Lucky Us!

My latest picture book crush? Lucky, by British author/illustrator David Mackintosh. Happily, David was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book. Also, ARTWORK! How much do we love that?!


Lucky, ©David Mackintosh


Story synopsis, from the title page:

When Leo’s mother announces there will be a surprise at dinner, Leo and his brother are desperate to find out what it is, and their imaginations run wild.

Why did this book snag my attention? Because every element is totally kid-centric. The brotherly relationship? Perfection. Their roller-coaster emotions? Perfection. Their imaginative (but logical-to-them) guesses? Perfection. But don’t take my word for it. In a starred review, Kirkus said:  “This is a quirky, spot-on snapshot of family life, perfect for family sharing and repeated readings. And children will love examining the whimsical, surprisingly delightful details in the drawings. A winner.”

Here are a couple of spreads from the book, generously shared by David.


Photo 1

From Lucky, ©David Mackintosh


photo 2

From Lucky, ©David Mackintosh


Once the boys hit upon the idea that Mom’s big surprise is a trip to Hawaii, things rapidly spiral out of their control…


photo 3

From Lucky, ©David Mackintosh


. . . until they rush home to discover that Mom’s big dinner surprise is …


photo 4

From Lucky, ©David Mackintosh


Well, I’ll let you discover that along with the boys.

Meanwhile, David was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Jill:  The way the narrator jumps from one conclusion to the next and reacts to his brother’s comments feels so absolutely REAL that I had to wonder … is this kid YOU, or based on someone you know?

David:  No, not really. But I think this is a familiar thought process for a child. If your mind is dominated by an idea, you can be very sensitive to anything getting in the way of realising whatever you’re anticipating. You’ll will something to be the way you want it to be. That’s what Lucky is based upon. A child can dwell on the idea of something nice all day long, or longer. I like that idea.

Jill:  Could you tell us a little about your story writing process? Did the Lucky story/characters come first, for example, or did an image spring to mind?

David:  I write, illustrate and design my picture books so the boundaries of these three things rarely exist for me. I concoct an idea for a story to say something I want to say. So I sit down and start scribbling out a storyboard visually, and the text is generated organically with the visual narrative. Once I have a plan, I look at the text independently and tighten it up so it reads the way I want. Then I return to the storyboard with this text and look at the visual narrative and how the new text works. It’s back and forth like this until it’s sweet.

With Lucky, I had the idea of the disappointment the narrator had when an expectation was not realised being turned around to show that there are other things that are important in life. From there I tried to think of a story to hang this on.

Other times, I get stuck on a title, or an opening line that I think might be attractive to a young reader, and take it from there. These might be things that I hear out and about, people talking, or on a cereal box label or on an advertising billboard. Or an expression or antiquated saying or something that sounds good fullstop.

But the end result is a picture book and my text often doesn’t work on its own. It’s to be read with the pictures because my pictures are reacting with the words, so it needs to be in its visual narrative, in the context of the book. The message is what inspires the story, the characters and storyline and look of the typography is just a vehicle for the idea.

Jill:  How do you create your art?


David Mackintosh studio


David:  I start with drawing the basic composition on thin watercolour paper. I use an oil pencil because it’s waterproof and doesn’t smudge too much and I can add watercolour or coloured pencil over the top. I’ll add other elements to the drawing in collage. Then I’ll send these drawings off for scanning and once they’re back I can add other things to them if I need to, like mechanical tints or better drawings. My Photoshop skills are very lo-fi, so I’m really using it as a fancy lightbox for making separations.

I don’t do underdrawing at all. I just draw until I get a picture I like and take it from there. There’s no erasing, just throwing away paper with terrible drawings on it. That’s why I use thin watercolour paper or layout paper: it’s more economical. I like drawing with different things in a drawing, like ink and a brush or coloured pencil and charcoal etc.

I do a lot of lettering in cut paper too. This is usually freestyle and is a matter of just cutting it out of paper or kraftpaper until I have something I like. I paste it all up on a lightbox.

david at work

©David Mackintosh

You can learn more about David by visiting his website. Be sure to look for his next picture book, What’s Up Mumu, in October!


What’s Up Mumu, ©David Mackintosh

Please help me thank David for sharing so openly with the rest of us picture book builders!

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Stinkbird Has a Superpower, Jack Knight's Brave Flight, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in 2024: Parrotfish Has a Superpower and Bird Girl: Gene Stratton-Porter Shares Her Love of Nature with the World. She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at


  1. Looks like a fun book! I can’t wait to find out what the surprise is! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wonderful post!! So excited to enjoy this book..thank you, Jill and David!

  3. I’m so LUCKY you shared this post! Can’t wait to find this book.

  4. You completely nailed the kids voices. It reads like a conversation between my brother and me. Our surprise was always another new sibling.


  5. Oops! Meant to write “kids'”. Always rewriting.

    Still Ann

  6. This looks fantastic — and so nice of David to stop by! But what’s the surprise??! I’ve added this title to my library list (along with David’s other books). Thanks, Jill and David!

  7. Kathy Mazurowski

    Thank you for sharing your process.

  8. Have been thinking a lot about (and looking at a lot of) first person narration in PBs lately — what a great addition! It works so well when an author really captures some aspect of how a child’s mind works like this!

  9. Now I’m off to get the book to see what the big surprise is! Thanks, Jill!!

  10. Well now I HAVE to get this book to find out the big surprise. I too am interested in first person narration and I can’t wait to add this book to a growing list. Many thanks, Jill and David, for sharing this winner!

  11. I adore this book! It’s so kid-like and so incredibly original!

  12. What a lovable book!

  13. This book sounds like so much fun! Thanks for the great interview 🙂

  14. I can’t wait to find out what the surprise is! Thanks for interviewing David, Jill. And thanks to David for spending time with us.

  15. Thanks, Jill. I checked out David’s website and cracked up at his renaming of a UK festival to: Barnes Children’s Litter Chewer Festival 2015 LOL!

    Lucky’s on order to read, too. Thanks.
    Children’s Book Reviewer

  16. What an awesome post! Aren’t we LUCKY?

  17. Awesome post! Thank you, David, for the inside peek— sweet studio! (she says through slitted green eyes) Thank you, Jill, for your review and insight. Can’t wait to see this book!

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