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Junior Meets: Where Is Fred? Illustrator, Ali Pye

After being Highly Commended in our Most Promising New Talent category, the illustrator talks children, caravans and crafty foxes

Posted: 28 May 2012
by Fiona McKim

What books did you love as you were growing up?
I loved the Danny Fox novels by David Thomson: Funny, sophisticated and magical stories about a crafty fox who lives by his wits in order to steal fish, escape from a pack of wolves, rescue princesses and feed his hungry cubs Lick, Chew and Swallow. There are beautiful line illustrations by Gunvor Edwards, who also illustrated Thomas the Tank Engine stories. I can still remember getting a copy of ‘Danny Fox Meets a Stranger’ on my 7thbirthday: I was so excited. The books were published in the Seventies and I think are now out of print. If you can get hold of a Danny Fox story do, you won’t regret it!

What were your other hobbies as a child?
I grew up in the countryside, in Herefordsire, and spent most of the time charging around the woods and orchards, building dens and dreaming up imaginary worlds. 

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to illustrate books. Although I thought it was just a daydream, like wanting to be a ballet dancer or a rock star so it it took me a while to actually get around to it.

What is your funniest memory from your childhood?
When I was seven my family lived in a caravan for nine months, as my parents had bought a derelict cottage that needed rebuilding. The caravan was on a hill, so everything inside sloped: the bath had a deep end, if mum baked a cake it was thick one side and skinny the other, and my sister and I used to sit on ourHooverand ride it down the hall. My poor parents didn’t enjoy living in such a tiny space, but us kids had a great time!

Who are your favourite children’s authors and illustrators?
I like Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum series very much. It’s utterly, wonderfully mad – like the Mighty Boosh for kids. I’m also a big fan of Kevin Waldron who illustrated Mr Peek and Tiny Little Fly. His images seamlessly blend hand-rendered artwork with digital effects, the compositions are bold and interesting and the work has a lovely retro feel.

Which children’s character do you identify with most?
Mrs Doxie Fox (from Danny Fox), struggling to keep up with her clever husband and cheeky cubs!.

What advice would you give to a child who wanted to be an illustrator?
Keep drawing, keep imagining, don’t be afraid to experiment, find your own way of doing things. It’s not an easy option so you need to keep working at it. If you’re going to study illustration at college, make sure you choose a really good course that has genuine links with the profession. It’s a crowded market but something fresh and original will always stand out.

Tell us a little bit about your family
I have two children: Sam, who is eight and Charlie,who is five. Sam loves to read factual books, he’s really into Horrible Histories and Horrible Science. He’s like Hairy MacClary at the moment – bumptious and bouncy and in need of a trim!. Charlie loves the Dr Seuss books, especially the poem Too Many Daves. He’s like the Gruffalo’s Child, venturing forth into the world then running back to safety every now and again.

How do you feel about E-readers and storybook apps?
The storybook apps I’ve seen are pretty amazing, the artwork glows on the screen and my kids seem to love them. The interactive features add an extra dimension to stories; they’re fun. I hate the thought of kids being entirely sreen-based though, hunched over a device. Sharing a book is such a calm, rewarding experience, and great for winding down before bedtime, I hope that people will use devices and books alongside each other, for different purposes.

What is your next project?
I’m working on a picture book for Egmont, written by Jill Lewis. The story’s about some very cute little characters and set a magical underground world, it’s (hopefully!) going to look beautiful. I’m also working on a young fiction series about a little girl film star, Ellie May. The books are written by new author Marianne Levy and are seriously good.

Find out... Why Where Is Fred was Highly Commended in our Junior Design Awards

Plus See all of the winners and highly commended  books in the Junior Design Awards 2012

Don't miss... The Junior Meets hub of exclusive interviews, inside scoop interviews and quirky Q&As, with exciting interviewees including: Tommy HilfigerSir Paul SmithStella McCartney and lots of other influential fashion designers, authors and illustrators including Quentin Blake and Jeff Kinney, great business minds including Lord Alan Sugar and, everyone's favourite fashionable frog, Kermit.

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