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Martin Brown has introduced a generation of children to history through his illustrations of Terrible Tudors, Awful Egyptians and Rotten Romans. We are delighted that Martin, of Horrible Histories fame, has joined us as our Guest Editor for June - discover which illustrators he admires and find out more about his award-winning Lesser Spotted Animals.
We wanted to find out a bit more about Martin and his books....
Your series Lesser Spotted Animals uses an innovative and clever approach to bring the more obscure and unusual creatures to our attention. It must have been great fun to research! How did you find your animals?
Some animals have great stories, some are amazing to look at - and some just have fabulous names. Who doesn’t want to know about the dagger toothed flower bat? Ever since I realised there was more to wildlife that lions, tigers, elephants and hippos I’ve had an interest in different mammal species. I guess I’ve been ‘collecting’ them for years.
Which is your favourite Lesser Spotted Animal?
That’s so hard. And it changes. I’m quite interested in tuco-tucos at the moment. But from the books, I suppose the southern right whale dolphin is pretty special. It almost sums up the whole idea for Lesser Spotted Animals. How could something as WOW as this exist in the world and not be in any books?
Do you have your own pets?
We have leggy, sand-coloured lurcher called Filby. When he’s not pretending to be a racehorse he likes to pretend he can curl up on your lap. He’s our lap horse.
Before the Lesser Spotted series you were known for illustrating the phenomenally successful Horrible Histories series. Do you have a love of history too?
Apart from it being fun to understand how we got from being pond slime to here, non-fiction has always had the best tales to tell. History is full of the most amazingly unbelievable-but-it’s-true stories. You couldn’t make that stuff up.
The Horrible Histories books are highly illustrated and often have cartoon style drawings. Can you talk us through your creative process?
The first thing I do is read through the text very carefully. It’s brilliant material to work with and Terry Deary is a brilliant writer to work with. Next is the ideas phase. Sometimes Terry asks me to illustrate something, sometimes it’s up to me, but this when I do the roughs - quick sketches of my ideas and gags. Then it’s final artwork time. I draw each illustration or gag in pencil again then go over it with a black fineliner. When the ink is dry I carefully rub out the pencil leaving the finished drawing ready for scanning.
Did you love to draw when you were at school?
I loved drawing at school (or anywhere else for that matter). Art was always my best subject. So the art teachers would challenge me to more and more. So I got better and better. It’s the same with anything - sport, music, gaming - whatever. If you love doing something you want to do it all the time. And if you do it all the time you get better at it. That’s how it works. I certainly wasn’t born able to draw.
Can we look forward to further 'Lesser Spotted Animals'?
I’m doing some fiction at the moment. Fiction! I know. Made up stories! Urghh. (It’s my own story so I really don’t mind.) But I hope there’ll be another Lesser Spotted Animals one day. I want to talk about tuco-tucos.
We're all excited about that then! Thanks Martin. Before you go can you give us your top 5 recommended children's books? We'd love to know which illustrators you admire!
The Arrival by Shaun Tan - A beautiful and relevant book about trying to find safety in a new place and a new life. It’s a stunning creation full of hope and imagination - and with no words whatsoever.
How to Draw Horrible Science by Tony De Saulles - I taught myself how to draw with how to draw books and this is one of the best around today. It starts with the wobbliest silly faces but ends up with lighting, perspective and picture design - all in easy cartoon steps. This book is about the fun drawing can be.
Our Cat Cuddles by Gervase Phinn and Amanda Montgomery-Higham - A long time favourite - this is a happy book, a snappy book, a caring book and a sharing book - a laughing together in a comfy chair book. Definitely one for reading aloud.
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve - The first in the series about a bleak future where monstrous mobile cities roam the wasteland. This is ripping yarn and wild imagination at it’s best.
Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes - Not really children’s book as such but a book I would have loved as a child. The world is full of the most amazing creatures - most of which we never get to see. With clear text and beautiful drawings this book gives you a taste of just part of that world. Non fiction is fun too.
And as an bonus, Martin has reviewed one of his favourite books published this month and unsurprisingly it's about animals too!
This Book Has Alpacas written by Emma Perry and illustrated by Rikin Parekh - As someone trying to big-up some of the planet’s unsung animal heroes in Lesser Spotted Animals I adored this brilliant new picture book about Alfonso the alpaca who loves reading but finds that every book he reads seems to be about bears.
Find a selection of Martin's books below.
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