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Created: 25th November, 2021

What inspired you to write Covered in Adventures?

As a serial drink spiller, paint splodger and grass stainer, Covered in Adventures came from the idea that someone could use the marks on their clothes a bit like a photo album of memories. Sasha, the main character in the book, uses her jumper to tell her dads about the adventures she’s had while doing lots of different activities; cooking, science experiments, football, art and much more!


How would you suggest primary teachers use this book?

  • The different activities that Sasha does in the story can be linked to a lot of curriculum subjects, so you could have a whole messy day inspired by the activities; try out the volcano experiment, do some large scale art, look for minibeasts, make a recipe etc. and see if anyone has any remnants of the activities on their school uniform at the end of the day! (This tip might not be so popular with parents…)
  • Get the children to help cover an old t-shirt or sheet in all kinds of different stains – paint, jam, grass, mud etc. Ask the children to use this as inspiration for their own stories, imagining how each of the marks and stains got there.
  •  Ask the children to bring in an object (not a photo!) that represents an important memory in their life and ask them to tell the story of the memory.
  •  Ask the class to design their own "adventure jumper" with different pictures/colours representing their favourite things to do. You could work with collage, paint, or any other media.


What motivated you to begin a career in writing/illustrating?

I did a lot of drawing, writing and imagining as a child, and ended up studying illustration at art college. Although illustrating and writing for children is a huge passion for me, I've had an array of weird and wonderful jobs alongside freelancing as an author/illustrator that have almost certainly provided some inspiration! My CV is a bit like Sasha's jumper, featuring such hits as working as a presenter at the zoo, an entertainer at children's parties, a very bad salesperson in a bicycle shop and far too much more. If I ever do school visits, I always encourage children not to think of their future career as necessarily being one specific thing – it's perfectly fine to try out lots of different jobs, and you might find yourself doing something that you never expected!


What are the major influences in your work and how do you decide on your subjects?

A big influence for me has been growing up in London – I want my books to celebrate city life and encourage the reader to find a sense of wonder and magic in things they see everyday; in friendships, communities and the world on their doorstep.


Which books had a lasting impact on you as a child and why?

My Granny recorded herself reading The Spindle Tree by Agnes Grozier Herbertson on tape and I used to listen to it when I was off sick from school. There were lots of little poems throughout the book and she added old Scottish and Irish folk tunes when she read it aloud and turned them into songs – they still get stuck in my head today! The book was full of charming and slightly strange characters, and incredibly mild peril (the best kind). It's really stuck with me, as despite it not being a picture book, I have a really strong visual image of the story and everyone in it.

Honourable mentions go to the Frances and Gloria stories by Russell and Lillian Hoban and anything by Rosemary Wells or Shirley Hughes. I love how these authors and illustrators took some everyday situations and injected a sense of fun into them, as well as magic and humour.

And last but not least, The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway, which allowed me to dream that one day, I too could make a really, really big jam sandwich. And that's the kind of dream you need to hold on to.


Discover Gillian's new book, Covered in Adventures published by Child's Play...