The Dinosaur & Dragon Juice Café by James Anthony Crabb

Illustrating: Evolution, Research & Mistakes along the way

Creating my first book “The Dinosaur And Dragon Juice Café” I ran into many challenges.
Firstly designing of the characters, their sizes, shapes, colours, expressions, etc.
I sent my first drawings off for the authors blessing, these were promptly turned down for being too Disney like (big feet, gloved hands) and lacked colour.

My second attempt was better, colours ok, but too old fashioned.
I was asked to modernise everything, for example by adding a modern car for Grandad, who should look younger, trendier clothes for the special children, trainers for the main characters, fiercer looking dinosaur and dragon, not too much trouble!


The story having been aimed at 6 to 7year olds had to include special children of similar age, this meant (with the help of my wife) hiking round stores and supermarkets, looking at children’s clothes and shoes, researching catalogues for the mentioned trendier look, studying little faces, and looking at mango’s, their shapes and colours.

I tried many types of media for the drawings, ink pens, acrylics, watercolours and fluorescents, I finally settled for watercolour pencils, a good choice I think. I found these were perfect for shading, blending, very clean to work with, and brushing in afterwards with water, I could achieve excellent results very quickly.

Unfortunately mistakes were made along the way proving to be a costly venture, sometimes a nightmare, mainly because they seem to appear at the end of a drawing, often resulting in redrawing (with the help of a light box), and patching which then has to be blended on the computer.
I hit on the idea of using Tippex, easy to cover! Great, but to my sheer horror showed up glowing white in the final scanning.
This led to last minute panic of retouching using Photoshop on the computer, obviously not having enough time to redraw.

Conclusion, I must be more careful in preparation and correctly confident before finishing off.
I have learnt many lessons in putting the illustrations together for this book, firstly use of a computer (for scanning, printing and text), research has been time consuming, use of the internet would have been a great asset, so hopefully I will be connected soon.

I really should mention the excellent advice and help I have received from my good friend Caroline Bailey (illustrator of the Sleepy Ladybird) who has spent many hours vetting and correcting my work, I am very grateful, without her I would not have succeeded in this task.

Next on the Picnic Blog is a change of scene with Rick Schmidt author of Black President - Stay Tuned!

Thank you,

James A. Crabb

The Dinosaur & Dragon Juice Café by James Anthony Crabb


Before doing children’s books illustrations, I never realised the complexity of illustrating a book.

Apart from drawing, reading text over and over again, matching drawings to text, being sure, because changing text or drawings can lead to ongoing problems later on throughout the book, researching, using models etc, stabilising characters features, working with colours and making many notes for future reference, is there no end ?

Planning most importantly, putting together a mock up book, scanning, copying, doing test prints and final printing, and hopefully lead on production.
Was it worth it? YES.

My first book is in the process of printing and will soon be on sale which is a very exciting feeling.
I would like to say a big thank you to Picnic Publishing for giving me the opportunity to become an illustrator.

Thank you, (this is not a goodbye though as I will be publishing my last and best blogpost tomorrow!)

James A. Crabb

The Dinosaur & Dragon Juice Café by James Anthony Crabb


Many times during Sunday roast, my young grandson has remarked we eat lots of bouncy broccoli don’t we granddad, and big bag of potatoes isn’t very full now, we’ve just eaten them, has mucky mango all gone? all this between drinking his dinosaur milk.
He did spend a lot of time with me while I was illustrating the story of “THE DINOSAUR AND DRAGON JUICE CAFÉ” and seemingly little mind certainly absorbed the story line and characters.

I am very lucky to have such a lovely knowledgeable little fellow who loves his food.
He eats so well, loves his greens, always discusses healthy foods and is absolutely no problem at the table, he has obviously been raised well.
He is eagerly waiting for me to draw a battle story, as his main interest is soldiers (especially Russian troops with fur hats and a red star).

I am looking forward to start working on my second book “TIGER TRAP” hopefully getting a better start, having ironed out some of the challenges I encountered with my first effort!

James A. Crabb

The Dinosaur & Dragon Juice Café by James Anthony Crabb


“The Dinosaur & Dragon Juice Café” An odd title for a book, but explains itself as the story unfolds.
A pleasant exciting little story, which seems to delight and baffle our young ones with its sad, or is it sad, ending?
How can it be sad when bouncy broccoli, mucky mango and big bag of potatoes are delighted at the outcome!

My young grandson and his friends have read a preview of the book, and like all seven year olds were quick to pass judgement.
Overall they gave a good thumbs up approval, and are eagerly waiting the arrival of the finished book to emerge.
Whilst previewing the story, their comments were really comical and delightful. For example…they knew potatoes have eyes, but they don’t open and close do they silly. And (between fits of giggles) broccoli can’t run either, what’s a mango? and Grandad where is The Dinosaur and Dragon Juice Café? Such innocence.

Have you ever had comical or interesting comments from your young readers?
I would like to hear from you if you have.
The aim of the story is not only to give youngsters pleasure, but also to try and  introduce them to eating healthy food in a nice way.
My opinion is, the story does both in an excellent way. If you have a child or grand-child who is not too keen on vegetable, or milk, buy the book and you’ll be surprised how things can change!

James A. Crabb

The Dinosaur & Dragon Juice Café by James Anthony Crabb


One of the nicest moments of being a grandparent is reading a story to a seven year old at bedtime.
It is even nicer when it is a children’s story book that you, yourself, have helped to produce.

My initiation into the fairy tale world of children’s reading books, started with my dear friends persuading me, with tales of wealth and grandeur, to use my artistic skills to illustrate a nice little story called ” The Dinosaur and  Dragon Juice Café”.
When I first read this story, my reaction was where on earth do I start?
Having retired from fifty years of engineering to have a well earned rest, I now find I am busier than ever, starting a new career, and wondering where all the time has gone!

However, months later of drawing, and redrawing, painting, scanning, printing, modifications, criticisms and frustration I am delighted with the overall result. It is a nice rewarding feeling that hopefully someone, either parents, grandparents and more importantly children somewhere, are enjoying my efforts in creative drawing.

I have sat many times with my young grandson listening to him reading his school books, sometimes skipping through the pages very quickly, because he says he has already read it in class (or he would rather use his Playstation or Wii), other times having a small discussion about the book, regarding the characters, whether exciting or boring.
Looking at the condition of the books,(some looking like they have narrowly escaped the shredder), I often wonder if their  days  are numbered, but how can you replace imagination? That’s what books are all about and that’s where hopefully my new career carries on.
There are so many beautiful books available these days, it would be a terrible shame to lose them!

What do you think?

Thank you all,
James A Crabb.