You may well have two or more of these books at home, illustrated by Ada Grey.
The Bright Agency spotted her talent and snapped her up, where Ada was immediately catapulted into the UK best-seller lists with the inspired Royal Baby series with Bloomsbury. We are delighted to be joining Ada with her new book, Rockabye Pirate, (written by author and playwright, Timothy Knapman) at The Bright Emporium for a story time on Sunday 4th June.
Here’s a little bit about Ada…
Where did it all begin?
My mum was a ceramics and textiles designer before joining my dad to run a small chain of bookshops in the north of England. I guess I’m the result of the combination!
Did you study illustration?
Yes, I did a degree in illustration at what was Manchester Polytechnic. I was taught by Tony Ross and David Hughes amongst others. (Funnily enough, my teachers at school told me I wasn’t good enough to do O level art, so I only did a CSE). You don’t need to do a degree to get into drawing by any means, but it does immerse you in the environment and give you the opportunity to do nothing but draw for three years. Practice is key!
What’s your favourite part of making children’s books?
I love it all (especially if you get to have lunch with your publisher!).
I love the roughs, that’s the bit where you concentrate and plan out a new world, and the colouring-in bit where the world comes to life (and you can listen to podcasts at the same time), and the people are just super to work with, supportive and imaginative and fond of tea and biscuits.
“I never thought I’d ever draw The Queen in a onesie, jumping out of a plane!” Ada Grey
With a number of titles to your name now, do you have a favourite and why?
That’s hard because all of them are special to me in different ways. I love the fun and silliness of [Steve Smallman’s] Hippobottymus and Poo In The Zoo, and the warmth of family in [Tammy Salzano’s] I Love You Just The Way You Are, [Adam and Charlotte Gullaine’s] School for Dads and [Mo O’Hara’s] More People To Love Me.
But I think Smriti Prasadam Halls’ Santa Baby has a special place, as I could really play with the look of the characters. I’ve been able to carry that on with [Timothy Knapman’s] Rockabye Pirate and the forthcoming [Sarah Kilbride’s] Being A Princess Is Really Hard Work.
From Smriti Prasadam Halls’ Santa Baby
With the positive media focus on the Royal Babies and the two princes currently, I expect the Royal baby series to have it’s own baby-boom! Did you enjoy making these?
Absolutely! Shh! Don’t Wake The Royal Baby was the first picture book Vicki [Vicki Willden-Lebrecht, Bright Agency Founder and MD] matched me with, and I hit the ground running as it were! It was a real challenge getting the characters to remain respectful and identifiable, yet move them into the realm of gentle silliness at the same time. I never thought I’d ever draw the Queen in a onesie jumping out of a plane. I hope they carry on, [but as they are no longer babies, I think the series has run it’s course sadly].
Who inspired you to become a picture book illustrator?
There are two books I can specifically identify that had a big impact on me.
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, taps into the most basic needs of a child, to know that they are loved, no matter what, and that they can independently cope with their fears. Pair that with fearsome monsters and stunning illustrations and you have genius.
The other was The Pirate’s Tale, illustrated by Jill McDonald and written by Janet Aitchison when she was only five and a half years old! I laugh out loud every time I read it.
Both books made me realise that drawing pictures for books was actually a job, and that I could possibly do it for a living one day. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do (plus I’m rubbish at everything else!).
Things have come full circle, as I have just illustrated a gorgeous story written by ten year old Isabel Harris! She won a story writing competition held by The Book People and Little Tiger Press, and all the proceeds go to Action For Children.
When can we expect your first self penned picture book?! Is it something you’d like to do, or do you prefer to collaborate as a team on books?
Oh! Writing picture books is so much harder than people realise. Coming up with a totally new idea and characters that have never been done before, and then to put all of that across in a limited amount of words is a real skill. It’s not easy and I don’t mind saying I’m struggling. I’d love to do it, but I’ve been so busy, that up to now I’ve got a list of ideas, but haven’t had the time to work on them yet. One day I hope!
I’ve been really lucky to work with some outstanding authors and it’s just a joy to bring someone’s work to life.
With huge thanks to Ada, and we look forward to Storytime!
If you’d like to work with Ada, you can contact her via her agent, Arabella Stein, here.
And if you’d like to join us for a Rockabye Storytime, you can find more details and tickets here!