We review Penzance based writer and illustrator Russell Ayto's latest picture book The Match and catch up with him about his earliest memories of reading and what it's like to write and illustrate his work.

The latest offering from South West based writer and illustrator Russell Ayto is a timely celebration of a great British past time. With the World Cup soon to kick off, and excitement at fever pitch (aside from challenging ourselves to the highest number of football puns in one sentence) we were pleased to sit down with the latest offering from Ayto.

Like its predecessor Henry and the Yeti, The Match is enchantingly illustrated as features a narrative which immediately inspires a spectrum of emotions. There is humour here, wry wit and yet a bitingly clear portrait of a man who supports an underdog team. Watching the match is the highlight of the man’s week, the thing is, his team don’t always do well.

Deciding to take matters into his own… paws, the dog is going to do something about it. This charming picture book has an important message – dogs really are man’s best friends, oh and, it’s worth championing the underdog. A delightful exploration of ‘the Beautiful Game’ and an excellent precursor to a summer of the sport. Ideal for children young and old.

The Match is available now, published by Bloomsbury.

We asked Russell about his earliest memories of reading and what it's like to write and illustrate his books.

1.Your latest book The Match, is about two quintessentially British staples – “The Beautiful Game” and supporting the underdog (somewhat literally here). How did you settle on this subject and how much did the upcoming World Cup impact upon the book?

Choosing football was easy as it was something I’d always loved, played and supported, particularly when I was younger. But I wanted to write the book from a slightly different perspective of say a particular player or team, and in a more interesting and unusual way. It was realising that I was in fact naturally gifted, with an amazing talent for always choosing the losing side that helped form the story. Winning was unknown, other than observing it was something all the other teams did. And like other fans, I just carried on supporting my team no matter what. That was the angle I was looking for, football seen through the eyes of a long suffering supporter.

2. For us, the book tells a story which we think, with its football theme, may encourage reluctant readers to discover stories. What’s your earliest memory of reading?

I remember learning to read at school, which didn’t seem much fun at the time. But later, when I discovered BB’s ‘Bill Badger’ series on the book trolley, it allowed me to enter the exciting imaginary world of pirate cats, gypsies, narrow boats and wild woods.

3. Can you tell us a bit about what it’s like to be an author and illustrator? How do the two processes work together? Essentially what comes first…?

I love doing anything creative that also involves using my imagination. So I’m very fortunate to be an author and illustrator. It’s great. When doing both, it tends to be the writing based that comes first, that’s then adapted around the visuals.

4. You’re based in the South West, can you describe a typical writing day to us?

When I’m working on an idea and writing, it’s with me all the time and it’s a process I’m still finding out about. The writing could be from scratch or I could be editing what I’d previously done, but the working day is very much the same. I’ll write from 8 am with lots of coffee until about 12.30, when I stop for lunch and Bargain Hunt. Or the News if it’s a repeat. Hopefully that doesn’t sound too sad! Then I’ll carry on from 1 until 6, with the odd break to make tea but no more coffee. I might also do another hour or so in the evening, but not every evening!

5. If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring children’s book writers and illustrators, what would it be?

Find a way of working that comes naturally to you and is essentially an extension of your personality. That way you’ll have a style or voice unique to you.

Thank you Russell!