Sunday, 31 May 2015

me me me

Here I am talking, A LOT...

Ever have any questions about Jim's Lion?  Want to know why it's so weird?  Want to hear me jabbering on for minutes on end? Well, I've answered just about every question you can think of and it's all on film... right here

Friday, 8 May 2015

dissertation time

I have been answering questions for students on the MA in Children's Book Illustration... If you're finishing your essay this weekend and want to listen you can hear some of them here.

Monday, 6 April 2015

even a journey of a thousand miles... know the rest.

I officially began artwork on my comic Geis today.  I managed two panels, uncoloured, in one day.  At that rate it will probably take me until 2020 to finish it.  Thankfully not all of the panels are full of wiggly trees...

Friday, 20 March 2015

a book by its cover

Working on cover designs for my comic... but I haven't done the insides yet ^-^!

This is what I used to do when I was small.  Then I never got round to doing the actual story.  Let's hope I manage this time!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Kate Greenaway

Jim's Lion is on the shortlist for this year's Kate Greenaway Medal.

Will find out the result on June 22nd...

Friday, 6 March 2015

Questions from the Discover Children's Forum

 I am doing an event at Discover Children's Story Centre on Sunday and some of their Children's Forum have sent me questions to answer...

Questions about being an author

Kausar: What encouraged you to be an author?

Alexis: I have always loved writing and especially drawing my own stories. Of all the things I've ever done it is what has made me the happiest. I tried very hard to learn to do it well so that I might one day be able to do it for a living.

IIham: When did you write your first book?

A: I believe I wrote my first picturebook story when I was about four or five... but no-one published that one! My first published story was 'Slow Loris' and I wrote that in the year 2000.

Aman: Is it interesting being an author?

A: I think it is! On the other hand, if you have an active mind and a strong imagination you might find ten years living in a shoebox interesting!

Sian: How many stories have you written?

A: I have written seven published stories and illustrated lots of others. I have also written and illustrated many stories that have never been published.

Zoya: What would you be if you weren’t an author?

A: Well, I do a lot of dancing too so perhaps I would be a dancer...

Questions about I am Henry Finch

Sameer: Where did you get [the idea for I am Henry Finch] from?

A: I used to share a house with someone who had a finch called Henry.  Actually it was Viv, who illustrated the story! I was always impressed with how much brain they could squeeze into such a tiny space!  Henry that is, not Viv.  Viv has plenty of space for her brain.  Although she is quite clever too...

Erich: What kind of animal is the beast?

A: He's... a beast. Perhaps it would be better to ask Viv that question! Kind of looks like a giant Axolotl though, doesn't it?

Zoya: Why didn’t you draw your own pictures in I am Henry Finch and why did you draw your own pictures in Beegu? What made you want to do that?

A: Viv is a very good friend of mine. I like writing stories for her to draw because her pictures make me think of different kinds of stories to tell. My pictures tend to be better suited to stories that are a little bit sadder/scarier!

Questions about Beegu

Chloe: How did you think of the book Beegu?

A: I imagined what it would be like to be lost in a big strange city. At first the character was a big, tall bear. That was easier for me to imagine because I'm quite tall. My publishers pointed out that children reading the story would not know what that was like. They would be more familiar with the sense of being small. The story grew (pun intended) from there.

IIham: What origin did Beegu come from?

A: What planet is that? In my head I call it Planet Beegu... But obviously that isn't what it would be called. We don't live on Planet Alexis do we? Or on Planet Ilham for that matter! Would you like it if we did? I think I'd be embarrassed if the planet was named after me! It would be waaaay too much attention. I find my own birthday parties awkward enough.
What do you think Beegu's Planet should be called?

Rabeeah: Did this [the story of Beegu] happen to you once?

A: Well I did write it around the time that I moved back to London, which is a big city like the one in the story. It was never intended to be about me though. In my mind Beegu is a living breathing creature. Perhaps it is inevitable that some of our own experience comes out in the stories we write. I would, for example, write a terrible book about what it is like to drive trains. I know nothing about it!

Thanks for your questions everyone!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of the film, Virunga, today.  I would passionately urge everyone to see it.  I have seldom seen such a powerful expression of all that is best and all that is worst in humankind.

The film follows a group of rangers tasked with protecting the land, the plants and creatures of the Congolese National Park, Virunga.  Their job is a dangerous and sometimes deadly one, bringing them into frequent contact with ivory hunters and poachers.  As if this wasn't bad enough the park is watched with hungry eyes by people keen to explore its potential as a mining site for rare and precious minerals and as a possible source of oil.

What is truly of value in this world?  Is it gold?  Is it diamonds?  Is it oil?  Those things are rare certainly.  Without them there are things we would not be able to do.  But many of the uses we put them to serve no purpose other than to indulge our own need for self glorification.

It seems to me that this film confronts one of the great questions of our age.  Our system of value is hideously distorted.  Possibly it has been so since before we became human.   Like all animals we are greedy.  We want to thrive, to succeed, to be rich.  But I believe that we urgently need to ask ourselves, each and every one of us, what those things truly mean.   This is not a new thought.  It is in fact a cliché.  But what does it say about us that we can have known the truth of something for generations and yet still be unable to change it?  

Our current global system is based on a principle of continuous economic growth.  Doesn't the absurdity of that leap out at you when you see it?  How is it possible to continuously grow in a finite space.  It is not.  It is impossible.  And we live in an age where the sheer number of our species is forcing us to recognise this fact.

I do not say that it is wrong to seek to grow.  But where is it possible to grow?  It is possible to grow in our education, our understanding, in the exploration of our universe and our own world, in promoting peace, in friendship, in empathy, in developing skills, in refining craft, in art. Does this sound like a load of hippy bulls**t to you?  Well I tell you this, every single moment that I have valued in my own life has been through one of those things.

There is a point in the film when two men working for the company that wants to explore for oil in the park express their incredulity that anyone could risk their life on behalf of a 'f***ing monkey.'  They cannot believe that anyone would value a gorilla above themselves.  If it is a question of saving a species over having a bigger house, a bigger car, power, influence, well, who in their right mind would choose the gorilla?  I WOULD!  I would give every single barrel of f***ing oil in the world if it meant that we could preserve that species.  What I struggle with is believing that anyone else could think otherwise.

Please do go and see the film and if you are clever, could you please work out how we can fix ourselves because we can't go on as we are much longer!