Bookbug Author Spotlight: Mike Brownlow

Ten Little Pirates by Mike Brownlow
Category: Bookbug

Bookbug's Author Spotlight gives you the chance to learn more about the work of authors, publishers and illustrators connected to the Bookbug programme. This week, Mike Brownlow, author of Ten Little Pirates, answers some questions about his work.Ten Little Pirates is included in the 2015/16 Bookbug Pirate bag.


What inspired Ten Little Pirates?

I was walking with my wife around Trelissick Gardens in Cornwall a while ago and the first verse of the story popped into my head, for no particular reason I can think of. What I didn’t realise at the time was that it was not only the start of a book, but established the concept for what has become a whole series of books. (I can’t stress enough – this almost never happens! Books are normally much harder to bring to life.) Ten Little Pirates was the first, but Ten Little Princesses was published last October, and Ten Little Dinosaurs came out in May. Simon Rickerty illustrates them, and he’s done a brilliant job. And there are more to come.

What’s your top tip for sharing Ten Little Pirates with little ones?

When I go around schools, I like to get the children up on their feet to do actions to go with the noises I’ve listed. (SPLOOSH! Is my favourite. The kids start down low and then all jump up in the air at the same time.) Having the children shout out the number that’s coming up next also works well. It can all be nice and noisy. However if you’re trying to get your child to bed, you might want to adopt a different strategy! Try helping them to draw some of the characters, and invent your own sea monsters and pirate boats.

Which books did you love as a child?

Winnie the Pooh, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Rupert the Bear Annuals by Alfred Bestall (pictured), the Just William books and The Once and Future King.

Rupert the Bear looking into a shop window

Describe your typical working day 

I enjoy getting out and about and meeting people, so quite why I became a writer and an illustrator is a bit of a mystery because we tend to sit on our own in a room all day and stare at a computer screen or a blank piece of paper on a drawing board. If I’m writing I generally sit in silence, or listen to a bit of music; if I’m painting I might listen to Radio 4 or a talking book.

What’s your top tip for budding authors or illustrators?


  • Always carry a notebook
  • Write about things that interest you
  • Mash two or more ideas together and see what happens
  • If you get stuck, make a list
  • Write about what you want to write about. It’s your story, your universe, your rules
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Not every story works first time
  • Be adventurous! Make stuff up!


  • Always carry a notebook
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Not every drawing works first time
  • Draw things that fire your imagination
  • Learn how the body works – how we’re all put together, how we move and so on
  • Try copying artists you like, to see how they’ve managed to draw their characters
  • Be adventurous! Make stuff up!

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished writing a new ‘Ten Little’ book with a festive theme, and now I’ve just begun writing up some stories I used to tell my three daughters when they were little. Now they’re all grown up, they keep asking me why their special tales still haven’t been made into books yet. And I’m itching to do the illustrations for a picture book I’ve recently written about a little caveman.

Is there a picture book you wish you’d written or illustrated?

Everyone Hide From Wibbly Pig! by Mick Inkpen is one of my favourites for very small children. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, is one of my favourites for slightly older kids.

How do you get over a creative block?

I like to get children up on their feet to do actions to go with the noises I’ve listed. SPLOOSH! is my favourite!

I live in the country, which is wonderful, but if I’m really stuck or looking for new ideas, a walk round a large town like Bath or London always seems to inspire me, because I’m presented with out-of-the-ordinary sights that get my brain working in a fresh way again. I suppose if I lived in a large town, a trip to the country might do the same thing!

Which piece of your work are you most proud of?

This is like asking which is my favourite child! I’m very fond of ‘Little Robots’ which I wrote and illustrated a while ago, and was made into an animated TV series for CBeebies. And I’m proud of the various ‘Ten Little’ books that Simon Rickerty and I have done so far. Mysteriously it seems if I put the word ‘Little’ into one of my titles, it always seems to do well for me.

What’s your favourite thing about your local library?

Well obviously the books. I love books as physical objects. But I love the generosity of spirit that lies behind the whole idea of libraries. That libraries should have had to shut because of cutbacks is shameful.


Catch up on other Spotlight blogs, including Lynne Rickards and Cate James .