Marie Louise Fitzpatrick » Award-Winning Irish Writer and Illustrator

New Blog – The Belugas are Watching

I am now blogging with my husband, Michael Emberley. Our blog is called The Belugas are Watching.

It’s a blog in two voices about all things children’s literature – writing books, making book art, and being two creative people in the same house. We both love traveling and history, so some of each will creep in from time to time. We aim to keep our posts short on words and big on visuals, and we mean to post once or twice a week, but expect occasional lapses and flurries…

You can find it here:

Hope you’ll pop over and check it out!


Giant Press Pass

A special edition reissue of The Sleeping Giant has been in the pipelines for two years.  Because the original film – old technology equivalent of today’s scans/computer files – PLUS the original art for four of the spreads were lost in a flood in 2002, it’s been quite a feat to get it back together ready for reprint. At first I was just overseeing the process, then at some point I ended up in charge of production…

The book had to be redesigned, rescanned, re-blooming-everything, but earlier this month it made it to the printing stage. Myself and Michael went along to watch it start its journey through the printing process, not something we normally get to do as picturebooks are usually printed in China. The Giant is being printed here in Ireland by the good folk at Hudson Killeen.1  Picture books are usually 32 pages long. They are printed in two separate sections of sixteen pages each, with eight single pages printed on either side of a large sheet. Here I am checking over the first print of that first section.2I have the original HB version and a previous PB version under my oxter for comparison. I’ve had a good look at the whole thing and I’m happy to sign off on it.3Happy faces all round! Wayne, Brian, Maria and myself just before Wayne hits the button to start the full print run of this section of the book.4These are printing plates – the top one is the cyan plate (everywhere that will print blue/percentage blue on the paper) and the bottom one is a detail from the black plate. They are aluminium and will be recycled when the run is done. New ones will be made from the scans if there’s another print run. Maria explains to us that they don’t store plates, even short term, as they warp easily and take up too much space.5The inks – black, magenta, cyan, yellow. The ink is pumped through the pipes which run up the wall, across the ceiling and down to the press.6A vat of varnish waiting to replace an empty one. You can see the cover plate of the Giant and a rough print-out in the background.7The press. Each section is a stage in the process. Starting at the far end, every sheet of paper will go through each section – black, magenta, cyan, yellow, varnish – sheet turns to print the other side – black, magenta, cyan, yellow, varnish. The inks are transparent so as one colour is laid on another they make all the colours of the original art.8The paper starts its journey – you can see the stack behind us. (And yes, the press is from Heidelberg. Still the best, according to Brian.)9It reaches the other end and gets a puff of powder to prevent it sticking to the next sheet. That makes the whole process sound slow but the paper is fairly flying!  10Every now and then Wayne pulls out a sheet…  11…and checks it against a cropped master sheet. He makes any necessary adjustments on this complex control panel which reminds me of the mixing equipment in a sound studio.12Once the print run of the first section has been completed it will wait its turn to go through this folding machine. Brian is showing me some recently folded sections from another print run.  13Each section is then transferred to this machine where the individual sections are gathered together.14The print job being gathered now has four sections including the cover – you can see a sample of each section hanging above the machine for reference. At the bottom you can see the gathered sections coming through to be stapled and then trimmed.

The Sleeping Giant won’t be gathered on this machine. It will be sown, not stapled, and the cover will be ‘drawn’ on – glued – so this part of the process will be sent out to be done elsewhere.

15Quality control and packing, and a print run all packed up, ready to leave.16A last look down at the floor. One section of the book will be printed today, the other a couple of days later, and the cover a few days after that. The press is kept running with a queue of jobs lined up 24 hours a day for 5 days a week. Time for us to let the folk at Hudson Killeen get on with it while we go get a late breakfast!


Two weeks later my first copy of the special edition arrives and it’s looking great. It really is fantastic to have this twenty-two year old book in my hands again, looking all fresh and fine in its updated cover and with new typefaces inside and out. Meanwhile my niece Ann, the little girl in the book, has just had her 30th birthday.

Happy birthday, Ann. Happy birthday, Giant. So glad you’re awake again!




PS: Picturebooks can also be 24, 48, 64 pages long, but always multiples of 8. A 32 page book may also be printed on a single sheet – like the one in the top photo, but twice the size. This depends on the paper size the press can take.


PHOTOS: Michael Emberley



Libby Gleeson - Thanks so much for this, Marie-Louise. I’ve published 16 picture books with various publishers and because they are all printed off shore I’ve never seen the process even though I’ve read a bit about it.
Great to see a book brought back to life too – so many go oup too quickly.
Warm regards,
Libby Gleeson

Bernardine - Well done to all involved – fascinating to see the process. Congrats to all at Hudson Killeen for the skillful work, Michael for the docu-photos, and – last but not least- yourself on the enduring appeal of the book!

Debra Smith - Thank you for the ‘insiders’ view of the making of the book. Fascinating!
I remember reading this to my daughter when she was little…now 25.

MarieLouise - Glad you enjoyed it, Libby. It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.
An Ordinary Day is one of my favorite picturebooks, by the way.
Best wishes, Marie-Louise

MarieLouise - Thanks, Ber. Copies soon…

MarieLouise - That’s lovely to know, Debra! Cheers.

Jesse Campbell-Brown - Wow, thanks so much for sharing this! What a fantastic opportunity to see behind the scenes :)

Basket Weaving

Spent yesterday basket weaving at The Farm Shop, Tinahely. Had an interesting time learning some basic traditional Irish weaving techniques from a great teacher and, at the end of a long day’s work,  all nine of us went home with completed baskets! The Farm Shop is a lovely venue, there was a slap-up lunch included, and two friendly pigs kept us company in the barn as we wove.

My basket is strong, if a wee bit bockety! Will definitely try it again. Here are some pics of the basket in progress:


Basket Case | The Belugas are Watching - […] of Connemara where I did a four day course in traditional Irish basket weaving with Ciaran Hogan. I’d made a basket once before – strongish but bockety and a wee bit on the holey side – so my aim this time was to […]