‘Bubble and Squeak’, plus awesome interviews and a cool competition!

Bubble and Squeak‘ by James Mayhew, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy (published by Orchard Books)

IMG_5502OH. MY. GOSH. Not often do you come across a book that Has It All, but James Mayhew and Clara Vulliamy have collaborated on something truly special here and we cannot find a single thing not to love about it.

There are circus tricks:

IMG_5503There are fairy lights and cakes:

IMG_5504There are beautifully realised emotions:

IMG_5505More importantly than any of that though (and we don’t say that lightly), there are two adorable characters who find happiness when they find each other. James’ writing is just perfect and uses all the right words in all the right places so that you instantly feel as though you are also best friends with Bubble and Squeak and you’re rooting for them both from the start. We’ve raved about Clara’s pictures before and will do so again, but they have a timeless appeal that will never be out of style. She makes it all look so simple, but there are delightful details on each and every page and everything about the illustrations just makes us beam with glee. Bravo for beautiful Bubble and super Squeak!


Now you’re whipped up into an excited raspberry ripple of a frenzy, get ready to meet the enormously clever and incredibly lovely people who created this gorgeous story. We were lucky enough to have a chance to ask a few questions of Clara and James and their answers clearly show how much fun they had making the book, how much they enjoyed working together and how tolerant they are of the slightly unusual questions that C and H came up with (because not everyone wants to talk about whale sharks…)

Here’s what Clara said:

1) We like blue, purple and red depending on our mood, but sometimes we really like green, too. You used our favourite colours a lot in this book and that’s one of the reasons we love it so much 🙂 What is your favourite colour?

I like ALL colours, and colours that look good next to each other make me smile too (like orange and purple), but the absolute best for me – in all it’s different shades and tints – is blue.

2) What felt-tips (note from Mummy: or other materials) do you use to make your pictures?

I use lots of different things – pencils, coloured pencils, pens and gluing on bits of patterned paper and buttons and fabric, and best of all lots of delicious watercolour paints. I love squeezing them out onto the palette, and thinking how much I love my job.
Oh and I once painted with REAL JAM…

(Our jaws are dropping here – painting… and jam… TOGETHER?!?!? Genius.)

3) We love food (pretty much all kinds, though we particularly like cheese and cake) and we really enjoy looking out for all the pictures of it in this book. What is your favourite sort of food to eat? What is your favourite sort of food to draw?

I’m so glad you like the food in this book! Bubble must keep eating a lot, to keep her beautiful shape nice and round. I love to eat simple things like toast and crumpets, but they are so boring to draw. That’s why in books I draw lots of fancy cakes and ice cream sundaes – impossibly huge with a strawberry on top!

4) What does your favourite hat look like? (Mummy: We particularly like Bubble’s range of marvellous millinery!)

I don’t even own a hat – how sad is that! But if I did it would be a small one that perched on the side of my head, with lots of little felt birds and flowers and fruit on it.

5) What is your favourite animal to draw?

All my favourite animals to draw are in this book somewhere… as well as mice and elephants of course, I do love to draw bears and guinea pigs… oh and sausage dogs!

How fun it would be to buy an ice lolly or souvenir from a sausage dog like Yo-yo!

(Our verdict? More fun than using a whole tub of glue to make a picture! High praise indeed. )

6) Do your pictures sometimes go wrong when you draw them? How do you make them go right?

There’s no such thing as a wrong drawing, it’s just on it’s journey to being right. If I need to throw away a drawing or rub something out I try not to worry. Sometimes I go off and do something else for a bit, and then come back for a fresh start.

7) Have you ever seen a mouse or an elephant in real life? Have you ever seen a whale shark?

I have seen a mouse, and just the other day I saw baby elephants at the zoo, which was the sweetest thing ever. But I’ve never seen a whale shark – are they very fierce?

C says that whale sharks don’t use their teeth for biting so they’re definitely not the fiercest type of shark. Phew.

8) What sort of tricks would you do if you were in the circus?

I’d fly up high on a daisy trapeze – just like Bubble!

9) Do you think Bubble and Squeak will always be best friends?

Oh YES! Just like me and James.

10) What is your favourite book to read at the moment?

At the moment I am reading Pirates ‘n’ Pistols by Chris Mould. It’s VERY exciting, a bit too scary for bedtime though…

11) What was your favourite book to read when you were little?

My favourite book was Babar. It is perfection in a green suit and bowler, I love it still.

12) The pictures and words combine so beautifully to create Bubble and Squeak’s relationship and to convey their feelings throughout the story (I held back a sniffle and a small tear on more than one occasion). Are you able to put into words how you worked together with James to do this, or is just one of those indefinable ‘magic moments’? (Mummy wrote this question!)

It IS a magical thing. I just couldn’t believe my luck and had to pinch myself to check I wasn’t dreaming when James wrote this wonderful story – and it was for ME! Trying to describe it too closely would be like sitting on a meringue and squashing it and I wouldn’t want to do that. But I will just say that because James is also an illustrator and I am also a writer we have an extra layer of empathy – in fact you can’t really see the join.

And here’s what James said:

1) Why don’t elephants like mice?
I think they are worried they might sit on them by mistake, which would make them sad. Elephants don’t like to be sad, they much prefer being happy.
So do we 🙂
2) We love all the funny names you’ve given your characters! Do you know anyone with any of those names in real life?
I do have an Uncle Umberto!!! He’s really my wife’s cousin’s husband, but we all call him Zio Umberto (Zio is Itallian for Uncle). He lives in Italy.
Everybody calls our mummy ‘Lolly’, which makes us laugh, though we’re a bit sad she’s not a *real* lollypop…
3) Could Boris the Strongman lift up a house?
That depends on the house, but most likely YES! He loves lifting up cars and trains.
4) What is your favourite word? Why?
Home. Because all my favourite people and things are there.
5) Did you write the story of Bubble and Squeak before or after Clara drew the pictures?
Before. Clara asked me to write a story just for her. It took a long time because I thought she deserved the best story I could write.
6) We were so happy when Squeak was brave enough to help Bubble. What is the bravest thing you have ever done?
I’m not really very brave. But showing this story to Clara for the first time did feel quite brave. I was scared she wouldn’t like it. Fortunately she did.
7) Have you ever seen a mouse or an elephant in real life? Have you ever seen a whale shark?

Yes, both. But not together at the same time. We sometimes have had mice in our house. Especially if we leave cheese lying around. But we never get elephants. Perhaps if we left strawberry bon bons lying around, we’d get elephants too. I have never seen a whale shark, but would like to very much. I’ve seen killer whales.

C wants to add here that sometimes killer whales can be known as orcas. No further comment though, it seems.

8) What sort of tricks would you do if you were in the circus?
I would be a clown, and juggle custard pies.
9) Do you think Bubble and Squeak will always be best friends?
Of course they will. They are perfect for each other, and very good at sharing.
10) What is your favourite book to read at the moment?
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. It’s all about how very silly and bad grown ups can be and reminds me that children are far wiser.
11) What was your favourite book to read when you were little?
Moominland Midwinter, by Tove Jansson.It made me long to go to Finland where the snow is as deep as a house and the Northern Light fill the sky with colour. And strangely it makes me long for summer too…
12) The pictures and words combine so beautifully to create Bubble and Squeak’s relationship and to convey their feelings throughout the story (I held back a sniffle and a small tear on more than one occasion). Are you able to put into words how you worked together with Clara to do this, or is just one of those indefinable ‘magic moments’? (Mummy wrote this question!)
Meeting Clara WAS a magic moment. I knew at once she was a kindred spirit. I was so flattered that she asked me to write for her. We met up many times and talked and talked and ate lots of cake. We had a lot in common with our tastes in books and illustration and stories, often preferring older classics from the 40s and 50s. And out of the conversations, Bubble and Squeak just appeared. It’s interesting, because they were very clear in my mind, clearer than new characters usually are. They just felt right, and I loved writing about them.
When I saw Clara’s first ideas for illustrations I knew something special was happening. Clara makes it look very easy, because her drawing is so assured, so convincing. In reality, it is a huge amount of work, and developing such adorable characters is very hard. I know that from my own illustration work. So I was really blown away by the illustrations, and I’m still pinching myself to be sure it’s not a dream. I am so lucky to have worked with someone as lovely and as talented as Clara.
We have other stories up our sleeve, we just hope the first book does well enough so we can do more!
We will be shouting about from the rooftops then, as we are VERY much hoping that this book is the start of great things to come for Bubble and Squeak 🙂


If you’d like to win one of THREE copies of this brilliant book, simply leave a comment at the end of this post. You can enter more than once by sharing this giveaway post on your Facebook page or blog, or by tweeting about it. You can copy and paste the following text if that makes it easier:

I’ve entered StoryseekersUK‘s giveaway to win a copy of ‘Bubble and Squeak’ by mayhewjames and ClaraVulliamy
Come and join in the fun!

You must leave a separate comment after this post for each entry for them to count. Comments must be posted by midnight on Thursday, 16th May, 2013 and I will pick the winner at 10am on Friday, 17th May, 2013 (UK time). The winners will be chosen at random, using http://www.random.org and I will contact them after the draw for their address (you must live in the UK to enter) to pass on to Orchard Books, who will send out the prize. I will also post the winners’ names on here. Good luck!

This competition ended at 10am on Friday 17th May, 2013. The lucky winners were Anne Booth, Grace Sandford and Helen. Many thanks to all who entered!


Disclaimer: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the review represents my own honest opinion.


  1. What a tremendous interview – I really enjoyed reading this! I’ve never seen a whale shark, and the best I can do with orcas? Once I was on a beach where 24 hours earlier there had been a pod of orcas…. 😉

    1. C says that’s actually (one of his favourite words at the moment) VERY cool 😉

  2. Great interview! I really want to read this book now. I came across Clara’s website recently and love her drawings. I don’t think I will be introducing the painting by jam idea to my kids anytime soon though!

    1. Hee hee, yep, I think I’ll need to work up a bit of courage before attempting that! It’ll call for a sunny day so it can be done outside, I think 😉

  3. I love your book reviews because even though my kids are teens I have kept all the magical books we shared together as they grew up. I love Clara’s illustrations and would treasure and share this book with any passing child!

    1. It’s lovely to hear that someone else is creating their own set of loft treasures 🙂 This book would definitely be a worthy addition.

  4. Loll, what a gorgeous post! I love that interview! As well as making me desperate for the book it makes me really want to meet your boys and get into a Serious Discussion About Sealife. Please will you tell them that I met an elephant at the zoo a few weeks ago and her favourite game was to roll in the dirt, suck some of it up in her trunk and SWOOSH it out all over herself. Also, tell them that I have a family of wood mice living in my garden. They live in my woodpile and we have given over half of our shed to their comfort. The Main Mouse is called Scurry and she is nearly brave enough to eat nuts out of our hands. Alas, no whale sharks live in or near my garden. Must try harder.
    I loved reading Clara and James’s answers, a lovely book from a lovely friendship.

    1. I’m read your comments to the boys before bedtime and they think you sound like a Seriously Good Egg and a confirmed Kindred Spirit 🙂 We took them to the zoo when they were much younger but it’s pretty much Matt’s favourite day out ever so we need to go back again now they’re older (and hope for some equally sightings of elephant fun!).
      As for the mice, that would be their dream come true. We saw a snail on the way to pre-school today and C spent the rest of the walk (me) / scoot (him) telling us how he was going to make a habitat for a snail and keep it as a pet. Mice would be even more exciting!
      Fingers crossed re giveaway – you’ll love the book 🙂

  5. Anne Booth · · Reply

    Having tweeted to and met Clara I know she really is as lovely as this interview – and James sounds great. I particularly loved the question about what she uses when she illustrates – that’s the sort of thing an adult is often too shy to ask yet longs to know. I agree with James that it is immensely difficult and talented to create such seemingly effortless, simple, timeless illustrations. I would LOVE this book! Thanks for another great post.

    1. Thank you SO much for your kind comments, Anne. I would love to meet Clara in Actual Real Life as all those who have say she is simply the loveliest person ever! She and James have certainly created one of the loveliest books ever – good luck in the giveaway!

  6. I love this interview and the randomness of childrens’ questions 🙂 I’m not sure about painting with jam outside though Lol, I think the wasps might want to know what you are doing!
    I would love to have a copy of Bubble and Squeak sent to Grandma’s house so that she can read it to her grandchildren.

    1. Very good point – I tend to get overexcited about things like this without thinking them through 😉

  7. great interview! i would love the chance to win

    1. Thanks for commenting – good luck!

  8. I love this interview, it has really brightened up a dull Sunday evening! I am definitely thinking now about how and when we can do painting with jam (do you think a whale shark might like a little jam mural on its side?) It’s wonderful to learn more about how the friendship between Clara and James brought this book into being. I hope we are lucky enough to win a copy.

    1. I think that sounds perfect for a whale shark 🙂
      Hope you’re lucky in the competition!

  9. Great interview! Was lucky enough to have been in a lecture by James who also took the time to look at our work afterwards.

    1. Wow, that must have been an amazing experience 🙂

  10. Home. I love that it sounds like something my son would say. Thanks for sharing this one. I just convinced my local book shop to carry it – can’t wait to read it!

  11. Great interview and the book looks brilliant! Would love to win a copy!

  12. […] Bubble & Squeak is a deliciously sweet book, to find out more about the book check out these lovely reviews over on Playing By The Book & Story Seekers. […]

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