Spotlight On: Morag Hood

Welcome to our latest Spotlight On interview! This month we caught up with the marvellous author-illustrator Morag Hood.

Morag has two books publishing this week: her eagerly anticipated picture book When Grandad Was a Penguin, and the board book edition of her much-loved debut Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea.

Morag is a graduate of the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, and was awarded Joint 3rd in the Macmillan Prize in 2014. Morag is represented at the agency by Helen Mackenzie Smith.


1)      What inspired you to start drawing and writing picture books?

I’ve always loved stories and drawing but it felt a bit of an impossible dream to be an author. As I spent more and more time in the picture book sections of bookshops, I thought I should probably give it a try! I started off with some short courses and fell in love with the process of creating picture books. I knew I had found the thing for me.

2)     What comes first: The drawing, the character or the story?

With my own author/illustrated picture books I tend to come up with a little scenario or a scene first which consists of words and drawings which go together. I also write picture book texts (for others to illustrate) and with those I choose not to draw anything at all so that the images are not too fixed in my head. I really enjoy having the two different ways of working.

3)     What is your usual medium, or––if you use a variety—your preferred one? 

I work with lino printing a lot. I can be a bit overly careful with my drawings sometimes so I love the sense of life and the happy accidents which printing can produce. The process is also quite addictive! I print everything at home without a printing press so it can be a bit laborious, but I really like the results.

4)     If you weren’t an illustrator/author what would you like to be?

Something food-related… I spend most of my spare time thinking about cooking or eating. I’d love to develop recipes and have my own recipe book (although that might be a bit of a cheat of an answer as it still lets me be an author!)

5)     If you could collaborate with any other picture book writer/illustrator, past or present who would it be and why?

Jon Klassen. He is such a master of storytelling and apparent simplicity. It would be such a treat to get an insight into his working process.

6)     Who is your favourite picture book character, and why?

George from Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton. I love the fact that he is always so conflicted, and who can resist cake?! Also, his favourite toy is a duck and I have a lot of duck-related items in my house.

7)     What’s your favourite word/colour?

Blue. I recently painted a wall something called ‘tropical tide’ which is probably my current favourite. I’m not sure if I have a favourite word, I more enjoy what happens to words when you put them together.

8)     What was your favourite book when you were growing up?

Anything by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. I loved the humour and characters in Burglar Bill and Cops and Robbers and of course all the amazing envelopes and letters in The Jolly Postman.

9)     What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I used to play the bassoon (badly).

10)  What has been your career highlight so far?

Meeting tiny children who know the names of my characters.

Bonus question: what classic book of any genre would you most like to illustrate?

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. I read the first book on holiday in France and I remember the agonising wait to get back to the UK so I could source and devour the other two. I still get excited thinking about the stage production which I saw at the National Theatre over a decade ago.

Morag Hood © 2017. All Rights Reserved.

When Grandad Was a Penguin and the Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea board book are both published by Too Hoots and will be available to buy from January 26th. To find out more about Morag and her work, you can view her full portfolio here, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @MoragHood and Instagram.