Friday, 11 December 2015

WIN! A copy of The Crocodolly!

Between now and January 1st you can enter the Goodreads giveaway to win a first edition hardback copy of The Crocodolly! Signed by me unless you really insist that I don't.

Enter the giveaway HERE

What they've been saying ...

"This quirky book is a delight - surprising, hilarious and brilliantly executed from the front cover to the very back. British author/illustrator McKenna has perfectly matched flamboyant illustrations to the understated text and absurd story to delight young and old.  It is a joy and pleasure to come across a book that is fresh and funny and has so much to offer. It kept me hooked right to the perfect end!" -- Creative Kids Tales

"From the creative genius who gave us The Octopuppy, we now have The Crocodolly! I laughed through every page of this book. The minimal text lets the images do the talking, and the illustrations are simply sublime. The scenes, the expressions, the little details - all perfect. Even the endpapers are worth close inspection. Martin McKenna is now on my list of favourite authors. I like the way his mind works!" -- Kids Book Review

"Highly recommended. The story of Adelaide making sure that Ozzy's skills are put to good use is a delight and the digital illustrations certainly set the scene adding a level of brilliance to the tale. The images of Ozzy in the doll clothes are priceless and those of Adelaide trying vainly to fit in with her friends and their dolls most amusing. Readers will love Adelaide and her attempts at fitting in and will applaud her problem-solving skills at the end. A crocodile frocking up! What fun." -- Read Plus

"The Crocodolly by Martin McKenna is a fabulous book! The children absolutely love the story, but I just adore the underlying message. I would suggest this as a must read for little girls, but don’t stop at reading it to your girls. My boys loved this book, and let’s be real here. Not only do we want to raise strong females that smash stereotypes, we need to be raising young men who have a multi-dimensional view of genders and don’t box males or females into narrowly prescribed gender based roles."-- Caitlin's Happy Heart

 "A very mirthful picture book that is sure to entertain young readers with its comical plot and its endearing characters. A most entertaining book." -- Children's Book Council of Australia

"This bright, glossy, loud story, full of off-beat humour is great fun. The illustrations of the trail of destruction left by Ozzy the crocodile give subtle clues as to how Adelaide’s problem will eventually be solved. Young readers will enjoy the exploits of Adelaide as Ozzy stomps, squishes and rolls his way through the book." -- Buzz Words Magazine

One of these could be yours.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Storytime Crocodolly

Here's a little Crocodolly tableau set up by the lovely folk at the Storytime children's store in Whangarei, New Zealand.

Visit the Storytime store:

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Squiggle & Curly Mark

From deep within my drawers comes this ancient doodle. It was an attempt to depict the characters of Squiggle and Curly Mark, a duo that my friend Gareth and I came up with amidst the endless amounts of other nonsense we were always inventing. Having consulted the dictionary for the definition of the word 'squiggle' for some reason that I forget, we found that it was described as 'a curly mark', and so this pair were born. I present them here, because in some ways they're an early precursor to Edgar and Jarvis in The Octopuppy.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Inside The Crocodolly

The Crocodolly is released tomorrow (available to buy now in the Scholastic store), and here's a look inside the book.

Adelaide, our little girl heroine, has a troubled past when it comes to pets.

So she takes drastic action to keep Ozzy, her new baby crocodile, a secret from the powers that be.

And it looks like she might just get away with it.

But Ozzy doesn't really help matters by growing to monstrous proportions.

Which leads to no end of bother!  What will become of poor old Ozzy?

An early review of The Crocodolly from The Children's Book Council of Australia.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Crocodolly

The Crocodolly is almost here. Well, it is here, but it's almost there too, and some other places.

Here's a photo of some advance copies which arrived today:

To set the scene a little bit, here's the blurb from the back of the book:

And, although these photos do a poor job of capturing the correct colours, here's the spine which I'm quite pleased with. I did all the cover design, with the support of the stupendous Patricia Howes at Omnibus Books:

More images of and from the book in the next few days. The Crocodolly is published by Scholastic and is released on the 1st September in Australia and New Zealand. It can be pre-ordered here and elsewhere.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The octopus genome and the evolution of cephalopod neural and morphological novelties

Octopuses have been called 'the most intelligent invertebrate', with a host of complex behaviours, and a nervous system comparable in size to that of mammals but organized in a very different manner. It had been hypothesized that, as in vertebrates, whole-genome duplication contributed to the evolution of this complex nervous system. Caroline Albertin et al. have sequenced the genome and multiple transcriptomes of the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides) and find no evidence for such duplications but there are large-scale genome rearrangements closely associated with octopus-specific transposable elements. The core developmental and neuronal gene repertoire turns out to be broadly similar to that of other invertebrates, apart from expansions in two gene families formerly thought to be uniquely expanded in vertebrates — the protocadherins (cell-adhesion molecules that regulate neural development) and the C2H2 superfamily of zinc-finger transcription factors.

The octopus genome and the evolution of cephalopod neural and morphological novelties

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Reviews roundup

Some recent reviews for The Octopuppy.

Booklist starred review June 1, 2015 issue
Edgar is eager for a puppy, but when he gets a yellow box deceptively decorated with dog bones, he’s disgruntled to discover there’s not a canine in the package but a goggle-eyed, eight-legged cephalopod named Jarvis. Jarvis’ enthusiasm for Edgar is stunning—he emerges from his box with confetti and ribbons and regales his new owner with masterful tricks, such as wearing all the shoes in the house and holding lots of ice-cream cones at once. Edgar is dead set on a dog, though, and it’s not until Jarvis follows his command to sit that he’s satisfied, and it’s off to the dog show. Can Jarvis obey like the doggie Edgar wants him to be? (Spoiler alert: no.) It takes a while, but Edgar eventually learns to value Jarvis for what he is—a brilliant creature who looks boffo in a tux and is better than any puppy. McKenna’s hilarious illustrations and uproarious page turns capture a fantastic array of cartoonish emotions, from Edgar’s furrowed-brow fury and head-hanging regret to Jarvis’ charmingly oblivious attempts to impress, all of which are obvious enough that young ones who haven’t mastered reading yet will still be able to follow along. Kiddos will chuckle over Jarvis’ antics, and they’ll be heartwarmed when Edgar finally appreciates his octopal. Superb laugh-a-minute absurdity.
Review by Sarah Hunter

Granite Media
This is one of the most wonderful books I have read in a long time! Edgar wants a puppy for his birthday, but instead he gets Jarvis, an octopus. Edgar is sorely disappointed and proceeds to train Jarvis to be a dog. Though Jarvis tries, he can’t be the dog Edgar wants him to be. In the end, Edgar learns that Jarvis is pretty fantastic just the way he is and is the perfect pet. The story has a sweet message and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this book up for a Caldecott award next year. Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Review by Teresa Edmunds, Westbrook Elementary Media Center

Portland Book Review
In Martin McKenna’s The Octopuppy, young Edgar dreams of having a dog. However, he is gifted a pet octopus instead! Edgar is not quite willing to give up on his dream and makes every effort to train Jarvis to behave like a dog. Jarvis is very intelligent, and tends to follow commands in his own unique way, much to Edgar’s chagrin. Eventually deciding he is a failure at being a dog, Jarvis runs away. It takes Jarvis’ absence to strike home to Edgar that Jarvis was not a dog, and Edgar should not have been trying to make him behave like one. Edgar begins searching all over for Jarvis, but will Jarvis hear his heartfelt apology?
The book is colorful, and has very cute illustrations that children and adults will fall in love with. There is some surprisingly morbid humor tucked inside the images as well that children will likely not notice, but may cause a chuckle from adults. For example, when Jarvis runs away he flushes himself down a toilet – something typically reserved for disposing of waste and the occasional fish funeral – and even leaves behind a farewell note. There is also a scene during Edgar’s search for Jarvis where he holds up a missing poster to a butcher standing in front of a pile of fish.
An incredibly quirky children’s book, The Octopuppy teaches children the importance of respecting the uniqueness of others, and that it isn’t always a bad thing to not have your expectations met. If you didn’t think cephalopods were cute before, The Octopuppy may change your mind! Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Review by Whitney Smyth
Most kids want a pet. Usually a dog or a cat. And Edgar is no exception with wanting a dog. Instead, he gets Jarvis, an Octopuppy. He cannot play dead, or lay down like normal dogs. No, Jarvis has to always go overboard. But Edgar still tries to take Jarvis to the dog show. But when Jarvis being Jarvis makes Edgar say something, Jarvis runs away. But soon, Edgar learns a very important lesson. The Octopuppy was a fun book to read. Martin McKenna's quirky text and readable illustrations make this a fun anytime adventure.  Review by Jeanette

Cartoony silliness captures an all-too-familiar childhood dilemma--you want one thing but get another. In "Octopuppy", McKenna's Jarvis (the eclectic octopus) is the very epitome of this NOT THE PUPPY I WANTED phenomenon. Well-placed microexpressions balance Jarvis' wild eccentricities to create one of the weirdest, best-composed picture books of the year. Review by Aubrey Restifo

Book Picks hosted by Joe Donahue, review by Suzanna Hermans from Oblong Books & Music

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Octopuppy Storytime event

If you're near Enfield, Connecticut this Friday, May 15, you could join in the fun and activities surrounding The Octopuppy at Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Friday May 15, 2015 7:00 PM

Barnes & Noble, Enfield Commons, 25 Hazard Ave, Enfield, CT 06082

The Octopuppy Storytime

Another Octopuppy Storytime event is being held at Barnes & Noble, Newington, New Hampshire on Tuesday 19 May.

Monday, 30 March 2015


The Octopuppy trade paperback is out now in Australia and New Zealand, published by Omnibus Books / Scholastic Australia, and available in the Scholastic store.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

WIN a copy of The Octopuppy!

Scholastic Inc. USA are giving away 10 copies of the new US hardback edition of The Octopuppy. The giveaway is on Goodreads, and is open now to US readers, running until April 8.

Goodreads Octopuppy Giveaway

I hope you can enter. Good luck!

The US edition is released on Mar 31, and can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and local booksellers.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


Here's something green for St. Patrick's Day. A sneaky peek at my new book The Crocodolly - or at least, a couple of development drawings I did for it. One shows a wee Ozzy the croc in a test of his 'dolly' outfit. And one showing a more grown up version, being pushed along by our little girl heroine, Adelaide.

The Crocodolly is published by Scholastic in September.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

O Polvocão

A look at the cover of the Portuguese language edition of The Octopuppy, translated by Janice Florido and published in Brazil by the fine folk at Saber e ler, and here's a link to their site. A big thank you to Samara Krauss.

Saber e ler

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Crocodolly

Happy World Book Day!

To celebrate, my new book The Crocodolly was given its world premier in an exclusive preview at Washingborough Academy's 'Bedtime Storytime' event this evening, conceived and hosted by the extraordinary and remarkable Miss Q. The response to The Crocodolly from the capacity crowd of about two hundred children and parents was overwhelmingly positive. It seems they loved it. Very encouraging, and quite a relief that it's been so well received by its first audience. 

The Crocodolly will be published by Omnibus Books / Scholastic later this year. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Entre Chien et Poulpe

A look at the cover of the French language edition of The Octopuppy, translated by Laura Derajinski and published in hardback by the fine folk at Éditions Père Fouettard, and here's a link to their site. Also a link to La cabane de Suzon, as well as, where the book is now available!

Éditions Père Fouettard

La cabane de Suzon

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Saturday, 7 February 2015

The Octopuppy now on Amazon

The Octopuppy is now in Amazonian waters, the US hardcover available for pre-order. It's released on March 31.

The Kindle edition will be released on April 28.

Pre-order on Amazon.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

I say

The first Octopuppy post in ages!  Doesn't time fly?  Things have been pretty spectacularly busy, and I've been very bad at putting anything online about any of it, as usual.  One thing is that I've finished work on my next picture book, The Crocodolly.  News about that before long.  As for this post, it's mainly to say that a new paperback edition of The Octopuppy is released in Australia & New Zealand in March, and here's what the cover looks like.

Trade paperback, March 2015

Unless I get swept off again on further unlikely adventures, I'll attempt to post picture book news more regular, like.