The Brilliant Nadia Shireen

In our last post we revealed the new Tootsa MacGinty Christmas jumper, in aid of charity Refuge, with the funny little penguin designed by author illustrator Nadia Shireen.

Today we are delighted to have her here on the blog to find out about her process, her inspiration and memories of Christmas.

Nadia Shireen

Nadia Shireen

Nadia originally studied law and then worked as a magazine journalist, but her childhood memories of creating homemade magazines and comics never left her. Throughout these years she continued her sketching and creating . After years of “doodling in the sidelines” she finally took the plunge and did an MA in Children’s Book illustration. It was at her final degree show where she presented her first book – Good Little Wolf – which was immediately picked up and published by Random House in 2011. Nadia is also the author of Hey Presto! and Yeti And The Bird.

Nadia has been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. She lives in London.
We caught up with her for a quick chat:

Tootsa: From when you first have an image or figure in your head, what is the process of bringing that character to life on the page?

Nadia: I grab the nearest pen or pencil and doodle it on paper. Then I keep doodling obsessively for quite a long time. Then I lose those bits of paper, start about three separate notebooks with the same idea, and hop between them. I don’t work in an organised fashion.

Tootsa: How do you think yourself into a child’s perspective? And how do you think children see the world?

Nadia: I find it very easy to take myself to back to that place, probably because I feel much the same now! It’s the upside of being quite over sensitive, I suppose. I try and remember the feelings of powerlessness but also curiosity of being a kid.

Tootsa: What children?s books did you enjoy as a child?

Nadia: Picture books are hard to remember as I didn’t own any – we just went to the library every week. The Meg and Mog books stick in my mind, and I’m enjoying them again now with my son. I was a Roald Dahl devotee and got quite annoyed when I realised he was really famous and *everyone* was into him. I was also obsessed with all the Enid Blyton jolly hockey sticks books.

Hey Presto! by Nadia Shireen

Hey Presto! by Nadia Shireen

Tootsa: Our families are massive fans of your beautiful books ? have you got any new books or projects up your creative sleeve?

Nadia: Thank you very much. I’m just finishing up the artwork for my next picture book. It’s very silly. I try and make myself laugh when I draw. If I can do that, it’s usually a good sign.

Tootsa: The penguin you created for the Tootsa MacGinty jumper in aid of Refuge makes us laugh with its bemused look! We would love to meet him and find out what he is thinking! Do you have a favourite character from your books who you would like to hang out with?

Nadia: I’d like to hang out with all of them! I think the Big Bad Wolf from ‘Good Little Wolf’ would be good for a night out. Presto from ‘Hey, Presto!’ would be great at bringing me cups of tea and being bossed around. And I’d like to cuddle the Yeti.

Yeti And The Bird by Nadia Shireen

Yeti And The Bird by Nadia Shireen

Tootsa: As a former music journalist, are there any bands/artists/albums that you are listening to at the moment that you can recommend to our readers?

Nadia: I’m enjoying Sharon Van Etten’s latest album and also a band called The War On Drugs.

Tootsa: What books have you enjoyed reading recently?

Nadia: I’ve not been able to read much recently really – erm, home decorating magazines and parenting books that both conspire to make you feel inadequate.

Tootsa: Christmas is fast approaching so we have a few Christmassy questions … firstly and most importantly what are you planning on eating on Christmas day?!

Nadia: Turkey that I’ve brined for ages in loads of cosmic spices, and all the usual stuff. I like to cook in general so it’s always fun doing the Christmas meal. Potatoes are very important.

Tootsa: Do you have a favourite childhood memory of Christmas?

Nadia: My family is Pakistani so Christmas was never a huge deal in our house. My dad was a GP and he always offered to work that day so the other doctors could be with their families. We always had a nice time hanging out with family too, but it was all very casual.

Tootsa: Is there something you would love for Christmas?

Nadia: Aside from the health and happiness of my friends and family… A piano! Or a cat. Or a cat on a piano.

Tootsa: Finally, why did you choose to work with the charity Refuge?

Nadia: Refuge work with not only women in abusive relationships, but also the children who are all too often caught up in some really terrible situations. In my line of work my biggest objective is to entertain and connect with children. So it made perfect sense to me.

Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen

Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen

Buy your very own Nadia Shireen jumper and support the national domestic violence charity Refuge HERE.

Tootsa MacGInty and Nadia Shireen Christmas Jumper in aid of Refuge

Tootsa MacGInty and Nadia Shireen Christmas Jumper in aid of Refuge

To find out more about the charity and the amazing work they do visit their website.

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