Toppsta - Childrens Books – Reviews

Q&A with author and illustrator Jonny Duddle

29th April 2018


Our reviewers LOVED the gorgeous picture book, The Pirates of Scurvy Sands by bestselling author and illustrator Jonny Duddle (The Pirates Next Door). The publishers, Templar, offered the opportunity for one lucky reviewer to ask Jonny 10 questions and we chose RSA (age 8) who asked the following questions:

1. Which was your favourite book to write/draw?

I think my favourite book to write and draw was The Pirate Cruncher. I’d wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book since I was tiny, and I was finally offered my first book contract when I was 36 years old, after a LOT of rejections. I was super excited to be working on my very own book.

2. Why did you want to be author/illustrator?

When I was at primary school, I wanted to be an astronaut, a spitfire pilot or an artist. I don’t think I’m clever enough, fit enough or brave enough to be an astronaut, and there aren’t many spitfires left, so I being an artist seemed like the best choice. I loved writing and illustrating stories as a child and spent hours in my bedroom making up characters and imagining the things they’d get up to. Children’s books are the best fit for my daft stories and it’s great that I’m now a grown up and I can still sit in my studio all day, doodling, colouring-in and writing. I don’t think I’m cut out for a ‘proper’ job.

Jonny Duddle's desk

3. Why did you draw some little things from your old books in your new books? (Like in Pirates of the Scurvy Sands there is an arcade game that is all about King of Space. In King of Space, Rex has a Pirates Next Door book in his bedroom.)

It started off with Nugget’s cuddly Pirate Cruncher on the cover of ‘The Pirates Next Door’, just because I thought it was funny. Now it’s a bit of an obsession, wondering how I can add links to my other books. There are plenty in ‘The Pirates of Scurvy Sands’ and readers tell me that they enjoy trying to spot them.

4. Why did you want to write about aliens rather than pirates for King of Space?

All this pirate stuff has been a bit unintentional. I actually went to my publisher with some completely different ideas at our first meeting (sharks and trolls, not in the same book) but they were drawn to a portfolio piece called ‘the Pirate Muncher’. It was an illustration that was very similar to the finale in the published book, and I had to think up a story that would lead to that point. It sold quite well for a debut book, so there was suddenly demand for more pirates. We were just about to move house, so that inspired ‘The Pirates Next Door’. And then a child at a book festival suggested the ‘Pirates Next Door’ chapter books, so I did as I was told and wrote a few of those, with hopefully more to come… 

I have lots of other non-pirate-y ideas. I have a list of twelve picture books that I’m desperate to write and illustrate, partly written with sketches and notes, and only one of them is about pirates. The problem is that they take ages. I’ve just started working on a Viking story, which will be my next picture book, but there might be a couple more pirate chapter books before it’s published.

Book pages Placeholder Book

The King of Space

Rex looks like an average 6 year old, living on his parents' moog farm and going to mini galactic citizen school, but he's going to be King of Space! With the help of unsuspecting friends, Rex creates an army of warbots with dung-blasters and begins his conquest of the known worlds. But when he goes too far, only one person can save him from the wrath of the Galactic Alliance - his tough-talking mum!


5. What made you draw silly cows in weird space suits for King of Space?

I wanted the ‘King of Space’ to be like old school sci-fi, but with a twist. When I was a kid in the seventies, everybody thought we’d be flying around in hover cars, having our chores done by robots and wearing jumpsuits by the year 2000. But, with all the technological advancements, we still wear similar clothes, drive old petrol cars and have antique furniture. I grew up in North Wales, and I thought it’d be funny to have a sci-fi story based on the small farms near my home, with a stone farmhouse (made from ‘local’ moon rocks) futuristic cows and floral lampshades. The Moogs were designed to cope with the lack of gravity and atmosphere, but were inspired by the cows in the field behind my house in Wales.

6. Have you ever made a robot like the children do in Miss Brain's school in King of Space?

Nope, but I would love to! I have four old cars, the oldest is from 1937 and the youngest is from 1979, and I’m learning to weld so I can fix them all. Rex’s Warbot is made from parts of his dad’s old tractors, and I’d love to make a robot out of bits of old car.

7. Do you think Jolley-Rogers books will be made into a TV series?

The ‘Pirates Next Door’ is already a TV series in France! An animation company in Paris, Cyber group Studios, has made 52 eleven minute episodes. They’ve produced it in different languages, and the series is currently being shown on French television. I hope it’ll make it to the UK. The same company are also making ‘Gigantosaurus’ for TV, to be shown on the Disney channel.

Scurvy Sands Inside Spreads

8. Did you ever want to be a pirate?

I was a pirate! I lived on two square-rig sailing ships for a year between 1994 and 1995. I lived onboard and slept in a bunk in the hold of the ship. We sailed around the country on a replica of Columbus’ Santa Maria (built for a film called ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise’) and then sailed another ship, the Kaskelot, to Ireland to make movies about pirates. I was paid by the film companies to dress in pirate gear and climb up and down the rigging. I jumped ship in Dublin and travelled back to Wales on the ferry. I took a lot of photos when I lived on the ships and they were the perfect reference when I was painting the ships in my picture books

9. What was your favourite book to read when you were eight?

My favourite book is still Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and I first read that when I was five years old, followed by all the usual suspects from the seventies including anything by Roald Dahl, the Famous five, Wind in the Willows, Charlotte’s Web, a Wrinkle in Time and lots of ghost stories. There was one book that I read several times when I was eight or nine, called ‘Conrad’s War’. I vividly remember the cover with Conrad and his dog in pilot gear, standing in front of a Lancaster bomber, but I don’t remember the story very well. I’d love to find a copy.

10. Would you like to live in Dull-on-Sea or in Scurvy Sands?

Dull-on-Sea is inspired by the lovely seaside towns in North Wales, which are a short drive from our home in the hills, but I think I’d be better suited to Scurvy Sands. I’d love to live there. I’d have an art studio with a view of the harbour, drink and eat lunch in the Wonky Compass and walk my dog (Mabel) on the beach.

Book pages Placeholder Book

The Pirates of Scurvy Sands

This summer, Matilda is going on holiday with her friends, the Jolley-Rogers. Their destination is the island of Scurvy Sands - a favourite holiday destination for pirates.

When Matilda arrives, the swashbuckling residents are not too impressed with her. She has clean teeth, tidy clothes and doesn't smell like she's been at sea for six months without washing - she's definitely no pirate. But when Matilda discovers the secret of the legendary treasure of Scurvy Sands, the pirates decide that maybe some lubbers aren't so bad.

A scurvy sequel to the bestselling The Pirates Next Door.

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