Stuck in the mud


Jack’s Worry is published today!

Jack’s Worry, my second picture book as author/illustrator, is out today!  (in the US at least. Those in the UK will have to wait until early May…)

Jack's Worry Cover 900

It’s somewhat of a landmark book for me as it’s the first one without the word ‘No’ in the title (see The Nowhere Box and Nobody’s Perfect).

Here’s what the reviews are saying:

“Zuppardi successfully describes a universal fear and provides a simple mind-set that even a preschooler can use to help overcome that fear.”
—School Library Journal

“Ideal antidote for anxious kids facing their own Worries.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Performing in a first musical concert can be a nerve-wracking experience, as Zuppardi has artfully visualized…The acrylic-and-pencil illustrations truly transmit the amorphous nature of worrying, using convincing facial and body language, followed by huge happy smiles portraying a joyful resolution.”

“Scribbly pencils and expressive bursts of paint readily capture the big, intense emotions Jack is feeling.”
—Publishers Weekly

Vote for the Crystal Kite Award

Two of my books – The Nowhere Box and The-Tell Tale Start – have been entered for the annual Crystal Kite Award, run by and for members of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  Admittedly I didn’t have to do much to qualify, other than get published last year. Nonetheless, if you’re a member of SCBWI and you fancy casting your vote in support of either book (and yes, other books are also available) then follow this link. The first round of voting closes on Friday so do hurry…

And to tug at your heartstrings here’s a really sweet photo I was sent today of a boy called Alex, who was given a copy of The Nowhere Box recently, as well as a real box of his very own. He’s definitely going places. Thank you for sending this in!

The Nowhere Box

The Superman Leap

The Superman Leap, a pivotal moment in the life of most small children, is that poignant moment when a small child realises there are some things they will never attain; the moment when they realise their vision may exceed their abilities and that things they thought they could do prove sadly unachievable.

In literal terms the child launches itself off some domestic ledge or precipice in the unconscious belief that a) they are invincible b) they will fly.  Coming painfully back to earth, both literally and symbolically, the resultant injuries serve as a stark reminder that some things just cannot be. It is a moment that sees the world of the child shrink – slightly but profoundly and irrevocably – as the fantastical makes way for the actual. A fundamental and hugely disappointing readjustment to reality must be made, one which is no less shocking for its inevitability. The child must come to terms with what is, and not what it can imagine being so. It must negotiate this human frailty for the rest of its life.

A child rarely makes a true Superman Leap twice.

I recently had the privilege of witnessing a Superman Leap in all its glory – off the edge of a green sofa – and felt it necessary to document the moment in the interests of future scientific research into child development and infantile neurology, to which areas I trust my discovery will be of some value. I attach a diagram below.

Superman Leap




One More Post from The Museum of Childhood

The third and final instalment from the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh. This week – a couple of glum dolls.

Sad Sack Doll


This one was so odd, it wasn’t clear what he was supposed to be, and he had this expression of total bewilderment, as if surprised at how he’d turned out – perhaps wondering if he was exactly what had been intended. 


elephant doll


There was something really settled and comfortable about this elephant, like it had flopped into place and would not be moving any time soon. The kind of going-nowhere position you only really get to adopt on Sunday afternoons. It was a shame it didn’t look happier though. 

More from the Museum of Childhood

A couple more dolls from the museum. This week – scary ones.

Nightmare Doll

This was a nightmare doll – genuinely one of the most frightening baby dolls I think I’ve ever seen. The sketch barely captures it. Something about the huge billowing gown made it look like it was floating demonically, and it’s tiny little head seemed all out of proportion. The idea of putting this in a baby’s cradle sends shivers down my spine.  

Bone Doll

This one is perhaps not scary as such, more halfway between poignant and unsettling: it was an animal bone wrapped in a cloth. This was a doll stripped of all superfluous elements and reduced to the most basic elements of symbolic association. Somewhere a child without a ‘proper’ doll had turned this into their toy. It seemed a striking example of childhood’s ability to look beyond surface and the superficial trappings of appearance  and find a symbolic resonance in the most mundane of objects – using whatever might be to hand. The doll itself seemed at once immensely enigmatic, as well as full of pathos and a with hint of the macabre – for me it was perhaps the most affecting doll of them all.

The Museum of Childhood

Last time I was in Edinburgh I happily chanced across a place called The Museum of Childhood, which turned out to be quite amazing inside. It was free to get in and I’d somehow expected a rather sorry single room of lacklustre knick-knacks. Instead, there was room upon room of all manner of ephemera relating to childhood – not least a ton of old toys. My favourite room was packed with shelf after shelf of dolls of all shapes and sizes – about 90% of them horribly sinister. I was inspired to do some sketching of my favourites, some of which I later painted, and which I hope to share with you over the coming weeks.

Ragged Queen Anne Doll

This doll was apparently of a standard type known as the ‘Queen Anne Doll.’ It looked battered, dishevelled and so thoroughly unimpressed I was inspired to draw it. I love the way toys like this, designed to evoke childhood play and to be companions for children, appear so cynical, unfriendly and all-round fed up. I think it’s this strange and often inadvertent  balance between the friendly and the sinister that I find so appealing about dolls. It’s as though their maker had one role in mind for them, but in the course of being made and being out in the world they have somehow taken on their own, very different character. 

Tall Doll

I couldn’t work out what this doll was supposed to be dressed as or why, but it seemed as though, as a character, she would have an intriguing and mysterious story behind her. Again, she was half sinister, half appealing. 


The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

This was another scene from Carson McCullers’ book The Heart is a Lonely Hunter that really stood out. It’s one of those tragic moments when idle childish games suddenly lead to serious, grown-up consequences, and everything changes forever.


‘Bubber had put his slingshot in his pocket and now he played with the rifle. Spareribs was ten years old and his father had died the month before and this had been his father’s gun. All the smaller kids loved to handle that rifle. Every few minutes Bubber would haul the gun up to his shoulder. He took aim and made a low pow sound.

‘Don’t monkey with the trigger,’ said Spareribs, ‘I got the gun loaded.’ …

‘Lookit,’ said Bubber suddenly. ‘Here comes Baby again. She sure is pretty in the pink costume.’

            Baby walked towards them slowly. She had been given a prize box of popcorn candy and was reaching in the box for the prize. She walked in that same prissy, dainty way. You could tell that she knew that they were all looking at her.

            ‘Please Baby, -‘ Bubber said when she started to pass them. ‘Lemme see your little pink pocket-book and touch your pink costume.’

            Baby started humming a song to herself and did not listen. She passed by without letting Bubber play with her. She only ducked her head and grinned at him a little.

            Bubber still had the big rifle up to his shoulder. He made a loud pow sound and pretended like he had a shot… He was too quick for Mick to stop him. She had just seen his hand on the trigger when there was the terrible ping of the gun.’