About the Author
Ged Adamson is a writer and illustrator living in London with his partner Helen and their son Rex. His most recent book Douglas, You Need Glasses! was published by Random House and released this past May. Two previous books—Elsie Clarke and the Vampire Hairdresser (2013) and Meet the McKaws (2015)—were published by Sky Pony Press. Ged has two books hitting shelves in the summer and fall of 2017—Shark Dog from HarperCollins and I Want to Grow from Boyds Mills Press. Ged’s cartoons have appeared in magazines, such as Punch and Prospect, as well as in books and on film. He has worked as a storyboard artist and a caricaturist and also works as a composer for TV and film.
About the Holiday
Here we are in the Dog Days of Summer—that time from July 3 to late August—when the air is still, the sun is bright, and the beach beckons. Although the phrase “dog days” conjures up images of Fido panting and lethargic, the term actually refers to the dog star Sirius—the brightest star and, in Greek mythology, the hunter Orion’s dog. To the ancient Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred when Sirius rose and set with the sun, lending its warmth to the day.
Q & A with Ged Adamson
Today, Celebrate Picture Books is featuring another rising star—Ged Adamson. Ged took some time to talk about his work, his inspirations, and that stellar, spectacles-wearing canine Douglas of:
What books did you enjoy most as a child?
I wasn’t a great reader of chapter books as a child and I don’t remember us having picture books in the house but we did Roald Dahl stories at school. James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were favourites.
My mum and dad were avid readers. My dad had some great books. As well as novels, he had a lot of factual books about artists and history. One that I loved was about The Illustrated London News and it was full of beautiful Victorian etchings of everyday life in London. There were always books of cartoons by people like Giles and Frank Dickens. And we had loads of Charles Schultz Peanuts paperbacks.
My grandad was Scottish and we used to get a Scottish newspaper every weekend called The Sunday Post. There was a comic section for kids. The two main strips in it were The Broons and Oor Wullie. The characters inhabited a kind of 1950s world which I loved. We would get The Broons and Oor Wullie annuals every Christmas.
The first proper books I read of my own accord were collections of short horror stories that I borrowed from my older brothers. Reading them, I would be scared to death but I couldn’t stop. We did some great books in school that I really enjoyed like Animal Farm by George Orwell, A Kestral For A Knave by Barry Hines and Lord of the Flies by William Golding. And in the school library they had some decent novels for older kids and they had Tintin and Asterix the Gaul in French.
What influenced you to write Douglas, You Need Glasses!?
It was a little drawing I did of a dog in glasses smoking a pipe. Like most doodles, it was done without really thinking. But I was trying to come up with ideas for stories at the time so I wondered if I could do something with this character.
Image copyright Ged Adamson
I wear glasses myself so I thought I could use some of my own experiences with short sightedness to develop Douglas’s story. It went through many stages though. In one early idea, Douglas’s newly perfect vision causes him to be too honest about people’s appearances. Another had him befriending a group of insects.
I’d just started to take my illustration style in a different direction, and I wanted to do something that would be visually strong. So from the way Nancy is dressed, the coloured see-through trees, the skate park, the eye chart, through to the big glasses at the end. I was trying to create images that the reader would remember. And most importantly I wanted the story to be funny!
Image copyright Ged Adamson, coiurtesy of gedadamson.com
Can you describe your process when writing and illustrating a picture book?
It will start with an idea. Sometimes, as with Douglas, that will come from a doodle. The next stage is sketches and thinking a lot about the shape of the story. Who are the characters? How will the art look? What is the story saying—what’s its message? I’ll talk to people whose opinions I respect and see what they think—my Agent Isy being one.
The next step is putting together three or four spreads so you get a feel for the tone of the story and how it will look. All the time I’m throwing in bits of text but this changes constantly. I never have a manuscript separate from the images for this reason. To me, the words and pictures can’t exist apart from each other. That’s why I’m always uneasy supplying a manuscript with submissions!
All through this process of me working on a story—and then if I’m lucky, with the publisher—I’ll be chopping things out and adding stuff to solve problems. In my next book, Shark Dog, I’d put a cute little penguin in the final spread. I really liked that penguin! But he had to go because the scene changed from an Arctic sea to a tropical one. And that is a pretty minor change in the grand scheme of things. You have to be prepared for the editor asking to make major overhauls to your book before it goes to the printers.
Image copyright Ged Adamson
Can you describe your work space a little?
It’s a small room, but it’s mine! I think, no matter how tiny it is, how you arrange the space where you work is important. I like to feel it’s my world and part of my personality. The centre of it is occupied by an old desk with an iMac on it. I replaced my chair recently and I love the new one. It’s like something from an ‘80s quiz show and super comfy. I sometimes record music in there so there are instruments as well as art stuff. There are things I’ve picked up from junk shops and our local market. There’s an old sofa against one wall which is so great when I want to have a break.
Most furniture in our house is second hand. I have bits of paper stuck to the wall with lists of things I need to get done and new book ideas. I’ve got a few pictures up too. There’s one which is just a scene of a rough sea, nothing else—it’s an old framed print. There’s something weirdly relaxing about it. I like that I can look out the window and see the backs of the tall Georgian houses on the other side of the railway tracks. It’s a very London view. I’d like to have a bigger space to work in but I do love my little room.
What is the favorite object on your desk and why?
I want to say something like “Ah, that would be the skull of my great grandfather. He spent his life studying the speech patterns of elk”. But I think it has to be my computer. Though it keeps dropping out of connection which is driving me mad. What the hell, Apple?
What is the best part about writing picture books?
I remember working on the art for my second picture book Meet The McKaws. I could see the snow coming down outside the window of my little room. I suddenly thought, “I’m really happy doing this”! I hadn’t had that same feeling doing anything else.
Actually, the best part of writing picture books is what I’m experiencing right now with Douglas. People are getting in touch and saying they love the book and the characters. The response from readers is what you look forward to and when you get so much positive feedback for something you spent a long time working on, it’s such a great thing.
But there are other aspects that I love too. Working with talented editors and art directors is a lot of fun and you learn valuable stuff from them too.
It’s also thrilling to see your book on the shelves in a book shop!
What are you working on next?
I’m just finishing work on two books that will be out next year. The first is Shark Dog. It’s about a strange but very friendly animal that stows away on an explorer’s boat. HarperCollins is doing that one. The second is called I Want To Grow, and it’s about a little dinosaur called Herb who gets frustrated that his human friend Muriel is getting taller and he’s not. This one’s with Boyds Mill Press.
image copyright Ged Adamson
I’m also working on two new ideas. One of those is about a rainbow and it’s almost ready for submission, so I’m excited to see what publishers think.
I can’t properly call this a holiday themed blog without asking you a couple of questions about special dates, so here goes:
What is your favorite holiday?
Because I’ve always done stuff that doesn’t involve a nine to five working week, I feel slightly guilty that I don’t appreciate holidays. Even weekends. On Twitter and Instagram there’ll be loads of people going, “IT’S THE WEEKEND! HURRAY!!” and I’ll be like, “oh yes, yay!”
I do like Christmas though. My son is still quite little so it’s lovely to experience that kid version of Christmas again through him. I’m not the least bit religious, but I really like when people come to our road and sing carols. The TV’s good and there’s lots of drinking and eating. I mean, what’s not to like about that?
Do you have an anecdote from any holiday you’d like to share?
I remember a school Summer trip where we all stayed for a week in an old country house in the middle of woodland. Rumours began circulating that the place was haunted. Everybody started to get nervous. This wasn’t helped by a drunken teacher one night on his way to bed telling everyone “Don’t worry, the ghosts won’t harm you”. We were now all terrified and a kind of hysteria took over. We started counting the minutes until we could be reunited with our families. Somebody said they saw a ‘misty figure’ as they made their way back from the disco hut. Panic ensued. Even on the coach home there was a sense of looming disaster. Back at school in September, it wasn’t talked about much. I think everyone was embarrassed that we’d allowed ourselves to get into such a state.
Has a holiday ever influenced your work?
In Shark Dog, the explorers and their new pet set off to the seaside in their Morris Minor. For me that is a very English holiday scene but obviously you don’t see many of those cars any more. My mum and dad didn’t drive so our holidays would involve hours on a coach to somewhere like Wales or Devon. In the new story I’m working on, there is a spread with a multitude of people getting off those kind of coaches. It definitely took me back to being a kid!
In Meet The McKaws, the story centres on a pirate’s parrot’s family members visiting for a few days. This is an aspect of holiday periods that is fraught with danger!
Image copyright and courtesy of Ged Adamson
I’d like to thank Ged for his insightful and engaging answers to my questions that prove that the Dog Days of Summer are definitely the best (especially when that dog is Douglas)!
Ged is giving away a copy of Douglas, You Need Glasses! plus other goodies! Just click to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway
You Can Connect with Ged Adamson on
Twitter | Instagram | Ged’s Website
You Can Find Ged Adamson’s Books at
Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound
Ged Adamson’s blog tour continues! Don’t miss it!
Review of Douglas, You Need Glasses!
By Ged Adamson
Something may be amiss with Douglas. When Nancy and her playful pooch went out to chase squirrels recently, Douglas ran after a falling leaf while the squirrel escaped up a tree. It’s not the first time something like this has happened. You see, Douglas is a bit nearsighted. Sometimes he mistakes the stair post for Nancy, and his difficulty gets in the way of things (well, mostly Douglas gets in the way of things). He misses important signs—like the one that would have prevented him from tracking wet cement all over the skate park, where there are NO DOGS allowed—and he’s always causing something of a ruckus. Sometimes he even enters the wrong house! But when a game of fetch buzzzzzed toward disaster, Nancy decided something had to be done.
Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com
She took Douglas to the eye doctor where he tried to read a most dog-friendly eye chart. His test revealed that he needed glasses. He found the shelves of Dog Glasses, which offered many options, and had fun trying some on. Each one made him feel different. In one pair he was a rock star; in another a scholar; and in yet another a hippy. He wore them all until he discovered the perfect pair!
On the way home he saw the world in a way he never had before. “‘Wow! Everything looks amazing!’” Douglas said. And it was!
Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com
Ged Adamson’s funny look at a nearsighted dog will make kids laugh from the first page to the last. Earnest Douglas, going about his doggy days under a bit of a skewed perspective, is so endearing that readers cannot help but love him even as they giggle at his exploits. Adamson’s vibrant multi-hued trees, colorfully clothed kids, and vivid backgrounds with stylish sketched-in details gives the book a fresh, jaunty appeal for a lively, fun story time. Kids facing the prospect of wearing glasses will find lots to give them reassurance and confidence in this book.
Douglas, You Need Glasses is a great addition to any child’s bookshelf!
Ages 3 – 8
Schwartz & Wade, Random House Kids, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553522433
Dog Days of Summer Activity
Make a Stellar Spool Puppy
No matter where you go and whether you have a real dog or not, you can take this little guy along with you. And just as you would pick out your favorite from an animal shelter, you can make this puppy look any way you’d like!
- Printable ears and nose template
- 2-inch round wooden spool, available at craft stores
- 1 skein of yarn in the color you choose. Yardage needed will depend on the thickness of the yarn.
- Craft paint
- Paint brush
- Fabric or strong glue
- Thin gauge wire
- Dowel or pencil to wrap wire around to make glasses
- Paint the dowel the color you want your dog to be, let dry
- Trace the ears on the felt and cut out (or draw your own ears)
- Trace the nose on the felt and cut out
- When the spool is dry glue the ears to the body of the spool, allowing the ears to stick up from the top of the spool
- Wind the yarn around the spool back and forth until the dog’s body is the size you’d like
- Glue the yarn in place with fabric or strong glue
To make the face
- Glue the nose over the hole on one end of the spool
- Draw the mouth and tongue under the nose with a marker
- You will draw the eyes on after the glasses are in place
To make the glasses
- Wind the wire around a ½-inch dowel, thick pencil, or rounded handle to make two circles.
- Leave about two inches on either side of the circles for the ear pieces of the glasses.
- Adjust the size of the circles to fit the spool as glasses.
- Put the glasses on the face of the spool, tucking the ear pieces into the yarn on each side
- Draw eyes in the center of the glasses
To make the tail
- Cut a small square of felt and stuff the edges into the hole on the other end of the spool
- You can make the tail as long as you like
Picture Book Review