Book Reviews, Childrens Book Illustration, Nikki Dyson, Q&A, Timothy Knapman, Walker

Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes! Plus Q&A with Timothy Knapman and Nikki Dyson

Dinosaurs Don’t have Bedtimes was published 4th August 2016 by Walker Books. Written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Nikki Dyson, this is a brilliant book for bedtimes.

Said the Mudwaffler… ‘Perfect bedtime ROARING for dinosaurs of all ages!’

Dinosaurs Don't Have Bedtimes!

The Story

What do you get when you add the outrageously talented Timothy Knapman and illustration extraordinaire Nikki Dyson, to bedtimes… and dinosaurs?  Something brilliant. That’s what. What they’ve made here is a really, really, cleverly written, illustrated and designed book. It’s fun, sweet, and wild! And it’s definitely ROARSOME! It’s the story of what all parents – from way back in the Jurassic, to just last night – have experienced: the struggles and fun of getting a little one to bed.

“Suppertime!” said Mummy.

“But dinosaurs don’t HAVE suppertimes!” said Mo. 

DDHBT COLOURS PAGES 4-5

We’re off! I do love a book that grabs you from the get-go. Our bedtime hero – Mo – is on what I imagine is a daily routine (if my own two mini-mudwafflers are anything to go by) of excuses and dilly-dallying to delay going to bed.

“Really?” said Mummy.

“They must get very hungry.”

“They eat whenever they like,” said Mo.

Mo has a dinosaur answer for each of Mummy’s requests and his responses are illustrated on the opposites page – where Mo is a dinosaur. It’s brilliantly executed. You’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of ROARs and GRRRs and YARLs to join in with!

 

DDHBT COLOURS PAGES 14-15

DDHBT COLOURS PAGES 16-17

Even as Mummy tries to make it fun, with a little playtime, Mo the dinosaur warns “Dinosaurs Don’t play nicely.” GRRR! It’s an absolute joy to read.

“Milk time!” announces Mummy. But we know what’s coming – Dinosaurs don’t drink their milk!” Of course not.

Will Mummy ever get this little dinosaur to bed? I’ll leave it for you to find out. (And I’d recommend you do, Picture Book Fan!)

It’s a really exciting book to read. Mo’s answers aren’t cliched at all, they’re funny, and smart. Timothy Knapman’s words are, as I mentioned earlier, really, really cleverly written. He’s made a story here that I’m sure will be a favourite at bedtime for dinosaur fans of all ages. I should add too, that Mo is never pointed out to be a girl or a boy, and I think that’s great.

While this story is exciting and funny and interactive (and is bound to inspire some little ones to delay their own bedtimes with a dinosaur or animal themed excuse), it does still have all the qualities you’d like to find in a bedtime story, which is hard to achieve in all that excitement. Another point to note the cleverness of this book.

The Artwork

The illustrations in Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes! are bloomin’ marvelous! Nikki Dyson is a wonderful illustrator. Her characters always make me smile and Dinosaurs Don’t have Bedtimes is full of fantastic illustrations to drool over. Here, her style is slightly more textured than I’ve see it before, and it’s all for the better.

Here are a couple of Nikki’s rough illustrations for spreads we’ve already seen…

DDHBT_ROUGH 4-5

DDHBT_ROUGH 14-15

Amazing!

Book covers are supposed to draw you in under their spell, but this is one of those rare covers that punches above the rest, which I think is not only down to Nikki’s colour use and characters, but, because it’s so energetic. A lot of picture book covers are static scenes, and they work, they look great, they’re calming, even if their colours are vibrant and poppy, but here, the dinosaur Mo on the cover is leaping up over the title, almost as if we are catching a passing glimpse as it dives back into the story. This isn’t what you’d expect for a bedtime story, and I think, for me, that’s the hook.

Dinosaurs Don't Have Bedtimes!

The characters of Mo and Mummy are instantly likable, and they feel fresh (which, again, is a hard feat is today’s picture book world). Mo’s dog is a nice addition to the story too, featuring throughout in an unwritten role. Mo is cute and rebellious all-in-one, with a fantastic curly hair-do and a outfit!

MO BACK COVER IMAGE

And the dinosaurs? Well, they’re ROARSOME! aren’t they! Nikki’s use of texture really shines here. The dinosaur characters are ALL superb. They feature as both as toys which Mo is playing with and as real-life full-sized dinos on the opposite pages. Mo the dinosaur is of course the stand-out roarer, but each and every one of the others is a superbly illustrated too.

Nikki has kindly given us a peek at these early character designs for Mo and Mummy…

EARLY CHARACTER SHEET WALKER

DDHBT COLOUR ROUGH MO ROARING

I’ll be keeping my fingers and toes crossed for another Timothy Knapman / Nikki Dyson collaboration in the future!

The Mudwaffler enjoyed shouting out all the GRRs, GROWLs, HMPHs and YARLs and is currently making a shoe-box dinosaur mask, just like Mo’s.

Dinosaurs Don't Have Bedtimes BOOK REVIEW BANNER

 

Now, it’s WAFFLE time! Timothy Knapman and Nikki Dyson join us for a Q&A…

What inspired you to make Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes! and what was your creative process?

T.K. I wanted to write a “go to bed” text – they’re a picture book staple and I hadn’t really done one before – but I wanted to put my own spin on it.  Especially as getting a child to go to bed is not always the peaceful, dreamy process depicted in those books – sometimes it’s like riot control! The book’s been criticised in some quarters because there’s no heavy moral pressure in it.  Some readers wanted the mum to be telling Mo off for his bad behaviour, or Mo learning the error of his ways and, although I have written those sorts of stories – with a more apparent moral – this one didn’t feel like it should go that way.  It was more like war reporting, you know? This is what actually happens.  Sometimes.  I’ve since written another “go to bed” text – called Rockabye Pirate that is coming out in 2017 from Bloomsbury – and that’s much more peaceful and sweet, so perhaps the people who didn’t like Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes will enjoy that one.  I hope so.  I should say that Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes has been very popular with other readers – it’s one of my best selling books – so there are plenty of people out there who “get it” and that’s wonderful.
My creative process on this one was interesting because it was one of my first books with Walker and they do things a little differently from other publishers.  Each publisher has its own taste and style, of course they do – because all editors and designers are individuals – but with Walker their identity is that little bit more clearly defined, I think.  Of course, they make beautiful books, many of them instant classics, but it was interesting to learn how certain things that are very popular with other publishers just won’t fly with them.  Rhyme, for instance: they weren’t keen on a text that used rhyme throughout and the tum-ti-tum metre that’s so familiar from so many – often very successful – stories published by other houses.  They were okay with the occasional rhyme that sort of pops up during the natural course of the writing – and Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes has a few of those as you see when you read it.  I think the rhyme thing is connected to the way they favour “younger” texts – things that are less knowing and smart, and rhyme can be very knowing and smart.  Of course, I love writing for other publishers, but when you’re working with Walker there’s a particular satisfaction when you nail it, a very real sense of achievement because what they’re looking for is less clearly defined, more nebulous; but they know it when they read it.

N.D. This was my first book with Tim and my first for Walker Books too. When I received Tim’s text I was extremely excited to be working with them both and also on one of my fave subjects too – DINOSAURS!!! What could be cooler! I loved how Tim wrote Mo’s character imagining himself as a dinosaur and trying to get out of doing what his Mum asked of him. It was a great challenge to depict the real world with the boy’s imagination. So I drew a few ideas for how I could combine these two worlds together and added a few clues throughout the book that linked the two, like meatballs Mo has for his dinner imagined as big boulders and Mo blowing bubbles in his milk as the Dinosaur plays in the bubbling lava. I especially had a lot of fun drawing the different ways I could bring this visually to the story. Tim cleverly also left me space on some spreads with one or two words like “Towel” and “Growl” which really enabled me to go to town with my imagination – which was fantastic and a very fun way to work too.

What are you currently working on (any sneak peek news!?)?

T.K. I’ve got lots of things on the go, in various different stages of preparation. My next book for Walker is called Can’t Catch Me and that’s with a brilliant illustrator called Simona Ciraolo.

Can't Catch Me

There’s Rockabye Pirate, that I mentioned earlier, that’s illustrated by Ada Grey and it’s so warm and snuggly and beautiful – like a sort of cosy, roaring log fire of a book.

Rockabye Pirate

Two of my books with Scholastic, Dinosaurs in the Supermarket and Dinosaurs in My School – both illustrated by Sarah Warburton – did very well indeed and we’re exploring that world a bit more in Pirates in the Supermarket which is huge, riotous fun.

PIRATEScoverART_alt

Then some way down the road, there’s a book about an evil bogey – that is going to be very funny.

N.D. I’m currently working on a few things at the moment. I have a new picture book I’m finishing which is out soon, this is my second book with the lovely Walker Books and it’s written by the super Ronda Armitage, it’s a very mighty CHEEKY tale! That’s all I can say! I also will be illustrating a new picture book in the new year with Kes Gray for Macmillan Children’s books which is hilarious, it stars a Blue Footed Booby. Again I can’t say much more but I’m looking forward to drawing some VERY unusual things!!

What is your favourite thing to write?

T.K. I have the enormous good fortune to be able to do many different kinds of writing.  Of course there are picture books – and there are lots of different ways to write those – but I also write non-fiction (I did a book about Space, published by Orion, for instance), fiction for older kids (such as the two My Uncle Foulpest books which are very funny and were a huge laugh to write, and next year, OUP is bringing out a book called Extinct! about a stone age boy called Mee who finds something very surprising in the shadows at the back of his cave) and then there’s all my theatre writing.  I’ve written plays and I also co-write musicals.  Not only is that great fun, I also think different kinds of writing feed one another.  I know I’m a better writer of musicals because I write picture books and vice versa.  And I think what I love most about both processes is that they are collaborative.  With a picture book, of course, you work with an editor on the text, and then you work with an illustrator and a designer.  On a musical, I work with a composer and a co-lyricist, then with a producer, a director, a choreographer, a cast and – finally and most importantly – the audience.  It’s nerve-racking sometimes because not all your most treasured ideas survive the process but you know that, by the end, you’ve got something that is so much better than anything you could have come up with on your own.  So in writing, my favourite things are variety and collaboration.

What is your favourite thing to draw?

N.D. Oooo that’s a good one! I enjoy drawing animals the best as I love being able to put lots of character in them and some have such funny ways about them too which always sparks great story ideas. Recently I’ve been drawing lots of bunnies in my own time and I’ve become really quite obsessed by them!

Nikki Dyson Bunny 2

Nikki Dyson Bunny

Who (or what) are your influences?

T.K. Too numerous to mention.  I grew up at a time – the late 60s and early 70s – when there weren’t that many books for children – certainly not by today’s standards, certainly not picture books.  Just think of how many of the picture books that dominate the landscape nowadays, the “classics”, date from after that time – Bear Hunt, Not Now Bernard, Gruffalo, Farmer Duck, Owl Babies and so on.  There were a few: we had Tintin and Asterix, and Where The Wild Things Are and The Tiger Who Came To Tea.  So Sendak was huge for me (being a boy I had less time for Judith Kerr, which was a massive mistake as she’s brilliant), and Quentin Blake, too.  That was before he started working with Dahl, but I remember him on Jackanory, illlustrating a story as he told it on this one enormous sheet of paper.  Oh, and I loved a Tomi Ungerer book called Zeralda’s Ogre – that was funny but also quite dark: that appealed to me very strongly.  I love odd things – funny things, weird things, scary things – so science fiction and fantasy were very important.  It was pre-video and DVD so when I was older (and had gone through Dahl, as everyone does, with huge relish and joy) I devoured novelisations of my favourite television programme, Doctor Who – they were the only way I was ever going to have a chance to enjoy those stories; there was no reason to suppose they’d ever be broadcast again.  When I’m doing school visits I often say that a book opens like a door opens – it’s the same engineering – and I dived into every book I could find that opened a door onto a strange and wonderful world.

N.D. I’m influenced a lot by my fellow peers, I love discovering new talent too always so lovely to see new and exciting illustrators pop up! I’m also inspired by my family, nature, animals and I love looking at animation art, especially old Disney concept artists like Eyvind Earle, Gustaf Tenggren, Al Dempster and Mary Blair to name a few… they all had something very magical and beautifully timeless about their work.

Do you have any advice for writers who are just starting out?

T.K. I think form is very important – the shape that your story is going to fill.  It’s important commercially – a thousand page picture book story is too long, it isn’t going to sell – and creatively – once you have a sense of shape, you can pace yourself: you know where the ending’s going to be, you know when you’ve reached the middle of your story, and so on.  So remember, a picture book is – generally speaking – made up of twelve double-page spreads.  See how your story works if you divide it up into twelve.  And twelve double-page spreads means there will be eleven “page turns”, and you should make the most of them, they’re like “cuts” in films.  They’re great for setting up suspense (“The little rabbit opened the door and…” – page turn – “There was no one there!”) or surprise (“I’m hungry!” said Mouse for the fifteenth time” page turn “So Cat ate him.”).  Word count is very small – about 300 to 650 words, you might use fewer but you shouldn’t use more – so every word needs to earn its keep.  In that sense, writing a picture book is like writing a poem: every word matters.  Most importantly of all, keep it simple.  Simple is not the same as easy.  If a story is simply told every part of it must work because there’s no fancy writing to hide anything that doesn’t; in fact, simple is very hard indeed.

Do you have any advice for illustrators who are just starting out?

N.D. This is very clichéd but draw, draw some more, and most importantly have fun, play around with ideas and don’t be afraid to experiment! Sketchbooks are the best too, always a good idea to have one to hand as some of the greatest ideas come from them.

and three for fun…

What are three words that best describe you?

T.K. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered.

N.D. A. Silly. Sausage.

What is your favourite word?

T.K. I have a number.  I think “berserk” is the funniest, it always makes me smile.  The most beautiful word is either “ocean” or “archangel”; my mouth feels special whenever it says them.

What is your favourite colour?

N.D. Green.

If you could share a cuppa with anyone (alive or dead), anywhere, who would it be and where would you go?

T.K. I have so many heroes so there are plenty of options.  Alexander the Great, perhaps – though he was a violent drunk so I’d have to make sure he didn’t put anything stronger into his cuppa.  Or Billy Wilder, the film writer and director – I’ve always loved his films.  But I think most of all I’d like to have met George Gershwin, the songwriter and composer.  Partly because I love his music, partly because – from what I’ve read – he was a very charming and funny man (and most heroes aren’t, and they are best avoided for that reason) – but mostly because of the world he lived in.  Broadway in the 20s, which was bursting with all the wonderful songs that are now standards, and full of clever, funny people writing plays and shows and newspaper columns, and then all getting together to talk about it at the Algonquin hotel.  A world with the dew still on it, sparkling.

N.D. I’d love to go on an adventure with Sir David Attenborough and we’d travel back in time together to Mauritius to have tea with a Dodo and Dave (we’ll be on first name terms) can share with me all of his amazing wildlife adventure stories, whilst I draw the Dodo’s portrait in pastels.

Enormous thanks to Timothy Knapman and Nikki Dyson for featuring on the Mudwaffler.
Take a look at this awesome Mo the Mudwaffler drawn by Nikki! Thanks so much!
Mudwaffler Mo

Be sure to check out:

Timothy’s website: www.timothyknapman.co.uk

Or find him on Twitter: @TimothyKnapman

Nikki’s website: www.nikkidysonillustration.co.uk

Or find her on Twitter: @DoodleDyson

 

Swamp Hugs! Till the next time…

The Mudwaffler

 

 

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