Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Based on the illustrations in LONDON CALLS!
London Calls framed print by Alex Barrow
LONDON CALLS bag by Alex Barrow


Oh yeah!
Big thanks to Natasha Polyviou for these stocking suggestions - what a great end to the year!
Time Out London Christmas edition 2014

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


Silas's family have asked us to sing his favourite songs on December 29th to mark the first anniversary of his death. 
I've just gone to pieces listening to this, so goodness knows how we'll do it but we bloody well will. 


Christmas nearly here. Too much to do that's not really important at all but still needs to be done.
This seems an appropriate song for today.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014



A prize each day from OKIDO!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Really super-jolly-nice review from US online bookstore, the Wordery

Bookpage just tweeted this fab review again - so I'm posting it here again, too.

Thanks Julie Danielson - and we hope so too!


We had a wonderful week of workshops in schools as part of the fantastic South Ken Kids Festival, now into its seventeenth year! 

At the weekend line-up, the Drawing Duos were particularly wonderful; the likes of Benji Davies & exquisite French illustrator Delphine Perret drawing to jazzzzzz was poetry in motion…Inimitable Quentin Blake (he's just good enough to eat) enthralled and entertained while Michael Rosen charmed and delighted his audience, young and old alike. Kids learned to draw like 'Gruffalo" Axel Shaffler and have I mentioned Mini Grey, Judith Kerr and Satoshi Kitamura were also there, along with some of the brightest and best of young French and UK illustrators…I'm including our very own Alex Barrow!
Okido magazine was also there, running a smashing, Okido-esque workshop of fun and frolics.
What a week that was!!

London landmarks; Big Ben & bicycles
Beautifully colour-in red bus, plus passengers!

Fabulously colourful Granny Rose & Little Pearl
A bat, an alien, a sausage - excellent bus passengers!

South Ken Kids Festival 2014
Signing books after our workshop at the South Ken Kids Festival

Friday, 14 November 2014

The South Ken Kids Festival - it's almost here!

South Ken Kids Festival

Really getting super-excited about this now…off to run workshops with Alex Barrow in various different schools next week…then all sorts of exciting happenings over the following weekend…unbelievably prestigious line-up of amazing authors and illustrators. 
We are honoured.

#tatepublishing #southkenkidsfestival #talesonmoonlane #alittlebird #creativebusstop

Read more here…

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


Over the pond, in NYC, my friend went to buy a copy or two of Possum's Tail and this is what her amazon.com page looked like:

What's that, I hear you ask, editors' choice..?! 

Monday, 10 November 2014


Something typically "British"; a city trip, a whistlestop tour?
Oh hello, #LondonCalls

Get wrapping!

And of course there's always #KateGreenawayMedal 2015 nominated...

A Possum's Tail from Tate

Btw, it's not obligatory to purchase in threes - just happen to have these snaps of 3 books...


The following kids magazines come out bi-monthly and the thrill children get when they receive something through the post cannot be underestimated.

You want to send a present abroad? No worries - these three magazines, like Father Christmas, will deliver across the globe.

For kids aged 3-8 years (or even older) there's the inimitable: #OKIDO

Kids 5-11 years that are into NATURE & the environment will love: #ECOKIDSPLANET

And for avid readers, interested in everything, there's: #STEW the magazine for curious kids
A subscription to Okido keeps on giving throughout the year...

As does a subscription to ECO kids planet

AND last but not least...

Thursday, 6 November 2014

In case you were wondering about the beautiful lettering...

Bella Pace paints traditional/modern signs, letters, numbers, logos, illustrations etc

Wondering who did the beautiful lettering on the side of the bus?

Need a traditional sign painter…? 

Look no further than BELLA PACE



Tuesday, 28 October 2014



It's arrived!


Friday, 24 October 2014


Alex and I went to Coram's Fields nursery today.

Twenty-five 3 to 4 year olds sat and watched, listened and engaged and even drew some wonderful ghosts and characters on the bus Alex drew!

They were patient and polite and took turns... 

Pearl & Granny Rose and...

…some ghosts & bus passengers!
We were so impressed by beautifully behaved they were - a tribute to the wonderful staff at clearly this very happy nursery!

Can't wait to return for the puppet show on the bus there next week...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Writer/illustrator - it's a team thing

Response to an excellent article by illustrator/writer Sarah McIntyre called: Why I hate the word 'author'

Over the last 7 years, illustrator Alex Barrow and I have been lucky enough to have worked together extensively on children's art and science magazine Okido and it's here that our working practice has evolved. Alex illustrates the majority of poems I've contributed to each issue but as far as the magazine goes, we don't discuss what I've written. Yet he always knows intuitively how to visualise, and in so doing, enhance my words. He always has done, even before we met face to face. He brings my words to life and gives them a new dimension, often creating a visual story from the words that I hadn't even noticed in there...
Okido issue 10

Neither greater than the sum of parts
The first two books Alex and I have created with wonderful Tate publishing were a more complex undertaking and our working method has developed accordingly. Alex and I see our skills not as mutually exclusive but engaging together like notes in a piece of music and most importantly, we each respect the other's talents and judgement. That's not to say we won't be working with other artists and writers at some point on other books, but for now we've got a few more ideas our up sleeves that we'd like to collaborate on. 

Both pictures and words obviously have the capacity to inspire, but in books for children, it's often the illustrations that fire up the imagination because vision is so immediateWhen we go into schools, Alex enchants the kids with his 'live drawing' while I read through the story - and no prizes for guessing who the kids watch!

Writer/illustrator alchemy
Since A Possum's Tail has just been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal, I find myself in exactly the opposite position of Sarah McIntyre (whose book has been nominated for the Carnegie; this award, unlike the Kate Greenaway Medal, does not 'include' her as the illustrator, despite the fact that the illustrations are integral to the book and in this particular case, she effectively co-wrote it. However she is not included in the nomination since it has to be a 'single author'). Alex and I have worked as an equal team on both our books, each bringing our individual skills & ideas to the table to create the very best, entertaining whole we can. This sort of relationship between writer and illustrator is rare and certainly very special so I totally get Sarah's dislike of the word 'author'; it's simply too simplistic when books are created in this more organic and collaborative way. Certainly in terms of making a value judgement, it's impossible to decide where one person's input ends and the other's begins, thus it also becomes unreasonable to decide which skill is 'better' or has the greater 'value'. 

Take The Gruffalo; the words and pictures are synonymous with the whole creation. Julia Donaldson's witty, poetic creation is given life and visual form by Axel Shaffer's hilariously robust illustrations. Who 'created' the character of the Gruffalo? Really and truly, both writer and illustrator.  The illustrator's interpretation adds layers of meaning and imagination to the words and likewise, the words inspire and inform the illustrator's work. In the same way, people tend to 'see' the world of Roald Dahl in Quentin Blake's illustrations. In the case of writer/illustrators this dynamic is automatic but it's still a kind of magic.

A great picturebook is a whole thing and must be judged as such; words and images are more than interdependent - they are equal partners.


Pictures for grown-ups
The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair
In longer books with more words and fewer illustrations, the relationship shifts a bit although images can stay with you just as long as the words do, sometimes longer. I'll never forget the pencil drawings of The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair in Susanna Clarke's  astonishing novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. That this book for grown-ups has pictures adds not only to its charm but embues it with a further layer of conceit. Here, I'm not suggesting that the words and images are less powerful alone in the way they are in a children's picturebook but that they still have the capacity to enhance one another. As a child, I was unable to keep the copy of Alice through the Looking Glass illustrated by Ralph Steadman in my room, so frightened of the images was I. The black, inky drawings quite literally 'drew' the darkness out of the book and gave it form. More proof, other than the graphic novel, that illustrated books  are not just for children. If only there were a few more - but that's another story...

Wordless Picturebooks
It's also worth considering the beautiful children's books that have no words; they are wonderful, imaginative and stimulating of course, but they also 'illustrate' (no pun intended) perfectly the sense that something is missing, even if just a few words. These books do work as they are but the added layer of words gives the reader purpose, direction and rhythm. Ok, ok, it's also quite  tiresome to make the story up every time you 'read' the book.

Invisible inputs
Last year, I helped to re-write a visually stunning book by an extremely talented illustrator; the story needed shaving and the words needed shaping. In short, they needed to form a good 'relationship' with the pictures. In the end, unfortunately, the words were somewhat apologetically placed in the corner of each page in a very small font and the images dominate. Some critics liked this, but I'd argue again that it does a diservice to both parties to credit one with more importance over the other, even in highly-illustrated books such as this. Less might still be more but  it's all to do with mutual respect. 

Making a book
In her blog piece, Sarah explains superbly the different roles involved in making a book; the editor's input being invaluable, as often is the art director's, too. And those who market and promote books also have an awful lot to do with how the book as a whole is presented. Our first book, for example, would simply not have been the same had it not come out in hardback, on matt paper, with a dust jacket, in that particular size. Small details maybe but God or the Devil lies therein, depending on your perspective. This sort of successful teamwork is crucial and as mentioned, only gets bigger and more critical when books get turned into films or television shows, if the original charm and ethos of the book or characters is to survive.  

Even more...
The second book that Alex and I have made, London Calls! has just been adapted into a puppet show to be performed on board an old London Routemaster. Although the words from the book are being used, the story itself has been developed and adapted for the show, and the puppets are quite different-looking to Alex's illustrations. But they are still interpretations of the visual characters he created just as my poem has taken flight into something new. It's exciting and wonderful, whatever the outcome!

I'm just going to enjoy the nomination for OUR book and feel extremely proud that Alex's beautiful, witty and enchanting illustrations have been acknoledged in A Possum's Tail being nominated for this prestigious award.


Alex and I wrote more about our experience of making books in an interview on the superb Look/Book Report website.

Monday, 20 October 2014

CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Award Nominations 2015

Ridiculously excited that A Possum's Tail has been nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Award!

This is one of the most prestigious awards for children's books there is - if not THE most prestigious. I'm mighty proud of our book and of Alex - he's a star!

Now the book just has to get longlisted - we've got to wait until next year to hear about that..!


Don't forget to try a copy of ECO KIDS PLANET 

Issue 2 contains...
ECO Kids planet magazine issue 2
...a postcard from a polar bear, games, puzzles, stories and features. And most exciting of all, it's got STICKERS in it! 

The Seven Wonders of the Arctic


And….the latest edition of STEW magazine has just gone to press!

I have an article about Savant Syndrome in it, beautifully illustrated by Sylvia Springorum 

It's such a great magazine for 8-12 year olds - check it out!
STEW magazine October 2014


SAVE THE DATE! for a wedding
Latest commission: "SAVE THE DATE" - a cheeky 'adaptation' of an image seen on a tray, as requested by patron. No idea who the original artist is.

Hmm, perhaps I should have been a forger? I'm good at copying things, though I say it myself.

My dad's godfather - 'A' - was a forger of famous paintings - he earned a good living from it. Forgeries for insurance purposes, museums and galleries, films and television etc. He lived in a tenement building in Soho, in a flat with no water or electricity. It was marvellous in retrospect, but at the time - bearing in mind I was about 10/11 years old when I visited him there with my parents and already showing signs of the A.D.H.D to come  - I thought it was quite alarmingly grubby, cold and dingy. No doubt that building was raised many decades ago and luxury apartments stand there now.

How different Soho is these days. Gone (most of) the sex shops and violin menders; the winos/famous photographers/artists and actors, the barrow-boys and traders and all the lost souls Soho gathered into a box of earthly delights...

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


Calling all (small) readers & writers…once again Brixton's heart beats with the sound of - err - beats

Come and hear authors read their books, watch illustrators draw - dance, sing - who knows what might happen! 

Just jump in, join on  and enjoy!

Beautiful Tales on Moon Lane Bookshop will be there plus witty, literary-themed workshops will be running all pm...
Time Out London October 14-20  2014

Monday, 13 October 2014

"All is vanity…" GONE GIRL

* W A R N I N G:  C O N T A I N S  S P O I L E R S  *

There has been much talk about whether Gone Girl offers some sort of profound insight into marriage and relationships…Nah! It's a taught, criteria-fulfilling thriller; well-made and slick, visually stylish  and nicely-acted - a great big bitter contraception pill of a movie. But meaningful probe into the human psyche it ain't.

The film (and book) is all about plot rather than character integrity. And given the lead is a brilliantly  narcissistic psychopath in the body of a generic Homecoming Queen, it's hardly realistic either (not that realism per se is a mandatory vehicle for insight). Yet Amy still isn't a post-modern feminist psycho-killer. She can't be a great female role model 'baddie' because she simply doesn't have the moral ambiguity, fallibility or attraction of a Becky Sharp.  So while she's strangely satisfying to watch in all her cunning, she holds few surprises that aren't plot-driven. It's like the difference between a movie where everything happens and you learn nothing or nothing happens and you feel spiritually enriched.

Perhaps this is down to the creator's technique; more really is too much and ultimately, we're led so far into Amy's head we know there's nothing real there. The moments when you imagine she could be an interesting monster; the 'amazing' creation of acquisitive, quasi-caring, self-serving parents, is a seam that's never fully explored in the novel or film, and I'd suggest Rosamond Pike's mesmerising  performance makes the character just about as deep and interesting as possible.

So who's the (anti-) hero? Like Vanity Fair purports in its subtitle, perhaps there isn't one. Except here there really isn't one. The Husband? No. Nick, is ordinary enough to elicit sympathy but just that bit too ordinary to take on that mantle. He's borderline-dull and a bit of a mug, (superbly played by Ben Affleck). And although he wins a few battles, he loses the war. All the other characters are never more than pawns in the game (although I do like that Nick's sister is called "Go"; nice word-play) yet so commendably dedicated is Amy to her spiteful revenge on male inadequacy (for so it is), that we do still find ourselves - if not cheering her on - certainly fascinated by her machinations. Couldn't help but feel Amy's initial cock-up was that of choosing poorly...

What saves both film and book, what lifts them into properly gripping and entertaining, despite a pretty consistent and undisputed dislike of the lead characters, is the wicked humour; at its dark heart this is a farce and a neat one at that. 

Clever, comic, ugly - not profound - you leave both book and cinema feeling slightly soiled. And maybe that was that Gillian Flynn's intention..because she's good, she's really very good...

Vanity Fair

"…his hands bound in a web of green silk, which she was unwinding."

Saturday, 11 October 2014


There are now so many wonderful independent kids magazines to choose from...
The inimitable OKIDO gets first mention, of course. Combining stunning design AND scintillating science for the very small, Okido aims to engage kids aged 3 years upwards in a host of activities, games,  stories (and a poem) led by regular characters such as Squirrel Boy and Yoga MonkeyOkido has been going for over 8 years and is onto its 33rd brilliant issue. This arts and science kids magazine has also spawned a series of books published by Thames & Hudson, as well as a whole range of illustrated fiction and non-fiction by several of its regular contributors, such as Maggie Li, Alex Barrow and me and Okido co-founder Rachel Ortas, drawer/creator of Messy Monster. P.S. Okido has also got a 52 episode animated narrative show coming out on Children's BBC (CBeebies) next year. Whatever next?!

Okido may be one of the senior mags but the very first kids mag trailblazer STILL going strong is 'new-look' AQUILA for kids aged 8-12, which has been stimulating little & BIG brains for over 20 years with fascinating stories and features on history, science, English and geography. Straight-up, does what it says on the tin - fact-packed and fascinating - gotta love it!

ECO Kids planet

Newest kid on the block is Eco Kids planet: making science and nature from across the globe accessible to kids everywhere. Colourfully designed to engage from page one right through to the end, crammed with fun facts, stories and articles, Eco Kids planet always keeps an eye on eco-sense. 


Stew (the magazine 'for curious kids') is a natural follow-on from Okido for age 8 upward. A creative mix of stories, features, facts and fiction, and illustrated by a host of talented young artists, this "imaginative and witty" (Daily Telegraph) magazine is gathering pace and looks set to be around for a long time...

The Loop newspaper is 'soop'er-designed in clean, modern graphics - a visual treat for very young kids it encourages creativity and making.

The Phoenix has risen from the ashes and is still going strong! More of a graphic novel mix than a magazine, this comic packed with fantastically illustrated stories just keeps 'em coming out each and every week - amazing, riveting, rich.

JUMP magazine is an online mag but I'm including it here because it's fab and I wish they'd make a parallel paper version! A magazine that promotes the very best version of 'girl-power' this encourages its readers to question, write, contribute to and enjoy the world as informed, strong and empowered young people. Casting its net across the globe, Jump is a savvy mix of interesting features that cover all areas.


Last but by no means least, comes AnorakAnorak published its first issue just a few weeks before the very first Okido. Both magazines burst onto the then sparsely-populated independent kids mag scene in a shower of awesome creativity. Despite the fact that Anorak really is the most natural follow-on magazine to Okido in look and feel, even sharing some of the same illustrators, it has more of a  commercial edge that includes a wee bit of advertising. Billed as 'the happy mag for kids' it's a fun-packed roller-coaster of a read. 

P.S. any more kids mags out there you know and love?

Answers on a postcard to: gabbydawnay@gmail.com


BACKGROUND information...

My first picture book - called A Possum's Tail - is a collaboration with brilliant illustrator Alex Barrow and came out 6th February 2014. A second book called London Calls! is a whistle-stop tour of London, led by a Pearly grandma and her granddaughter. London Calls! came out on 4th September 2014 and is my second book with Alex Barrow. A Possum's Tail was nominated for the 2015 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.
Both books are by Tate Publishing.

Please see my CURRICULUM VITAE for more details & updates.

As well as writing children's books, for children's television and two award-winning children's magazines, I do both private and commercial art commissions, a selection of which you can see here.

The children's shoes are part of an ongoing series of "first shoes", including several cards commissioned by the Almanac Gallery.

Hand-drawn, bespoke invitations, announcements, portraits and menus, such as the examples here are also available upon request..

Any enquiries please email: gabbydawnay@gmail.com


I've been a regular contributor to children's art and science magazine OKIDO since 2007. HAPPY 10th BIRTHDAY (WOW) beautiful Okido!

An Okido animated kids tv show, based on characters from the magazine is currently in production with Doodle/Squintopera http://www.doodle-productions.com. The original adaptation of the show (co-created/adapted by myself, producer Ceri Barnes and Doodle Productions) was acquired by CBeebies. 52 x 11 minute episodes will be coming to a screen near you soon in 2015.......... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .............................
N E W S F L A S H! MESSY GOES TO OKIDO Series TWO is now in production, following a super-successful 52 episode first series!



Cartoon Forum 2011 Okido booklet

Cartoon Forum 2011 Okido booklet
Okido Cartoon Forum 2011

Happy Birthday OKIDO!

Happy Birthday OKIDO!
Okido was 5 years old this issue...the wonderful art and science magazine for kids I've been lucky enough to have worked on for the past - 8 - years now