How to Train Your Baby Dragon

It’s always a busy and exciting time at work as we say goodbye to one exhibition and welcome in a new one. Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books, has just bid a fond farewell to “Daydreams and Diaries; The Story of Jacqueline Wilson” which has proved a huge success over the past year and I loved the Nick Sharratt illustrations, as you’ll know from a previous post here.

Well, the new exhibition is entitled “A Vikings Guide to Deadly Dragons with Cressida Cowell.” The main focus is on Cowell’s How to Train your Dragon series, with lots of original artwork and manuscripts but there is also going to be items on dragons in general and their place in myth and legend. You can get a taster here.

The other day I was chatting to a friend and colleague about the exhibition and my fondness for dragons and how much fun it would be to have my very own pet dragon. Imagine my surprise when she came to work the next day with this little chap.

He had just hatched and needed adopting. Did I want to take him on, she asked. I was overwhelmed. Of course I would take him. I’ve named him “Sedgwick” after my favourite author Marcus Sedgwick and he will need quite a bit of training.

He is very small.

Tries to camouflage himself against my laptop. And is very inquisitive.

I thought he would be meat eater but he has a strange fascination with vegetables.

(I grew that pumpkin)

He has also made friends with the skinny dogs…..sort of.


Poor little Sedgwick! He was understandably rather frightened and flew off to the vegetables and hid in a cabbage.

Where eventually he went to sleep.

I think that part of his training should be to avoid cabbages as it would seem, given this video, Brassica can be fatal for dragons.

 Hopefully, Sedgwick will be well enough trained to leave the house in order to see the opening of the new exhibition at the end of October. I’ll keep you posted.

Inspiration from Nick Sharratt

At the children’s book museum we are currently running an exhibition dedicated to the work of Jacqueline Wilson. Of course her stories and characters are brought to life by illustrator Nick Sharratt. He has a very distinctive, cartoon style that, until now, I had paid little attention to. For the last couple of months I have had the privilege to live with his original art works and sketches while at work and I have been inspired. Sharratt’s work is deceptively simple. Oodles of ideas and sketches have gone before the finished piece, but it’s the detail that he leaves out that creates the character. For Sharratt less is definitely more.

Illustration by Nick Sharratt

The work that really caught my eye was for Wilson’s novel “My Sister Jodie”. He designed twelve different versions of the book cover alone. But it is the line drawings that I love. Although the figures remain simple there are lots of patterns and detail in the background which sets it apart from much of his other illustrations. It is wonderful to be able to press your face almost up to the glass and study the pictures so closely.

It’s this work that has been the starting point for my “Five Minute Faces” as I struggle to keep line to a minimum and learn when to stop adding detail.

There are several different originals from this book in the exhibition as well as notebooks kept by Jacqueline Wilson for My Sister Jodie. We also have a studio area inspired by Sharratt’s own workplace complete with light boxes that looks remarkably like the real thing. But my absolute  favourite illustration in the gallery is a personal piece he did for Jacqueline Wilson to celebrate the ten millionth copy sold of her books. It is a tiny pen and ink drawing of Wilson’s hands complete with rings on each finger marking the figure out in roman numerals. Exquisite.

If you are in Newcastle before the end of September 2012 stop by and take a look.