Penguinpig Creators: The Interview

PENGUINPIG is the number one best-selling story about a little girl who reads of an exciting creature known as a Penguinpig on the Internet. Filled with delight and intrigue, she decides that she must go and find one.

However, her parents are far too busy to take her and so she decides that she will sneak out and find the adorable Penguinpig all on her own. Carefully, she follows the instructions from the website – but does she find her delightful Penguinpig?

Penguinpig Cover
Cover of Penguinpig book

Well! You’ll have to read the book to find out.

In the meantime, if you want find out more about Penguinpig, then you’re in luck, because, firstly, Amy Bradley – the book’s illustrator – will be reading from Penguinpig at our upcoming Festive Story Fun event on Saturday 12th December. Children will also be given the opportunity to have a go at drawing their own Penguinpig (make sure you don’t miss it!).

And secondly, we had the privilege recently of interviewing Amy and Stuart Spendlow – the author – about the book and what they have planned next.

So, without further ado, here’s the interview:


We are delighted to welcome Stuart and Amy so that we can quiz them on the book and their plans for the future.

Thank you Amy and Stuart for taking time out of your busy schedules to answer our questions about Penguinpig. Unless stated otherwise the questions are aimed at both of you as we are very interested in how you collaborated to produce such an entertaining and informative story.

Q1: Would you both like to tell us a little about yourselves?

Stuart: I’m a teacher based in Lincolnshire. I love my job and keeping myself busy trying out all different ventures in life such as producing shows, writing music, acting, keeping up to date with all technological advances in the world and eating pasta. And biscuits. I love biscuits.

Amy: I’m an illustrator based in the little market town of Uttoxeter. How I spend my days…..drawing!! And I absolutely love it! To me it’s the best job in the world and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Apart from drawing I often spend my time eating cake (and chocolate and ice cream and sweets, oh and I can’t forget biscuits!), talking (my sister often suggests ‘I should glue my mouth together’!), reading, socialising with friends and family or singing (FYI…I can’t sing, I’m often caught out in my studio pretending I’m Swifty!).

Q2: Stuart, where did the idea of writing the book come from and how did you decide on such an intriguing character as Penguinpig? To what extent did you have a clear idea on what the character would look like and to what extent did you benefit from Amy’s illustrative skills?

S: The story behind the penguinpig itself is a great one! It just so happened that, for some bizarre reason, I ended up in the situation where I had to show my class how to draw a quick cartoon penguin. Unfortunately, my illustrative skills are terrible and the class decided that it looked like a mix between a penguin and a pig. To add to the hilarity, they tried persuading another teacher that it was a newly-discovered animal!

Q3: Amy, what guidance, if any, did Stuart give you on what he thought Penguinpig and the other characters should look like?

A: Stuart is very creative and came up with lots ideas of what the characters should look like. When he sent over the manuscript he included a description of how he saw the characters. It also helped that Penguinpig is described in the book, so with a little imagination and some ‘Amy magic’…..Penguinpig was born! Hip Hip, Hooray!

Q4: Did you already know each other before you began working together on it?

S: Not at all – but what a perfect combination we turned out to be. I hope Amy agrees with that…

A: Stuart was a total stranger, but luckily we clicked straight away. It’s a great relationship we have, bouncing ideas of one another, having full trust in one another and allowing each other to do our ‘creative thing’! I do have one slight issue though….he is yet to call me Amy! In Stuart’s eyes I go by: Brads, Bradmondo, Bradriella, Bradders or BRADMONDICLES! I imagine his next child will be called Brad!

Q5: Would you like to share with us your tips on how you ensured such a fruitful author/illustrator partnership?

S: I think the main thing is to trust one another as the experts in our particular fields. We bounced ideas off one-another and threw challenges at each other, but we knew to trust one another and let each other crack on with it! We’re both highly efficient people and tend to want everything doing ‘yesterday’ which, rather impressively, worked out alright!

A: Firstly you’ve got to allow the other person to do exactly what they do. It’s so important to trust them and be honest. Keeping in touch is key; we always e-mail, chat over the phone, Skype and have some bants over social media! Having fun is also one of our top priorities; we always know how to make one another smile :-)!

Q6: Why do you think fictional stories are so important in getting the serious message of internet safety across to young children? How important is it to use the right kind of illustrations?

S: Young children have simply got to understand the potential dangers with using the Internet so that they can keep themselves safe. Children as young as four are using the Internet (especially in school) and, as a result, they’ve got to know that you can’t always trust what you read. From my perspective, the illustrations were key as they had to capture the interest of youngsters to make them stick with the story. They also need to stay in their memory to support the message, so the illustrations had to be super-catchy!

A: I think the illustrations are really important, to me it was crucial they caused intrigue and excitement to get the reader coming back for more and in turn reinforcing the serious message of internet safety.

Q7: How long did it take to produce the book from the original idea to printing and how did you find a publisher?

S: Writing the story started one summer in a hotel on a rainy day. I started writing after being frustrated by the lack of resources available for young children and soon got into it. After several drafts, I put it away in a draw and decided to see if I still liked it after two weeks. As it turned out, I really didn’t like it after two weeks so continued to redraft! Eventually, I got there and then let Amy work her magic on it.

A: From receiving the manuscript to completion it took approx. 4/5 weeks. I promised Stuart it would be done by the end of the month and true to my word I delivered the finished book on the very last day of the month. Phew!

Q8: I understand that book 2 of the Penguinpig story is on its way. Do you have plans for any future books in the series or plans for other books you are able to share with us?

S: That really would be telling…! We won’t be seeing a penguinpig for a while, but keep your eyes peeled for other characters appearing! Also, we’ve just had The Art Of Being A Brilliant Primary Teacher released (Crown House Publishing) which was a co-write from me and Andy Cope. Amy illustrated that too – what a superstar!

A: We’re catching up in a few weeks to discuss future Penguinpig plans and the possibility of new books!! #topsecret #watchthisspace

Q9: The theatre production of Penguinpig (more information below), which incorporates puppets, sounds really exciting! How did this come about?

S: I’m extremely excited about – especially since seeing the preview performance. TRAUM Theatre (led by Jane Crawshaw ) have done an awesome job of bringing the story of PENGUINPIG to 3D life and even have developed some gorgeous songs for it too. The whole thing started with an initial meeting to discuss how the story would work on a stage and it all developed so naturally from there. Jane and her team really have worked some magic on it.

A: The preview was amazzzzin!! It was surreal to see all our little characters in 3D, with voices, dance moves and gorgeous songs. A dream come true!

Q10: Amy, how long have you been working as a children’s illustrator and what special training did you have? What would you say to anyone considering a career as an illustrator?

A: Unofficially I’ve been working as illustrator my whole life – drawing has always been my favourite thing. Initially I did a degree in Surface Pattern Design and I didn’t believe I was good enough to be an illustrator so I started A PGCE in Art & Design but didn’t feel it was right to encourage students to follow there dreams before having a go at following my own. Luckily at my degree show I had a lot of industry experts suggest I go into children’s illustration, which made me believe in myself and gave me the confidence to progress. It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys, in the early days I had a couple of part time jobs to help support my illustration business but only a few years later I gained my own studio and not long later I managed to make a full time living from it. If you’re considering a career in illustration my advice would be to keep going. If you really love it, work hard and give it your all – you’ll get there. Never give up!!

Q11: Stuart, what do the pupils at your school think about one of their teachers becoming an author?

S: I’m not really sure to be honest. I guess to them I’m first and foremost a teacher – which is where my heart lies. It’s quite nice to recommend PENGUINPIG to staff as a resource to use – but I’m not entirely convinced they take me very seriously!

Q12: Would you like to share anything else with us about Penguinpig?

S: Whilst there isn’t too much to share (honestly!) I believe it has a huge future ahead of it. It’s been an unbelievable 18 months and I’m very proud of all the success and incredibly honoured by all of the support.

A: Penguinpig has already been on such an incredible journey in its short existence, I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings…the possibilities are endless!! #excitingtimes

Thank you Stuart and Amy for taking the time out of your busy schedules and we look forward to welcoming Penguinpig to Tamworth on the 12th December!

Finally, as mentioned above, here’s some information about Penguinpig The Play!

Told by TRAUM Theatre, with beautiful puppetry, catchy songs and accompanied by an original music score, PENGUINPIG is a fun-filled, magical, theatrical experience for 4-7 year olds. It is ideal for schools to host as part of delivering the National Curriculum.

PENGUINPIG previewed this year at the prestigious Little Angel Theatre in London, and later this month will travel to Lincolnshire’s Wolds Words Festival. The show received fantastic audience feedback in London from children and parents alike, who described the show as “magical”, “imaginative”, “funny” and “clever”, with “great music and puppetry” and an “important but subtle message about safety” (audience feedback from the showing at Little Angel Theatre).

PENGUINPIG has been created in line with the National Curriculum’s aim for safer Internet practice for KS1 and from 2nd April – 15th May 2016, PENGUINPIG will embark on a tour, visiting venues and schools in the North of England.

For schools interested in booking a visit, please email Jane Crawshaw at bookings@traumtheatre.com, or call on 0785714503.

More information on the show and TRAUM Theatre can be found at:

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