Saturday, 5 December 2015

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Friday, 20 November 2015


Alex and I visited two wonderful primary schools this week to run several (a magic 7) workshops as part of the South Ken Kids festival. As usual, the kids were fantastic and did all the best work (ah, sorry Alex - your quick-draw skills were as awesome as ever and had the kids in stitches!) 

On Monday we went to Parson Green to visit Ecole Marie d'Orliac, in a grand old Victorian building full of sunshine (yes, it really was on Monday). It felt a little strange after of the events from the previous Friday in Paris, and they were hyper-alert. But the early years children, too young at 4 and 5 to be told what had happened, were full of beans and joy, as children are. Despite their age, it had been agreed that they would observe the 1 minute silence at 11am. The teachers had explained it as being part of anti-bullying week and that we were taking a moment to think of all the boys and girls that had been hurt by bullying or unkindness. And when the class teacher gently put up her hand to indicate it was time to be quiet, they all sat in absolute silence and stillness.

For various reasons, we've only got pictures from the second school. This is a rather wonderful state primary in Battersea that went bi-lingual three years ago. One of the teachers explained to me how well it was working; even if there's just one French-speaking child in the class, all the other pick it up - just like little sponges. You don't have to be French or speak French, just be supportive of your child learning the language. There are even adult French classes for parents. (How I wish there had been a school like this for my kids) Not only can these children speak beauitful French, but they were terrific drawers, too. Take a look at the Shaftsbury Park Primary Magic Buses...
Check out Sponge Bob Squarepants on this bus...along with a dinosaur in a garden, loads of friends (including 2 sets of twins)and a lion.

This bus has a hairy monster on the roof and a crocodile AND the London Eye in the top bit, as well as a ghost, tomato, carrot, several superheros, a skeleton and lots of friends!

This bus was dubbed the "Princess Express" because there were so many beautiful princesses on board. The pipe-smoking caterpillar was drawn by their most excellent teacher - and check out the sun, clouds and small floating person above the bus!

This was a super class - they were so clever - knew ALL the answers! They didn't have time to finish drawing in all the passengers during the session but did manage to include a trés chic dress and tall robot - and if you look carefully at the first top left row, there's a tiny, magic, everlasting ice-cream cone...


Thank you very much to our lovely schools this year - hope to visit you again soon with some new books!


Saturday, 14 November 2015

Paris, Friday 13th November 2015

Very hard to find any sort of comprehension about these events; being as they are, so fuelled by hate, stupidity, hopelessness and anger. 

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realising that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” (Fred Rogers)

Here's to a new day.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Institute Francais guest post

Getting very excited about the upcoming South Ken Kids Festival!

I was asked to contribute a guest post to the Institute Français blog as part of the festival and writing it made me think a lot about my childhood and how books had influenced me.

Here it is...just click on the pic!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Countdown to the South Ken Kids Festival!

Alex and I will be at the South Ken Kids Festival at 3pm on Sunday 22nd November running a London-themed workshop. 

Book your tickets - we'll see you there! 
There is SO much to do, so much to Quentin Blake and Axel Sheffler draw magic, listen to Michael Rosen make pictures with words, delight in the detailed, witty artwork of Emily Hughes and the delightful Delphine Perret, there will be the witty Tony Ross and much much more! 

Check out their website HERE.

There will even be some episodes of Messy Goes to Okido showing!


Changing seasons/wallpaper designs

Acorn, feather, sloes

Playing with wallpaper designs.

Jay feather
Sloes & leaves
Green acorn

Thursday, 29 October 2015



Bit late posting this, but at last Bus King Theatre got a smashing and long-overdue mention in London's most widespread newspaper The Evening Standard

Bravissimo Athena and Cesare!

Spotted by a friend!
The show runs until Sunday 1st November in Spitalfields - still time to book your seats!


Thursday, 22 October 2015

A letter to Mayur the peacock

"What a wonderful thing it is to feel as proud as a peacock!"

The postcard I wrote as from Mayur (the peacock)for the India issue of Eco Kids magazine got a fair few replies but none so fine as the letter below...

An illustrated letter to Mayur the peacock

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Dragon Stone

The Dragon Stone- a short story written for Eco Kids Planet magazine 

Heidi stared into the flickering flames of the campfire and warmed her hands. The sun had disappeared behind the mountains and the air had become sharp and chilling. She sipped her cup of hot, sweet tea and rested her head on her grandfather’s shoulder.

“Why couldn’t we have camped in the caves behind, Gramps?” she asked. “It would have been much warmer…”

Her grandfather shook his head and smiled. “Those caves go deep under the mountains – no one has ever reached the end of them. You never know what animals might be spending the winter months in hibernation there. Perhaps a sleepy bear decides it’s time to wake up…or maybe a dragon thinks he can smell his supper!”

“A dragon, Gramps?” cried Heidi “There’s no such thing as dragons!”

The old man looked deep into the fire, as if deciding how he was going to reply. He coughed a little.

“There are stories…” he began, “Stories that go back hundreds of years. Of travellers who lost their way and wandered off the path, only to be confronted by beasts with cat-like heads and the bodies of serpents; huge, leather-winged-dragons with claws like a ravens…Some claimed to have seen these creatures blow fire from their nostrils, turning trees into charcoal in a matter of seconds. There are legends that describe the beasts as cruel and merciless, with poisoned blood, a single drop enough to kill…”

Heidi shivered, but it wasn’t the cold.  “Steady on, Gramps!”

The old man chuckled. “Then again, other stories describe the creatures as shy and gentle... “

“I’d far rather think of them as friendly…as we’re camping out here tonight!” Heidi whispered.

“Yes, me too!” her grandfather winked, before continuing.

 “There was a young girl from our village, about the same age as you, oh many, many years ago, long before you were born. One day, as she was hanging out the washing for her mother, she realised that within moments of pegging something on the line, it became bone-dry! And when she took the laundry down again, she discovered a small beast, no bigger than a horse, asleep in the field behind her house. While it snored, it was blowing out such red-hot air that it had dried the washing like a heater! The girl was terrified and she ran off to fetch her brother. By the time they returned, however, the creature had

gone. The grass was scorched brown where it had been lying and only a smooth, blue-black stone the colour of night remained.” Her grandfather stopped and coughed loudly, patting his chest.

“Here, have some water, Gramps. Did the girl keep the stone?” Heidi asked.

“Yes, she did, for a dragon’s stone is supposed to have healing powers, curing anything from coughs and colds to chickenpox!”

“And did she ever see the dragon again?” Heidi wondered.

Night had now fallen and a blanket of stars winked from the dark skies over the mountains behind them. Her grandfather sighed and coughed again. Heidi put her arms around him protectively and closed her eyes.

 “When the girl grew-up, she went to study in the city and became a scientist and explorer. But she never forgot the little dragon she had seen as a child and many years later, she returned to her village, determined to find it. She believed it must have been living in the deepest caves of the mountains, perhaps with others. One cold morning in 1709, she bid farewell to her family and set off on her quest, taking the dragon stone with her.”

“So, did she ever find the dragon, Gramps?” Heidi yawned. It had been a long day of walking and she was feeling very sleepy now.

The old man hesitated. “No one knows. She was never seen again…”

Heidi had fallen asleep. When she awoke in the morning, there was a cold, heavy mist in the air, yet the campfire was still burning with an intense heat and strange brightness. As she helped her grandfather pack-up their things for the new day’s hiking, Heidi realised that he wasn’t coughing any more. Suddenly she felt a tremor that seemed to come from the heart of the mountains and the flames of the fire disappeared, as if blown-out like a candle, except that there was no wind that morning, not even a breeze.

Heidi gasped. There in the glowing embers, lay a stone. A smooth, blue-black stone the colour of night…

Monday, 12 October 2015

Friday, 9 October 2015

They Tuck You Up

It may not be National Poetry Day any more, but here's a delightful poem to motor you through to next week and beyond.

Based on Larkin's deliciously cynical "This Be The Verse", "They Tuck You Up" is a sort of antidote to the iconic original.

Perhaps a bit too sweet? No, we all need a bit of hope now and again.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Rolling back into town...

BUS KING THEATRE arrives at Spitalfields to present their fabulous puppet adaptation of London Calls!

Roll-up, roll-up and book your tickets by calling Athena on: 07935462605 or email:

And you can now follow the Bus King Theatre on Facebook


Monday, 5 October 2015

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Another London Calls review...

From the fabulous, the fantastical, the one and only Instagram sensation: @thereadingninja

Very much like that ninja picks up on London Calling/the Clash/punk vibe of the book. Nice one ninja.


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 AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE or 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:


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 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 has now finished production, and will be coming to your screens S O O N ...! (Autumn 2018, to be exact)



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