W&P's roving reporter Sarah Broadley talks to Rikin Parekh about flying tigers, flexing his illustrator muscles and working with BAFTA-winning authors.

Your first written AND illustrated picture book, Fly, Tiger, Fly, published to much acclaim last year, what was it like to work on a project on your own rather than as a collaboration? 


Working on and creating my first ever written and illustrated picture book was not only a dream come true, but a HUGE learning curve. I had the story already written around ten years back, where the tiger was actually a monster, and it was by sheer luck all those years later when I got my wonderful agent (Claire Cartey), that out of some portfolio work, she stumbled on the idea of a tiger wanting to fly! I found it very interesting because I was my own art director and I was also trying to put in all that I had dreamt of in the drawings. I made many storyboards, had editorial personnel changes and then deadline changed but overall, it was a sheer joy to work on!

You have worked with many writers over the years, from your very first partnership to what you're working on now, what has changed for you? Do you approach your work and the relationship with each author differently?


From working with the very small handful of writers, I think not much seems to have changed! From my first partnership to my most current one, I seem to have been given quite a lot of artistic freedom, and I think that's a good sign that I'm doing something right! I try to understand each project and writer with as much enthusiasm, and above all love, as possible, because I'm being given the highest accolade to illustrate something that they've spent a long time creating and nurturing.


From alpacas to tigers and beyond – animals can play a pivotal role in children's books. As an illustrator, what do you find the most difficult part of bringing each one to life? Are you given a brief, or do you just see where the pencil/pens/paints take you?


I think possibly one of the most difficult things to bring to the animals is drawing their faces in such a way that I can remember how to draw them in various stages and emotions! I am given a brief, usually it's a character brief with some descriptions but I think they're always interested in seeing where the illustrator takes those directions in creating a memorable character.

Trumplestiltskin with Konnie Huq & James Kay was definitely something different to work on. Can you describe this project, and what made you say yes?


It was a lovely series of fairy tales that have been updated to reflect the current status of things in our lives, be it refugees, discrimination and being as comfortable as one wants. It was a first for me, and I was slightly scared (aren't most illustrators?!) but my agent said it would be a good experience for me to flex my illustration muscles even more. Yes it would be a challenge, but I think these sorts of challenges are good because it keeps you on your toes. It was because of that I agreed to undertake the project, and both Konnie and James had loved my samples and really wanted me on the book. I am so glad I said yes and it was a really good choice and experience!


Working with BAFTA winner Jo Nadin on her The Worst Class in the World series must've been a highlight. Do you approach a book series differently to a stand alone?


It was and currently is such a privilege and honour to work with Jo. She writes The Worst Class... books with so much energy and it is like being back in the classroom for me, and something I hope to be back doing in September. I tend to approach both series and stand-alone books pretty similarly. I try to create memorable characters and most importantly drawings, which could stand alone if need be.

Even though you've already worked with some amazing writers, who would you like to illustrate for?


I don't really know! I think, right now, I am just deeply grateful to illustrate an author's work. It is a huge opportunity and a deeply humbling one to know that your lines, your drawings, in essence are what a writer would like to see with their words.


Who is your favourite illustrator and what's your favourite children's book?


I think it would have to be Quentin Blake and my favourite children's book would have to be Judith Kerr's The Tiger Who Came To Tea.


What's next for Rikin Parekh?


Well, I have been really lucky since lockdown to have been super busy with illustration work and have just finished a picture book (Yes You Can Cow!) with Faber, written by the super Rashmi Sirdeshpande. I'm illustrating more Worst Class in the World  books with Jo and Bloomsbury. I have another middle-grade series with the folk at Walker Books by the lovely Caroline Green and hopefully, hopefully, a/many picture book(s) written by myself, but that is still in the works. And with any luck, I can get back working in a primary school come September as I find it so rewarding working as a Teaching Assistant and it helps that I can draw, it's THE perfect bribery tool! 

*Photo credit: Rikin Parekh


Rikin Parekh is a Children's Book Illustrator based in Northwest London. He works as a learning support assistant in primary schools in Brent and Harrow. He studied at Camberwell College of Arts, then at the University of Westminster in Harrow. After graduating, he freelanced as a film production illustrator working mainly on monster movies. He then decided he'd love to follow his first true love of picture books and turned his hand to children's publishing, whilst he was working as a bookseller at Borders. Rikin is also an avid film buff and loves collecting old comic book art, reading sci-fi novels and meditating. Plus, he loves eating pizza!

You can find Rikin on Twitter, Instagram and see his work on his website



Sarah Broadley lives in Edinburgh with her family and two cats. She is a member of SCBWI Scotland. Follow her on Twitter.

Natalie Yates is Writers' Minds editor for Words & Pictures. Follow her on Instagram. Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org.

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