June 5th, 2020

Letters from Lockdown

The current crisis has forced us to postpone our programme of theatre performances and in-school workshops. Thousands of children who would normally make up our audiences across the country will be missing out on having the chance to be inspired by seeing an author, illustrator or poet in action.

One of the ways we thought we could help to fill this gap is to introduce the children to our authors and illustrators through a handwritten or illustrated letter. So we have invited all our artists to write a short letter to be shared with your classes online or via social media, to inspire them to write their own lockdown letters. Perhaps they could write to a much missed friend, relative or an isolated neighbour, which they can then post or deliver by hand.

Through this initiative, we hope to further the children’s experience of writing for meaning and expression, encourage a love of words and images and capture a moment in history.

See below for our collection of 20 letters.

We are now running a competition to find the best children's letter from Lockdown with great prizes for the winner and two runners up, so get your children writing! You can email us your entries.

Gallery of children's letters

Letter 20 from Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake was born in the suburbs of London in 1932 and has drawn ever since he can remember. He has always made his living as an illustrator, but has also been a teacher of art, as well as an exhibition curator. He has worked with many writers including Michael Rosen and Roald Dahl, he has illustrated classic books and created much-loved characters of his own - we love *Mrs Armitage on Wheels*! Quentin wrote to us from his home in London.

Letter 19 from Patrick Benson

Patrick Benson was born in 1956 and educated at Eton College, before studying classical drawing in Florence and attending Chelsea Art School and St Martin’s School of Art. A chance meeting with the sister of the founder of Walker Books, led him into a career in illustration. One of our favourites is his modern classic *Owl Babies*. Patrick wrote to us from his home in the Borders of Scotland.

Letter 18 from Valerie Bloom

Poet Valerie Bloom grew up in Clarendon, Jamaica, before moving to the UK. Caribbean life and culture have shaped and influenced a great deal of her writing and she was enchanted with literature and poetry from a very early age. Her work has been published in over 450 anthologies and she has published several poetry collections. We especially love *Hot Like Fire*. Valerie wrote to us from her home in Kent, England.

Letter 17 from Catharina Valckx

Catharina Valckx was born in The Netherlands but moved to France when she was young and lived in a small village in the suburbs of Paris. For many years she worked as an artist before becoming an author and illustrator.. She has written over 30 books for children - we love *Zanzibar* - an uplifting, warm hearted story about a crow who proves that you can move mountains if you really believe in yourself. Catharina wrote to us from her home in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Letter 16 from Posy Simmonds

Posy Simmonds was born in 1945 and has become one of Britain’s best-known satirical cartoonists, working for various newspapers including *The Guardian*. She is also a much-loved author and illustrator of widely translated children’s books and graphic novels - we love *Fred*. Posy wrote to us from her home in London.

Letter 15 from Benji Davies

Benji Davies studied animation at university where he learnt how to tell stories with pictures, from short films to picture books. In his work Benji aims to capture how it feels to be a child. We love his book *The Storm Whale*, and are delighted to have received this 3 page letter (via Benji) from the main character, Noi, who has written to his Grandma Bird.

Letter 14 from Catherine Rayner

Award-winning author and illustrator Catherine Rayner grew up in Harrogate. She has always found drawing therapeutic, and she’s always loved books, so her job is the perfect combination of the two! Much of her inspiration for her stunning illustration and the stories in her picture books comes from her pets, including her horse, cat, dog and guinea pig. We love *Augustus and his Smile*. Catherine wrote to us from her home in Edinburgh.

Letter 13 from Neal Layton

Author and illustrator Neal Layton was born and raised in Chichester, West Sussex and while he was growing up spent much of his time playing in the dirt, making homemade catapults and drawing pictures. Although he was offered a place to study science at University, he went to Art College instead. He now writes and illustrates books for children using a whole variety of media. We think his book *The Tree* is brilliant. Neal wrote to us from his home in Portsmouth, England.

Letter 12 from David Litchfield

David started drawing when he was very young, creating comics for his older brother and sister. Since then David’s work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, books and on T-shirts, and he has also exhibited his illustrations around the world. We are big fans of his first beautiful picture book, The Bear & The Piano. David wrote to us from his home in Bedford, England.


Letter 11 from Axel Scheffler

Illustrator Axel Scheffler grew up in Hamburg, Germany, and has always loved to draw. In the early 1980s, he moved to the UK to study visual communication, and he has lived there ever since. He is most well known for illustrating international bestseller, The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson, but has illustrated countless colourful, well-loved children’s books. Axel wrote to us through a veil of very long hair from his home in London.

Letter 10 from Jo Empson

Author and illustrator Jo Empson graduated from Cambridge School of Art with an MA in Children’s Book Illustration, and she loves creating children’s books. Her drawings are inspired by nature, with a strong sense of shape, colour and design. All her books are beautiful and fun but we especially like her most recent, Jungle Jamboree. Jo wrote to us from her home in Wiltshire, England.

Letter 9 from Jon Agee

Author and illustrator, Jon Agee grew up in New York state, and as a child he always had an art project on the go - he loved making picture books, comics, and flip-books. He is fascinated by language and has published many wordplay books, as well as over 30 picture books. One of our absolute favourites is The Wall in the Middle of the Book. He wrote to us from his home in San Francisco, USA.

Letter 8 from Roger McGough

Roger McGough was born in Liverpool in 1937, and is an award-winning poet, performance poet, playwright, author and radio broadcaster. He has published over 50 books of poetry and plays. We love his most recent release, Money-Go-Round, a delightful picture book illustrated by Mini Grey. Roger wrote to us from his home in London.

Letter 7 from Alexis Deacon

Alexis is passionate about stories, and he has always loved to draw - he has been keeping sketchbooks since he was a small child. Alexis studied illustration at the University of Brighton and started creating picture books while he was there. We love Beegu, a story about a lonely baby alien trying to find its mother on Earth. Beegu wrote to us from her home in outer space, via Hastings, which is where her friend Alexis lives.

Dear Children of Earth, Hello! It's me, Beegu! We met once... So my big news is I learned English! Just kidding. My friend, Alexis is helping me. I wanted to write because I heard you were all stuck inside your little square box things. I once spent 5 years in a spaceship but I don't remember any of it because I was frozen. Anyway, I wanted to write to say that everything will be ok and it will all be good one day. We once had a terrible virus on my planet where everyone got covered in green spots. I got it and really itched. We could still go out though because it wasn;t that dangerous so it isn't really the same. Sorry! Come and visit me when you can leave your boxes. I am only 3 years away! Love, Beegu
Dear Children of Earth,
Hello! It's me, Beegu!

Letter 6 from Jessica Souhami

Jessica was a puppeteer before she became a writer and illustrator. She made shadow puppets and travelled around the country bringing to life traditional stories that people have been telling for years by word of mouth. Now she tells these compelling stories by creating beautiful picture books filled with colourful collage. We love the hilarious Gerald the Lion! Jessica wrote to us from her home in London.

Letter 5 from Daniel Morden

Daniel Morden is a master storyteller. He has travelled all over the world collecting stories and captivating audiences in theatres, schools and festivals. He really enjoys retelling stories from the Ancient Greeks, as well as traditional Welsh folktales and we love his award-winning collection Dark Tales from the Woods. Daniel wrote to us from his home in Abergavenny, Wales.

Letter 4 from Satoshi Kitamura

Satoshi Kitamura was born in Japan, and as a child enjoyed reading comics and illustrated novels. After starting his career in advertising, he moved to London and started to write and illustrate his own picture books. His work is beautifully detailed and full of colour and interesting characters. We love the wonderfully imaginative Millie’s Marvellous Hat. Satoshi wrote to us from his home in Kobe, Japan.

Satoshi sent us his letter in this beautifully painted envelope.

Letter 3 from Rachel Rooney

Rachel Rooney was born in London, the fifth of six children. She is passionate about poetry and loves encouraging young people to explore their own poetry writing. She has written several anthologies for children, and one of our favourites is *A Kid in My Class*, illustrated by former children’s laureate Chris Riddell. Rachel wrote to us from her home in Brighton, where she lives with her dogs Woody and Buzz.

Letter 2 from Viviane Schwarz

Viviane was born in Germany, but moved to the UK in her twenties. As a child she spent a lot of time inventing and making things with her family, and now her job is to make books, comics and games. We love especially Viv’s books How to Find Gold, and A Place to Call Home. Viv wrote to us from her home in London.

Letter 1 from Hilary McKay

Hilary McKay writes novels for children that often feature eccentric and deeply endearing characters and describe the escapades and traumas of family life in hilarious detail. One of our favourites is *The Skylarks’ War* (winner of The Costa Children’s Book Award 2018). Hilary wrote to us from her home in Derbyshire, England.

## Gallery of Children's Letters Thanks for sending in the letters you've been writing, we love seeing them. Here is a random selection of the letters we have received so far.

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