The Libraries in a Year virtual exhibition is now live!

The video above is a demo of what it looks like, but you can visit the exhibition in person and look around at your leisure here.

I started on this project in October 2019 and since then I’ve produced over 200 drawings, carved over 90 print blocks, created 13 library relief prints and one giant multistory library digital tapestry print! And that whilst we’ve all been through one global pandemic and several lockdowns…phew!


I am very excited to say that my debut book Selfie was published on 1st September 2020!

Selfie is all about Sylvie the Squirrel’s obsession with selfies. Selfies can be fun, but Sylvie likes selfies a bit TOO much. But that’s ok isn’t it? What could possibly go wrong…?!

You’ll have to read the book to find out, no spoilers here!

Selfie can be purchased online here: UK   US

Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2019 – Nature’s Song

I am exhibiting again this year at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, on the Cambridge School of Art stand.

You can find my new book Nature’s Song in area PAD 25, stand B/112.

You can book an appointment if you’d like to see my portfolio.

There will be the usual drinks event at the stand on Wednesday 3rd April from 4:30pm.
See all the lovely CSA books with a glass of wine in hand. What’s not to like!

Nature's Song children's book cover by Sandy Horsley



V&A Illustration Awards 2019 Student Category – Sandy Horsley

The brief for this project was to reimagine Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale, The Wind in the Willows.

I wanted to capture the traditional feel of the book whilst also showing moments of humour, without the illustrations becoming overtly whimsical.

Using a restricted colour pallette, I combined the traditional mediums of pen and ink and monoprinting with digital collage to create the illustrations.

I worked on this project during my final year of the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art.

Penguin Random House Write Now programme 2018 – I’m through to the next round!

Sandy Horsley Jack and the Beanstalk Panda Harp

Exciting times! I’ve recently heard that I’m one of 10 illustrators selected to go through to the next round of the Penguin Random House Write Now 2018 mentoring programme.

The Write Now programme was set up to promote under-represented writers and illustrators in books and publishing. This includes, “illustrators and writers from BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) or LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) communities, writers and illustrators with a disability, or who come from a socio-economically marginalised background”. *

It is worrying that in 2018 there still isn’t the equality or diversity there should be in children’s books. In this recent blog post, I talk about how my awareness was raised about ongoing issues regarding lack of diversity. See this research here and here.

My experience as a working class child, with a colloquial accent, growing up on a council estate in Norwich, was never reflected back at me in any of the books that I read.  My access to books was limited, there weren’t many at home and the local library was off our radar.

The school library was my secret pleasure, where I read stories about characters and heroes that inhabited very different worlds to mine (think Enid Blyton or the Chronicles of Narnia). The escapism of these other worlds was of course enjoyable, but I remember gasping with delight when I came across a book that had a colloquial phrase in it that was used by my family. That experience of recognition and reflection happened only once in my whole childhood of reading, and I still remember the phrase to this day.

The Write Now entry requirements for illustrators was to illustrate the whole story of Jack and the Beanstalk – one finished full colour spread and 11 black and white rough spreads. That was quite a challenge as I came to the competition fairly late. I was also struggling with the whole moral aspect of the traditional story of Jack and the Beanstalk, which to me seemed to be saying: if you’re poor it’s ok to steal…err… I don’t think so!

The story text was pre-determined by Penguin Randon House and couldn’t be changed, so I had to think of a way of using just the illustrations to change the moral slant of the story…which hopefully I did. I’ll get to that in a future post.

So now I’m through to the next round, which is a day’s workshop with Penguin Random House, learning all about the publishing industry and talking through my work. After the workshop a shortlist will be announced and another illustration challenge set. Ultimately a total of 10 writers and illustrators will be chosen (from an original 1700 entries) for the year’s mentoring scheme…*bites nails*…wish me luck!

Sandy Horsley Jack and the Beanstalk Penguin Random House 2018

*As quoted on this Penguin Random House Write Now web page [accessed online 17:10 07.09.2018]

Noirwich Flash Fiction Competition 2018 – Shortlisted!

I am delighted that my entry to the Noirwich Flash Fiction Competition 2018 has reached the shortlist of 10!

The Noirwich Perfect Crime Writing Festival is run in conjunction with the National Centre for Writing and the University of Easy Anglia. The competition was for short stories less than 500 words based in or around my home town of Norwich and/or Norfolk.

As a newbie to the writing scene, I am so excited that Black Shuck’s Awful Alphabet, A Deliciously Dark Bedtime Story has reached the shortlist.


#3000 Chairs Fundraiser for Refugees Pop-up chair

Sandy Horsley pop-up chair original print 2      Sandy Horsley pop-up chair original print 3

My most recent pop-up is this little chair made for the #3000 chairs fundraiser to help refugees.

The chair is an original drypoint etching print and the feathers are tiny block prints, hand printed, hand cut and assembled into a pop-up of my own design.

It was auctioned at the book launch of The Day the War Came, a book by Nicola Davies and Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, highlighting the plight of refugees.

Suffolk Libraries Culture Lab – Artist in Residence July 2018

Sandy Horsley 1 week old baby sketch Suffolk Libraries

In July I was so thrilled to be selected as one of 10 artists in residence for Suffolk Libraries at their Culture Lab residency.

This gorgeous little lady (top of this post) wasted no time in visiting her local library – at just one week old she was taking it all in, or rather, snoozing through it, which was perfect for me as she stayed pretty still while I sketched her. But I had to be quick, as I knew it wouldn’t last. This sketch was done in about 10 minutes. It was a privilege to draw her.

The residency was an opportunity for selected artists to produce new work or take time to develop current projects further. This opportunity has come about due to Suffolk Libraries being given NPO status by the Arts Council.

My proposal was to produce drawings I could use to develop diverse picture book characters, using my sketches of library users and overheard conversations to produce imaginary characters that draw upon the diverse communities found in Suffolk Libraries.

My interest in diversity in children’s books was raised further after I illustrated The Wind in the Willows last year as part of my MA course. I hadn’t read it since childhood, and on re-reading it, I was shocked to discover that all the main characters are male. The only female characters are bit parts – the washer woman and the gaoler’s daughter.

My first thought was that The Wind in the Willows is a book of its time, and that things are different now. How wrong I was.

I did some research about diversity in children’s books. Recently, The Observer newspaper commissioned an analysis of the 100 most popular (best-selling) children’s picture books of 2017. Disappointingly, the research shows that male characters are twice as likely to take the lead roles and are 50% more likely to have speaking parts than females. Male villains are eight times more likely to appear than female villains and in a fifth of the books, female characters are missing completely.

Following on from this the CLPE survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature 2017, shows that only 4% of the children’s books published in 2017 featured BAME characters and only 1% of the children’s books published in the UK in 2017 had a BAME main character.

In 2016, book publisher Penguin Random House launched its Write Now scheme which aims to, “find, mentor and publish new writers from under-represented communities”, stating the importance “for young children to see themselves, their families, cultures and communities reflected in the books they read”.

The WriteNow scheme also strives to address the issue that the publishing industry, including those in roles that make decisions about which stories get published, is predominantly white, socially and economically advantaged, and male.

My hope for the Suffolk Libraries residency was to come away inspired by all the real-life characters of the library community, the stories about their lives and why the library is important to them. This will help me to develop picture books that celebrate diversity, are inclusive and feature those missing protagonists whose stories are yet to be told.

As part of my residency I went on a ‘Library Safari’ day visit to Felixstowe. I’ve never been to Felixstowe before, I have to say that it is AMAZING!
An Edwardian seaside town, it has an incredibly diverse landscape and population, which was just perfect for my residency project.

Sandy Horsley Felixstowe photos beach      Sandy Horsley Felixstowe photos arcades

Sandy Horsley Felixstowe photos beach huts      Sandy Horsley Felixstowe photos building

Sandy Horsley Felixstowe photos gantry cranes      Sandy Horsley Felixstowe photos beach gardens

It has a beautiful beach and seafront gardens and those incredible gantry cranes lined up at the port just dominate the skyline (in a good way!), like monsters visiting from Mars.

I can’t wait to develop my initial sketches further and I look forward to working on diverse and inclusive children’s books – let’s see if we can do something about those statistics.


The Movable Book Society Emerging Paper Engineer Award 2018


I am over the moon to have received an Honourable Mention in the Movable Book Society’s Emerging Paper Engineer Prize 2018 for my pop-up book, PAUSE.

Congratulations to the winner, Vanessa Yusuf, and to Amy Nayve who also received an Honourable Mention.

You can see a video of my book here

A compilation of all the entries to the Movable Book Society’s Emerging Paper Engineer Prize can be viewed here