Ian Whybrow

…coming soon…

Meanings and the Distracting Muse. Friday 16th January, 2015

January 16, 2015 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

It’s been a while. Other things to do and nothing much to say. Anyway, today I was eating my cereal, half listening to the unwelcome news on Radio 4’s Today Programme. And feeling the need for distraction, I turned to look properly at the past-their-best arrangement of flowers on the table in front of me. Ranunculus, tulips and anenomes. Lovely.

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Ranunculus brought homunculus into my head and the line O my homunculus! Who was that – e e cummings? No… Sylvia Plath! She was admiring the cut on her thumb. I felt an urge to do something with ranunculus and homunculus, neither of which I was certain I could spell – which meant Googling them. Turns out that the latter is a little man and there is even a alchemist’s recipe for making one by transferring human sperm from a cucurbit into a mare’s womb and keeping an eye on it for 40 weeks. Suddenly I was seeing the ranunculus in front of me as a beautiful yellow miniature brain. The challenge to write a miniature verse was evolving, one just big enough to tweet. (Publishers are always telling you to keep tweeting. And Holly, my niece who knows about these things.) How about one with cucurbit in? Now there’s an exotic beauty, hitherto unencountered by yours truly.

Time to check out ranunculus. It means “little frog”! It’s one of the buttercup family and those are the sort of flowers that are always popping up by ponds!

And suddenly there it was, my verse for the day. I dash for the iPad to take a photo and tweet the thing. Couldn’t get the proper Blakean title in, though; too many characters. Had to call it “Froglet” instead. There’s obscure, bach. I wonder if anyone will bother to look up cucurbit, ranculus and homunculus to unlock the verse?

Doubt it; too much going on out there for anyone to be distracted by a small frog. And now, having been distracted by writing all this down, it’s going to be a hell of a job getting back to the book I’m supposed to be getting on with …

Little Frog, who made you?

In what secret cucurbit

Did the alchemist see fit

To grow you, sweet ranculus,

Instead of a homunculus?



January 6, 2014: A charming huff and puff

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More from the team that wowed with the Russian version of “Little Wolf’s Book of Badness”.  Here’s another charming huff and puff for “Little Wolf’s Diary of Daring Deeds” with notes from Nikolay about what Nastya is enthusing about. Isn’t she wonderful?


Dear Ian,
I found another video from Nastia Morozova) She tells about the book Diary of Daring Deeds. Nastya shows pages from the book, tells about author, illustr., publishing house and announces meeting with new heroes – the brothers of Little Wolf and Mr.Fox.
In this book she liked the moment when LW and his brother changed into a ghost to scare Mr. Fox. But frightened yourself!
In the end of speech she gives answers to previous questions. And also sets new questions!)

January 3rd, 2014. Happy New Ears from Russia

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I’ve just received another irresistible email from Nikolay Vorontsov, the illustrator of the Russian translation of the  Little Wolf series. The video he found on the web is so captivating in its performance that it breaks the language barrier.

Incidentally, LW himself was so delighted by it that he roused himself from a nice cosy hibernate to write a short article for Wolf Weekly – for which he is the Agony Nephew.
Here’s a link to this on my website page to this venerable vulpine  publication.

Happy New Ears!

Greetings Ian!

This is video I found on the network.
Little Russian girl Nastya talks about his favorite books. Among these books is the book about the adventures of Little Wolf.
Here she shows the first book, calls its authors, writer and artist. Then he reports Little Wolf, his adventures. Speak some of his letters to his parents. At the finish Nastya asks questions based on the book:

You know the rules of 9 badness Uncle Wolf?
Why burst uncle?
Which school has decided to open Little Wolf?

Very fun girl!))

December 12th 2013 A Small Russian Wolf

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I was thrilled to get an email today from Воронцов Николай – or, if like me you struggle a bit with Russian – Nikolay Vorontsov. He was chosen (about 8 years ago) to illustrate the Russian translation of my Little Wolf series and is keen to collaborate with something new. The book has been translated into about 30 other languages and in every other case with the fabulous illustrations by Tony Ross, the ones that were used to make the Channel 4 cartoon of “Little Wolf’s Book of Badness”. So that gives you an idea of how popular Nikolay is in his homeland.
What I love about the Vorontsov illustrations is the way they sometimes combine cartoon with montage and generally create a sense of mischief bordering on anarchy that, in England anyway, is generally reserved for graphic novels pitched at an older readership.
Here’s LW scribbling away (and surrealistically in control of his creator)


And here’s Mr Twister making a run for it. Check out the tortoise-tank.


There’s always a heck of a lot going on. How about this for a money’s-worth frontispiece to “Little Wolf: Terror of the Shivery Sea”?


December 9th 2013, 6.43 pm. Latest from the Maidan in Kiev

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This just landed in my Inbox from a translator of children’s books in Ukraine, a gentle soul. Please pass the message on.

Dear friends!

Tonight the Government plan to break up the peaceful demonstrations in Kyiv. There are thousands of soldiers and police on the streets. They have weapon and they are ready for everything.

Please do turn on TV tomorrow, do discuss it with colleagues when you’ll go to work. Ask your own Governments how they can help Ukrainians.

God, help us.

Volodymyr Chernyshenko

Volodymyr Chernyshenko's profile photo

9th December 2013. Time for some change.

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This time of year I think about Ernie Webb. The caretaker at a school where I taught for many years, he was one of those people who knew how to cheer you up. A cabinet maker by trade, he could fix anything – and if you had had a problem at home that required a joiner’s skills, he’d be round at the drop of a hat. “Move steadily in the path of duty,” he’s say, adding with a nod of the head, “Walter Scott.”

One of his favourites was:

“Let us then be up and doing

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labour and to wait.”

And that’s what he did, with evident satisfaction and apparent happiness. How he would have annoyed Lord Sugar, not being in the least bit self-opinionated or on the make. When he died, he left me his autograph books and one of the first children’s books in print – “Rosamond – or The Purple Jar”, all of which I cherish.

It was only when I looked at the autograph books that I understood where all the quaint improving saws came from. One of them was given to him by the mother who was forced by need to give him up to Barnado’s in the late 1920s. He had only kind things to say about her and about the people who looked after him at the children’s home where he and his sister were sent – which is why I save my pennies for them. It’s amazing how many 1/2/5/10/20 and 50p pieces you can accumulate without realising it in the course of a year. I found £32.74p in the jar by my bed and handed it over today to the Barnado’s outlet in Pinner – in memory of an inspiring craftsman, an honest labourer and a proper gent.


December 5th, 2013. News from Ukraine

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In the last couple of days I’ve been getting news from the Maidan in Kiev about the brutal treatment of pro-European protesters. While it’s always difficult to get a neutral picture of the political situation in any part of the world, and whilst it is evident that many Ukrainians fear change, there can be no justification for state brutality against protest on the scale which one hears reported, or for the silencing of anti-government voices.
Here’s the latest cri de coeur from my publisher in Lviv which is a six-hour drive to the East of Kiev. Please take a little time to read what she says and perhaps to pass it on.

Dear friends!

You must have already heard about the events that have engulfed Ukraine. We are neither the politicians nor the government representatives: we are publishers, writers, illustrators, and translators of children’s literature, and, as conscientious people, we cannot remain silent. We consider it our duty to do everything possible to bring the truth to the people of the World about the events in Ukraine.

We are not asking for sympathy, but we are asking for publicity. Please tell the truth about EuroMaidan (details available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Ukraine_pro-European_Union_protests) in Ukraine and urge your government to respond to the events in our country, because the threat of a totalitarian dictatorship in Ukraine is a real and imminent danger for the whole European community.

A terrible totalitarian scenario of the brutal destruction of a democracy is currently unfolding in Ukraine. The peaceful demonstration in support of a free-trade deal with the European Union was not successful – the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych did not sign the deal at a two-day summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

During the night of November 30th the officers of the special police security forces “Berkut” attacked protesters and committed atrocities against Ukrainian citizens. They severely beat young people and journalists. Consider the fact that the president did not react to this brutality immediately, but waited as long as sixteen hours (!).

The bloodshed of the defenseless students caused the enormous ensuing wave of the people’s resistance. We are a very peaceful and patient nation. We have allowed the oligarchic clans to desecrate our country which they systematically plundered, and to abuse the people, who were absolutely defenseless and disempowered within the imposed political and social system. But the blood of our children raised the whole country in an uproar. About seven hundred thousand people came for the manifestation (a peaceful protest) in Kyiv, and thousands more were also simultaneously protesting at many EuroMaidans in other cities of Ukraine. This peaceful resistance was discredited by a group of provocateurs who had no relation to the peaceful protests. Once again, blood was shed.

And now, the government has started to initiate persecutions against peaceful protesters. The members of opposition were unable to convince the parliament, in which most of the seats are taken by the representatives of the pro-government parliamentarians, to dismiss the current government. This regime is doing everything to keep the power in its hands.
The Ukrainian President and his government did not just betray their people; they act like criminals who do not respect the law. Social activists were beaten mercilessly by the security forces, imprisoned, and falsely accused as provocateurs and instigators. Many of them are well-known in the cultural circles. They are: Mykola Lazarevsky, an architect; Valerij Harahuts, a social activist and a journalist; Yuri Bolotov, a former director of the most famous Ukrainian rock band Okean Elzy, and many others. At the same time, none of the security forces were prosecuted. None! And the wave of persecutions against innocent people is picking up.

Dear friends, please listen to us! The best people of the Ukrainian nation are standing on the Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) in the center of Kyiv. These are professors, writers, singers, artists, educators, and doctors – the people of many professions. Ruslana Lyzhychko, a winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2004 and a World Music Award winning and MTV Europe Music Award recipient is out there day and night, as a true heroine who inspires the people. By her side is Sashko Polozhynsky, a famous Ukrainian singer.
Please support us! Otherwise, the government will destroy us!
We are adding some information from the mass media to support our request.

Maryana Savka, Editor in Chief of the Old Lion Publishing House,
the collective of the Publishing House
and the group of its authors, translators, editors and illustrators


November 21st. A few days before the European summit in Vilnius the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine suspend its plans to sign far-reaching political and trade agreements with the European Union. The decision is officially announced by the Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov.

November 21st, evening. Soon after the announcement Ukrainians manage to raise the protest against the governmental decision via social networks, and in nearly 10 p.m. the first rally starts in Kyiv in Independence Square. Later on there are more than 1500 people there, mostly journalists, public activists, leaders of the political opposition.EuroMaidans are also organized in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk, Kharkiv, Khmelnytsk and Uzhhorod.

On the night of 21 to 22 of November in Independence Square in Kiev only several activists remain. But onNovember 22nd the number of protesters increases. The rally continues and attracts about 3.000 to 5.000 thousand people. Meanwhile, EuroMaidans occur in Vinnitsa, Donetsk, Krivyy Rih, Sumy, Kharkiv and Chernivtsi.

November 24th. More than 100 thousand Ukrainians take part in a great march and a rally in Kyiv in Independence Square. The march ends with EuroMaidan.

The protest movement continues. Similar rallies occur all over Ukraine. The number of people joining to the movement grows daily.

November 27-28th. Protesters try to draw international attention to the matter and apply the petition about “imposing personal sanctions against president Yanukovych” to the U.S. government. During 2.5 days the petition: “To impose personal sanctions against the President of Ukraine Viktor F. Yanukovych and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine” has gathers the necessary 100,000 signatures and is taking onto consideration by U.S government.

November 29th. President Viktor F. Yanukovych fails to sign the association agreement at the summit in Vilnius. Rallies continue:

During the night of November 30th hundreds officers of the special police security forces “Berkut” attacke protesters and committed atrocities against Ukrainian citizens. They brutally beat unarmed youth, including girls, journalists and public activists who stay in Independence Square. Some of the victims manage to hide themselves inSt. Michele Cathedral in Mykhaylivska Square. During the next day spontaneous rally occurs by the walls of the cathedral.

A half an hour before the attack of “Berkut”:

A fragment of the attack of “Berkut”:

After the battering of the EuroMaidan: thousands of people are injured, nearly twenty people are missing.

The President of Ukraine reacts on the bloodshed in the capital of Ukraine only 16 hours after it. And still nobody ispunished for giving the order to batter peaceful EuroMaidan in such a violent way, and for executing it.
November 30th. There are several thousands of discontented people in Mykhaylivska Square. 10 EU ambassadors also join the rally. People go into the streets to support EuroMaidan and to show their protest against the unjustified violence of “Berkut” in Independence Square.

December 1st. Nearly 1 million people from all over Ukraine gather in the center of Kyiv for a peaceful protest againstthe willfulness of the authorities.

Intense clashes between the police forces and the protesters take part around the president’s office in Bankova Street.The mayhem is caused by provocateurs as the protesters and their leaders emphasized on the peacefulness of all theiractions. During the assault onto the president’s office several Ukrainian and international journalists suffer from police violence.

December 2nd. All-Ukrainian strike is held. Protesters demand the resignation of the Ukrainian government and impeachment of the president.

The authorities repress those boys and girls who took part in peaceful protest and had already suffered from “Berkut”.

December 3rd. Freedom House summons to impose sanctions against Viktor F. Yanukovych and his sons.

December 4th. Ukrainian police opens 53 criminal cases against the participant of EuroMaidan.

Disinformation about the violent bloodshed in the night of November 30 spreads via official Ukrainian official media channels. The authorities try to represent the events in entirely different light, blaming peaceful protesters in provocations and charging them with illegal actions. Legal prosecution of “Berkut” victims has already started.

December, my father in his sailor suit and this russet

December 3, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment


There are eight sailors in the photograph.

At centre left, Tom Johnson sits, the groom,

On ten days’ leave, just off The Commodore,

Holding the hand of Alice Bunce, his bride.


Seated beside his brother, scowling Jack,

By Ernie, Florry, Walter, Queenie, Will,

My father Edward waits, just ten years old.

Cross-legged, open-mouthed, intent,

He’s looking through the camera at me.


1913 it is, the Great War yet to break.

He wears his sailor uniform with pride,

Just as he will for over thirty years.

Dead now, he and the other sailors swing

Swing in their hammocks in the dark and wait.


The russet apple, sandy in my hand

Gives as it turns. The skin unwinds unbroken

Just as he said it should. The flesh, unmarked

Is spongy to the touch. The taste is nutty

And a little strange. Of all the apples

Russets pleased him most. He loved them more

Even than Worcesters, for their oddity.


So, each December we meet quietly;

I look at him as he stares out at me.

I think he knew these meeting-times would come.

I raise my russet like a tot of rum.

Ian Whybrow

November 27th 2013. The Semi-Optimist

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There’s always one more squeeze of toothpaste,

One scrape of the marmalade jar;

There’s always one left in the After-Eight box…

But where are the keys of my car?

November 24th 2013. How time flies when one has fun, says Estragon.

November 24, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

Two weeks since I bothered to blog and hardly a Tweet out of me. Cyclones and other tragedies have rocked us all; banking scandals; another crook who knows how to smile and smile and be a villain; another momentary triumph for the England cricket team – another collapse. I have had nothing worth saying about those things and have felt the hot flush of shame that comes with a heightened awareness that blogs are just self-aggrandizing blah.

I blame this idleness and debilitating self-consciousness not only on a bubbling cough and a lingering cold, but on that feverish state one gets into when one starts to walk about in the parallel bubble that is a gestating book, a fever devoutly to be wished by a writer.  I’ve spent hours on the phone talking tweaks and illustrations; and that’s fun. I have been to the odd lovely supper with friends, a companionable drinks party; I’ve felt very welcome doing a turn in a school; I’ve squirted Nivea moisturizer on to my toothbrush and amused self and my wife no end.

Among other pleasant moments, I recall:

our choir’s first rehearsal – the world premier, no less – of my one and only carol. That was something special, at once terrifying and thrilling.

Amelie, my granddaughter’s ,ecstatic  immersion in her school play, as a wiggling, Blue-handed Jumbly.

A tribute to Seamus Heaney in a full house at the Royal Festival Hall: how deeply moving and inspirational it was to hear his work read as at a wake by mourning, admiring friends, most of them fine poets themselves.  And more spine tingling even that the haunting, echoing, overlapping skeins of the music of fiddles and pipes and tin whistles – the reading by a shock-haired, impassioned Edna O’Brien of the poem about the discovery in a bog of the mummified body of a young girl executed for adultery, the rope still round her neck to call our attention to all the poor things murdered before and since by fearful, posturing hypocritical tribal bigots in the name of God.

And an unexpected lunch yesterday at The Great House in Lavenham.   Book now! There simply cannot be a more delicious, cosseting, civilized, Epicurean means of passing a few dreamy hours – than to savour new flavours at an elegant table among attentive French waiters in a Suffolk village of exceptional  beauty.