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The 30th Anniversary McLaren Animation Awards

The annual McLaren Animation award screenings at the world’s oldest continually-running film festival have always been a personal favourite part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival for me. Named for famed Scottish pioneer Norman McLaren, who would later found the National Film Board of Canada, this 2019 edition was particularly special – this marked the thirtieth anniversary of the McLarens at the EIFF, and the tenth, and as it happens, final year in the tenure of Iain Gardner, who has been in charge of the McLarens.

I’ve really enjoyed Iain’s run taking care of the McLarens – it isn’t just the selecting and screening of interesting and diverse material, it’s the sense of encouraging and supporting and fostering new and emerging and existing talent. During the post-screening Q&As with all of the animators, there is a real sense of support and encouragement, and that’s a good thing in any artistic medium if you want to have new blood and new ideas.

This year, as part of the thirtieth anniversary, we were treated to three rather than the usual two McLaren Animation segments, each with ten films, so 30 short works in all, covering all sorts of subjects (autobiography, documentary, politic, humour) and approaches (traditional hand-drawn, CG animation, stop-motion, puppetry and some films mixing methods).

In a very welcome touch this year there was parity, a fifty-fifty split between female and male directors. At normal McLaren years there are too many films for me to go into each one individually, and that is more the case this year with the additional screening, so I’ll be sticking to my usual approach of picking out some of the films which I personally enjoyed the most.

Edinburgh International Film Festival - McLaren Animation 014
(some of the animators doing Q&A sessions after the various McLaren screenings in the Filmhouse, Edinburgh, photos from my Flickr)

Edinburgh International Film Festival - McLaren Animation 020

Edinburgh International Film Festival - McLaren Animation 04

Ainslie Henderson – by now a well-kent face in animation circles and at McLaren – had a very beautiful, very emotional piece with Archie. A lovely stop-motion work, we follow an anthropomorphised dog-man (with his own actual pet dog!), the eponymous Archie, in a largely wordless film.

Ainslie Henderson - Archie animated film

Archie receives bad news and a key in the post – the key to this mother’s wee crofting house on one of the Scottish isles; she’s passed away, the old home is now his. Using only the movement of the figures rather than dialogue Henderson deftly conjures up that sudden, shattering blow of learning a loved one is gone, of the bottom falling out of your world, the sad journey back home to a house that is now empty, except not really, because it is filled with memories. It’s warm and sadly beautiful, with some nice little touches – Archie’s wee dog snuggling up to his master, sensing his pain – and I found myself thinking on loved ones I’ve lost and having to blink away years (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one).

Chris and Victoria Watson‘s Ladder to You also dealt with grief, in a very different way, with an elderly man, at home, now all alone and missing his wife terribly. He ponders parts of his life and the world, but nothing really works any more, not without her; without her it is meaningless, empty.

When his wife’s photograph is blown out the window, he follows it with a ladder to try and retrieve this last memento of her, and it takes him somewhere special. Josephine Lohoar Self’s also had that beautifully sad quality to it, a stop-motion piece about a shy young tailor, about a world where everyone wants to conform and be the same while he yearns for difference and encounters love.

Music & Clowns – trailer from Alex Widdowson on Vimeo.

JoAnne Salmon and and Alex Widdowson both impressed me with their biographical films, which were very emotionally warm and honest. Widdowson brought us Music & Clowns, an exploration of caring for a a family member with Down’s Syndrome. The parents talk honestly about the shock and surprise when their boy was born “different”, with his father commenting how as he held his newborn the moment of shock passed and he knew that he loved his boy anyway; he even, as they discuss him, reproaches his other son gently, commenting on how he may not understand everything but he is very empathic to the feelings of others, perhaps more than his brother. They talk about what life has been like, and the concerns of his parents as they get older, wondering how he will cope once they are too old, or passed on, a concern anyone with special needs family members must entertain.

Salmon gave us Chin Up, an autobiographical piece, the title riffing on one of the symptoms of Treacher Collins syndrome, where the bone structure of the face doesn’t form in the regular way, giving her a very unusual appearance (including not having a prominent chin). Again, emotional honesty was key here as Salmon used differing artistic style to explore moments of her life – her birth, not being the “normal” little girl they were expecting, of not feeling particularly different until she went to school and having to deal with the unthinking comments of children, of how this affected her sense of self, how art and drawing became an escape for her, which eventually lead her to find animation and encouraged her to apply to study and then eventually create her own works.

Chin Up – Trailer – Animated Documentary from LoveLove Films on Vimeo.

Lauren Orme‘s Creepy Pasta Salad was a fun piece, about a werewolf lady with low self-esteem, a man who may (or at least thinks he may be) dead and a ghost (and wondering if he is a ghost does he have to worry about that final electricity bill?), a Goth and the End of the World, and left me with a big smile.

Ainslie Henderson, with Will Anderson, had more work in the form of three very brief pieces, My Best Friend (then each segment had a subtitle, such as “explodes”), nice, clean, simple graphics, two friends talking, but they are aware of being in a film, and they ponder the meaning of each title as it appears above them (you can imagine their alarm when it says “explodes”).

Matthew Lee‘s One Liner used claymation and drawn animation and touches on what used to be a cornerstone of British entertainment culture – the comedy double act, and more specifically who was “the funny one” (that oft-asked question that totally misses the point that these duos really only worked playing off one another).

Unsurprisingly given the last couple of years, politics hove into view during some of the films: Steve Boot had Mad Dogs, set in a pub of the same name, the classic British pub, a perfect place for examining what it means to be British in the modern era, using a collection of regulars in the pub who are all dogs, English, Scottish and Welsh (although oddly no Northern Irish), and uses a sprinkling of dialogue from the speeches of famous people among the lines as they all talk about about their sense of identity. Marta Lemos gave us Dear England, which used photo collage and drawn art among other styles, to explore the way British society has been changing, especially since the Brexit referendum, the way some elements now feel they can voice bigotry and hatred openly, the fact that some who came to make a home here, no matter how they fit in, will never be “British enough” for certain types.

mad dog trailer from steve boot on Vimeo.

I’d love to pick out more of the entries – the styles, the methods and the subjects were all so diverse we really were treated to a smorgasbord of excellent animation talent, quite a few entries being graduate degree films from students, and many of those now out in the world beyond college all still very young. I must mention Fokion Xenos, who won the audience vote to scoop this thirtieth anniversary year McLaren Animation Award with Heatwave, which was a wonderful riot of colours and life in plasticine and other materials and depicted, yes a heatwave, on a tiny Greek island, rather timely given the burst of hot weather across the UK and Europe recently!

And I have to give a shout out to Samantha Moore‘s Bloomers, which documented the people, mostly women, who had worked in a garment design and manufacturing, and the changing fortunes over the years – the film had a very rich texture to the backgrounds, and, astonishingly Moore produced a sheet of silk (one of the fabrics the factory used) on which some of the art had been drawn then animated to give it that remarkable look and feel.

HEATWAVE – Trailer © NFTS 2019 from Fokion Xenos on Vimeo.

As I said, a real diversity of styles, methods and subjects. I’m confident that – as usually happens – we will see some of the McLaren entries crop up in a few months in the BAFTA and Oscar short animation nominee lists.

Joe Gordon

This article was originally published on Live For Films

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Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance Awards Entry Deadline this week

SICBA Awards 2019 BannerIf you’re a Scottish comics creator, there’s still time to enter your work into the Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance Awards for this year – but you’ll have to hurry, as the deadline is this Thursday, 25th April 2019.

Sponsored by Comic Printing UK , the awards are dedicated to supporting and nurturing Scotland’s vibrant and unique independent comic book scene and were set up to celebrate the ongoing growth of the medium in Scotland.” Past winners include Colin Bell and Neil Slorance’s Dungeon Fun, Morag Kewell’s Big in Japan, Chris Baldie and Michael Park’s Space Captain and Zhou Fang’s Garden.

SUCBA 2019 - Judges David Bishop, Sinéad Grainger and Andy Oliver
SUCBA 2019 judges David Bishop, Sinéad Grainger and Andy Oliver

The results to be announced at Glasgow Comic Con on 28th June and this year’s judges are former Tharg, David Bishop, the programme leader for Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier University; Little Shop of Heroes co-owner and Dunfermline Comic Con co-organiser Sinéad Grainger and Broken Frontier Editor-in-Chief Andy Oliver, who has been instrumental in championing new voices in comics.

The Awards are and there’s still time to submit to the Awards which close later this week.

Find out how to enter here on the Glasgow Comic Con web site

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Hugo Awards Shortlist Announced

Hugo Award LogoThe shortlist for the annual Hugo Awards, pretty much the biggest deal in the world of science fiction and fantasy, has been announced. When a graphic category was first added to the Hugos it wasn’t always the best selection of comics that those eligible to nominate and vote were selecting, and there was a lot of discussions about why this was (were those able to nominate and vote simply often not that familiar with many comics, for instance, and so unable to make much of a selection, unlike in the prose areas?).

Worldcon - Dublin 2019

This situation has been improving and looking over this year’s shortlist nominees, the Best Graphic Story Category has a pretty decent mix of comics with an SF&F theme this year, from Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä‘s 1970s-set horror-fantasy Abbott (which I loved) to one of our more remarkable young rising stars, Tillie Walden, with On a Sunbeam.

The Best Graphic Story nominees in full are:

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivela

Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)

While investigating police brutality and corruption in 1970s Detroit, journalist Elena Abbott uncovers supernatural forces being controlled by a secret society of the city’s elite.

In the uncertain social and political climate of 1972 Detroit, hard-nosed, chain-smoking tabloid reporter Elena Abbott investigates a series of grisly crimes that the police have ignored. Crimes she knows to be the work of dark occult forces. Forces that took her husband from her. Forces she has sworn to destroy.

Hugo Award-nominated novelist Saladin Ahmed (Star Wars: Canto Bight, Black Bolt) and artist Sami Kivelä (Beautiful Canvas) present one woman’s search for the truth that destroyed her family amidst an exploration of the systemic societal constructs that haunt our country to this day.

Black Panther: Long Live the King #1

Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford (Marvel)

Heavy is the head that wears the crown! As the Black Panther and an Avenger, T’Challa has had to save the world time and again – but those duties pale in comparison to his responsibilities as king of Wakanda.

Black Panther: Long Live the King

As the nation rebuilds in the wake of revolution, T’Challa finds his people besieged by a massive monster tearing through the country, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake! From acclaimed novelist Nnedi Okorafor (Binti, Who Fears Death) and illustrator and Re Lima Araujo (Spidey, The Wicked + The Divine) comes an adventure set in the world of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ landmark Black Panther run and told in the Mighty Marvel Manner!

Monstress Volume 3: Haven

Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)

Maika has spent most of her life learning how to fight, but how will she fare when the only way to save her life…is to make friends?

Collects issues 13-18 of the Hugo Award and British Fantasy Award series.

On a Sunbeam by Tillie WaldenOn a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (First Second)

One of the youngest ever Eisner Award winners, incredible talent Tillie Walden presents a stunning queer space opera – her greatest work to date.

On a Sunbeam is the story of Mia, interwoven between her time as a rebellious schoolgirl at a boarding school in space and her time as crew member aboard the spacecraft Aktis, where she travels the deepest reaches of space to rebuild and restore beautiful broken-down structures. As the past and present weave together, we discover more about Mia and her roots and how they connect with her present on Aktis. In Walden’s words, “The road ahead is not a comfortable, simple one.”

Walden’s inimitable style and presentation are more fully-formed and gorgeous than ever before as she works with her signature themes of sexuality and gender, the individual in landscape, first love and awesome cats.

Part love story, part epic space adventure, originally published as a webcomic, On a Sunbeam was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2017 and won Best Webcomic with Walden winning Best Artist at the 2017 Broken Frontier Awards.


Paper Girls Volume 4, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image Comics)

The mind-bending, time-warping adventure from Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang continues, as intrepid newspaper deliverer Tiffany is launched from the prehistoric past into the year 2000! In this harrowing version of our past, Y2K was even more of a cataclysm than experts feared, and the only person who can save the future is a 12-year-old girl from 1988.

Collects Paper Girls issues 16 through 20.

Saga Volume Nine

Saga Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

The multiple Eisner Award-winning series returns with a spacefaring adventure about fake news and genuine terror. Get ready for the most shocking, most impactful SAGA storyline yet. Collects SAGA #49-54.


Other comics-related works featuring on the nominations list include Avengers: Infinity War and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form), while away from comics but still close to our twin hearts here at DTT, Doctor Who got two nods in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), for “Demons of the Punjab,” written by Vinay Patel, directed by Jamie Childs (BBC) and Doctor Who: “Rosa,” written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, directed by Mark Tonderai (BBC).

Journey Planet

There are numerous other categories with some terrific SF&F writers nominated, and I would direct you to the full list of nominees for a look as you will pick up some good reading suggestions there.

On a personal note though I will highlight one other nominee, this time from the Best Fanzine category, as some good chums who have done a lot to highlight top comics creators, James Bacon, Pádraig Ó Méalóid et al are once more nominated for their Journey Planet zine.

The Hugos winners will be announced at the annual WorldCon, which this year runs in Dublin from August 15th to 19th 2019.

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Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s “Monstress” wins at the British Fantasy Awards

The autumn season means it is time for the annual British Fantasy Societys convention and the BFS Awards. The second volume of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda‘s rather glorious Monstress (published by Image) won the Best Comic / Graphic Novel category on Sunday at Fantasycon.

This follows another major science fiction and fantasy con, Worldcon, where Monstress scored the prestigious Hugo Award in the graphic category, on top of numerous comics gongs (including the Eisner).

A compelling and hugely imaginative fantasy with some quite stunning artwork, it’s terrific to see it making a splash outside of the comics awards circles too.

Monstress Volume Two - Cover
Cover to Monstress Volume 2: the Blood, published by Image Comics


Away from the comics folks, other winners included New Fears (edited by Mark Morris, published Titan Books – a second volume was released last month) taking Best Anthology, Jeffrey Alan Love taking Best Artist, Neil Gaiman‘s Anansi Boys, adapted by Dirk Maggs for BBC Radio 4, took Best Audio, Joe Hill won Best Collection for Strange Weather (published Gollancz), Jen Williams scored the coveted Best Fantasy Novel for The Ninth Rain (published Headline), Jordan Peele‘s Get Out won Best Film / Television Production, while Victor LaValle‘s The Changeling (published Spiegel & Grau) took Best Horror Novel.

Cover to Shoreline of Infinity #13, art by Siobhan McDonald
Cover to Shoreline of Infinity #13, art by Siobhan McDonald

London-based publisher Unsung Stories won Best Independent Press, Jeanette Ng took Best Newcomer for Under the Pendulum Sun (published Angry Robot), Gender Identity and Sexuality in Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by FT Barbini (Luna Press) won the Best Non-Fiction category, Ellen Klages won Best Novella for Passing Strange (Tor), Looking for Laika by Laura Mauro (published in Interzone #273, still going strong, still paying writers properly for short fiction – back issues available here) took  best Short Story and NK Jemisin won the Special Award (Karl Edgar Wagner Award).

And on a personal note I’m delighted to see my chums at Edinburgh-based SF&F journal Shoreline of Infinity, which publishes new writing, poetry and comics, win the Best Magazine /Periodical.

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Vote for graphic novels on the “most rebellious reads of the 21st century” list

With Book Week Scotland coming up soon (running from 19th to 25th of November), the Scottish Book Trust has created a poll where readers can vote for the “most rebellious read of the 21st century”.

From their description: “This Book Week Scotland, we’re searching for the most rebellious read of the 21st century. From graphic novels and inspiring anthologies to real-life stories of incredible bravery, our shortlist is full of groundbreaking, life-changing books by people who have flown in the face of convention and fought to make a difference.”

A scene from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, published in English by Jonathan Cape
A scene from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, published in English by Jonathan Cape

I’m delighted to see that the list of possible books you can vote for includes two graphic novels – Marjane Satrapi‘s remarkable Persepolis, a graphic biography detailing her own experiences of growing up during the brutal repression of the Iranian revolution, by turns emotional, anger-making at the injustice and with sly humour, and a very recent book, a joint publication by two Indy presses in Scotland, BHP Comics and 404 Ink, We Shall Fight Until We Win, an anthology marking a century since (some) women were given the vote, with an all-female creative team picking different women who had an impact in politics from across that century and celebrating their impact (you can read our review here).

Votes must be in by the 21st of November, so please do give our comics friends some love and support – you can check the list and cast your vote here

"The Glasgow Girls" by Kathryn Briggs and Heather McDaid, from the We Shall Fight Until We Win anthology, published BHP Comics/404 Ink
“The Glasgow Girls” by Kathryn Briggs and Heather McDaid, from the We Shall Fight Until We Win anthology, published BHP Comics/404 Ink


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Edinburgh Comic Con opens this year’s Yancy Street Awards nominations

Yancy Street AwardsNominations for the 2018 short lists have opened for the Yancy Street Awards at Edinburgh Comic Con.

The categories for these Awards, inspired by the infamous Yancy Street from Marvel’s Fantastic Four, include Best International Writer, Best International Artist, Best International Colourist, Best Action Comic and more.

UK small press and indie nominations are accepted for UK categories only, but UK publications can enter International categories.

Previous winners for these non-US skewed Awards include George Lennox and James Devlin’s Vietnam Zombie Holocaust. Alex Automatic #1 also won Best UK Single Issue and Starburst magazine has also won for Best Specialist Publication.

An early appearance for Yancy Street, on the cover of Fnatastic Four #29. Image © Marvel Comics
An early appearance for Yancy Street, on the cover of Fnatastic Four #29. Image © Marvel Comics

Mixing comics with TV, film and cosplay, Edinburgh Comic Con returns to the Scottish capital on 14th April 2018. Comics guests already announced include Fernando Dagnino (Justice League: Generation Lost, Tarzan on The Planet of the Apes), Ben Herrera (Ultraverse Freex, X-Men: Prime), Jorge Fornes (Magnus) and Mark Texeira (Ghost Rider, Jonah Hex). Full details of the event so far here.

Nominate your favourite here on the Edinburgh Comic Con web site | Nominations will close at 12.00 pm on 28th February 2018

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V&A Illustration Awards 2018 Opens

VA& Illustration Awards Logo

The V&A Illustrations Awards 2018 – the UK’s most prestigious annual illustration competition – has just opened.

Now’s the time for illustrators to enter for the chance to win up to £8,000 – and join an illustrious list of past winners such as Ralph Steadman, Posy Simmonds, Sara Fanelli, Yasmeen Ismail and Quentin Blake.

The V&A Illustration Awards, which have been running since 1972, is the UK’s most prestigious annual illustration competition recognising the very best in book, editorial and student illustration. They have included a student category since 2005. Each year, the winning books are added to the holdings of the National Art Library and can be accessed in the Library’s Reading Rooms.

Entry to the V&A Illustration Awards is free and takes place via the online entry form only; the categories are Book Cover Design,
Book Illustration and Editorial Illustration (newspapers and magazines).

2017 Editorial Illustration Award and Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year, A. Richard Allen - 'Trump Wave', in The Sunday Telegraph Money
2017 Editorial Illustration Award and Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year, A. Richard Allen – ‘Trump Wave’, in The Sunday Telegraph Money

The winner in each category receives £3,000 and a trophy. The judges will also select an overall winner to receive the 2018 Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the year prize and an additional £5000.

Winners may also be commissioned to produce publicity artwork for the Museum.

The winner of the Student Illustrator of the Year Prize will receive £3,000 and a trophy. The Student Runner-Up will receive £2,000 and a trophy.

2017 Student Illustrator of the Year, Beatriz Lostalé Seijo, 'The Odyssey', MA Children’s Book Illustration, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge School of Art
2017 Student Illustrator of the Year, Beatriz Lostalé Seijo, ‘The Odyssey’, MA Children’s Book Illustration, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge School of Art

The closing date for submissions is Monday 18th December 2017 at 1700 and the winning works will be shown at the V&A in a public display opening on 16 May 2018.

The Awards are supported by the Enid Linder Foundation, with further financial support from Edwin Davies CBE, the Sackler Trust, the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts and the Headley Trust.

To find out more and how to enter visit this page | #IllustrationAwards | Submit your entry here

• Find out more on the V&A Illustration Awards blog and explore the V&A Illustration collections

The 2017 winners are here

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Metaphrog receive funding from Creative Scotland for next fairy tale graphic novel adaptation

Metaphrog: Photo by Bob McDevitt
Metaphrog: Photo by Bob McDevitt

There’s good news for award-winning Franco-Scottish graphic novelists Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers, aka Metaphrog today, after Creative Scotland announced this month’s open project fund awards. They have been awarded £32,000 towards creating their next graphic novel.

Mentioned in this recent interview for downthetubes, this new fairy tale adaptation will follow on from the success of The Red Shoes and Other Tales and The Little Mermaid. The book will be published by Papercutz as the third volume in the collection, its title to be revealed at a later date.

Having recently returned from an American tour, also supported by Creative Scotland, and several high profile UK public appearances to promote the release of The Little Mermaid, the team, who have been creating comics and graphic novels since 1996 are, rightfully, thrilled to be getting started on a third fairy tale volume.

The Little Mermaid by Metaphrog - Cover“We’re honoured to have been awarded funding from Creative Scotland for the creation of our next graphic novel,” the team, who are winners of the 2016 The Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Award for Best Visual Artist, told downthetubes. “Fairy tales are extremely powerful, tapping in to the very origins of stories. They tell us about ourselves and others and, in these uncertain times, they can provide us with necessary truths. In reimagining our favourite tales as graphic novels we hope to create an immersive, lasting reading experience.”

Prior to their current works, adaptations of fairy tales, published by NBM/Papercutz, with support from Creative Scotland, Metaphrog’s Louis graphic novels have received international acclaim and multiple award nominations, including three for the Eisner Awards (the Oscars of comics). Louis – Night Salad was also Highly Commended for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards 2011.

Louis - Night Salad by MetaphrogMetaphrog tirelessly promote the medium of comics and travel regularly to talk about their work. They are Patrons of Reading at Northfield Academy 2013-17, the first graphic novelists ever to fill such a role, and were Writers in Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (2015). They have spoken at prestigious venues such as The Glasgow School of Art, Gordonstoun school, The National Library of Scotland, The Edinburgh International Book Festival, The Guardian and international schools and festivals around the world.

Metaphrog have also undertaken key commissioned work for prestigious clients, for example their comic adaptation of Edwin Morgan’s Poem The First Men on Mercury for The Association for Scottish Literary Studies.

John is from Scotland and studied engineering and science, gaining three degrees, including a PhD in Electronic and Electrical Engineering in a branch of Opto-Electronics involving micro-machining. In 1994, he had just returned to Scotland from working in the Netherlands and met Sandra, from France, who has a degree in Arts and Letters, and had just packed her bags and moved to Scotland in search of adventure.

Their meeting was a catalyst and within a few months they created Metaphrog.

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.  We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life.  We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery.

Metaphrog Online

Read our recent “Kendal Calling” interview with Metaphrog
• Web:

• Twitter: @metaphrog

Metaphrog’s books are on sale from here

• For further information about Creative Scotland please visit  Follow Creative Scotland on Twitter @creativescots and

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UK Literacy Association Book Award 2016 Shortlist Revealed

The Something by Rebecca Cobb

The UK Literacy Association has just announced the shortlist for its 2016 awards, which includes work by creators such as Rebecca Cobb, Viviane Schwarz, Alex T. Smith, Eoin Colfer and many more, the titles published by David Fickling Books, Puffin, Walker Books and others.

The UKLA awards aim to celebrate children’s books in order to encourage teachers to increase their professional and personal knowledge of recently published high quality children’s books and promote the place of books for young people in all educational settings from nursery to key stage 4.

The books selected for the award are titles that teachers can share with pupils as part of regular classroom experience, to read for pleasure in the teacher’s read aloud programme to the whole class; inspire extended response from learners (through discussion, creative interaction or understanding the wider curriculum); be the focus of study (set books, shared and guided reading); and enhance all aspects of literacy learning and literary study

Selection committees and teacher judges are asked to look, first and foremost, for well-written, engaging ‘reads’ and, where appropriate, outstanding illustration and design.

All these books are available from local bookshops as well as online stores.

The Shortlist is as follows, with comments from the UKLA on each book included:

Ages 3-6

This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne (author/illustrator) (Oxford University Press)

In this wonderfully inventive book, Bella is taking her dog for a stroll across the page but halfway across, he disappears! Unable to quite believe what’s just happened Bella watches, transfixed, with changing emotions of surprise, indignation, moments of renewed hope (as the authorities arrive to take control) followed by shock (as they too succumb to the book’s inexplicable behaviour) and finally action when Bella marches toward the dangerous middle of the book… only to disappear herself!

At this point, the book has consumed its characters and it’s down to the reader to step in to help. A note from Bella appears directly appealing for assistance and, with a rigorous shake, the characters reappear. Normality is restored and Bella is finally able to take her dog for an uninterrupted walk… or is she?!

“This very clever story will aid the transition from playing with books to becoming immersed in the story which is offered as the child is encouraged to do both,” say the UKLA.

The Something by Rebecca Cobb (author /illustrator) (Macmillan Children’s Books)

When a little boy’s ball disappears down a mysterious hole in the garden, he can’t stop thinking about what could be down there – a little mouse’s house? The lair of a hungry troll? Or maybe even a dragon’s den. Whatever it may be, he’s determined to find out!

The Something is a glorious imaginative adventure from Rebecca Cobb, the award-winning creator of Aunt Amelia and Lunchtime, and illustrator of The Paper Dolls, written by Julia Donaldson.

“The discovery of a hole under the cherry tree in the garden has everyone guessing about what might live there. Over a year of changes in the garden the mystery isn’t resolved but the narrator keeps on watching and hoping. This gentle story takes the simplest of discoveries and uses it to develop ideas about wildlife and fantasy. It gives readers ample opportunities to join in with the speculation.”

I am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon (author) and Viviane Schwarz (illustrator) (Walker Books)

From award-winning picture book makers Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz comes an enlightening new story about courage and making a difference. For budding philosophers of all ages, this is the uplifting story of Henry Finch the loveable little bird who strives for greatness, gets it all a bit wrong, then makes it right again in a very surprising way – truly becoming great. Henry Finch is a total inspiration. This is an inspirational book. It is also very funny. I Am Henry Finch is a book for everyone – from the very young to the very old. It is for dreamers, philosophers, artists, the foolish and the enlightened. And anyone with a big bright idea. Vegetarians will love it too. A profound picture book experience told with simplicity and style.

“Text and illustrations are in complete harmony in developingthe powerful themes of this exciting book.”

The Dad with 10 Children by Bénédicte Guettier (author/Illustrator) (Scribblers Books)

For this hardworking dad, every day “counts”. That’s because he has 10 children – and that means 10 T-shirts, 10 mugs, 10 bowls of spaghetti, 10 in the bath, and 10 goodnight kisses! Now, the exhausted father needs ONE day off to rest. So he leaves his brood with grandma, builds a boat, and sails away. But by the end of this sweet story he realizes that something’s missing – 10 somethings, in fact!

“When the daily routine of caring for his ten little children gets a bit much for dad he builds a boat, leaves the children with grandma and sails away on his own. However, after just one day he misses the children so he collects them and they all sail away together. With its spare text and illustrations which add lovely details to the narrative, this is a gem of a book for sharing and early reading.”

On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah (author) and Benji Davies (illustrator) (Simon & Schuster Children’s Books)

Birt and Etho are best friends. Together they play on Sudden Hill, making marvellous contraptionsout of cardboard boxes. But then a new boy, Shu, wants to join in too. Etho is happy to welcome him. Birt isn’t so sure. Eaten up with jealousy, he goes home and refuses to come out to play. Until Etho and Shu come to his house with the most marvellous cardboard contraption so far…

A compelling story about accepting someone new, from the Benji Davies, the bestselling illustrator of The Storm Whale.

“Two friends use huge boxes to create imaginary worlds at the top of Sudden Hill. When another boy wants to join them the friendship crumbles but, in the end, becomes even better. This is a story which approaches difficult areas for children and does so with sensitivity and a real understanding of the worlds of childhood.”

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T Smith (author/illustrator) (Scholastic Children’s Books)

Little Red sets off to visit her auntie who is poorly. She walks under the giraffes, over the sleepy crocodiles, past the enormous elephants and the chattering monkeys. Then a Very Hungry Lion approaches Little Red, wanting to gobble her up. But despite all the cunning plans by Lion, Little Red outsmarts him and soon has him saying sorry and eating doughnuts instead. A classic fairy tale with a twist by the bestselling Alex T. Smith.

“The story of Little Red Riding Hood moves to an African town setting where a lion is really no match for a clever small girl. Children will love this story for the exuberant twisting of the familiar story. Details in both the text and illustrations area delight so that adults and children will enjoy reading the book together.”


The Fish in the Bathtub by Eoin Colfer (author) and Peter Bailey (illustrator)(Barrington Stoke)

A heartwarming story set in post-war Poland. Little Lucja’s Grandpa Feliks has seen off the German army, and the Communists, and now he is looking forward to a long and peaceful retirement. He plans to begin with a tasty Christmas Eve dinner of carp. But when the carp arrives alive and takes up residence in the bathtub and Lucja’s heart, has Grandpa Feliks finally met his match? High quality cream paper and a special easy to read font ensure a smooth read for all.

“Lucja is determined that her grandfather will not have the carp in the bathtub as a Christmas Eve feast.The Polish setting is evoked beautifully by both the text and illustrations in this family story. History, traditions and family relationships support the narrative, giving a depth to a little book easily in the scope of most young independent readers.”

Hercufleas by Sam Gayton and Peter Cottrill (illustrator) (Andersen Press)

Greta is a girl on a mission: to venture to Avalon and bring back a hero who can save her home from destruction by the monstrous giant Yuk.

Many heroes have tried before now. Many have failed.

What Greta needs is a hero whose courage and self-belief are greater than himself. She needs Hercufleas.

The only problem: he is a flea, no bigger than a raisin. But the smallest person might just have the biggest effect . . .

“It isn’t easy to be a hero when you are smaller than a raisin. When Greta comes looking for a hero to save her town from a giant, Hercufleas sees his chance. Gayton has created something very special here. It is a fantasy world made very real by the strength of the characterisation as well as the glorious details of the setting such as the top hat home of the wonderful flea family.”

The Imaginary by A.F Harrold (author) and Emily Gravett (illustrator) (Bloomsbury)

An extraordinary tale of love, loss, imagination and not really being there, for fans of Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman.

Rudger is Amanda’s best friend. He doesn’t exist, but nobody’s perfect.

Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he’s sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up?

A brilliantly funny, scary and moving read from the unique imagination of A.F. Harrold, this beautiful book is astoundingly illustrated with integrated art and colour spreads by the award-winning Emily Gravett.

“Amanda has a best friend who happens to be imaginary. While nobody else can see him Rudger is safe but then a sinister stranger arrives. A.F. Harrold takes readers to the dark heart of imagination heart where the nature of friendship is tested. This is a very moving book which encourages readers to consider worlds, real and imaginary from unique perspectives.”

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel (David Fickling Books)

After a murder is committed, Will finds himself in possession of a key that has the potential to unlock the train’s hidden treasures. Together with Maren, a gifted escape artist, and Mr Dorian, a circus ringmaster with amazing abilities, Will must save the Boundless before someone else winds up dead. With villains fast on his heels and strange creatures lurking outside the windows, the train hurtles across the country as Will flees for his life. His adventure may have begun without his knowing…but how it ends is now entirely up to Will.

“Reading The Boundless is like having a spectacular movie playing straight into your mind. This is an adventure on a huge scale, not least because the main character is a seven mile long train built to help pioneers move across Canada. The hurtling action is beautifully complemented by an unusually reflective hero and a wonderfully vivid supporting cast.”

The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sís (Pushkin Press)

The beautifully illustrated life story of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – an aviator, adventurer, pioneer and war hero, as well as the author of one of the world’s most beloved children’s books, The Little Prince.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born in France in 1900, when aeroplanes were just being invented. He always dreamt of flying, and when he became a pilot as a young man, his adventures truly began. He was one of the first pilots to deliver mail by plane and, along with his fellow pilots, helped to create new routes to faraway places. Antoine flew over mountains and deserts, battled winds and storms, and even tried to break aviation records. He also crashed a number of times.

From his plane he reflected on life on the earth and in the skies, and this inspired him to write about his experiences. Peter Sís’s remarkable biography celebrates the author of The Little Prince, one of the world’s most beloved books.

“This handsome book is a biography of Antoine de Saint Exupéry author of The Little Prince.

It tells the story of a remarkable life very astutely, picking out the aspects which will appeal greatly to children. The innovative design of each page enhances the text, often making the scope of the story even more intense. This ravishing book is a fine tribute to a remarkable man.”

Atlas of Adventures by Rachel Williams (author) and Lucy Leatherland (illustrator) (Wide Eyed Editions)

Explore seven continent maps, packed with hundred of activities and challenges to inspire armchair travellers of any age. Whether you’re visiting the penguins of Antarctica, joining the Carnival in Brazil or a canoe safari down the Zambezi River, this book brings together epic adventures from the remotest corners of the globe and discoveries to made on your own doorstep.

Follow one boy and one girl as they travel to over 30 destinations and discover hundreds of things to spot and facts to learn on every page.

“This is something entirely new-an atlas which invites readers to imagine the experiences they could have in some of the world’s most exciting places. As well as the main text, every page offers nuggets of surprising information interwoven into the wonderful illustrations. This is an ideal book to browse through together to enjoy the facts and find the visual jokes.”


The Door that Led to Where by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books)

AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy. So when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change – but he could never have imagined by how much.

Tidying up the archive one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth – and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. And so begins an amazing journey to a very real and tangible past – 1830, to be precise – where the streets of modern Clerkenwell are replaced with cobbles and carts, and the law can be twisted to suit a villain’s means. Although life in 1830 is cheap, AJ and his friends quickly find that their own lives have much more value. They’ve gone from sad youth statistics to young men with purpose – and at the heart of everything lies a crime that only they can solve. But with enemies all around, can they unravel the mysteries of the past, before it unravels them?

A fast-paced mystery novel by one of the country’s finest writers, The Door that Led to Where will delight, surprise and mesmerise all those who read it.

“When, much to his surprise, AJ gets a job in a lawyers’ office, he is thrown into a mystery involving time-travelling theft and murder in nineteenth century London. The plotting of this intricate novel is so precise that every detail matters as you are drawn into AJ’s worlds. Sally Gardner’s writing is as powerful, tricky and powerful as the story she has to tell.”

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books)

The Lie Tree is a wonderfully evocative and atmospheric novel by Frances Hardinge, award-winning author of Cuckoo Song and Fly By Night.

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .

“Faith’s father, a Victorian clergyman and renowned amateur palaeontologist, dies suddenly. Driven to find out the truth about his death and his life, Faith discovers the plausible lies and extraordinary truth. Frances Hardinge’s dark mystery draws together themes which are as disquieting and immediate to the modern reader as they are to the Victorian characters in this unique book.”

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)

Shelby Jane Cooper is seventeen, pretty and quiet. It’s just Shelby and her mom, Shaylene, a court stenographer who wears pyjama jeans, stitches tapestry, eats ice-cream for dinner and likes to keep Shelby safe. So safe she barely goes out. So safe she doesn’t go to school. Because anything could happen, to a girl like Shelby. Anything.

When Shelby gets knocked down by a car, it’s not just her leg that’s broken: Shelby’s world is shattered. Her mom turns up to collect her and drives off into the night, like it’s the beginning of a road trip, like two criminals on the run, like Thelma and Louise or Bonnie and Clyde. And somehow, everywhere she looks, there’s a coyote watching her, talking to her, telling her not to believe.

Who is Shelby Jane Cooper? If the person who keeps you safe also tells you lies, who can you trust?

“Shelby has always been home-schooled and kept away from the world. She is almost eighteen when she is involved in a road accident. While unconscious, Coyote the trickster from Native American folklore warns her that there will be lies before she finds the truth. Dreams, legends and a contemporary thriller are plaited together in this excellent book.”

An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls (Scholastic Children’s Books)

From one of the brightest talents in children’s fiction and the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book prize comes a new novel about family and friendship. Siblings Jonathan, Holly and Davy have been struggling to survive since the death of their mother, and are determined to avoid being taken into care. When the family’s wealthy but eccentric Great-Aunt Irene has a stroke, they go to visit her. Unable to speak or write, she gives Holly some photographs that might lead them to an inheritance that could solve all their problems. But they’re not the only ones after the treasure…

“Life has been tough for Holly’s family since her mother dies. She feels bad that her elder brother has given up the chance of university to keep the family together so when a photo album suggests a family treasure, Holly is eager to take her brothers on a journey to find it. This fast-paced adventure shines with the characters’ reality and the quality of its writing.”

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (Puffin)

Soon to be a major film starring Elle Fanning.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?

An intense, gripping novel, perfect for fans of John Green, Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Forman and Jenny Downham.

“Violet and Finch meet at the top of the school bell-tower when both are considering jumping. She is very popular; he is usually called ‘Freak.’ As they work together on a project, their friendship deepens: one moves towards death and the other towards life.The alternating first person narration of chapters gives a depth of insight into two completely believable young people.”

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick (Orion Indigo)

A cleverly interlinked novel written in four parts by PRINTZ AWARD-winning author, Marcus Sedgwick, about survival and discovery, and about the effect of the spiral, a symbol that has no end, on all our lives.

The spiral has existed as long as time has existed. Follow the ways of infinity to discover its meaning.

It’s there when a girl walks through the forest, the moist green air clinging to her skin.

There centuries later in a pleasant green dale, hiding the treacherous waters of Golden Beck that take Anna, who they call a witch.

There on the other side of the world, where a mad poet watches the waves and knows the horrors they hide, and far into the future as Keir Bowman realises his destiny.

Each takes their next step in life. None will ever go back to the same place.

And so their journeys begin…

“Four independent stories are set in different times and with different characters are drawn together by the image of the spiral. Each story speaks in some way for the human reaching out for the unknown and, when put together the effect is profoundly moving in many ways. Beautifully written and entirely original, this is an important book.”

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