READ-a-THON success!


Despite the weather’s best efforts the rain held off to help make Oxfordshire’s Read-a-thon a great success. Hundreds came throughout the day to take part in the many activities that were laid on. There was storybook-character-spotting, Gruffalo walks (in the woods), Mad hatter’s tea parties, pony rides and so much more (see previous post). The children had a great time hugging Douglas as well as being entertained by the wonderfully engaging poet John Foster and author Alan Gibbons (above left and right of me respectively), I hadn’t met either before so it was a real pleasure to sit in on their events and see just what makes them so popular with the children…and adults for that matter).


The READ-a-THON took place in and around the grounds of Milton Manor House.

But for me, the real star of the day was local primary school teacher and good friend Anne Wattam, the brain-child behind the day. Initially inspired by Boris Johnson’s London Read-a-thon earlier in the summer, Anne built on the idea to develop this incredible day, specifically designed to celebrate the wonderful world of stories and reading. She wasn’t alone, of course, her incredible family as well as an impressive support cast from the local community and schools (not forgetting authors John Foster, Alan Gibbons and fantastic illustrator Charlie Sutcliffe).

Unfortunately, it only occurs to me now, I didn’t seek permission to post some of the fabulous photos documenting the day (all of them were filled with happy smiling families), so all I can do to finish off is end-of-day picture of the Frankenstein outfit whose owner apparently dissolved…


It was truly a fantastic day but I know how he felt, by the time I got home I was shattered. Thanks to everyone who helped make it such a huge success, not forgetting the friends and families who pitched up on the day.



You can read what Alan Gibbons thought of the day here.



Oxfordshire Read-a-thon!

On Saturday 14th September 11-4pm there is a Children’s Read-a-thon at Milton Manor, Abingdon, Oxfordshire.  Entry is Free.
A fun day to inspire and fire the literary imagination of even the youngest child is taking place in the beautiful grounds of an Oxfordshire Manor house . The first ever Oxfordshire Children’s Read-a-Thon will be staged at Milton Manor in Milton near Abingdon on Saturday 14th September.
Every part of the delightful grounds will play host to a children’s story or character, with Peter Pan hiding out under the shade of a fir tree, Beatrix Potter characters by the lily
pond, and the Manor’s beautiful resident shire Rocket taking the role of the equine hero of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse in the Victorian stables.In addition, well-known children’s authors David Melling (Hugless Douglas), Alan Gibbons (Shadow of the Minotaur) and up-an-coming illustrator/author Charlie Sutcliffe
will be giving readings from their books and offering book signings. They will also be joined by children’s poet John Foster who will be passing on his enthusiasm for poetry
with readings and talks.

The event is the brainchild of Oxfordshire teacher and Milton resident Anne Wattam. “I really wanted to do something to encourage children to read and develop a life-long passion for reading.”

Raffle tickets are £1 each with over 100 prizes to win on the day!

1st Prize – Acer Iconia B1 7 inch tablet (courtesy of RM Education).
2nd Prize – (exclusive and not available in shops) large Hugless Douglas soft toy (courtesy of Hodder/David Melling).
3rd prize – set of 4 author signed Hugless Douglas books
4th prize – Family Ticket Didcot Railway Centre
Other prizes:
Book vouchers (£10 x 10 courtesy of OUP).
Signed Angelina Ballerina books – courtesy of Katherine Holabird/Puffin (x20)
Signed Winnie the Witch books – courtesy of Korky Paul (x3 hard-backed)
Signed Hugless Douglas books – courtesy of David Melling/Hodder (x12)
Signed Kiss that Missed book courtesy of David Melling/Hodder
Lots of other books courtesy of Hodder, Puffin, OUP, Book point, Hatchette Children’s books etc.


A few ideas behind Hugless Douglas

I posted a version of this article recently, one of several guest bloggers, for The Walled Garden Hoo’s Kids Book Fest website in preparation for launch of the festival on Sunday 21st April. It touches on the early ideas behind Hugless Douglas and how the look of a character can change and morph as the story develops and that, despite my best efforts, this can continue once a book is published…

The idea for Hugless Douglas came about while reading to my son, who was four at the time. It began with a series of silly made up hugs. One particular night we were both yawning our way through a story and when we’d finished I said ‘It’s time for a Tired Hug,’ The next night we had a Lights-Out Hug. It snowballed from there really, with new hugs making an appearance over the next few days. The morning might start with a Breakfast Hug, then a little later a Can I have a Snack Hug? and so on.

Now during this time I was spending my days at my drawing board trying to come up with a story for a bear. I hadn’t written a book with a bear as a main character and I thought it would be a nice, fun thing to draw. (When you know a picture book takes anything from 4-6 months to produce these considerations are important).

Well, I wish I could tell you that it wasn’t long before I made a connection between bears and hugs but, I’ll be honest, it was the best part of a week, skipping between types-of-hugs and bear story-ideas. It’s obvious now! But once I’d made the connection the story pretty much wrote itself.

I’m often asked ‘which comes first, the writing or the drawing?’ The simple answer is, for me, they are both part of the same process.  In this case, once I’d had the story idea for a-bear-looking-for-a-hug I turned to my sketchbook. I started to draw bears hugging varies things.

HD early pencil

As you can see from these early sketches a character may start out looking quite different before I settle on the right ‘look’ and before it is finally published.

HD early1

This is the first colour sample I did.

HD early2

He’s getting pretty close here. Still a pre published version, but it was enough to start drawing the roughs for the story.

(Douglas is not the only character to have transformed as the stories and books have progressed. Take a look at Rabbit in the first book and compare him to the second title Don’t Worry Hugless Douglas).  

Coming up with titles

The title of a book and the names of characters can be tricky. By the time I began to think seriously about these details I had already written and sketched out the story. I made a list of nice sounding words, and titles that related to the bears predicament;


The Cuddle Muddle



‘The Bear with No Hug’

“Where is my Hug?

The Hug Hunt

Hunting Hugs etc

Well, somewhere down that list I wrote ‘Hugless’ and, with half my mind still searching for a name, I found a happy rhyming match with “Hugless Douglas!”

It was only much later, on listening to an episode of Porridge, the well known 70’s TV programme starring Ronnie Barker, that I heard a one line joke where someone is referred to as ‘Lugless Douglas.’ I almost certainly had that stored away in my brain when I wrote down Hugless Douglas but I didn’t make the connection until I heard the programme.

A happy accident or an unconscious coincidence? Either way, Hugless Douglas was born and I’m very happy that he is still busy jumping around the pages of picture books, for a good while yet, I hope!


Author/illustrator Chris Mould. All you need to know (without a doctor’s note)…

I’ve just spent the last few days with a good friend of mine, the very talented children’s author/illustrator Chris Mould. He was kind enough to invite me along with our great friend Emma O’Donovan, better known to some for her online presence as the book reviewing blog The Book Sniffer. The deal was he would put up with our company for the w/e. We would be fed, driven around and generally pampered in exchange for being dragged along to his exhibition SPINELESS – Dissecting the Art of the Children’s Book which is currently being shown at the Museum of Hartlepool.

Mould Ex2

Y’know actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

I’m joking of course. Chris really is one of the best illustrators around, he has been for a while in my opinion. And I’m delighted to say he has just been shortlisted for the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for best illustrated children’s book of the year for his wonderful book Pistols ‘n’ Pirates.

Regular visitors will know that I usually let the pictures do the talking. No change here really, other than to say that looking at Chris’ work reminds me how important it is for an illustrator to have the ability to draw. I worry that this basic requirement appears not to be of primary importance these days (enough said). Chris is a wonderful draughtsman. Lively and full of character, he’s a master of the black and white line. Oh, and have I mentioned he can write? Check out his glorious series Something Wickedly Weird and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. (Do check out the fabulous website).

Mould Ex3

 Emma showing off Chris’ tote bag design.

Mould Ex4

Sadly, the poor quality of these photos don’t do justice to these remarkable originals.

Mould Ex5

Chris’ artwork was beautifully displayed.

Mould Ex7

With a chance to see pages from his sketchbooks…

Mould Ex6

 …and a rare opportunity at some recent work: painting random pebbles found on a beech while on holiday.

Mould Ex8

As I say, his black and white work is something else (again, apologies for the poor quality).

Mould Ex12

Here’s Chris not looking self conscious while I fumble with my iPhone.

Mould Ex13

 Chris demonstrating the importance of not touching the artwork with sticky fingers.

Mould Ex14

Chris and Emma relaxing in the reading area.


Finally, me and Chris. We’re not doing ourselves any favours with this one.


Check out Chris’s blog for current projects and sketchbook shenanigans.


It’s here at last! Why not Hug Douglas today at one of these various locations. I’ll also be joining him from mid-morning:

8.00am – Hugless Douglas at Watermark bookshop, Kings Cross Station
10.00am – Hugless Douglas at Buckingham Palace
11.00am – David Melling and Hugless Douglas at Waterstones Piccadilly signing books and giving hugs
2.00pm – David Melling and Hugless Douglas at Netley Primary School giving 100+ free books to the children!
4.00pm – David Melling at Watermark books, Kings Cross Station signing books

 Hugs and huggers come from anywhere…

and from countries all over the world…

 so hug someone today…it’s good for you!


1 day to National Hug Day

Can’t believe National Hug Day is tomorrow…one more sleep to go! But that doesn’t stop me looking for as many hugs as possible…

 So then, all I have to do is cut across the grass, climb up that tree, lean over and knock on one of the windows and I’m in. There’s got to be at least 20 hugs in each pod!


Scroll down to posts for the latest Hugless Douglas Competitions.



Here, at last, is a site dedicated to Hugelss Douglas : Videos, downloads and a Facebook page where I blog and update news and latest event details.



4 days to National Hug day

This is my first ever Dance Hug!


Okay, you go first, then it’s my turn.


You wait for a Hugless Douglas Competition and then three come along at once. Some great prizes including fluffy Hugless Douglas slippers! But quickly, the one of these finishes midnight tonight. So heck out these fabulous blogs:

Child-Led Chaos

The Book Sniffer

Hachette Children’s Books

Good Luck!