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Ashley Spires is the creator of the Binky The Space Cat series of junior graphic novels, which have earned her numerous awards, including the Silver Birch Express and the Hackmatack. I recently received several of her books that include Binky, Larf, Small Saul and her latest The Most Magnificent Thing. I love the illustrations in all of the books which come to find out she is also the illustrator of. With 14 books in her line up, each book looks cuter than the next. Make sure to read my review of her book, The Most Magnificent Thing.
Saul loves the water, but was unable to join the Navy so he joined the next best thing…Pirate College. But being rough and tough just isn’t in his nature. He was born to sing sea shanties, bake pineapple upside down cakes and redecorate, not to hold a sword and plunder. Saul managed to graduate from Pirate College and set off to find a crew to join. Small Saul learned at Pirate College that pirates only care about three things: their ship, being tough and lots and lots of treasure. So he decides that he must show the crew that he is sea worthy. Just because Saul is Small and doesn’t quite fit as the typical pirate, he does become a pirate in his own special way.
This book is geared for kids ages 3-7. I was drawn toward the illustrations in this book as I have been for all of her books. This book not only teaches kids about acceptance but also about being true to themselves especially from others who may think twice about your quirks.
No one believes Larf exists, and he likes it that way. Larf, you see, is a sasquatch, the only sasquatch in the world (or so it seems). He has a very pleasant, and very private, life in the woods, where on any given day he might be found jogging, gardening or walking Eric, his pet bunny. But everything changes one morning when Larf discovers that another sasquatch is scheduled to make an appearance in the nearby city of Hunderfitz. That must mean he’s not the only sasquatch in the world! Excited by the prospect of having a friend to share hair grooming tips with (and let’s face it, teeter-tottering alone is no fun), Larf disguises himself as a city slicker and heads for Hunderfitz. But when Larf meets the other sasquatch, he is in for a big surprise.
This book is geared for kids 3-7. The illustrations were on the cuter side, Larf was not made to look like the big harry ugly sasquatch that sasquatches are usually portrayed.
The Binky Series is geared for kids ages 7-10 and are in graphic novel form, think comic books. Binky the Space Cat is Ashley’s first in the Binky Series. My 7 year old was able to follow along and read these in no time.
Binky is a space cat – at least in his own mind. He’s really a house cat who has never left the family “space station.” Unlike other house cats, Binky has a mission: to blast off into outer space (outside), explore unknown places (the backyard) and battle aliens (bugs). Binky must undergo rigorous training so he can repel the alien attacks that threaten his humans. As he builds his spaceship, he must be extremely careful with his blueprints – the enemy is always watching. Soon Binky is ready to voyage into outer space. His humans go out there every day and he’s sure they need a certified space cat to protect them. But just as he’s about to blast off with his co-pilot, Ted (stuffed mousie), Binky realizes that he’s left something very important behind. Find out in the book!
While in hot pursuit of an alien invader (a bug), Binky accidentally falls out the space station porthole (bathroom window) and finds himself in outer space (outside) for the very first time. But just as Binky begins to explore, he discovers that his copilot, Ted (stuffed mousie), is trapped beneath an enemy warship (wasps’ nest)! Binky must rescue Ted from the clutches of these evil aliens.
Ashley Spires Interview
I want to thank Ashley for giving us a peek into her creative world…
TRW: What inspires you to create the characters in your books, like Larf and Binky?
AS: My initial inspiration for most of my characters comes from something external, whether that be my cat, a story I was told or a silly drawing that I doodled in my sketchbook. But, somewhere along the way, parts of me fall into them and they become a mixture of what’s outside me and what’s inside me. All of my characters are partly autobiographical; for example, Larf’s body hair grooming issues. All me.
TRW: How did you get started in writing and illustrating? Is it something you always wanted to do?
AS: I always wanted to be an animator, and I would still love to see my work animated (ahem, Pixar, ahem), but I never really considered children’s books until I took a class at university that was taught by author and illustrator Celia King. Making books and silly stories for that class felt so right that I still haven’t stopped doing it.
TRW: Which comes first, the story or the image of the character that inspires a story?
AS: That depends on the story. With The Binky Adventures and Small Saul, the character sketches came first. In those cases, the ideas were accidents that came from silly drawings that I did for fun. With Larf and The Most Magnificent Thing, I had the ideas for the stories first and had to search through many different character sketches to find the right looks for my main characters.
TRW: What Authors or Illustrators inspire you? What are some of your favorite books?
AS: Oh boy, that’s a big question! I would say Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes is the reason I write and illustrate. His clever and shocking retelling of fairy tales is still one of my favorites. When it comes to picture books, these days I think David Roberts is the most inspiring illustrator out there. Oliver Jeffers, Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault are amazing as well. I just read Kate DiCamillo’s Flora and Ulysses and it was divine. Definitely one of my new favorites.
TRW: What advice would you give someone starting out who hopes to one day be published?
AS: Be patient. Which is silly advice for me to offer since I’m so impatient when it comes to my career. I want to work NOW! But it really pays off to do your research. Look around to see which companies use your style of illustration. Read many books to see if your story idea has been done before. Be open to criticism and lots of it. No book is perfect the first time it comes out of your head. Put some trust in the people who will read your work and listen to their advice. They are, more often than not, annoyingly right.
What question would you ask Ashley? You never know, she may stop by and answer!