Colin West is a children’s author, illustrator and poet, from Battle, England. Add to that, a big collector of books AND one of the best at backing newcomers on the scene… and you’ve got a real life SUPER HERO of the children’s book world.
I’m bending the normal Mudwaffler rules here a little, but with good reason… rather than looking at just one of Colin’s books, we’re going to take in a whole treasure trove of his poems, stories and illustrations from the past 40 years. PLUS we’re treated to some SUPER sneak-peeks of something due out later this year… AND the Q&A. Phew! We’re in for a treat.
Colin’s first book was published shortly after he graduated from the Royal College of Art, London in 1975 (his tutor was someone you might be familiar with… Quentin Blake). To date, he’s written over 60 children’s books, and has no plans to stop there. Good!
I first discovered Colin’s work in “I Don’t Care!” Said the Bear, published by Walker Books in 1996.
A classic story whereby the bear is told he’s being pursued by an ever growing list of animals – a moose, a goose, a pig, a snake, a wolf – each time the response is ‘”I don’t care!” said the Bear, with his nose in the air’.
It’s only when the narrator of the story mentions that he is a teeny weeny mouse, that the bear reacts “YIKES!”, before running off to his lair. Brilliant fun, every time. And of course full of Colin’s bright, eye-catching illustrations.
Colin’s work is prolific. Here are just a few of the books in his back catalogue, to give you an idea…
There are two family favourites I’ve singled out… Moose and Mouse was published by Kingfisher in 2004. It’s a beautifully illustrated book featuring an explorer moose and a poetry writing mouse! It might also be recognised as Colin’s twitter tag.
The second is Monty, The Dog Who Wears Glasses, first introduced to the world in 1989. Monty proved so successful he was made into cartoon, airing on BBC 1 in 1995, narrated by Griff Rhys Jones.
Here are just a couple of Monty titles and an image from Colin’s website, where Monty takes the stage…
They speak for themselves! If you want to get lost for a few minutes inside a witty world where ANYTHING GOES then read away and enjoy. They always get me laughing and inspire me to write my own nonsense verse – though I’ve got some way to go! A quick visit to Colin’s website and you can download some of his books for FREE! I recommend it.
I’m lucky enough to have seen a few pieces of Colin’s artwork in real life, and they are FANTABULOUS. It was one of those times where I didn’t know what to do, or say, other than pick up my jaw from the floor. If you think they look good here, you need to see the originals. They’re so rich in colour and full of textures he’s created by mixing ink and watercolour paints. Colin is able to squeeze in so much in just a few lines – it’s really nice to just stop and look at how the lines are placed. A lesson in every one.
Pardon? said the giraffe, Published by Walker Books in 1986
Ten Little Crocodiles, published by Walker books in 1987
Not Me, said the Monkey, published by Walker Books in 1987
One Day in the Jungle, published by Walker Books in 1995
A SUPER sneak peek!
Colin has very kindly given us a few sneak peeks at his forthcoming book, Never Nudge a Budgie! 100 Funny Poems…
Described as ‘funnier than ever’, Never Nudge a Budgie features 100 of Colin’s best poems; a mix of brand new and classic favourites, each with an accompanying illustration. This peek is so sneaky it’s pre-print proof, as you’ll see from the following images…
Aren’t they great!? I love the expression on the parrot’s face in this last one. Really looking forward to getting a copy.
Never Nudge a Budgie is published by Walker and is due for release 1st October 2015. Keep an eye out for it!
The Mudwaffler’s badge applies in so many ways! And to mark the occasion the Mudwaffler borrowed Monty’s glasses…
Now, it’s WAFFLE time! Colin West joins us for a Q&A…
Of all of your poems, which one is your favourite and what inspired it??
I guess that changes every week. It would be customary to choose a recent one, but a rhyme I wrote about 40 years ago still resonates with me, The Darkest and Dingiest Dungeon. I remember I’d been reading lots of John Betjeman and I had this rhythm in my head of 11 and 10 syllable lines. I also happened to have a headache! I lay down with the rhythm thumping in my head and in the course of the night the poem practically wrote itself. It’s a blessing when that happens! The accompanying drawing I made was based on Cruikshank’s famous engraving of Fagin in his condemned cell.
What are you currently working on (any sneak peek news!?)?
I’m always scribbling ideas for projects. Recently one of my Twitter/Facebook chums, Calef Brown, suggested we each illustrate a poem by the other. How could I resist? Well, yesterday I wrote one which I’m greatly looking forward to seeing him illustrate. It’s about an ostrich who does cross-stitch. I can’t tell you about his poem, but will just say Vikings are involved.
What is your favourite thing to draw?
My favourite things to draw, I suppose, are animals and people (except good-looking people, who are a pain to draw!). Also difficult are interiors with lots of furniture.
Who (or what) are your influences?
Well, although I grew up in the 1950s, I saw little of those wonderful mid century books so beloved by many of today’s retro illustrators. I remember drawing Fred Flintstone when he first hit our screens, so I suppose those cartoons were an influence. Later at art college, I loved illustrators such as Ardizzone, Saul Steinberg and Tomi Ungerer and was no doubt influenced by them.
Do you have any advice for illustrators/writers who are just starting out?
Look at many diverse types of illustration. Experiment and draw!
and three for fun…
What are three words that best describe you?
Happy. By. Myself!
What is your favourite word?
My favourite word is “aqueduct” as I discovered only recently I’ve been misspelling it all my life. Pesky things, words!
If you could share a cuppa with anyone (alive or dead), anywhere, who would it be and where would you go?
I think I’d choose that Grand Master of Nonsense, Edward Lear. He could entertain me with musical versions of his nonsense verses accompanying himself on the piano (and do lots of impromptu sketches too). I don’t go along with the modern idea of him being a social misfit, he was apparently a genial host! As for the venue, I’d choose a Tudor house with lots of oak beams and a garden full of fruit trees.
I hope that answers all of Mudwaffler’s questions, nice to meet you sir!
Many thanks to Colin! Here’s a character he created especially to be the Mudwaffler’s friend, named Sandysnipe!
Be sure to check out his website: www.colinwest.com where you can download some great poems to your ipad or Kindle.
You can find him on Twitter: @mooseandmouse
Or, if you’re interested in purchasing some of Colin’s original work from ChildrensBookIllustration.com, see here.
Swamp Hugs! Till the next time…