There’s a lot of excitement here at Ardagh & Elwick HQ because the second of our Little Adventurers’ little adventures is out today! Called WHAT BEAR? WHERE?, this latest story finds Finnegan, Floss, Peanut and Sprat hunting around the garden for all types of animals… but they keep coming face to face with things that are not QUITE what they seem.


Elissa (that’s Elwick) and I (who must be Ardagh) had SO much fun coming up with this one. We’ve really got to know the Little Adventurers and how each would react in just about any situation, from how they’d look, to what they’d say.

As with LEAFY THE PET LEAF, there are plenty of things going on in the pictures that aren’t mentioned in the text, including a pair of birds meeting, failing in love and making a nest together. Ahhhhhh* (*as in a sweet sigh, not as in someone accidentally treading on your toe**) (**or deliberately treading on your toe***) (***that would be more of an arrrrgh!)


There aren’t all the Little Adventurer’s pets that appear in LEAFY in this one – except, of course, Peanut has her pet mouse Pocket in her pocket – but there are plenty of other animals to entertain them, from creepy-crawlies to a bear. Not a bear, surely? In a garden? What bear? Where?

In advance of today’s publication, we had a special WHAT BEAR? WHERE? launch at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where EVERYONE got in on the act.

Here’s Roland Gulliver, associate director of the festival, clutching his copy of WHAT BEAR? WHERE? in the author yurt ( a special kind of tent, which is for illustrators too).


And here’s Janet Smyth, Children’s programmer, photobombing a LOVELY photo of us. What a cheek!


And, finally, here we are enjoying some fancy fruit-mocktails in celebration of a fun-packed family event with props and puppets, which ended in our signing our first copies of this new little adventure. I’m the one on the left. I mean RIGHT. I’m the one on the right. The one on the left is Elwick… I think.


To encourage you to be on the look-out for WHAT BEAR? WHERE? in your local bookshop, library or online, here’s Elwick looking through a pair of VERY expensive binoculars… Hard to believe, I know, but I can exclusively reveal – between you and me – that she actually *lowers voice* made them herself.

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And what are we working on now? The NEXT little adventure of course. And, this time, the awesome foursome are heading off to the beach.

In the meantime, from me and Elwick, it’s bye for now!



Sometimes writing comes easy. I – Ardagh of Ardagh & Elwick– sit at my desk and words spill out via my fingers on the keyboard onto the screen, or via my pen onto the page. They splurge onto the the paper. Spring eagerly onto the screen. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up the speed of my writing or typing with the speed at which the words form in my mind. This applies to stories, e-mails, notes and blogs. Everything.

Sometimes a blog entry pretty much writes itself. Sometimes, the words are more reluctant to come out, like the very last piece of toothpaste in the tube, or a cat out of a catbasket at the vet’s. 

Today is one such day.

I wonder if it’s the same with Elissa – that’s Elwick to you – and her drawing? I would ask her but she’s currently busy leaping around the studio taking arty photos for this latest blog.

She didn’t take this photo of us at walker HQ.


Or this one of us waiting at a bus stop.


See? Being an author or illustrator isn’t all champagne and all-the-


Oooo! But she did take these photos of her pencil layouts and colour work for the first Little Adventurers’ little adventure. But she’s MESSING WITH OUR MINDS, showing you only little snippets. They’re good though, aren’t they?


That’s an upside-down Peanut, I reckon. But is that Finnegan or Sprat? Hmmm… And I’m LOVING that bee.

Which reminds me, we should get busy. This book won’t make itself. Isn’t that right, Walker Books publisher person, Deirdre?


A big thumbs-up from her! (Apparently, we’re almost exactly the same height, you know.)

Write! Write! Write! Draw! Draw! Draw!


PS. Even on the hard days, we still have the best jobs in the world. Isn’t that right, Elissa… Elissa? What’s she doing now?


On Tuesday (9th June) the name of the new Children’s Laureate was announced at a ceremony at the British Academy of Film & Television Awards in London so – of course – Ardagh and Elwick were invited. Walker Books PR guru Paul Black was also present but his name badge looked suspiciously homemade so the phrase “gate-crasher?” did spring to mind.


It came as no surprise to Ardagh and little surprise to many others that Malorie Blackman’s successor is Chris Riddell. Chris has a special place in the annals of Ardagh & Elwick history because he drew an official portrait (entitled Elwick & Ardagh) which sits on Elissa Elwick’s desk in her studio.


 This might be a good time to explain why the dynamic duo go by the name of Ardagh & Elwick rather than Elwick & Ardagh. Here’s an official statement:

“After much discussion, we agreed that Ardagh should come before Elwick because:

1.     When spoken, ‘Ardagh and Elwick’ could be mistaken for ‘Ardagh Anne Elwick’ the famous Victorian female wrestler and butterfly collector.

2.     Ardagh comes before Elwick in the alphabet.

3.     In order of height, Ardagh is taller than Elwick.

4.     Ardagh is older than Elwick

5.     Ardagh has bigger feet than Elwick.”

Chris Riddell was delighted to receive a hug from Ardagh after the ceremony but would probably have preferred one from Elwick because she didn’t look as though she’d just spent an hour in a sauna with her clothes on.


Chris is a fabulous author and illustrator and an extremely popular choice for Laureate. The only discord came from an unidentified author who shouted, “It should have been me!” and was ‘helped’ from the room by Booktrust staff.

Authors and illustrators are often asked where they get their ideas from. It’s an impossible question to answer but we think you have to look no further than our very own Elissa (Elwick) to realise whom the inspiration for THIS particular character is. Hmmmmm.





The other day, I was discussing some of Elissa’s pencil sketches with her and thought that they were working brilliantly – OF COURSE! – except that, in one particular drawing, Floss wasn’t squeeeezing her cat, Podge, quite as much as the text suggests. (That’s the picture on the left.)


I envisaged this simple suggestion would take a little while for Elissa to put into practice but, just a few minutes later, she came back with the revised sketch (right).

The reason why I’m posting them here, side by side, is that I love the economy with which such a skilled artist/illustrator – yup, that’s Elwick – can change the whole expression of a character/feel of a picture. Just by changing her eyes with a few simple lines and slightly moving one of her arms up a bit, Floss has gone from hugging Podge to holding him tight for a real cuddly, squeezy hug.

And that – at the micro-level – is what I love about being a (taller, hairier) part of Ardagh & Elwick: we discuss anything and everything and do what we can to make it JUST right.




Last week was the Walker Books conference. It probably had a grander title than that but, whatever it was actually called, it was a chance for Ardagh & Elwick and the Little Adventurers to be introduced to the whole company. The task of bigging up Finnegan, Floss, Peanut and Sprat was down to editor Maria Tunney, who then invited me (Philip) up on stage to talk about… Well, to talk about ME. 

Because about the first thing people notice about me after my height – I’m 6ft 7in (2 metres) tall – is usually my big, bushy beard, I thought I’d show where I got it from. No, not from BEARDS ‘R’ US but passed down from my mother’s side of the family. So I showed a photo taken in India in 1868, which included my great-great grandfather sporting the beard. The woman next to him, holding her hat over her tummy, is my great-great grandmother. And growing inside that tummy is my great grandmother who was born later that same year. And she was still alive when I was born. I’m not sure what it proves, but it’s always nice to get out the family album.


Elissa soon joined me on stage to steer things away from maternal ancestral facial hair and back to Little Adventurers. I set the ball rolling with some tricky quick-fire tasks.

ARDAGH: Name the Little Adventurers in alphabetical order.
ELWICK: Finnegan, Floss, Peanut and Sprat.
ARDAGH: Name the Little Adventurers in order of height.
ELWICK: Finnegan, Floss, Peanut and Sprat.
ARDAGH: Name the Little Adventurers in order of age.
ELWICK: Finnegan, Floss, Peanut and Sprat.

Do you see a pattern developing there?

After a final round about the Little Adventurers’ pets Podge, Shadow, Pocket, Licky Dog and Leafy, we left the stage to rapturous applause. (I do like that phrase.)


So the NEXT time Ardagh & Elwick are in the Walker Books offices just about everyone should know what we’re playing at. Did I say playing at? I meant WORKING VERY HARD ON.



One of the nice things about being half of Ardagh & Elwick is being half of Ardagh and Elwick. People now recognize us as a double-act, like Huntley & Palmer, Gilbert & George or Abbot & Costello. Well, not actually like any of those people but you get the picture. When I – Philip – am out and about people ask me about Elissa. “Does she really skateboard around the studio?” And when I – Elissa – am out and about, people ask me about Philip. “What’s he like to work with? Does he really get beard hairs everywhere?” And then they ask about our work – about Little Adventurers – in a way that no one seems to ask us about or solo projects. And, unlike Ant & Dec, people rarely get confused as to which of us is which. 





FROM THE ARCHIVE: How the Little Adventurers became…

It’s MY turn to write today…I’ve fed Ardagh some lunch and he’s got himself comfy in a corner of the studio, pretending to do some work.

Although we’re both very involved in what the Little Adventurers are up to on each page - the whole look of the book - it’s me who does all the actual drawing (though I do find Philip’s little animal doodles rather endearing).

At the very beginning, I had a Little Adventurer called Finnigan, as a central character of a story I’d come up with but I felt he needed friends and funnifying. Then I teamed up with Philip (who I’d been working with on other ideas yet to be unleashed upon the world) and together we created Floss, Sprat and, lastly, Peanut. 

They came wandering out of our imaginations and onto the page almost fully formed, though each took a bit of getting to know - their likes, dislikes, even what pet they have -  but that’s been part of the fun about working on a series like this, and especially as part of a collaborative team - combining our ideas about what a particular character might or might not do, really fleshing them out until they feel almost real to us.

Part of the satisfaction of getting to know each Little Adventurer so well is that we know how they’re going to react in any given situation…though that’s not to say they haven’t sometimes surprised us.

Some of the characterisation came out of my early sketches. We talked, I sketched. We talked some more I sketched some more.


Once I’m done with a pencil sketch I usually take it onto the light box and create the final lines with a VERY sharp pencil, or sometimes - like in this instance - I scan them into my computer and do the final lines and colour them up on my Wacom Cintiq.


It’ll be interesting to see, once the first book is published, how similar or different they look to our earliest ideas.