Ask an Author / Illustrator – Kate Leake

We are delighted to welcome author / illustrator Kate Leake to Story Snug. Her new picture book, Don’t Chew the Royal Shoe! has just been published and we have a copy to give away.

The Story: Chips, the royal dog, loves chewing the royal shoes. A crisis point is reached when nobody in the palace has a pair of matching shoes which leads to embarrassment for the Queen at the Royal Garden Party. The gardener finds Chip’s secret shoe stash and Chips is sent to bed in disgrace. During the night Chips hears a noise. The palace is being burgled and the burglar has left his smelly old boots outside the door of the Jewel room. Chip steals one of the burglar’s boots, the ensuing chase wakes up the whole palace and Chips is hailed a hero. But what happens to the burglar’s boots?

Author / Illustrator: Kate Leake

We asked Kate about writing and illustrating Don’t Chew the Royal Shoe!, her work in general and, of course, we wanted to know about her favourite picture books.

How did you become an illustrator?

Well, I always enjoyed writing stories when I was growing up. I was that child who would write 20 pages of A4 and present it to the teacher, who would then have the challenging task of squeezing it all onto the class display board!

I suppose I discovered my artistic side when I was about 11. Art was always my absolute favourite subject and I found that the best part about science and history lessons was being able to draw lots of pictures and diagrams. I later went on to study art at A-level, and then as a foundation course, where I discovered my passion for illustration. Children’s illustration particularly excited me, and in 2004, I graduated with a first class BA (Hons) in Illustration for Children’s Publishing from the North Wales School of Art & Design. I’ve been illustrating ever since!

You have illustrated picture books for other authors. How different is it to illustrate a story that you’ve written and to illustrate someone else’s writing?

Very different! Writing and illustrating a story is such an involved process, it’s almost as though you get sucked into the story yourself! There’s an advantage of being able to change text along the way if it’s not working with the idea you had for the illustrations. And a lot of the time, a picture can tell a story in itself, so doesn’t always need the text you may have written.

But, I’ve worked with some wonderful authors and I love illustrating their stories, too. Seeing a story for the first time and being given the opportunity to interpret it through pictures and bring characters to life is always a joy for me.

Which came first when you wrote and illustrated Don’t Chew the Royal Shoe!, the writing or the pictures?

I started with a character design for Chips the dog. He wasn’t a royal dog to begin with but I happened to draw him wearing a paper crown, which sparked the idea later. The text came next but I still changed the story a fair bit as I was going along and working on the pictures.

Is the character of Chip based on a dog you own or know?

I don’t have a dog at the moment, but I would very much like one! We had a family dog when I was growing up, called Barney. He was adorable, scruffy and was always getting up to mischief. He liked to help himself to whatever delicious treat may be lurking on the kitchen worktop. Like half a birthday cake or an entire vegetable flan, which my mum had made for a wedding! Barney’s mischievous and scruffy side was always at the heart of Chips’ character, I think. He had the same loveable doggy innocence, which meant that you could never stay cross with him for long.

The illustrations in Don’t Chew the Royal Shoe! made us laugh. We especially like the picture showing Chip burying the shoes and the mole’s face when he finds a shoe. Do you have a favourite illustration from the story?

Story Snug

That illustration is also one of my favourites! I enjoy drawing anything with lots of detail and a cross section of what is happening underground can allow you to have a lot of fun with that.

Is there a particular illustration that you enjoyed working on?

I’m rather pleased with the ‘Urgent Royal Investigation’ spread which shows a row of party guests’ feet at the top and a row of royal guards along the bottom. My husband, Alan and my brother-in-law, Jon, are both featured in the line of guards, wearing dinosaur and football socks! This was a spread that I struggled with at first and left towards the end – you could say it gave me ‘illustrator’s block’. But it all fell into place eventually and I feel that the final design is fun and original.

Story Snug

Do you have a favourite location / environment to work in?

My studio is where I can really settle into my work. I have lots of beautiful pictures covering the walls to inspire me and a lovely big window (sometimes there is sunshine shining through it!). It is always nice to go out to a gallery or the zoo and sketch some things in the great outdoors, though.

We’re always interested to know what authors and illustrators like to read. Do you have a favourite picture book from your childhood?

Yes! ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, by Eric Carle. You can tell it was my favourite because the spine is falling apart and the pages have had to be stuck together with sellotape. My mum and dad read this to me every night when I was little and they could probably both quote the text without the book in front of them now, if I asked them! I loved hearing about the caterpillar’s journey, seeing all the delicious colourful things he munched through and his transition into a beautiful butterfly. My husband recently bought me a Norwegian edition of the book on a trip to the Arctic.

Do you have a current favourite picture book?

There are so many that I love, this is a tough question! I’m very fond of the latest books by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie, particularly ‘Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes’. It’s such a funny story with hilarious and beautiful illustrations, and a great twist at the end!

About Kate Leake

Kate Leake Photo

Kate Leake studied Children’s Illustration at the North Wales School of Art and Design and graduated in 2004. In the same year she was runner-up for the Macmillan Prize for Illustration. She lives in Stoke-on-Trent.

Kate’s website / Facebook / Twitter

Kate has also illustrated the following picture books.

Thank you to Scholastic for sending us a review copy of ‘Don’t Chew the Royal Shoe!’.

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20 responses to “Ask an Author / Illustrator – Kate Leake”

  1. Verily Victoria Vocalises avatar

    What an interesting post. As a child, this would have been my dream job! Kate is a talented lady 🙂 Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo x

    1. Catherine avatar

      Becoming an illustrator is currently one of my daughter’s dream jobs 🙂

  2. Merlinda Little ( @pixiedusk) avatar

    I always love to draw and I wish I can do this but I dont have the talent. Her work is amazing and so cute! Good luck with her career and I know you will go places! =) #pocolo

    1. Catherine avatar

      I would love to have a talent for drawing too 🙂

  3. Stacie Theis avatar

    Kate Leake is such a talented author/illustrator. I love that she featured her husband and brother-in-law in one of the illustrations. How fun is that? Thanks for sharing this great post.

    1. Catherine avatar

      It must be great when you can include your own family in a book 🙂

  4. kidGLloves avatar

    Lucas says – This book looks so cool and I really love the pictures. I reckon I could enjoy reading this book with Ash the Dog. I know the Mother enjoyed reading the interview too. #readwithme

    1. Catherine avatar

      It is a fun book 🙂 Glad your mum enjoyed reading the interview.

  5. Louise avatar

    That sounds like a great book and always lovely to find out more about the ideas behind the story and the illustrations.

    1. Catherine avatar

      I love to hear about the process of writing and illustrating a book 🙂

  6. Linda E.H. avatar

    This looks like a great book. What a great storyline, and the illustrations are lovely.

    1. Catherine Friess avatar

      It’s a fun read aloud with lots of little details in the pictures 🙂

  7. Rebecca C avatar

    This sounds fantastic! I love the premise and can’t wait to read it! Congratulations, Kate!

    1. Catherine avatar

      It’s a fun story and Kate’s illustrations are fantastic 🙂

  8. Julie Grasso avatar

    Oh Wow, we want this book. It looks hilarious and also the illustrations are fantastic. Congrats Kate. This one is going on our to be bought pile. Thanks for joining us on the Kid Lit Blog Hop

    1. Catherine avatar

      I look forward to hearing what you think Julie 🙂

  9. chantelle hazelden avatar

    I love learning more about the people behind the books, thanks so much for sharing with #readwithme x

    1. Catherine avatar

      It’s really interesting to hear how authors and illustrators work. Great to be able to ask them 🙂

  10. Emma T avatar

    Looks like it’s a fun book, and love the line up illustrations. It must be lovely to be able to include friends and family, for the personal touch without anyone else ever knowing! #ReadWithMe

    1. Catherine avatar

      But we know who the friends and family are now 😉 !