His characters are instantly recognisable and have been delighting youngsters for years, but that doesn’t stop illustrator Axel Scheffler from being slightly apprehensive at facing his toughest crowd: children.
As the artist behind Julia Donaldson’s endearing stories from Stick Man to The Gruffalo and Zog and the Flying Doctors, he usually leaves the storytelling to Julia. But at some events, such as his appearance at Folkestone Book Festival on Saturday, November 26, he does read as well as do drawings for his young audience.
He said: “We do events together but sometimes we do them separately and they have to put up with me. I read books depending on the age of the children. Ages four to seven are the ideal audience – but children can be very critical!”
His live drawing and storytelling will feature favourites such as Pip and Posy and he’ll share what it’s like to work with Julia. Despite working together for many years, the pair work separately – she writes the story then he creates the pictures from her words. “The author has to accept the vision of the illustrator,” he said. “I am not trying to think what she would have imagined. We have done so many books together now though we know a bit what the other likes. I like the more whimsical ones.”
He is now working on the characters for The Ugly Five, a new book which will be published in September inspired by Julia’s visit to South Africa. It features a wildebeest, warthog, hyena, lappet-faced vulture and marabou stork and how they “reclaim” their uniqueness.
“I am doing five ugly animals,” he said. “It is still at an early stage but I am quite quick. I can draw animals and then make them more ugly. I have deadlines coming up and I must meet them, although I have more and more people wanting things of me. That is the other side of being popular.”
He will be at Folkestone Quarterhouse, on Saturday, November 26 but the session is sold out.
But author Philip Ardagh and The Grunts’ event, where sevens and up can learn about the latest adventure where The Grunts must transport a Person of Great Importance (POGI), still has a handful of tickets for £6 available on Sunday, November 27.
To book visit folkestonebookfest.com or call 01303 760750.