Vicky Woodgate has been a commercial artist for over 20 years. She has travelled the globe working on exciting projects in the TV, film and theme park industries. In 2017, Vicky wrote and illustrated her first book, Urban Jungle, which was longlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year Award in 2018. Since then, she has published A World of Birds, A World of Dinosaurs, The Magic of Sleep and her latest book, The Magic of Seasons. The Magic of Sleep was longlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards in 2022 and shortlisted for the Junior Design Awards in 2021. We absolutely love The Magic of Sleep and its follow-up, The Magic of Seasons, and were delighted to chat to Vicky about both of these beautiful books.
How do you get the ideas for your books?
They tend to seed in my head while I am out walking, or maybe something topical gives me an idea. I then jot the ideas down - let them stew, then come back to the ones I think could work.
Are there more titles in the 'Magic of' series planned?
YES! Mimi will be back. ☺
It looks like an enormous amount of research has gone into both projects. How long did you spend researching each book?
Wow yes, a long time. But luckily I LOVE researching. With The Magic of Sleep, I spent a good couple of months before we pitched to publishers, followed by a couple of months once I had signed with DK; it was a deep subject! The Magic of Seasons took, once again, a few months. Luckily, I received a research grant from the Society of Authors for the seasons book. This was fantastic and enabled me to spend more time doing what I love best, researching (and looking at YouTube, haha - honestly, it wasn’t all cat videos!).
Mimi is based on your cats Moka and Mimi. Were they siblings? Can you tell us a bit about them?
Yes, they were indeed siblings. They were born in a little village on the east coast of Spain. We lived in the same street for a while as an awesome female cat who would visit us. She became pregnant and the owner offered us Mimi, her little daughter, but when we spotted her brother Moka, who was a bit of a rascal, we had to adopt him too. They came back to the UK with us and ruled our house for nearly 18 years! We lost Mimi first and Moka very recently. But they continue to live through our 'Magic of' Mimi books.
There are so many activities in The Magic of Seasons! How did you find them all and have you done many of them yourself?
Oh, I had SO many more, but we had to cut them down to fit in the book. Well, I frequently go on bug hunts and when it does snow, try and stop me creating a snow angel. Discovering animal tracks might be my favourite.
Have you travelled to many of the countries or experienced many of the seasons mentioned in The Magic of Seasons?
I have been lucky enough to travel around the world and did experience summer in Australia, winter in the United States, and wet season in Fiji - HOT rain! But without a doubt, midsummer in Sweden has to be my favourite.
We love how you reimagine famous people as cats in both books. Was this lots of fun?
Oh yes, this might be the best part of the book for me, and I specifically look at what famous person would work best as a cat!
Is it difficult to present facts in such an entertaining way?
Not at all. I love humour and think it really is the best way to grip a reader, be they young or old, especially in nonfiction. I hope it breaks down reading barriers.
What did you find most challenging about writing and illustrating each book?
Probably starting... then once I get my page plan, rough drawings finished, it's away I go.
Do you have a favourite fact from either book?
I think in The Magic of Sleep, it has to be that some Japanese people believe if you can’t sleep, it’s because you are awake in someone else’s dream - eek!
And in The Magic of Seasons, it's that the Eiffel Tower in Paris grows 15 cm in the summer! It shrinks again in winter.
Do you have a favourite page or illustration from either book?
Yeah, it’s got to be the famous cats.☺
The Magic of Seasons feels like a celebration of, and a beautiful tribute to, the natural world. Are you someone who has an enormous affinity with nature?
Absolutely! I grew up in the countryside, my father was a countryside ranger and we had an assortment of wildlife creatures to look after. Once we hosted an injured jackdaw, called Jack - obviously. He used to steal my jewellery and my sandwiches. We spent most of our childhood outside. When I went travelling, my main priority was to visit a rainforest. It did not disappoint.
Did you enjoy fact books as a kid and/or what were your favourite books when you were younger?
Yes, absolutely - I was obsessed with Captain Cook! I remember fondly my Ladybird book on him; I read it until it fell apart. Lots of fabulous encyclopaedias too, however; the diversity of non-fiction books today for children is staggering. I wish we had had those choices!
Have you always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books?
Actually, no. I’ve come to this a bit late. I worked in TV, film and theme parks as an artist, then I moved into publishing as an illustrator working for newspapers and magazines. However; in 2016 I came up with the idea for my first book, Urban Jungle, and I haven’t stopped since - I LOVE IT!
Have you any advice for aspiring authors and illustrators?
Write what you have a passion for. If you illustrate keep drawing - personal projects are so valuable - that’s what lead me to start my career in books. Thanks so much to Vicky for answering all of our questions and for sharing her gorgeous books with us! We can't wait to see more of Mimi and more magical facts too. Read our review of The Magic of Sleep Read our review of The Magic of Seasons