Interview: Tado's first children's picture book

Tado tell us about creation of the illustrations and character designs for their fun children's picture book, Monster Trucks: The Big Race.


Character art duo Tado are best known for their commercial and charitable work for the likes of Gola and Comic Relief, but the couple known to their friends as Mike and Katie have just seen their first children's book released by Scholastic.

Written by Jon Hinton and illustrated by Tado, Monster Trucks: The Big Race is a fun and exciting book aimed at 3-6 year olds. Its heroes are six big-wheeled trucks called Bolt, Chunk, Roxy, Fizz, Newton and Masher who – as you'd expect – get into all kinds of scrapes.

We want to know more, so dropped Mike and Katie a line – who, as usual, replied in one voice.

NB: Why did you first want to do a children’s book?

M+K: "We've wanted to do one for as long as we can remember really. It's always seemed a very natural thing for us to do with our characters and the world they live in.

"There's usually a story behind each of our characters that we draw and we always try to give them personalties, so to bring a set of them to life in a book has been a bit of a dream come true."

Use the slideshow controls above and right to read the rest of the interview and see more of the artwork and sketches.

NB: What age is it aimed at?

"Children aged 3-6 years and pretty much any parent, adult, monster who likes big hairy trucks."


NB: How did you hook up with Jon for the book?

"Jon approached us a few years back with a really cool idea for a monster book. We loved his concepts and the clever way of writing he has so we agreed to do some development work on the project"

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NB: What was your initial idea for the book?

M+K: "The initial idea for the book was a musical band of (none-wheeled) monsters who toured round in a huge monster truck.

"Once we'd done a few roughs and shown a few people, everyone kept coming back to the same illustration we'd done of the huge hairy truck with a face... and after a bit of chinwagging, thus the concept of Monster Trucks was formed."


NB: How did you develop the characters? Did you have to design them differently for an audience of children?

M+K: "We don't think it was a hugely different to any other character design that we'd do, although with Monster Trucks we started with a great set of character outlines from Jon to guide us.

"The whole concept of them being trucks and thus having wheels rather than hands and feet, however, has thrown up its own set of challenges when it comes to emotions, gestures and pulling each other out of ravines.

"Once we'd done a few roughs we started to get more familiar with the characters and the way they work individually. We're about to start work on another Monster Trucks book and we're now very comfortable drawing them."


NB: How was working on a narrative different from your usual projects?

M+K: "We've found the whole process very natural, although this was probably in-part due to the great work the design department at Scholastic do with our initial sketches and the layout of the books.

"Once the first sketched draft has been drawn, you get a real feel for how the story flows and which bits work and which bits don't. Getting a good balance of spreads and making sure you don't repeat spreads – eg landscape spread followed by another landscape spread – seems to keep the flow of things moving along through the book. Of course dramatic cliff-hangers before page-turns help too."

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NB: Your website has been under construction since 2012. Are you ever going to finish it?

M+K: "Ha ha, believe it or not, we finally have a new site pretty much ready to go – hoorah!

"We're currently finishing up the final bits of copy and squabbling about what to have on the banners. To be honest, we've not had a 'proper' site for a long time now – maybe since 2009 or so. We always intended to do a really big, animated style site but we've simply not had the time to do it, so we've gone for a very simple portfolio-style site with a few fun bits added in."


NB: Are traditional portfolio websites no longer necessary when you have a blog, social media and a shop?

M+K: "We would agree though that with the rise of all the social media platforms, a traditional portfolio site isn't as necessary as it used to be. That said it is really nice to be able to have all your work in one place and be able to format it how you choose.

"It's great to see a body of work together without all the clutter and constraints that comes with social media and blogging – it's much more of a gallery environment. We've survived fine without a proper site for a long time, but we're really looking forward to having a showcase for our stuff again. Stay tuned, it shouldn't be long ... honest!"