The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Katy Hudson and Review of The Golden Acorn
Due to technical issues, this is going to be a busy week for posts. But I was so excited when Katy Hudson agreed to an interview. I have loved her picture books, since I discovered Too Many Carrots three years ago.
Katy was raised in Middlesbrough, UK and started her Illustration career as a small child drawing on freshly emulsioned walls around the house! Her parents quickly dissuaded this medium and encouraged drawing with pencil and paper instead. The idea stuck (the pencil was updated to an ink pot and pen in some cases) and after some lovely time at Art College and a degree in Illustration Katy is now a freelance Illustrator based in London.
She’s the illustrator of Animal Teachers (2014), Best Easter Egg Hunt Ever! (2015), All Things Bright and Beautiful (2016) and the author/illustrator of Bear and Duck (2015), Too Many Carrots (2016), The Runaway Egg (2017), A Loud Winter's Nap (2017), and Runaway Baby Brother (2018). Her most recent one, The Golden Acorn, released on July 1st.
ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write/illustrate? How long have you been writing/illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate?)
KATY: Hello, I'm Katy and I'm an Illustrator of picture books and I sometimes get to write the stories for them too! I graduated from University in 2008 after completing an illustration degree. I then did a variety of different jobs, from project managing at a brand agency to working in a cupcake decoration shop, whilst trying to get Illustration commissions.
In 2013, I got my first book deal with Harper Collins (Bear and Duck) thanks to my wonderful agent (Bright Group) and had been working full time since. Like most freelancers my writing and illustrating has many desk spaces! I worked from a desk in my bedroom for a long time, on the back of napkins when waitressing, then in an unused space above a London Library. And finally, in an old Victorian Printhouse!
I had my little girl in 2019, so my desk now resides in the corner of her bedroom with a side view of her cot and a brilliant selection of children's books at my fingertips! I like to go to a coffee shop or the park to do any story writing but when I get to the artwork bit I like to be at my desk with all my paints and tools around me. I've loved illustrating all the books I've done for different reasons; I've learned something new about my process each time.
Wow, I love that you worked above a library and a Victorian Printhouse! What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I can tap dance, not well but I've mastered the time step!
Good for you. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
I grew up with Beatrix Potter and wanted to live in her world. I also loved Judith Kerr, the Albergs, Nick Butterworth, and later Roald Dahl.
What is your favorite medium to work with? Your least favorite, hardest, or one you’re excited to try?
Everything starts as a pencil drawing, there's something so exciting/terrifying starting with a blank piece of paper and a lovely sharpened pencil, I get very cross if I forget my sharpener!
I've worked with drawing inks and watercolour for a long while now. Being able to use the mixture of brushes alongside an ink nib pen gives lots of variation in texture and mark making. I have a love hate relationship with charcoal. I tend to end up with more on me than on the paper. I did a bit of etching and print making at university and would love to try that again. The process is quite long so I'd have to really plan my time if I were to do illustrate a whole book in this way, time management isn't always where I shine, so this may be one for much further down the line.
Charcoal and chaulk are special that way. What is the hardest thing for you, writing or illustrating? Which comes first in your process?
I can find writing a real challenge, it doesn't come naturally, and I can find it quite frustrating. A story idea will normally come from a character I have drawn already, in a situation I've put them in or personality trait I've decided they have. I'll often have little thumbnails sketched of key bits of the story with maybe a few loose sentences of what's happening throughout. Then I'll start writing a more detailed story plan and figure out how the narrative will work across the 30 pages. When I have this more structured text, I'll start storyboarding and this is when I normally go back and heavily edit the text I had.
What was your inspiration for The Golden Acorn?
I knew I wanted a female lead this time and with the book being set in fall it felt appropriate to focus on Squirrel. We have a lot of squirrels in our back garden, my daughter loves to watch them digging up our lawn looking for nuts and racing off over the fence and through the trees. My maternity leave was spent walking through parks with all the beautiful trees turning red and orange and I think that all fed into the book. I loved the idea that Squirrel would be the competitive one of the group and that she would be the fastest and I really wanted to explore how these traits can clash with a friendship.
You did a good job of creating that clash. I love Too Many Carrots, especially all the treasures on the end pages, so I was excited to see the characters return in Loud Winter’s Nap and The Golden Acorn. Do you have plans for books about Beaver and Bird?
Thank you so much. Yes, I have one more book to come out about the same characters, the next one will focus on Beaver and I'm so excited for people to see it.
Oh, poor Bluebird won't get one of her own. But I am excited to see what Beaver gets up to! If you could share one thing with your younger self and/or kids today what would that be?
I'd say not to be afraid to ask questions and I would tell my younger self not to worry so much!
Man that 20-20 hindsight is amazing, isn't it? What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (as a child or now as a writer and/or illustrator.)
My parents have always been my greatest cheerleaders. They are not from creative backgrounds and didn't have any knowledge of the industry. When I was young, they just knew I liked to draw. That blind faith in my abilities has always inspired me to keep drawing and to go for what I loved.
That is the most precious gift of all! Do you have a common theme or thread in your books?
It's not deliberate but I seem to have a penchant for expressive animals!
Yes you do! What's something you want your readers to know about The Golden Acorn?
It's not really about the Golden Acorn.
Touché! To understand that comment, you'll have to check out the review below OR better yet go find the book yourself. Many illustrators leave treasures throughout their illustrations. Did you do this in The Golden Acorn? Could you share one or more with us?
Oh, this is one of my favourite things to do. I like to put clues in from the other books that don't necessarily relate to the story, but readers might get if they've read the previous books. So, for Rabbit's obsession with carrots, he has a little carrot green house in A Loud Winter's Nap, and I've sneaked a jar of carrot chutney into the copyright page of this one. Bird has flown south in A Loud Winter's Nap, as per the postcard to Tortoise in the copyright page. However, Autumn is a little early to migrate so in The Golden Acorn, she just has her suitcase packed for the upcoming trip. You'll see the suitcase makes it the whole way through the race. I managed to sneak Tortoise's pillow from his winter nap into an earlier page of The Golden Acorn and Beaver's knitting on the last page should be a little hint to his story in the next book.
These are just a taste of the amazing extras Katy's woven into her illustrations. I find new things every time i read these books. Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
As soon as I sent the artwork for The Golden Acorn, I went straight onto Beaver's story, you can see a few snippets on my Instagram feed.
Oh, Katy! I adore the images of Beaver at his workshop table and easel. I can't wait to see this one. Is there anything about writing, illustrating, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or are glad that you did not know?
For me, getting an agent really changed things and I didn't realise at the beginning how vital they would be to my career.
What is your favorite animal? Why? Or maybe a current animal you are enamored with?
Orangutans. Forever and always…. but they are so hard to draw! :)
Thank you Katy, for spending some time with us.
To find out more about Katy Hudson, or get in touch with her:
Review of The Golden Acorn
I was first introduced to Katy Hudson with her amazing book Too Many Carrots. Initially intrigued by the title and the image of Rabbit reclined on a humongous pile of carrots, I fell head over heels in love with the book and Katy's talent as soon as opened the book to this end page.
© Katy Hudson 2019.
If you don't know these books, run to your nearest library or bookstore and check out Katy's two previous books - Too Many Carrots (Rabbit) and Loud Winter's Nap (Turtle). The antics of these five friends are delightful. And I look forward to Beaver's story in the future.
But for now, here is Katy Hudson's most recent picture book, which released July 1st.
The Golden Acorn
Author/Illustrator: Katy Hudson
Publisher: Capstone (2019)
Friendship, competition, teamwork, and forgiveness
Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):
Whoosh! Squirrel takes off at full speed through the autumn leaves. But pump the brakes, because this year The Golden Nut Hunt race it is a team event. Squirrel reluctantly enlists her friends and is not impressed. Will Squirrel's competitive spirit take over or will she learn how to be a team player? Best-selling author Katy Hudson (Too Many Carrots and A Loud Winter's Nap) proves that winning isn't everything in this energetic picture book about friendship, teamwork, and forgiveness -- and that's something to go nuts about!
Squirrel LOVED being the fastest.
She could fly through the trees faster than anybody.
She even had a trophy collection to prove it.
What I liked about the book:
While each story is a stand-alone, this is the third story featuring the adventures of these five friends. This time, it's about Squirrel's hubris and her discovery of what's most important in her life.
Not only do we get a great glimpse into Squirrel's personality, but there are a number of little treasures squirreled away on this spread. In fact, many of Katy's bold, vibrant spreads include visual treasures to discover.
© Katy Hudson 2019.
Every year, Squirrel excitedly trains for The Golden Acorn Hunt. And every year, for the past eight years, she wins. This year, however, she discovers the race has to be run as a team. But no one can race like she can! With the race the next day, Squirrel grudgingly agrees to her friends Beaver, Turtle, Rabbit, and Bird as her teammates.
However, no amount of training (in one day) would have this motley crew ready to race through the treetops. Though her friends wholeheartedly try to help, Squirrel suffers, dramatically, through their endless number of mishaps.
© Katy Hudson 2019.
Until finally, she . . . Well, you're just going to have to read it to figure out what Squirrel does and what she wins.
This is a great book as a companion to Too Many Carrots (sharing) and Loud Winter's Nap (new experiences), and also as an individual book to spark discussions on the value of friendship, the meaning of team, and the problems of over-competitiveness. The expressiveness of the characters and the conundrums they get themselves stuck in makes this a fun book to re-read over and over.
- try some cooperative team-building games, like Hula Hoop Pass, All Aboard, or Bus Stop (https://www.momjunction.com/articles/team-building-activities-will-keep-kids-busy-summer_0074763/); or
- write a story or draw a picture of a race or activity that requires a team. How many different team sports or team activities can you think of? and/or
- can you create a new race or activity that requires a team?