A Look Behind The Book with the Unstoppable Julia Patton!

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Julia Patton is an award-winning author and illustrator with over 25 picture books and educational titles published internationally. Her energy knows no bounds, and her books totally capture her personality and her ability to appeal to children through comical illustration and a child’s eye view. Last year Julia illustrated the Children In Need picture book, working alongside the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and Kate Moss. Earlier this year, Julia published Unstoppable Max — a book about a little boy with boundless energy — something all parents can relate to! Julia will be our story time celebrity at The Bright Emporium next week, so I caught up with her to find out a little bit more… LM

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The Children In Need book, published by Fat Fox: Drat That Fat Cat, publishing in October 2016 by Albert Whitman:  Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip, written by Lou Treleaven and published by Maverick.

 When you were little, and grown ups would ask, what do you want to be when you grow up? What did you say?  

I actually really wanted to be a long-necked-quack when I was very small. Secretly I still do. Scribbling, cutting & sticking came later when I created a Post Office underneath my Grandma’s kitchen table. I’d spend hours making envelopes and stamps to post to my long suffering sister, who really just wanted to be left alone to read.   

Was there someone who inspired you into your career choice? 

One birthday when I was still quite small, my dear aunt bought me a box filled with every kind of art material I could imagine, coloured paper, pencils, paints and brushes that I drooled over. It was magical, and so was she.

What were your favourite books as a child? 

I was obsessed by any book by Richard Scarry because of the funny details I could find, this was later replaced by Heath Robinson with his hypnotic contraptions. I adored and still do, Dr. Seuss’s wonderful books. Did I ever tell you how lucky you are? is a favourite of mine. My Mother read to us every night until we were really quite grown up. I think she enjoyed the ritual of bedtime stories too. Every kind of book we devoured together, picture books, Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven, encyclopaedias, poetry, National Geographic Atlases etc. until we we found our own pathway in books.

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Richard Scarry’s Busy Town

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Dr. Seuss — teaching valuable life lessons to little ones.

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The remarkable art of Heath Robinson.


What made you decide on a career in children’s illustration?

I always knew my heart lay in being a creative so I followed this pathway through to my undergraduate in Textile Design which was very fine art based. I then spent many years creating greeting cards & wrap for Paperchase, M&S and other hight street stores. My interest in children’s picture books was re-ignited when I began sourcing books for my own small boys. I fell in love with Oliver Jeffers’ books initially, and my boys adore the scribbly lines of Korky Paul’s illustrations. When I realised that I was collecting picture books for my personal library, I knew it was time to go back to big school myself. I swiftly enrolled on the MA illustration program at Edinburgh University and had my first picture book published a year later. 

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Your style is so unique – it’s brilliantly funny and I love your use of texture and mixed media. How did you achieve your final style – and what is your technique (without giving away any secrets of course!) 

With an undergraduate in textiles I’m instinctively drawn to creating beautiful aesthetics and tactile surfaces and with my new found love of illustration the two are now inseparable. I LOVE collage and incorporate it into picture books whenever I can. I find humour and picture books are perfect partners too. I just love laughing and be able to create something which others find funny is such pleasure. If my boys find my illustration silly, and laugh out loud funny, i’ve done a good job.

How do you come up with your story ideas? 

I didn’t know I could write until I met Vivian French, a Scottish author. She taught me the basic principals, but more than that, inspired my imagination, encouraged my passion and told me I COULD. So I tried. I now write as much as I’m illustrating which is thrilling. I have published two of my own titles to date and have just recently been commissioned for three more. Exciting adventures ahead!  

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Oh Bartelby… Book concept in progress.

Is Max based on anyone you know?! 

Yes, and no. I believe every child is Unstoppable and filled with the wonderment, unrelenting energy and hypnotic enthusiasm for adventure in their everyday lives. I have two boys so I know through experience. Unstoppable Max was a collaborative project which was born organically with the wonder team at OUP Children. The wonderfully talented and funny Helen Mortimer was my partner in crime and together we crafted our little Max into the exhausting whirlwind he is today.

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What has been your favourite book so far (if there is a favourite) 

I’ve just completed Drat That Fat Cat which is another rather funny book about a lonesome elderly gentleman who’s very set in his ways, and the last thing he needs is one fat cat disturbing his peace and quiet. Their ensuing chaos and ultimate compromise was sensational to illustrate. I have also recently written a story called Charlie & Pip inspired by a non-verbal child we know as family friend. It’s a story about a child not engaging in the outside world or communicating with anyone, until she meets Pip. He becomes her voice, her emotional buffer, showing her how to interact with others. This is a book for anyone struggling to find their voice, whether it’s a language barrier, anxiety or self confidence problems. I think it’s a special book with a story that needs to be told. I’m very proud of it. I believe my responsibility and role as an author and illustrator is to illuminate words, suggest the magical and interpret the unspoken.

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A spread from Charlie and Pip

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I love my job. JP

“Working with Julia is like working with your funniest childhood friend. She is wildly hilarious, warm, and kind. But she is also super hardworking and extremely professional— an agent’s dream! Julia wins people over at first with her personality, but then bowls them over with her talent.  She’s got some amazing projects in the pipeline that I just can’t wait to see on shelves!” Alli Brydon, Managing Agent, Bright USA


If you’d like to work with Julia, you can reach her via her agent, Alli Brydon, based in our US office here.

You can also follow Julia on these channels:

Twitter and Facebook

And of course, if you’d like to meet Julia in person, she will be joining us on Sunday 2nd October for story time at The Bright Emporium.

Read more information and book your tickets here.

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