IN THE SHOES OF… Bridget Marzo

What's it like to be in someone else's shoes? In this series Deputy Editor Françoise Price invites creatives to tell us about a typical day (or two). This month we share footwear with author-illustrator Bridget Marzo.

First spread from You, Me and our Whole Wide World by Bridget Marzo, Walker Books


6am. It’s chucking it down over darkest Whitechapel.


I’m heading to a primary school out in the far west of London in a taxi, courtesy of the brilliantly bilingual South Ken Kids Festival. I feel like royalty. I’m not long back from my other life in the sticks of France where during lockdown, I painted most of the people for You, Me and our Whole Wide World, the book I’m using for the festival.


City workers skip over puddles. The Oxo tower sweeps past as we head along the Embankment. Down the Mall, past the Palace...


Harrods from the taxi — gosh!


Another hour of traffic and into another world. A secret garden beyond a high wall. Except there are children everywhere. The teacher takes me to the Year 1 class in an outbuilding.


I’d have happily got lost in the dreamy tropical garden

I wanted to stop and sketch. Distractions and drawing calm my nerves. But now I’m facing a Year 1 class. Let’s sharpen our eyes, I say. Not sure that made sense to them. But they spot details I’d forgotten I drew.

Second last spread from You, Me and our Whole Wide World


How many cats can you see in this spread? I ask. What else? That’s a half ball, says one, pointing to the tent. For a camping holiday, says another excited six-year-old. Or, I suggest, it might just be a shelter because they had to leave their home. Yes! says another, I’ve seen people living on a street in a tent.


Now we’re folding an accordion out of A4 paper. They copy me, making simple cuts into the folded paper. It’s my first time doing this for six-year-olds so I'm taking a risk. But it works, with help. Just not enough time to make them all look individual.


Just not enough time to make them all look individual!


Next class. Help! They’ve not read the book. So I start. There are millions of people in our whole wide world. Anyone know how many? A Year 2 pipes up. Eight billion. And a billion is a milliard in French. Wow. I’d forgotten that. This class is bright and bilingual. Now to paper-cutting in hopes of time for drawing. At least one child is afraid to start. Never fear. I love mistakes I say. I learn more from making them than getting everything right first time.


And they’re getting people together!


A Year 3 child looks upset. His cut out looks ‘too’ different from his neighbours. Beautifully original, I reassure him


Next day I’m off again but to a South London school with more children, less space — 22 five-year olds are smiling at me on the floor, ready. My book’s been read to them. Who has a little brother or sister? I ask. Now they’re all talking at once about their families. Hands up? You – and I unleash a shaggy dog story. Teacher calms them by counting 10 backwards. I use my old drawing tip — two to four circles for faces on a sheet of paper. We see how we can we make two characters look different… AND look at each other. 


Now it’s our turn to draw in public. We published author-illustrators from France and the UK are sitting in the front row of the cinema at the Institut Francais. ‘Impro!’ is the event and it’s best not to over prepare. The live jazz starts – experimental this year. Axel Scheffler (who needs no introduction) and the fab Beatrice Allemagna make a start. We improvise with pens, edging around our joint drawing paper.


Our first joint drawing turns out a little ‘noisy’


Jarvis, prize-winning author-illustrator, draws a pink branch on the new sheet — tapping his Posca pen to the beat of the drum. Clever! He tells me he was just trying to get it working.

Leaves are falling. I draw two kids down below – one ‘playing’ someone’s large red leaf.

Double click to play large. 


The cinema is packed with patient families who seem to enjoy watching our hands draw on the big cinema screen.


We’re treated like stars by the South Ken Kids Festival. And there’s a cocktail afterwards, for guests and volunteers, to celebrate 25 years of the festival and 20 years of The Children’s Bookshow who are exhibiting the illustrations for sale now in an online auction in support of their work in deprived areas.


Lovely to meet other guests (l-r), Kate Read, Yuval Zommer and Jarvis


Jarvis wishes he could have seen Jim Field at the Manchester SCBWI conference. (Pity about the clash!) Then I spot the editor of my next book. Till now I’ve only met her online. I learn my next book which I sent off in June, won’t be out till Spring 2024. Publishing is a long game.


At the festival weekend, Sam Usher and Lucie Arnoux and I enjoy chatting and sharing sketchbooks before our workshops. Sam is working on a 64 page layout for his next book. Impressive!


Me, Lucie and Sam hanging out at the South Ken Kids' Festival cafe


Twenty children aged 5-11 are signed up for my workshop. Parents aren’t allowed but a mum comes in with her unhappy brood clinging to her. She should see how quickly they've settled after she leaves. Paper folding is therapeutic. And somehow we all manage to get eight paper people out of the A4 sheet.


No one looks bored, even the 11-year-old. How different can we make them look with clothes, hair, skin colour and expressions?


As diverse as we all are!

I’ve time to share my old staple ‘quick draw’ tip. Where you place the dot of the eyes in their sockets can make them look at or away from each other and tell us how two characters relate. Two of mine are in love says one, mine are shy says another. Someone always draws a cross-eyed character. Something’s landed on their nose, I suggest.

We’re bursting with characters ready for stories to tell. It’s all gone well and there’s just enough time before everyone leaves to snap one corner of a whole wide world of diverse paper people and real ones.


All together now...


One corner of the circle ending You, Me and our Whole Wide World, Walker Books

*Header by Alex Crump
all other images courtesy of Bridget Marzo 
video credit: Eden Edenfield


Bridget Marzo is an award-winning illustrator and author of over two dozen picture books published in many different countries and languages. Born into an English, French and Catalan family of diverse origins, and working with children in schools either side of the Channel, Bridget believes in the power of pens, pencils, paints – and picture books – to open our minds and share all that we have in common. 


Alex Crump is an illustrator based in Wiltshire, with past careers as both a teacher and a zookeeper, as well as other current side-lines of storyteller and charity/museum educator.
Instagram: @alexcrumpillustration


Françoise Price is Deputy Editor for Words & Pictures magazine. Contact


No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.