Today we have something EXTRA special. Like of all the special things I’ve done, THIS is one of the ones that I think is ONE OF THE MOST SPECIAL. I preface this blog post with


So when the gorgeous humans over at Scholastic asked me if I wanted to take part in the blog tour for When I Grow Up WHO WAS I TO SAY NO? Thank you so much to Scholastic for involving me in this blog tour… it is definitely a pleasure!

‘When I Grow Up’ is one of the incredible songs. written by Tim Minchin, from the Matilda the Musical soundtrack and it has been beautifully turned into a picture book, illustrated by the incredibly talented Steve Antony. It is that very illusrator that I am hosting on my blog today and I couldn’t be happier. If you fancy a listen, click, click.


Without further ado… I hand you over to Steve Antony himselfimg_9911


It took roughly five to six months to illustrate Tim Minchin’s When I Grow Up.

“Five to six months?” I hear you say. 

On average each illustration took about one week to complete. That’s three months, and that’s not even including the cover, endpapers and title pages.

It was a team effort. I regularly met with the book’s designer, Strawberrie, and editor, Pauliina, from Scholastic UK. I also conversed with Tim, at first via Scholastic, and then personally. The teams at Scholastic USA and Scholastic Australia also touched base periodically. The person I was in contact the most was Strawberrie. She helped me immensely. 

What you see in the published book are the twelve final illustrations. These twelve illustrations make up my visual adaptation of Tim’s words and roughly took three months to finish (one week per double page spread). But what you don’t see is everything else.

By ‘everything else’ I mean the following:

You don’t see the ‘animal’ version of the story featuring a koala bear, a giraffe, a crocodile, and an elephant. In this version a cast of animals literally performed the song onstage, a bit like The Muppets would. It was self-referential and a bit tongue-in-cheek. But it all started to morph into something that didn’t feel true to the song. 

You don’t see the dual narrative version in which I illustrate the song through the eyes of an adult and a child simultaneously. The ‘adult’ narrative was in black and the white; and the ‘child’ narrative was in colour. But that all started to feel a bit depressing.

You don’t see the long fantastical dream sequences with flying books, magic trees and flying beds. In this version the three main characters climb through a hole in a tree and into a dream land of magical creatures, pirates and so on. But it didn’t feel rooted enough in reality; it was too Wizard of Ozzy.

You don’t see the ‘Sesame Street’ inspired city jaunt. I loved the idea of having these kids skipping and jumping and cartwheeling through alleys, city parks, shops and so on. But this adaptation felt too rooted in reality. 

You don’t see the countless rough developmental drawings of all the characters. Some people can draw children with their eyes closed. I am not one of those people.

You don’t see all of the colour experimentation. And there was a lot of it. Because of my colourblindness I needed to occasionally ask Strawberrie for reassurance. She helped me choose some of the colours. I started off with a limited palette, but the song needed colour. More colour. But I decided that the children should be in shades of grey so that they stand out amongst all the colourful details.

After much blood, sweet and tears, I decided that the best approach was to merge fantasy with reality; a trio of playful children imaginatively exploring what an adult will be like in a way that makes adults remember what it was like to be a child. Fortunately, everyone agreed this was the best approach. Hurray!

This developmental process took a good three months. It took another three months to draw all of the final pictures.

I wanted to add lots of symbolism, like the statue of the man and woman lifting the world, and a diverse group of children. The book is peppered with Easter eggs. 

Hopefully every child will see themselves in this book. I also included Tim, me and a certain somebody else (you can probably guess who).

The one thing I didn’t do was draw Quentin Blake’s Matilda. In fact, I didn’t include Matilda at all. Instead, there’s a little bit of Matilda in each and every child. 

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the book’s cover. Would you believe that it took around 30 attempts to find the right cover? 

Here are some of the rough developmental drawings from When I Grow Up. I hope you enjoy looking through them. I have misplaced some of my earlier drawings unfortunately. They’re probably buried somewhere in my studio.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And, remember, the next time you flick through a picture book, please don’t. Don’t flick, that is. Read. Read the pictures; they probably took an age to write.


A massive thank you again to Scholastic for having me on the blog tour, and to Steve Antony! 

If you’d like to see the rest of the incredible (and they are!) blog posts on the tour, check out them out!


A very content, S x

6 thoughts on “

  1. bridgeanneartandwriting says:

    This is fascinating and so helpful to me. As a writer I am used to knowing how long it takes to write a children’s book, but as an aspiring illustrator I despair much too quickly about my illustrations when they aren’t working, and give up, thinking I can’t do it. Thanks for reminding us how much hard work and trial and error and revisions go into a good piece of work. Your work is wonderful .


  2. hortonious101 says:

    As a newbie picture book writer this was so helpful and fascinating to read. Thank you for talking us through your process Steve, and I love the point you made at the end too. I’ll try and always remember that. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s