picture book!
With six beautiful little books in the series already, we decided some time ago that it would be lovely to see McFluff in a larger format and in full colour, for some seriously brilliant, rhyming bedtime reading.
So I wrote a special story all about Ava and Squishy visiting London’s Buckingham Palace no less. And when they pop inside – to see if they can track down the fancy corgi that Squishy McFluff has heard so much about – they accidentally stumble across another rather regal character!
It was super fun for me to take Squishy and Ava out of their usual surroundings, and to write this story in a slightly different way. Ella got the chance to use a much wider colour palette, and I know you’ll agree that her artwork is absolutely stunning. We really hope you enjoy reading this book as much as we enjoyed making it.
To celebrate the publication of the picture book, we’ve added some new fun activity sheets for you to print out and enjoy at home. Click here to take a look. And don’t forget you can upload a drawing of your own invisible cat (perhaps with its own invisible crown?) – it could end up in our gallery!
Now for even more news – while you’re enjoying Squishy McFluff: Tea with The Queen, Ella and I will be busy working on the seventh book in the Squishy McFluff series. I won’t say too much about it just yet – only that, this time, Ava and Squishy will be having lots more madcap adventures, this time at a CIRCUS!
Squishy McFluff: On With the Show! will be published in June 2020. Watch this space for more news.
Squishy McFluff and I had an absolutely brilliant time last week, visiting hundreds and hundreds of children to celebrate World Book Day!
I saw some seriously fantastic costumes. It’s truly wonderful to see how much children love their favourite book characters, and how excited children get about books and about reading.
Two special *waves*…
Firstly to to Mei, who dressed up as Squishy (just look at the costume! So much love went into it, you’re a very dedicated mummy, Noa!), and secondly to Ellie, who dressed up as Ava, and took invisible Squishy to school with her! (I love the lead idea, by the way. Very sensible, Ellie, with such a mischievous kitten.)
I hope that everyone enjoyed themselves as much as I did during World Book Day week – but remember, every day should be a Book Day! There are so many worlds to be discovered, and you wouldn’t want to miss out now, would you? 😉
Keep an eye on this blog for some exciting Squishy McFluff news soon! In the meantime, keep reading… and lots of love.
Pip: Hooray, hooray! It’s publication day! I’m so excited that Squishy McFluff: Seaside Rescue! is out. Writing this story reminded me of so many lovely holidays when I was a child – the adventures I had on the beach and (like Ava, but not *quite* so dramatic!) in boats.
So, I thought I’d share some memories on the blog – and I am not alone! Ella Okstad is here too. Hi Ella!
Ella: Hey Pip!
Pip: So… holibobs! When I was little, we used to go to Wales every summer, to a little coastal village where my Grandma was born. My Dad would build boats in the sand (they were so cool, you could actually get in, and sit in them, and row away… if you used your imagination!) and then my sister and I would sit there eating ham and sand sandwiches (the sandwiches ALWAYS got sand in them).
Ella: Haha! I also remember eating sandy sandwiches. We spent lots of holidays in Denmark when I was little, and we used to have sandwiches with special Danish
chocolate spread: thin plates of chocolate on top of some buttered bread. Yummy! Except, on the beach, they were always melted with sand on top. Not so nice…
Pip: So how come you went to Denmark lots?
Ella: My Grandma was Danish. Some of the holidays in Denmark were spent camping, and a couple of times we stayed on a farm where they had pigs. I remember once we drove down to Oslo in my mum’s little green car, and took the boat to Copenhagen. The car had to be hoisted onto the upper deck with a crane! I remember my mum getting hysterical while we watched it floating above us.
Pip: Sometimes my Grandad would drive us to Wales – that would be Great Grandad Bill from the Squishy books, who is now 102! It took soooooo long to get there. But I loved the Welsh holidays. It was always really exciting going out on the boat, fishing for mackerel. It makes me smile when I think of the walks we’d do to the beaches. My Grandma would be striding on ahead, saying ‘come on Bill, hurry up!’ and Grandad would be slowly walking behind, heavily laden with picnic basket, blankets, windbreak, fold up deckchairs etc… poor thing!
Ella: I can just imagine the scene, with you lot bounding off to the beach and Great
Grandad Bill staggering along with all that stuff! Do tell him I said hello! 🙂 And did you go on holiday abroad when you were little, too?
Pip: We did! I was very lucky. Even when I was very young we went to lots of European countries, including France and Spain. My mum liked to make my sister and I learn some of the language of wherever we were going, so she’d buy those ‘Learn to Speak…’ cassette tapes for us to listen to every morning. I couldn’t say a huge amount of it went in, but there were several essential phrases we had to know: ‘Good morning/afternoon/night’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘where is the loo?’!
Ella: Ha! Yes, Very Important.
Pip: One of my funniest holiday memories was in France when my mum was trying to speak French to a local man in a cafe. She was trying to explain to him that the car we drove was a French make – a big Citroen DS. But she wasn’t pronouncing it quite right. She should have been saying ‘Citro-EN’, but she was saying ‘citron’.
Poor chap, he was sitting there, totally confused, watching my mum getting more and more frustrated (doing steering wheel hand movements and everything) telling him that she drove a ‘grand citron’ – which actually meant a ‘big lemon’. Ha!
Ella: Language misunderstandings are always funny. My mum and I travelled to the Greek islands and Cyprus a few times. We loved it there – coming from the cold north, it was so nice to have a bit of sun and warm weather.
Anyway, the first time I went, I was a bit confused, because I constantly heard Greek people shouting ‘Ella, Ella!’. I thought, ‘wow, it’s strange how everyone here knows my name!’ After a while, I learned that they were actually shouting ‘Ela edo!’ to one another, which means ‘come here!’ in Greek.
Pip: Oh, we went to Greece as well! We spent a lovely holiday on an island called Spetses, where we met a man called Yanis. He had an amazing house on top of a hill, and he owned seventeen cats.
Ella: There’s actually an ancient monastery especially for cats in Cyprus. It’s called the Holy Monastery of St Nicholas of the Cats. We went there once. There were six old nuns, and cats everywhere!
Pip: Visible cats? Not like Squishy then.
Ella: Ha! I imagine Squishy would love to go on holiday there and get pampered by the nuns.
Pip: And they’d always forgive him for being mischievous!
Ella: Unlike the ice cream man in the new book, probably.
Pip: To be fair, I think what happens in the ice cream van is not *entirely* Squishy’s fault… but perhaps we’ll let readers decide for themselves. 😀
We really hope that you enjoy the new story. Seaside Rescue! has mischief, mayhem and (eek!) a disaster that demands a pretty heroic performance from Ava’s Mum. I especially hope that it makes mummies smile – the theme of the book being that a mother’s love knows no bounds. Hooray for mums!
We’d love to hear what you think of Squishy McFluff: Seaside Rescue!, so do comment below. In the meantime, enjoy the summer sunshine (I’m sure there WILL be some), and happy holidays one and all.
Love from Pip and Ella. xx
p.s. Click here for a Squishy McFluff: Seaside Rescue! review from The Bookbag.
Whoopie! It’s all very exciting over here at the McFluff Mansion (which is really small, by the way, and also invisible) because today we can reveal the cover for the next book, Squishy McFluff: Seaside Rescue!
Ava and Squishy are off on holiday in this story, and you can probably tell from the cover that things are going to take a bit of a disastrous turn:
The seaside, hoorah! Sandcastles! And sun!
Ava and Squishy are having such fun,
Until… oh, DISASTER! McFluff floats away!
He just can’t stay lost… Who will help save the day?
The illustrations, as ever, are drawn by the supremely talented Ella Okstad. She’s been working hard on the book for months, and the inside pages are just wonderful. I can’t wait to share the book with you, when it publishes on June 2nd.
In the meantime, Squishy McFluff and I are going to be out and about this Spring and throughout the year, so watch this space for upcoming news about where you can come to ‘meet’ the naughtiest invisible kitten there is.
Take care, and hope to see you soon!
Hello and Happy New Year!
I hope you had a wonderful festive season, and perhaps enjoyed a reading or two of Squishy McFluff: Secret Santa. 🙂
As 2016 begins, Ella Okstad and I are really excited to be bringing out the next two books in the Squishy McFluff series.
The next to publish will be Squishy McFluff: Seaside Rescue! on June 2nd. Here’s a sneak preview of one of Ella’s gorgeous illustrations. Isn’t it sweet? The rest of the book is just as pretty, I can’t wait for you to see it!
In this book, Ava and her family are off on holiday – and of course Squishy McFluff is going along too. Naturally, the beach provides plenty of opportunities to inadvertently cause mayhem (and the pesky pair certainly don’t make themselves very popular with the ice cream man).
But, as you might guess from the title of the book, it’s not long before disaster strikes, eek! Someone is going to need saving… the question is, can it be done?
Since the Squishy McFluff series started publishing, I’ve had such lovely feedback, from both children and parents. One of my favourite things to hear is that parents love the relationship between Ava and her Mum.
The books were originally inspired by my own daughter Ava and her real (!) invisible kitten, so that really strikes a chord with me. I always wanted the stories to have a level of fun especially for parents, who could probably well imagine quite how frustrating an invisible kitten would be. In the books, Mum and Dad have done a lot of shrieking, eye rolling and fist shaking!
In Seaside Rescue though, you’ll see another side to Mum – and a true depiction of a mother’s unconditional love. Mums do whatever needs doing to make things better. Mums are heroes. Mums ROCK!*
Later this year, on October 6th, we will publish the sixth book in the series.
In Squishy McFluff and the Big Country Fair, you’ll get to meet Ava’s slightly crazy Auntie Tash, and see Squishy McFluff at the most fluffy he has ever, ever been – because he’s entering the Prettiest Pet Competition!
I’ll tell you more about that one later in the year. In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy the Squishy books on the shelves already.
Come back soon, because very shortly we will be revealing the cover of Squishy McFluff: Seaside Rescue!
Bye for now,
* Dads rock too, of course. 🙂
PS. Are you going to be in London on Sunday, February 21st? Come down to the Southbank Centre, where Laura Hughes and I will be reading our picture book, Daddy’s Sandwich (and making a giant silly sandwich of our own!) as part of Imagine Children’s Festival. The event starts at 2.30pm and you can find more details here.
Hooray, hooray, hooray! Today is publication day!
Squishy McFluff: Secret Santa has hit the shelves, and I’m just so excited that Ava and Squishy McFluff now have their very own Christmas story. I had huge fun writing the book, remembering all the magical Christmases of my childhood. Of course, Christmas time in the McFluff household is somewhat more chaotic than the ones I remember, but that’s to be expected.
As ever, one of the loveliest parts of making Secret Santa was seeing the wonderful illustrations that would help tell the story. I hope you’ll agree they’re brilliant. And I thought that, as mid-October is perhaps a little bit early to be swapping mince pie recipes on the blog, it would be fun to learn a bit more about the lady behind the pictures.
So… let’s meet Ella!
Hi Ella! How did you end up illustrating books for children?
Hi! Well, I love children’s books and as a child, I was especially fascinated by the illustrations. That fascination stuck with me growing up, and I decided that this was what I wanted to do. I have been working since I graduated in 2000, illustrating stories for authors in the UK, Norway and the US. I love working with authors (you especially! Aw, thanks) and making projects of my own.
For me, seeing your first character sketches of Ava and Squishy was an amazing moment! I knew straight away they were perfect. So how did you go about deciding what they were going to look like?
Ava and Squishy just popped out! After I read the first story, which I instantly loved, I put my pencil on the paper and, as I drew, they came straight away. That doesn’t always happen. Sometimes characters are hard to find, and I have to erase and redraw them many times. Ava and Squishy have only changed very slightly slightly since that first drawing.
Tell us about your processes for illustrating Squishy McFluff.
I start by reading the whole story, making visual notes in my head. Then I go through, page by page, and make sketches. There are usually comments on each page from you and the book editor, which is also very helpful. When all the sketches are approved, I make the
final drawing by pencil using a piece of tracing paper on top of the sketch. The colouring is
done by ink on a separate layer of tracing paper. The line drawing and the colours are scanned and put together on a computer. When I’ve finished working on a book, there are usually mountains of tracing paper on my desk!
When you’re illustrating a series like Squishy, does it get easier or harder to draw the same characters over and over again?
It gets easier and easier to draw them as I go along, and I feel like I get to know them really well. It’s like meeting old friends when I’ve been away from them for a while.
Illustrations in children’s books are obviously massively, hugely, fantastically important. What do you think illustrations bring to the storytelling?
The illustrations bring a new dimension to a story. In fact, they tell parts of the story without the need for words. And both parents and children can engage with a story in a special way by looking at the pictures together. New readers also find it much easier to get through a book when there are pictures too, and it’s a proud moment when you can say for the first time: ‘I read a whole book all on my own!’
A question I get asked a lot by children I meet at schools is: how long does it take to make a book? I can tell them how long it takes me to write one, but how long does it take to draw all the pictures for a Squishy book?
It’s quite a long process. When working intensively with a book, it usually takes around two months.
Lots of children have also asked where ‘we’ as in you and I work. There is an assumption we sit side by side to make the books – but of course we work quite separately, not least because you live in Trondheim, Norway! What it’s like where you live? 🙂
Even though we live in different countries, it sometimes feels like we are sitting side by side! It’s easy to communicate through the internet.
Trondheim is the city where I was born and it’s in the middle of Norway. I live in a big house with my husband, three boys and a cat. I was allergic to cats before, but found out earlier this year that I’m not anymore, so we decided to get one. He’s called Lillebror (which means little brother). He follows us everywhere around the house and likes to cuddle. We usually have a lot of snow here in the winter, which is great fun, and on a clear winter evening, we sometimes see the magical Northern lights.
So, absolutely everyone loves your work, Ella – but which other children’s illustrators do you admire?
There are SO many brilliant children’s illustrators I admire! I love the work of Tove Jansson, Oliver Jeffers, Rilla Alexander, Benji Davies and Emily Hughes, to name a few.
If there was one children’s book character you wish you had drawn, which would it be?
That’s a difficult question. I do love the simplicity of Tove Jansson’s universe and her Moomin character. He is instantly recognizable and has so much personality. We have a shelf in our kitchen that’s filled with Moomin cups.
Do you have any advice to children who would love to have a job like yours?
Keep on drawing and have fun doing it!
And just for fun, the quick-fire round!
A slice of home made bread (freshly baked) with Norwegian brown cheese and strawberry jam, and coffee.
I have many, but if I had to pick one it would be green.
Favourite book when you were little?
Lupinella (Lupinchen in German) by Binette Schroeder.
Spring, when everything transforms into green.
Sea or swimming pool?
Definitely sea. If it’s warm enough, I love to swim.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate (both hot and cold!).
Finally, invisible cats or real ones?
Thank you Ella! Now, get back to work, my friend. Squishy McFluff: Seaside Rescue won’t draw itself, you know.
Photo of Ella Okstad courtesy of www.synlig.no
HO, HO, HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Okay, okay – I know it’s July. But it’s July 25th! Which means it’s exactly five months ’til the big day! Or, if you prefer, ONLY 153 sleeps.
I suppose normally I wouldn’t be getting all festive quite so early in the year, but this year is different, because today marks the big – TA-DAAAA! – Squishy McFluff: Secret Santa cover reveal!!
It’s drawn, of course by the stupendously brilliant Ella Okstad. Isn’t it gorgeous? Look at their hats! You can’t see it here, but the cover even has some festive sparkle. 😉
This is one of a very limited number of early copies, which I can pore over happily until the rest of the books are printed. Squishy McFluff: Secret Santa will be out on October 15th, so in plenty of time for Christmas Day (which, in 2015, shall be known in my house as ‘Squishmas’ Day). Or maybe even for some Christmas Eve bedtime reading.
It’s hard to convey quite how lovely it was to write a Christmas Squishy McFluff story. I searched the corners of my mind and, suddenly, delicious faraway memories were washing over me. They made me prickle with excitement.
I was back there, a little person, in complete awe at the magic of it all. The festive build up, with Christmas trees and Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts and eating mince pies but, mostly, willing away the days, just desperate for Christmas Eve to arrive.
And the night itself: lying there, convinced I’d never sleep (yet knowing I MUST). Clouds of my breath on the window as I checked the blackened sky for streaks of silver, hoping for a glimpse. And wondering over and over: will he come? Will he come?
Of course, for the highly imaginative Ava, and the highly mischievous Squishy McFluff, none of it happens quite that way. Oh, they do TRY to be good! I mean, what child / invisible kitten wouldn’t during the month of December? But even when they’re trying very hard to behave, things don’t quite go as expected. 🙂
Nevertheless, Ava writes to Santa, and in her letter, she reveals what her heart truly desires:
‘Mum said, as we tried to be helpful and pleasant,
I could write you a letter, and ask for a present.
So, I’ve thought very hard about what I would like,
A scooter perhaps, or a lovely new bike.
But what I DESPERATELY want, well, it’s more of a wish.
Just once, I’d like somebody else to SEE SQUISH!’
GASP! Somebody else see Squishy McFluff?! Impossible, surely? Well, you’ll just have to read the book, to find out! And fear not, I will be back to remind you about Squishy McFluff: Secret Santa. In fact, I rather expect I’ll be talking about it between now and, well, Squishmas.
Bye for now!
Oh, spring has sprung! And isn’t it just wonderful? I love getting out and about and meeting Squishy McFluff fans, so I’m very excited that Squishy and I are going to be making some appearances at festivals in May.
When I say ‘appearances’, the truth is that I might be ‘appearing’ slightly more than Squishy McFluff himself, what with him being invisible. But mark my words, he WILL be there – and children with big imaginations will be able to see him. 🙂
So, the dates. First up, we shall be at the inaugural Greenwich Book Festival, on Sunday May 24th, at 10.30am. Then, the following weekend, Squishy and I will be at Hay Festival, on Sunday May 31st, at 10am.
Talking of Hay Festival leads me to more exciting news! My picture book, Daddy’s Sandwich, launches on May 7th – and I’ll be bringing a Daddy’s Sandwich event to Hay Festival, too.
Daddy’s Sandwich is all about a little girl who wants to make a snack for her dad, including all his favourite things. Yes, ALL his favourite things, whether or not they make suitable sandwich fillings!
So, as well as reading Daddy’s Sandwich at Hay, we shall be working together to make the world’s most ridiculously inedible sandwich. Do come long and join the fun.
As part of the Daddy’s Sandwich launch celebrations, Faber Children’s is going to be running some competitions in the coming weeks. Follow @faberchildrens on Twitter and look out for details to win signed books and more!
Well, that’s all for now, folks. I very much hope to see some of you at the festivals in May. In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine.
I can hardly believe that it’s already time for the third in the Squishy McFluff series – Squishy McFluff: Meets Mad Nana Dot – to land on bookshop shelves!
I’m very excited because this story is perhaps my favourite. It’s the one in which Ava’s little sister, Baby Roo, is born. While Mum is busy giving birth, Ava and Squishy get to have a day and a night with Ava’s rather eccentric Nana Dot, who has lost her glasses and yet appears to be able to ‘see’ Squishy McFluff!
There are two questions I am often asked about writing the Squishy McFluff stories. One is, how do you go about writing them? The other is, where do you get your ideas from?
In answer to the first question, I usually plot out the story in a non-rhyming text, and then begin writing the rhyme – as you might expect – at the beginning. But Squishy McFluff: Meets Mad Nana Dot was unique in that I didn’t start at the beginning, I started at the end.
You see, I knew that I wanted Ava to have a little sister and I wanted the arrival of that little sister to be the finale of the book. I considered how young children sometimes feel when they suddenly have a new sibling (and, of course, I remembered how the real Ava reacted when her sister Ruby was born). But I thought, ‘Isn’t Ava lucky to have an invisible cat who can help her figure out how she feels about it all?’
Hence, the very first lines I wrote were the final four lines of the book.
“She’s a strange little thing, she doesn’t do talking,
“Just giggling and guzzling and gurgly squawking.
“But what do you think, Squish? Do we love Baby Roo?”
And Squishy (silently) purred, to say ‘yes… yes we do.’
I’ll be honest, it’s only recently I’ve been able to read those four lines without welling up. I’m glad I’ve finally got a grip though, because it would be terribly embarrassing if I cried every time I read the final chapter in public!
Anyway, the real Ruby was very excited to finally see ‘herself’ in a Squishy McFluff book. As an extra special treat, Ella Okstad, who I met in November, printed and signed the illustration in which Baby Roo appears for the first time – and it’s hanging, in all its glory, on the girls’ bedroom wall.
As for the rest of the story, the ideas were inspired by real people and events, much like the first two Squishy books.
Well, when I say ‘people’, I mean my own mum (known as Nana to Ava and Ruby). And when I say ‘events’, I mean one specific thing she did which made me laugh so much, I thought I absolutely must feature it in a story somehow.
My children love going to their Nana’s house. We always arrive to find one end of Mum’s large living room filled with toys and activities for them. One weekend, we arrived for a visit and I went straight to the bathroom (as one tends to need to do, after a long journey) to find it looked somewhat different to the last time we had been.
Previously, the bathroom had been decorated in grown-up shades of faun, with white tiles and shower curtain, black towels and mats. Now it was, erm, spotty.
And I mean everything was spotty. The shower curtain, the mats, the towels, the flannels. All covered in large, multi-coloured spots. Imagine Damien Hirst’s spots, but the colours more vibrant. It looked MAD.
I asked my mum what the heck she had done to her bathroom and she simply said: “Oh, yes! I just thought the girls would like it!”
Ha! She was right. They did like it. So her bathroom remains, to this day, crazily spotty and dotty – and that was how the character of Nana Dot came to be.
But inside – oh crumpets! Squishy’s eyes tied in knots!
Each wall, rug and curtain was covered in spots!
The kettle, the toaster, each pattern the same.
It was obvious how Nana got her nickname!
Incidentally, my mum, just like Nana Dot, is terrible with house plants and there was one year when she really did put up her Christmas tree in October. So far, however, she’s never had green hair.
I really hope you enjoy the book, do let me know what you think in the comments.
I’m very excited because this month sees the release of my second book, Squishy McFluff: Supermarket Sweep!
As the title suggests, Ava and Squishy are off to the supermarket – and although Mum thought Ava’s invisible kitten was going to start behaving himself at the end of the first book, you’ll see that Squishy McFluff just can’t help but have lots of brilliant ideas for fun…! Oh yes, things are about to get very messy.
By the time they arrived
Mcfluff had a plot
(He could always make fun
Where other might not).
I really enjoyed writing Supermarket Sweep! and I expect many parents who read it might relate to the, erm, challenges of shopping with a small child or children.
Rather like the first book, the idea for this one stemmed from a real event – specifically, an event involving a can of rice pudding.
You see, I’d gone shopping with my daughters, Ava and Ruby, and they were both EVER so keen to ‘help’ me do the shopping. I lost count of all the items which were chucked in the trolley and I surreptitiously put back when they weren’t looking.
But when we got home, and I unpacked the food, there it was. A can of rice pudding which I had inadvertently paid for and put into a bag without noticing.
I still have that can of rice pudding. I’m not sure why, because it will NEVER be eaten in this house. No-one here likes rice pudding. Does anyone like rice pudding?! Would anyone like a can? I expect it’s still within its sell-by date (just!).
Very soon, Squishy McFluff and I will be heading to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where I’ll be reading the new book (as long as some children help me to convince Squishy to behave himself, of course). So I’ll look forward to seeing some of you there.
In the meantime, I very much hope you enjoy the new book, and do let me know what you think in the comments.
Bye for now!