Award winning author-illustrator Chris Riddell comes to Norwich

11 September 2019

Award winning author-illustrator Chris Riddell comes to Norwich

Originally published 2018

Chris Riddell – children’s author, illustrator and cartoonist for The Observer  – is coming to Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library this August, as part of an exhibition of his artwork for new book, ‘Once upon a Wild Wood’.

Inspired by the wild woodland around Riddell’s Norfolk home, ‘Once Upon a Wild Wood’ is a richly imagined story packed full of nostalgic fairy tale characters as you’ve never seen them before. Little Green Raincape is on her way to Rapunzel’s party deep in the wild woods and along the way she must solve a wealth of classic fairy tale problems – not least mend a lovelorn beast’s broken heart. Until the 31st of August, an exclusive exhibition of Chris’ original paintings for the book will be on display in Norwich’s library, and as part of the exhbition Chris will be making an appearance at the library on the 22nd of August. In conjunction with Waterstones Norwich, the event will see Chris talk about his new book, as well as illustrate fairy-tale characters live in front of the audience. For more information about how you can get tickets to this event, please click here  (tickets are selling out, so be quick!).

“I love the big skies of Norfolk, which I always think of as part of the landscape”

No matter what your age or interest, there are many places you might have come into contact with Chris’ work. From 2015 – 2017, he was the UK Children’s Laureate, following in the footsteps of literary names such as Quentin Blake, Jacqueline Wilson and Malory Blackman. Chris is both the writer and illustrator behind the ‘Ottoline’ and ‘Goth Girl’ series, and he co-created the fantastical ‘Edge Chronicles’ series with writer Paul Stewart. He also is a regular political cartoonist for the Guardian’s ‘Observer’, and has been contributing to the publication for nearly 20 years. His style – throughout the spectrum of his work – is distinct: characters built of hatched lines, and housed in textures of sketchy, pluming and dancing strokes.

Riddell’s latest work for ‘Once Upon a Wild Wood’ is inspired by his Norfolk home, and we were lucky enough to speak to him about the inspiration behind his work, ahead of the book launch in a couple of weeks!

Where did the idea for story of ‘Once Upon a The Wild Wood’ come from?

The idea came from walks that I take through my woods in Norfolk. I have always loved walking through woodland and thinking that it is the perfect setting for fairy tales. 

What particular elements have you used from the woods near your home, to inform the story of ‘the Wild Wood?’

There are two ancient oak trees that I enjoy visiting and sitting underneath. They are full of character and when I was drawing Once Upon a Wild Wood I was thinking what sort of characters I would give to these oak trees! 

Do you complete the story before making a start on the illustrations, or do your illustrations inform the story?

I always start with drawings of characters that I want to put Into the story and once I’ve got a couple of pages of character sketches I start to imagine the story I can tell. So I always start with something visual. 

What role did the library play in your life, as you were growing up?

Libraries have always been incredibly special for me. I have never lost the excitement I felt when I discovered as a small boy that I was allowed to take books home and that I could choose 6 at a time – an armful of books, which was quite considerable for a small boy! And then I could bring them back to exchange for new books, which always seemed a magical experience.  Later in school the library was a safe haven during the busy school day. There was always a quiet corner in the library where I could lose myself in a book. 

What is it about Norfolk that you find so inspiring?

I love the big skies of Norfolk, which I always think of as part of the landscape. One of my favourite things to do is to sit in my flower meadow and watch the amazing Norfolk sunsets.

And finally…What is the best advice you’ve been given, for anyone who is aspiring to be an illustrator themselves?

I was taught to draw every day and I always kept sketchbooks with me – and this is the advice I pass on: keep sketchbooks and pencils with you always and draw every day!


You can catch Chris Riddell’s exhibition at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium library until the 31st of August! Sponsored by Pan Macmillan, this is your chance to see original paintings for ‘One Upon a Wild Wood’, and your favourite fairy tale characters like you’ve never seen them before! .

Once Upon a Wild Wood written and illustrated by Chris Riddell publishes 23rd August 2018 in hardback with show-stopping die-cut cover design, £12.99 from Macmillan Children’s Books.