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©Malachi James 2021

I have to admit I was a little nervous commissioning Mal to design my new Twitter avatar. Would I be able to handle a caricature? Would it look anything like me? I gave him a photo of me wearing some hand-made sunflower earrings, thinking they would be a fun element to play with. Clearly I needn’t have worried – the result is perfect!

It seemed logical to present myself in illustrated form. As a picture book author, I am lucky to have many talented illustrators bringing my stories to life. They include:

Rosalind Beardshaw

Melanie Williamson

Gabby Grant

Jon Mitchell

Margaret Chamberlain

Kirsteen Harris-Jones

Eilidh Muldoon

Emma Allen

Marie-Rose Boisson

Lee Wildish

And that is only half of them! Click on any illustrator’s name above to visit their website or profile page. They are all hugely talented, and we authors should do more to promote them and give them the credit they deserve. If you want to see the full list of illustrators I have been lucky enough to work with, just visit my website at Lynne Rickards Author.

If you are tempted by the idea of having an illustrated you, I can certainly recommend Malachi James Cartoons! My daughter Anna also does cartoony portraits, including this stylish one of herself:

©Anna Rickards 2019

I love this one, which she calls Gals Vibing:

©Anna Rickards 2020

If you’d like to be illustrated the Anna Rickards way, just visit her website HERE. To all the illustrators in my life, a big THANK YOU!

The past year has been a tough one, but I feel lucky to have been able to carry on working as I always do, from home. I miss visiting schools and collaborating with teachers and librarians, and I’m not all that comfortable chatting on Zoom. So I have just quietly worked away at a few book projects (to be published next spring) and have filled the evenings with loads of Netflix and National Theatre Online. Recently I decided on a whim to buy myself a stationary bike, and as it turned out, the timing was perfect! The day after it was delivered, we got word that a member of the family had most likely been exposed to Covid-19, and we had met them for a walk in the park around the time they were contagious. This meant my entire household had to quarantine for ten days, so we all took turns going for a stationary spin!

My husband wasn’t keen on having the bike in the living room, but how else were we going to go the extra mile (or should I say kilometre) while watching the latest episode of Superstore? The bike has settled in well between the big rubber tree and an armchair, and we all use it so often that it’s now just part of the furniture. It tells us how far we have ridden, how fast we are pedalling, and even how many calories we are burning (always disappointingly few!) It was the best impulse purchase I have ever made.

During the first lockdown we went through a phase of doing jigsaw puzzles. My daughter had decided to join us from London and stayed from March until July. I made the mistake of buying two puzzles with 1,000 pieces, and the first one nearly killed us! I thought American Gothic would be a good image to work with, but as it turned out, the circles on her apron, the endless black of his blazer and the wide expanse of blue sky were very challenging. The second puzzle was a lovely Angela Harding print, but I must admit it remains unopened…

In September, my daughter and her partner moved back to Scotland permanently, and stayed with us for a couple of months. This meant we were five in the house, and we spent our evenings playing games like Jenga, Cluedo (the Sherlock version) and Uno. I introduced a game that I had loved as a teenager in the 1970s, and had finally managed to find on eBay after much fruitless searching. I was thrilled to have an original copy of Masterpiece, in which players bid against each other at auction for paintings whose value is hidden (ranging from a forgery to £1 million). The best part about this game is that you can add extra paintings, so I have greatly extended the collection of postcards. It’s a great pleasure to buy beautiful art, even if your favourite painting turns out to be a forgery!

Just before the second lockdown, the three young people in our household decided to get their ears pierced. After waiting five weeks for their ears to heal, they finally had a chance to change their earrings, and what followed was a flurry of creativity. We started with FIMO clay, making colourful pendant earrings of various shapes and sizes. Silver hooks and special jewellery pliers were soon ordered, and then my sister sent us a big box of beads! This place has been a bit of an earring factory ever since, as you can see. We have just run out of hooks, so we are taking a bit of a break until more arrive.

With all the snow that has fallen recently, the rest of my family was keen to get out and slide down some hills on a sledge. Having grown up in Canada, snow doesn’t have the same wow factor for me, so I stayed in to do some painting instead. I used to work in watercolours, but lately I’ve discovered that acrylics are very versatile as well. I had a brilliant black-and-white photo of my husband (taken by one of the young folk) and it was perfect for a portrait. The image below doesn’t quite capture the midnight blue I used. I hope you can imagine a rich, dark blue instead! I’m very pleased with the way the portrait turned out, and it now hangs in the hall outside our kitchen. Time to think of the next creative project!

art gallery copy

My daughter Anna is an artist. Her early work showed a lot of flair, and her medium of choice was a fine black pen with added splashes of bright colour. She adopted a cartoon style from the start, so it’s not entirely surprising that she ended up studying animation.

Jester cat

She loves to come up with wild, expressive characters drawn from careful observation. Sketching faces from every angle and with all sorts of emotions, she brings them to life in a way that is quirky and surprising:

cool faces

expressions 2 copy

Sometimes you can get a hint of her current preoccupations and deep desires:

Anna dachshunds

Other times you get a weird window into the things her clients are looking for, like this commissioned piece entitled Timberlake Noodle Bar (your guess is as good as mine):

noodle hair

Anna has graduated with an MA in Animation from Central Saint Martin’s in London. Sadly, due to the pandemic, there was no graduation ceremony or Gala Screening of the final films in a plush cinema. Her final project is now on Vimeo. Here are some background images and character sketches to give a flavour of the piece, which is entitled Unusually Gifted:

Anna antique shop copy

Gifted characters



The film features an endearing science geek called Herb who is inspired to help others. He takes a methodical approach in order to isolate a problem and work out the perfect solution. Unfortunately, he sometimes gets the wrong end of the stick.

Watch Unusually Gifted on Vimeo HERE.

Lately, Anna has been approached to create unique family portraits for a special occasion (like a landmark birthday). So far they have been very well received, so she’s happy to do more!

family portrait

Williams fam portrait

motorcycle pair

She is also creating unique profile pictures for social media, like these:

lemon-lady  Anna in stripes

It’s now possible to print Anna’s designs on a wide range of items, like mugs, notebooks, t-shirts and tote bags. Just visit her Redbubble shop!

Anna’s future career as a freelance artist and animator has begun in a very uncertain time. I hope there will be even more need for animators now, as we work increasingly online and use educational graphics and short films to explain public health issues. Perhaps art will come into its own in the brave new world that emerges.

Contact Anna Rickards

Anna’s website

Anna on Twitter (follow to DM)

Anna on LinkedIn

Anna on Instagram

Scottish wildcat

Wildcats used to wander the whole of the UK, having first come across from Europe thousands of years ago when southern England was connected by land to the Netherlands and parts of Germany. Over the centuries, through hunting and loss of habitat these cats became more rare in England, and by the early 1900s they could only be found in the sparsely populated Highlands of Scotland. Today, even here they have become an endangered species, with only about 300 animals living in the wild.

Kendra and kitten

Scottish wildcats look quite like domestic tabby cats, but their heads are broader, their tails thicker with distinctive black stripes, and they have no white on their paws or chest. The photos above were taken by Peter Trimming at the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey, which has a group of wildcats in captivity. In Scotland, the wild ones are much harder to spot, as they keep themselves hidden and only come out at dusk to hunt.

The Highland Wildlife Park is just south of Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park. Staff there are working together with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to build up a population of wildcats that can be released into the wild. This project is being supported by an EU LIFE grant of £3.2 million, with additional funding and support from a range of wildlife trusts. The Saving Wildcats project will work to breed a healthy community of wildcats from British and European stock over the next six years, with the aim to release some into the wild in 2022. These may be released in the Cairngorms to begin with, and then perhaps in other parts of Scotland in future.

Willow cover

After writing stories about Scottish puffins and red squirrels for the Picture Kelpies series published by Floris Books, my next book is Willow the Wildcat. Willow and her brother Corrie are full of energy and love to wrestle, but when their den is destroyed by a curious sheepdog, they have to work together to help their mum find a new home. This is no easy task, especially as they have to watch out for some scary creatures along the way.

corrie and fish

The illustrator Kirsteen Harris-Jones captures the playful kittens very well.

willow and corrie

Let’s hope Scottish wildcats will continue to live and thrive in the Highlands of Scotland for many more years to come.


Most people around the world recognise this famous young climate change activist from Sweden. When Greta Thunberg was only eight years old, she learned that the air pollution we humans create by burning fossil fuels is causing terrible damage to our planet.

masks in China

Many cities are choking with coal smoke and car exhaust. In China, sometimes the air is so polluted that children have to stay indoors. All this pollution is building up in the atmosphere, and causing temperatures to rise around the world. This has brought about dramatic changes in the weather, with serious floods and hurricanes in some places, and hot, dry weather leading to terrible wildfires in others. These higher temperatures also affect the habitats of many animals, birds, sea creatures and insects. When a food source dies out because of these changes, the survival of many other creatures is at risk:

food chain

Greta was shocked by all of this information, but what she found most upsetting was the fact that no one was doing anything about it. How could people just carry on as if everything was fine? The science was clear: we would have to act now to stop climate change, or the young people of today would have no future.

In August 2018 when she was 15, Greta decided to go on strike. Every Friday she sat outside the Swedish parliament building in Stockholm with a sign: School Strike for the Climate. She handed out flyers with a list of facts about the climate crisis, explaining why she was striking. At first she was alone, but soon other climate activists shared photos and news about her online, and many more people heard her message. Other young people who cared about the future joined her Friday strikes, and in time there were marches and demonstrations happening all over the world.

climate strike

Greta has been invited to speak at many international conferences, and has received awards for her environmental work. Her message is stark, and it is aimed at all politicians who have the power to make the changes that are needed. All her speeches so far have been collected in a book called No One is Too Small to Make a Difference.

Greta Thunberg book

Her speeches are direct and powerful. She is proud to have Asperger’s, which she describes as her superpower, because it allows her to see the simple ‘black-and-white’ of issues. She is criticised by rich white men and told she should go back to school. This is what she says to them:

“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to your children. But I don’t care about being popular; I care about climate justice and the living planet. We are about to sacrifice our civilization for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue to make enormous amounts of money. We are about to sacrifice the biosphere so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. But it is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.”

Greta Thunberg, Unpopular, UN Climate Change Conference, Katowice, Poland, 12.12.2018

Greta is an inspiration for millions of young people, and lots of older ones too! We can’t all be dedicated climate change activists, but no one is too small to make a difference. Here are a few ideas for how we can all do something to help:

• Air travel causes huge amounts of air pollution. While it’s not easy for everyone to sail across the Atlantic like Greta, it is possible to reduce how much we fly, and think about using trains and other public transport whenever we can.

• Animal agriculture is another major cause of pollution and environmental damage. If we eat less meat, we can help the planet and improve our health at the same time.

• Mass production of plastics, electronic gadgets and clothing is clogging up our environment. This Christmas, give a gift you’ve made yourself, forget the wasteful wrapping paper, and instead of sending cards, why not give them a call?

• Importing food from across the world produces lots of pollution, since most of it has to be flown in. Try and choose foods that are grown more locally whenever possible, and remember to avoid all the plastic packaging.

• Energy companies that use renewable sources like solar, wind and tidal power are becoming more common now. In time, we should all get rid of gas boilers and petrol cars and switch to renewable electricity for all our power needs.

• What else do you think we can do?