One Camel Called Doug is a brilliant story about the joys of sometimes being alone, with some great counting opportunities and lots of humour!
Lu Fraser is a hugely exciting new voice in children's picture books. She is based in Hampshire, where she lives with her family, and writes in a shed in the garden. The Littlest Yak was her first book for children and won Oscar's Book Prize 2021 and Sainsbury’s Book Award 2021.
Sarah Warburton is the brilliant illustrator both of bestselling picture books, such as Dinosaurs in the Supermarket written by Timothy Knapman and The Princess and the Peas written by Caryl Hart, and fiction, including the Starfell books by Dominique Valente. She lives in Bristol.
One Camel Called Doug (Simon & Schuster Children's Books)
This hilarious picture book by Lu Fraser and Sarah Warburton reminds us that while being with friends is a lot of fun, being alone can be just as good. There are lots of opportunities for counting along the way, and some extra giggles in the glorious illustrations, too.
One Camel Called Doug "A wonderfully silly romp of a story, with rhyming text and plenty of repeated lines for little ones to join in with."
Find out more from its creators in this video and Q&A with Lu Fraser and Sarah Warburton:
Q&A with Lu Fraser
1. What picture books have helped inspire you to write your own?
I think there probably isn't a picture book writer in the UK at the moment who hasn't been inspired, in some way, by Julia Donaldson and I am no exception to that rule! I love Room on the Broom and Charlie Cook's Favourite Book is my favourite of all her texts. Sandra Boynton was has always been a writer I admire enormously as well as creating my favourite picture book of all time (Hippos Go Berserk) and I have definitely been influenced by bucketloads of my contemporaries, from Morag Hood to The Fan Brothers to Rachel Bright - the list is too long!
There's no one specific thing that I look for in a picture book, it's more of an indefinable quality - a book that I can't find any faults with, where I wouldn't change a single thing, that touches my heart and, ultimately, where I close the covers muttering 'I WISH I'd written that!'.
2. What kinds of picture books do you enjoy creating?
When I started writing picture books I was very clear about one thing - I was going to write 'funny'. I was absolutely, without question NOT a writer who wrote about the big things in life or created anything emotional.
As it turns out, I was completely wrong on all counts! The books I love creating the most are the ones that touch on some of the largest questions and issues in a child's life and, 'though I would very much like to write in prose one day, for now, rhyming is what comes more naturally to me.
3. Can you tell us about One Camel Called Doug, and what inspired this story?
One Camel called Doug is a story that celebrates how wonderful it is to spend time with friends AND how wonderful it can be to spend time by yourself, too! (and I've managed to weave some rather crazy camel counting into the tale, as well!).
It was a dismal winter's day and I was on my way to my writing hut when I suddenly thought to myself 'I need something cheery! I'm taking the afternoon off to write something a bit bonkers and completely indulgent - something just for me!'. All I knew when I opened my notebook was that I wanted to write a counting book. There was no planning - I just wrote!
4. Why did you decide to make Doug a camel?
Doug didn't actually start out as a camel - in my head he was going to be an ant! I wrote a couple of lines about ants and then, quite unexpectedly, by line three… there he was! I don't remember inviting him in, he just arrived on his four squashy feet!
5. Would you describe yourself as a party camel, or Doug?
Oh, I am most definitely Doug! At the end of the book we see Doug in a hammock under the stars with his fluffy blanket and a good book - my idea of a perfect evening!
6. What do you think of Sarah Warburton's illustrations, and do you have a favourite spread - or camel?!
I think the first illustration I saw for One Camel Called Doug was the moment when Doug peers around the palm tree, trying to play hide and seek with himself. I remember thinking 'WOW! I didn't make that an easy thing to illustrate but Sarah has done it perfectly!'. Sarah is an astounding illustrator whose sense of humour really elevates a text - I wouldn't change a single line in any of her drawings!
Although the picture of the herd with their fancy-dress humps is absolutely wonderful, my favourite illustration is towards the end of the story where Doug flops across the desert, 'all camelled out!'. The colour of the landscape is fantastic and Doug is just gloriously plopped on the sand!
And if I had to pick a favourite camel? Well…that would HAVE to be Doug! (Any camel who wears legwarmers is top of my list!)
7. What stages do you go through when you're writing a picture book text? How much editing is involved?
I always start off with a pencil and a notebook (I use one specific type of pencil and one specific type of notebook, too - nothing else quite works for me!) and I focus on the key moment of the story - the moment that made me want to write the story in the first place (I call them 'the heart lines'). Once those are done I jump around the story, writing whichever bit takes my fancy - I absolutely never, ever write a story from start to finish or in any kind of order.
Once my notebook is looking pretty scribbled in (and I am losing track of what I've written!) then I'll type it up on my laptop and sew the bits of the story together, noting where I have gaps. I usually print the manuscript out at this point and then pick up my pencil and start all over again, but this time using the manuscript as the foundation. Once I'm finished I'll tuck the story away in a drawer for a while before I come back and edit it… and I'll keep repeating that cycle until I'm ready to share it with my agent.
8. What are your top tips for creating a great picture book?
I think all great picture books probably have one important thing in common - the writers and illustrators loved the process of creating them. When you are really excited about what you're writing or illustrating, I think it shows - readers feel your passion pouring out of the pages. So, above anything else, love what you're doing. The rest will follow…
9. What else are you working on currently?
Well, I'm absolutely delighted to confirm that Sarah Warburton and I will be working on another book together! This time we'll be a little closer to home than the camel-filled desert and we'll be introducing two new characters who are the very best of friends - watch this space!
Of course, 2022 will also see the return of The Littlest Yak in her second book (publishing September '22) illustrated by the marvellous Kate Hindley. Kate and I also have some other secret projects that we're working on but my lips are sealed…for now!
10. What do you enjoy doing when you're not at your desk?
Well, I have a very young puppy at the moment, as well as an older dog, and the two of them together cause chaos in my house - I spend a lot of time tidying up after them! When I'm not doing that I absolutely love to cook and spending time in the kitchen with my daughter is one of my favourite things. I also love my garden (although the dogs have done a great job of flattening all my plants!). I haven't done much of this recently but I used to travel all the time and exploring the world will always be one of the things I love best but, of course, my very favourite thing to do will always be to…READ!
Q&A with Sarah Warburton
1. How did you become a children's illustrator? Which illustrator(s) inspires you the most?
I always drew from when I was younger. My dad used to paint landscapes and ships. When I got better at drawing, I used to copy the front covers of my favourite books.
When I found out it was an actual job I was so excited! I went to do an Art Foundation course after A-levels, then onto study illustration at UWE in the mid 90's. Then I started getting work illustrating reading schemes and school textbooks. Sometimes it was unusual stuff but it really developed my skills as an illustrator. I had to learn how to lighten up my colours and draw appealing humans for a start. Gradually I just got better and got more opportunities to work with really talented people. I've been an illustrator for 28 years now!
Over that time my favourite illustrators have changed or simply been added to a long list. I'm most inspired by an old Disney concept artist called Mary Blair. Her use of colour and composition is amazing. I also love French illustrator Marc Boutevant, and most recently the work of Tor Freeman. Great stuff!
2. What kinds of books do you enjoy illustrating?
I love doing all sorts but I always love to laugh and I often make myself laugh while drawing. That's a great feeling. I also love doing slightly darker work for an older age group. For instance I really enjoyed some of the darker illustrations I recently did for the Starfell series with Dominique Valente.
As I've got older I do relish the opportunity to tug at heart strings or get something dramatic in there. I've also got a slightly odd ambition to illustrate a history book, maybe non-fiction. I love history, especially the Victorians.
3. What did you like about One Camel Called Doug when you first read the text?
Again, it just made me laugh out loud and I immediately felt connected to Doug. I wanted to see how things worked out for him. Also, I've never illustrated camels and the opportunity (and challenge) to create a whole lot of them was irresistible. I loved the pace of it and the way it relaxes at the end. It's perfect.
4. How hard is it drawing camels - did you do lots of research or doodling to get their 'look'?
I looked at a LOT of camels. However when I came to deciding how Doug would look it just came immediately. I've actually got very few exploratory sketches of him. After that it was the challenge of making sure that the other camels didn't look like him.
When the whole team of us had decided that we could just throw any 'realism' out of the window and have not only one hump, two humps but all kinds of colours and hairstyles too, it was easy. It got even easier when someone suggested putting legwarmers on Doug. It just cracked me up and I think it set the silly tone for the others.
5. Do you have a favourite spread?
That's hard as I love lots of them. I do love the very first spread and then the spread when Brain first says 'hello'. However, if pushed it would be the spread where the whole herd of crazy camels come rumbling in. Makes me smile every time.
6. There are some great touches of humour in the illustrations - which made you laugh the most?
Again, Doug's leg warmers. Doug doing his Saturday Night Fever style dance moves and the fancy dress humps, loved them all!
7. How do you create your illustrations? Any short cuts?
I hate doing roughs so I try and persuade people whenever I can to let me just go for it and change things later! I find I enjoy it more and often the work has more energy. Obviously roughs are necessary sometimes but I'd rather avoid as much unnecessary re-roughing as possible.
That's doesn't mean I don't make mistakes as I do all the time. I just like to think on my feet sometimes as often little jokes come to me at the last minute. Sometimes I illustrate out of order or back to front. Sometimes with a larger fiction book I can start before I've finished the story! For some reason I always find title pages the hardest.
8. What else are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on picture books and fiction books. I'm working on a new book with Lu Fraser amongst others that I'm really excited about. I think it will hit all the spots I need for excitement, fun and emotion. Also a new fiction series with Sibeal Pounder called 'Neon's Secret Uni-Verse', which has definitely been the craziest book I've illustrated. A real cracker!
9. Any top tips for children illustrating their own picture books?
Don't be afraid of the blank paper. Ignore what I said earlier about roughs! Don't be afraid of just drawing stuff out without being sure what you're doing. Sometimes the best things happen when you're not trying. Also, don't get dishearten even if you make big mistakes. I've had to re-illustrate a whole book before now as it wasn't my best work. It can knock your confidence at first, but the result is often better than you could have imagined in the first place.
10. What are your favourite escapes from your desk?
I love walking my dog and chatting to doggy friends. I love curling up in front of the fire with a good Netflix series. I'm an Autumn/Winter person. I also love knitting but can only knit in straight line at the moment, so I have made lots of cushions and scarfs. I can do different patterns and colours though, so that's not too bad!