If you've been reading my blog for a while now, you'll know that I've had the opportunity to work with some amazing book publishers since we started homeschooling.  So when I had the chance to interview Grace Cooke, the illustrator of The Histronauts Series by B Small Publishing, I jumped at the chance.  It's not often you get an opportunity like that knocking at your door and since we love these books in our homeschool, how could I say no!

A Viking Adventure is the latest book in The Histronauts series and we've been very fortunate to be able to experience each one.  These books are filled with amazing facts, stories and activities that bring history to life for even the most reluctant readers.  They'll travel through time with the lovable characters uncovering secrets of the past.  If you read my review of The Egyptian Adventure, you'll know exactly what I mean.

Not only are these books filled with everything you need to know, but they're so beautifully illustrated that the attention to detail just brings the adventure to life right before your eyes.  I could go on and on but I'm sure you'd like to know what Grace had to say, so let's read on....

How did you become an illustrator and who inspired you?
I enjoyed drawing a lot when I was younger and I just never stopped. My family are very
creative; there was always a box of colouring pencils nearby, and a stack of grandad’s fax
machine paper waiting to be drawn on. I remember my mum having a sketchbook of
comic book characters she’d drawn when she was young and I found them really
amazing! There was never really a thought I could do anything else but draw; it was a way
of expressing myself, and at times it was very therapeutic.

What's the first thing that you ever drew and do you still have it?
I drew potato-shaped people on the window condensation; they were round blobs with
stick arms and legs. Then I moved on to drawing a lot of animals, and characters from
animations. I still have some my old drawings; I was 7 when I created this masterpiece of
myself watching The Lion King!

How did you find your style of drawing?
I just kept drawing and drawing. I gravitate towards a certain look, a tried and tested and
comfortable style, but it’s always evolving. I like trying new techniques and painting things
I’ve never tried to paint before.

How long does it take to do the illustrations for a book?
Once I receive the story and get an idea of how many illustrations there needs to be, and
how long they will take me, it really depends on the project and how detailed the work will
be. If it’s for one of the Histronaut books I, along with the author Frances Durkin, will do a
lot of research into that particular time period. The more detail there is, the longer they
take to create.

What’s your favourite piece of art equipment?
I love my Wacom tablet but I do miss painting with watercolours and I’d like to move back
to working with pencils a lot more. I think my eyes will appreciate less time staring at a
computer screen.

What is the most difficult part of your job?
Sometimes I work very long hours. My dog is a good reminder to take lot’s of breaks and
go out for some fresh air. I would advise getting a dog if you want to become an
Illustrator; they’re amazing company and a really good reminder to get some exercise!

What do you like to do when you're not illustrating?
I like walking my dog in the woods, attempting to bake cakes and biscuits; which always
turn out a bit burnt and interesting, I need to practise a bit more! I also like to go
swimming, visit museums and occasionally I work in the film industry where I really enjoy
travelling to interesting locations and being part of exciting projects.
Do you have a favourite character that you have illustrated?
I’m going to say Hero, the cat from The Histronauts, because he’s my favourite to draw.
He’s always getting into trouble and it’s fun drawing him in various funny states of peril
and panic. Poor Hero.

Can you name one book that you would love to illustrate?
One book! That’s a hard question. Immediately though, I think of The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame. I’d really love to illustrate those characters and that world!

Who's your favourite artist?
It’s too hard to name only one! The list of favourite artists who have inspired me over the
years is very long. But to name just a few, I love the work of Jill Barklem, who illustrated
the Brambly Hedge series, and E.H.Shepard, who is most famous for drawing Winnie the

If you had a magic pencil which could bring your drawing to life, but you can only use it
once, what would you draw?
That’s the best question ever! I’m going to say I’d draw an amazing tree house in a
beautiful forest, and I’d fill it with puppies.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Jim Henson. He was very inspiring! The creativity, joy, stories, values and style that he
created just makes so many people happy, and I really wanted to be a part of that.

As an illustrator, can you give one piece of advice to anyone who wants to become a
children’s book illustrator too?
Keep sketching! Sketch anything and everything. Explore, have fun and don’t give up.

Thank you to Grace for taking the time out to answer our questions and if you want to take a trip through history then The Histronauts books will take you on a journey you'll never forget.