Monday, 23 September 2013

Month of Guests 2013: Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre have just brought out a brilliant book together - Oliver and the Seawigs.  It's a really fun book about adventure and so to celebrate its release, Philip and Sarah have put together a list of their fave fictional journeys!  Enjoy! :D

Our Top Ten Fictional Journeys

Our new book Oliver and the Seawigs is the story of a journey - a very strange journey, by mobile island, to seas populated by short-sighted mermaids and mischievous monkeys. And many of our favourite books feature characters going on journeys and voyages. What better way is there to get away from the rain on the window and the gloomy knowledge that there is school or work tomorrow than by travelling in our imaginations to far and fantastical fictional places?  Here are a few of the journeys we most enjoyed, for everyone from toddlers to grown-ups.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Sarah McIntyre: I love how Max doesn’t just go to a wild place; the wild place comes to him, as a forest in his bedroom, and then he sets out. I remember trying to turn my own bedroom into a forest. I spent ages studying a book about house plants, but I only ever managed to get a little potted palm thing and a jade plant, and the result was underwhelming.

The Expotition to the North Pole (in Chapter 8 of Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne)
Philip Reeve: I love Winnie the Pooh: I loved it as a child, I loved it as an adult, and I loved reading the stories to my son (they were always what he wanted to hear if he was ill and I was sitting up with him at night). This is the one where Christopher Robin leads all his friends (and all Rabbit’s many friends and relations) off on an ‘expotition’ to discover the north pole, despite the fact that none of them are sure what an expotition is - or what the North Pole is either. Funny, and charming, and with a real sense of how children play (they don’t really go to the North Pole, and it doesn’t matter a bit).

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
PR: I grew up in Brighton, but I spent a lot of my childhood in Middle Earth, courtesy of the wonderful maps which folded out of the back of the library’s hardback edition of The Lord of the Rings. Both that book and The Hobbit are the story of journeys, and the characters spend most of their time tramping the lanes of the Shire, the paths of the forests and passes of the Misty Mountains - too much time, some people think. But I could never get enough of the layers and layers of detail which build up Tolkien’s fictional world, where beauty or terror waits around every turning of the road.

SM: I didn’t like these books as a child, but I read the LOTR trilogy in the year before the films came out and was totally obsessed with them. I bought the BBC audiobooks on cassette tapes and played them until they wore out and I had to buy a second set. They made a great soundtrack for illustrating at my desk, that was at once comforting and swift-paced enough to drive me on with my work.

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
PR: Sym, a shy teenager obsessed with the explorer Captain Oates, is lured into her uncle’s mad and dangerous attempt to cross the Antarctic ice-sheet. Geraldine McCaughrean is my favourite author, and this is my favourite of her children’s books. It’s aimed at a slightly older readership than most of her novels: the pace is relentless, the plot veers in unexpected directions, and there’s a sense of danger and foreboding to it which adds spice to the beautiful descriptions. Magnificent! 

SM: I love how Sym is intentionally naïve in the story, she doesn’t want to believe what’s happening to her is horribly dodgy. In a way, you as the reader get to voyage through her mind, and you can see before she does that she’s heading into some horrendous blind alleys.

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
PR: When I was a child, walking on the hills of Sussex, I felt a close imaginative connection with the people who had walked there before me - Normans and Saxons, Romans and Bronze Age tribes. That was because I had read Rosemary Sutcliff, who brought those periods to life in her vivid, beautifully written historical novels. The Eagle of the Ninth was my favourite of them. It’s the story of crippled former Roman soldier Marcus and the journey he undertakes, with his freed British slave Esca, beyond Hadrian’s Wall, into the wild lands of the Picts, to fetch back the Eagle of his father’s lost legion.  And it’s also the story of other journeys; Marcus’s difficult coming to terms with his disability, and the growing friendship that bridges the divide between Roman and Briton. Like Tolkien, Rosemary Sutcliff had terrific eye for landscape. She made me realise how big Britain was, before the coming of trains and cars.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pené du Bois
SM: The hero of this story doesn’t plan to explore countries, he’s a tired, disgruntled teacher who wants to spend a year aloft in a hot-air balloon, never coming down. But when he crash-lands on the island of Krakatoa, he discovers a wildly eccentric society of inventors, who have constructed a marvelous life for their families based on colossal wealth from their diamond mines. I loved how they made up their own rules, basing their names on letters of the alphabet, and how each family ran a restaurant with the nationality based on their letter: The A family ran an American restaurant, the Bs, British, Cs, Chinese, etc. The story got me daydreaming a lot about the kind of society I would want to live in if I could choose everything and money was no issue.

Gemma Bovary by Posy Simmonds
SM: This is one of the books that inspired me to make comics; the story of Gemma Bovery who decides to move to a country village in France with her husband and set up pastorale lives there. Posy Simmonds writes and draws such wonderfully observed studies of expat mannerisms, English romantic ideals and disappointments. I’d recommend this one for teeangers and adults, but not children.

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
PR: Like Gemma Bovary, this is not a children’s book, although some teenage readers might enjoy it. Like The Eagle of the Ninth, it brings a period of history vividly to life. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it begins with the meeting between naval officer Jack Aubrey and down-at-heel Irish doctor Stephen Maturin - a meeting as important in the annals of fiction as that between Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, and the beginnings of a friendship which will endure through twenty thrilling, moving, unexpectedly laugh-out-loud funny novels, and circumnavigate the whole globe. This first voyage stays close to the shores of Spain, where Captain Aubrey is busy capturing French and Spanish shipping. There are plenty of battles and betrayals, but it’s really about the characters, and O’Brian’s glorious, impressionistic vision of the dawn of the 19th Century.

Pyongyang: a journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
SM: Travel comics are such a wonderful way to share a journey with a reader; so much can go into each image that would take long paragraphs to describe. And it can be much more subtle; something might appear in a frame which isn’t pointed out and doesn’t necessarily have to be noticed, but can be spotted if the reader wants to take the time; that’s much more like the experience of travelling than having everything encountered spelled out. I love Guy Delisle’s simple, angular drawings and getting to see all the unexpected, awkward and bizarre encounters he has on his trip to Pyongyang to work with an animation studio.

Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson & French Milk by Lucy Knisley

SM: When I give talks to people about making travel comics, I like to show them these two travel comic books together. Both are inspiring, but I think Craig Thompson’s incredibly detailed drawings and technically proficient brush strokes make a reader think, ‘Amazing, but I could never do that’, while Lucy Knisley’s book makes a reader think, ‘Amazing, and hey, I could do something like that!’ In a lot of ways, Knisley’s book – a diary of her trip to Paris with her mother – has a warmth and intimacy that Thompson’s lacks. Its lack of perfection makes it feel like something genuinely made on the road, while other things are happening to her. Whereas reading Thompson’s book, one can’t but help thinking that he did nothing BUT draw on his trip through France, Barcelona, the Alps and Morocco. It also made me think about what’s achievable when one travels with other people and when one travels alone and can stand and draw for two hours on an obscure street corner. I love both books, and they’re very much what inspired me to do my own travel comics in China and Alaska.


Yay, thank you so much Sarah and Philip!  I loved your post and will be checking out some of these books ASAP!! :D
Hope you all enjoyed Philip and Sarah's post! And don't forget to follow Philip's Site, follow him on TwitterFacebook, Tumblr and YouTube, and check out his books on Goodreads!  And follow Sarah's Site and Blog, follow her on Twitter and check out her books on Goodreads!:D
Oh, and check out Oliver and the Seawigs too on Goodreads!
And keep up to date with MonthOfGuests on Twitter using #MonthOfGuests2013! And stop by tomorrow for an awesome post by the brilliant Matt Whyman!!


Philip Reeve was born and raised in Brighton, where he worked in a bookshop for a number of years while also co-writing, producing and directing a number of no-budget theatre projects.Philip then began illustrating and has since provided cartoons for around forty children's books, including the best-selling Horrible Histories, Murderous Maths and Dead Famous series.Philip has been writing stories since he was five, but Mortal Engines was the first to be published.

Illustrator and writer Sarah McIntyre makes picture books and comics with three other artists in an old police station – complete with jail cells! – in Deptford, south London. Her comic Vern and Lettuce appeared weekly in The Guardian and in the DFC; in September 2010, David Fickling launched it as a book as part of the DFC Library. Her picture book with Giles Andreae, Morris the Mankiest Monster, introduced the world to a loveable monster with stomach-turning personal habits. Morris sold out in its first month and has won both the Sheffield and Bishop's Stortford Children's Book Awards, as voted by children. She launched two more picture books in 2010: You Can't Eat a Princess with Scholastic and When Titus Took the Train with Oxford University Press. You Can't Scare a Princess!launches in September this year. She has several more contracts with David Fickling and Scholastic for books that she's written herself, and one that's she's writing with her friend David O'Connell.

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