Yikes! Behind the scenes of a dino book

Posted July 6, 2015 by Guest blogger

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Pamela Butchart and Yikes, TicklysaurusJuly’s featured publisher is Bloomsbury and they’re giving away books by Pamela Butchart in our competition

Pamela has kindly blogged for us about the creation of her latest book, Yikes, Ticklysaurus! and her collaboration with Sam Lloyd, the author and illustrator of Mr Pusskins

So far in my writing career, I seem to have been incredibly lucky when it comes to illustrators and artists, often being paired with some of my favourites in the business.  

Creating a picture book is an entirely collaborative experience between the writer, illustrator and publisher which (hopefully) results in a book with many proud parents.

Bookshelf full of picture booksBefore I became a picture book author, I was a picture book fanatic!  I’m pretty sure I own more picture books than most toddlers and could probably start a very-well stocked home library.

Working on the ‘YIKES!’ picture book series with Sam Lloyd really has been a dream come true. Sam became a bit of a hero of mine when she wrote Mr Pusskins. Although it’s hard to compete with Judith’s Kerr’s ‘Mog’, Sam Lloyd’s Mr Pusskins is my absolute favourite picture book to be published in the last 25 years.  

Sam’s illustrations are gorgeous – some of the best I’ve ever seen.  And Mr Pusskins himself, well - WHAT a character!  He’s got cattitude in abundance and his expressive wee face makes him the star of every page.  Sam’s bright and bold illustrations make you want to trace every image with your finger and swoon over that handsome moggie all day – he’s a stunner!

Mr Pusskins front coversAside from the gorgeous illustrations (and the fabulousness that is Mr Pusskins) I think another reason I’m so drawn to Sam’s illustrations is because they remind me of one of my favourite programmes when I was growing up.  I’m certainly no illustration expert, but the style of illustration and tone of colour Sam sometimes uses reminds me a lot of the 60’s American TV show ‘Bewitched’.  Watching ‘Bewitched’ would make me feel happy and relaxed as a child and I suppose I found this nostalgic comfort again in the style of Sam’s artwork.    


A few years ago, when I was starting out as a picture book author, I used to read Sam’s books a lot and chat to my husband about how wonderful it would be to get to work with someone as talented as Sam (although I never expected for a second that I’d ever get the chance to do so).


When I received my first picture book contract with Bloomsbury I was over the moon!  I was asked to come to the Bloomsbury offices in London to meet with the editorial director and have a chat about a possible illustrator.  I’ll always remember what happened before my meeting.  My husband walked me up to the big black door in Bedford Square and before I walked up the stairs (with shaky knees) I turned to him and said, ‘Can you imagine if they said Sam Lloyd is going to illustrate the book?!’ (I said it in a jokey, there’s-no-way-that-would-actually-happen kind of way.) I obviously thought everyone was playing a major prank on me when I sat down with my editor, Emma Blackburn, and she said, ‘We’d like you to work with Sam Lloyd.’ I think I must have gone weird colours and said a bunch of random things that made me look a bit mad. I couldn’t believe it!

Rough drawing of Yikes StinkysaurusWhen I met Sam for the first time I think she was a little surprised at how big a fan I was of her work.  After she’d recovered from me being such a ‘fan-girl’ (photos and all!) we had a glass of wine and she told me all about her inspiration for creating Mr Pusskins (which was absolutely hilarious!).   

Working with Sam to create our first book together – Yikes, Stinkysaurus! – was brilliant fun.  When the first ever roughs came through I was delighted to see they were in black and white.  Having the opportunity to see Sam’s illustrations at each stage allowed me to be able to follow the progress of the book from beginning to end, which is a very special process to be able to be part of (especially when it’s your first picture book).

Sam is so talented – her first roughs are some of my favourite pieces!  I have one of the very first Yikes, Stinkysaurus! roughs framed in my study.  It sits towering over the rest of my books on my (rather messy) bookcase, just as it should.     

Yikes, Ticklysaurus! front coverI couldn’t be more pleased about how Yikes, Ticklysaurus! has turned out.  I’ve worked with two great editors, and Sam, and together we’ve produced my favourite book in the series. Sam’s dinos (in all of the books) are fantastic!  I adore the humour Sam injects into the book with her illustrations, especially in Yikes, Santa-Claws!  She brings the story and characters to life, creating rich and vibrant images for the young children to explore.        

As for Yikes, Ticklysaurus!, T-Rex is the star of the book as far as I’m concerned.  He’s bright and bold, slightly creepy and wonderfully toothy. I love the ending of this book (and indeed, the series).  I won’t ruin the surprise for you, but I’m hoping it will make for a totally tickle-tastic time for toddlers and their parents.

Enter July’s competition to win four of Pamela’s books, including Yikes, Ticklysaurus!


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