Illustrator Zoo

I'm just back from The Story Museum in Oxford, a fantastic museum devoted entirely to children's literature, where I was for the day. I was situated upstairs in the "Illustrator Zoo," where children and adults alike could come along and chat about my process, books and work in general. 

I spent the day drawing, reading, chatting and collaborating with some lovely, enthusiastic children. Below is Charlotte, who drew the most wonderful cats and a witch next to my Mean Cat. 

And Lucy drew a brilliant Jack Russell (kindred spirits?), a gondola, a rat and a chicken. 

Fun had by all. 

Thanks, Story Museum. 

Make Your Own Scary Book Hallowe'en Camp

I'm taking bookings for my Make Your Own Scary Book camp. There are still some spots left in my illustration classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays too. Click here for more info:

Hello Mother...hello Father...Summer Camp 2015

Last week I ran a "Make Your Own Book" summer camp for kids aged between 7 and 11 in the conservatory at the East Dulwich Picturehouse. I had the most fantastic bunch of kids and we had so much fun. There were emerald cities, people perceiving other people as balls of fire, shrinking boys slipping into underworlds populated by strange, red-skinned citizens, piranha-breathing dragons, glorious golden keys, henhouse prisons, Yonderlands, courageous mice with too-large eyes, Harry Potter fan fiction, desolate 4D worlds, castaways, a white stallion called Halo and a spooky, booby-trapped house in a New Zealand forest. This week I'm back to my own work and confess that it seems a bit dull by comparison...

Some feedback from parents: 

"It was really great and Arbel enjoyed it tremendously" - Einav Avni 

"It was a brilliant course, she really enjoyed it, and she's very proud of what she produced" - Paul Tangney

"The girls were really excited when they came home and proud of their writing. This is the kind of children's activity that really develops a child's love for the creative process." - Ainslie Beattie



I was clearing out some portfolios and found these old illustrations from the first version of Bye-Bye Baby Brother! that I made on my MA. There was such a freshness and looseness to this work that when I look at what went into the final book and my more recent work, sometimes I wonder if I've been on a huge regression these last four years. Surely not...

When Bye-Bye Baby Brother! came out, Walker Books asked me to blog about the process and I did, here. 


     A while ago I wrote a piece for Children's Books Ireland about the #picturesmeanbusiness campaign, which author and illustrator Sarah McIntyre began a few months ago. Its aim is to properly credit children's illustrators on book covers and on social media and to raise their visibility in sales logs such as the Nielsen Book Scan. This was my two cents...

Family Portrait

Last night I finished a bespoke commission I'd been working on for a family whose son's name is Duke. Pen, pencil and watercolour. 


My agent, Felicity Trew, commissioned me to produce an image for the Caroline Sheldon summer drinks party invitation.


A drawing for my friend who is turning thirty and loves Audrey Hepburn. 

October, November, December

A little update about the last couple of months. I illustrated a couple of chapter books, one was the sequel to the first "The Powers" book by Kevin Stevens. This second book in the series is called "Pucker Power," and it has nine dogs, a Persian cat and is set partly in Paris so it was a lot of fun to illustrate.

I think that one comes out in May and it's already had a lovely review in the Irish Times: 


Next was a book published by the Irish language press, An Gúm. It's called "Hubert" and it's a story about a little white imaginary bulldog and a boy called Gary.

December was a busy month of bespoke commissions, there's more info on these under the "Bespoke Commissions" section on the homepage or click here:

Some are below. 


New York, New York

   Last week I was in New York. I had arranged a storytime event in my sister's local bookshop in Fort Greene, Brooklyn called Greenlight Bookstore. In a display of madness/true love, Mick came with me and dressed up as Bruno - he donned a colander, check shirt, white apron, red high-tops and had other, various paraphernalia including a magnifying glass. I dressed up as Mrs. Pinkerley, the octogenarian petshop owner whose shop Bruno buys Titch from. My not-so-trusty shoulder parrot keeled over early on in the session so he had to take a timeout, unfortunately, but other than that, my costume was more or less true to the story. We had a blast and the kids seem to enjoy it too. Photo credit to Mouhsine Idrissi Janati, who took these wonderful pictures. 

Ice Bucket Doodle

  Jenni Desmond of "The Zebra Who Ran too Fast" picture book fame nominated me in an ice bucket doodle challenge. Have a look on twitter to see the icy and interesting doodles illustrators are doing in response to the hashtag #icebucketdoodle. I'm donating to the wonderful charity Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare where we adopted Sandy. They have a donate button on their website:

Picture Book Party Blog Tour 2014

This week Bruno and Titch have been in very good company indeed: on a picture book blog tour with four wonderful Walker Books (Jenni Desmond's The Zebra Who Ran Too Fast, Birgitta Sif's Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance, Herve Tullet's Help! We Need a Title! and Bob Graham's Vanilla Ice Cream).

Photo courtesy of Culture Baby blog

It's been so lovely to see children interacting with the book and they really seemed to enjoy it too (phew!). Zoe Toft's brilliant blog Playing by the Book saw the kids recreating a scene with Brio toys, lego and broccoli. (I thoroughly approved of the addition of a Kit-Kat on the snack bar train). In Zoe's words: "Deadpan guinea pig humour (yes, really!) and fabulous illustrations full of new details upon each reading add something special to this tale about friendship, imagination and looking after pets. We especially loved Bruno's passion for invention, right down the the poster of Einstein by his bed."

Follow this link to read the full Playing by the Book blog post.

Titch's Snack Bar recreated with broccoli and a Kit Kat
Photo courtesy of Zoe Toft at Playing by the Book blog

 The Boy and Me blog seemed to like Bruno and Titch too, judging by this happy camper:

 Photo Courtesy of The Boy and Me blog

In The Boy and Me's words: "This was our favourite book of the five, not least of all because it was about a guinea pig and a young boy, and we had recently looked after the school's guinea pigs during the Summer holidays. Titch is a lone guinea pig in a pet shop, desperate for an owner. Bruno is a lone boy, desperate for a pet. This book shares their first few days together and how they developed their friendship and understanding of each other's needs into something special".

Follow this link to read the full The Boy and Me blog post.

Another lovely blog,  Being a Mummy reviewed it too and had this to say: "Bruno and Titch by Sheena Dempsey was a fantastic book and the boys really enjoyed it. My two boys have asked to read it several times, and little Ned could have read it over and over again all day long. It's the story of a guinea pig who finds an owner who really is his new best friend. The book has some lovely illustrations and the story is wonderful. We really liked this book a lot. It's a story which any child who has met, or dreams of having a pet can identify with and which also made me laugh. I'm just waiting to see what sort of junk models my children make for their pets as a result of this story." 

Photo courtesy of Being a Mummy blog

Photo courtesy of Being a Mummy blog

Follow this link to read the full Being a Mummy blog post. 

Culture Baby blog reviewed it too and even got busy making "Duplo constructions to rival Bruno's Guinea Pig palace."  Follow this link to read a more detailed review from Culture Baby.

Photo courtesy of Culture Baby blog
Photo courtesy of Culture Baby blog

Many thanks to all these wonderful bloggers who reviewed the books, thanks to the great kids who had fun engaging with them and many thanks to Walker for organising the Picture Book Party Blog Tour  2014.

Daunt Book Launch

Some photos from our book launch the other night, at Daunt Books, Marylebone. We had a fantastic evening. Fun was had by all, thanks to all those who made it along. 

A display of our three books in the shop window, The Zebra Who Ran Too Fast (Jenni Desmond), Specs for Rex (Yasmeen Ismail) and Bruno and Titch (Sheena Dempsey)

The three of us outside the shop

A great turnout


Myself and my wonderful editor, Maria Tunney

Wedding Present

  A couple of weeks ago I went to my friends Catriona and Conor's wedding in  Kilkenny. It was  a brilliant weekend. I made this family portrait for them as a present. The building is NCAD, where they first met (and where I first met them both). Henry, the little dog, has a penchant for poo. Judy, the taller one, has a squint and an overbite.