Author Ian Brown and illustrator Eoin Clarke are children’s literature’s dream team, and they continue to go from strength to strength with new children’s picture books Albert in the Air and Hugg ‘n’ Bugg Finding HomeBy Timothy Arden

Albert with books

Albert with books

Think of a picture-book pairing who have well and truly stamped their mark on the publishing world and most people will name The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler.

But there’s a new partnership in town who, since last year, have been delighting readers young and old with their wonderful series of children’s picture books: author Ian Brown and illustrator Eoin Clarke.

Together, this dream team partnership is responsible for the acclaimed Albert the Tortoise series, which is aimed primarily at children aged three to seven years old.

The combination of Brown’s gifts for storytelling and comedy and Clarke’s sublime, vibrant artwork lifts the books far above the usual fare, making them an absolute treat.

Albert is a most endearing character to pin stories around, with his curiosity and daring often leading him into humorous scrapes and situations.

Previously, he has found himself stuck the wrong way up after tipping over on a rock (Albert Upside Down), in a spin when his food blows away (Albert and the Wind), and imagining himself to be one of his distant ancestors, a dinosaur (Albert Supersize).

For his latest outing, Albert in the Air, Albert ends up leaving the safety of his garden after looking up at the birds soaring above and wishing that he, like his feathered friends, could fly.

He finds himself in a noisy and dirty cityscape that soon has him wishing he was back home but, instead, he gets his wish of taking to the skies – after accidentally getting himself entangled in some balloons.

Albert in the Air by Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke is the latest in the hugely popular Albert series of children’s picture books, inspired by Ian’s real-life pet. He might be slow, but Albert the Tortoise will quickly win your child’s heart.
Albert in the Air by Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke is the latest in the hugely popular Albert series of children’s picture books, inspired by Ian’s real-life pet. He might be slow, but Albert the Tortoise will quickly win your child’s heart.

Thankfully, his friends back in the garden miss Albert and formulate a plan to locate and recover him safely.

As the story relates with a wink, this all goes smoothly because “a flying Albert attached to balloons was not too hard to track down”.

As you’d expect, it’s a simple tale but one that will resonate with young minds, speaking loudly of the importance of friendship, teamwork, caring and belonging.

For example, while Albert is quick to set off, once he discovers that he can dig under the garden fence, he soon realises that he is far more comfortable in the garden where the grass in this case is literally greener.

And I like the way that author Ian Brown explores the sense of wishing you were something else, only to find that all your friends like you for who you are already.

Eoin Clarke’s full-colour illustrations give ample expression to Albert, from capturing his initial delight at the taste of freedom to his worry when he’s lofted high into the air. It makes the character all the more loveable and sympathetic.

And once your kids have read the story, there are lots of fun facts to check out in the back of the book about tortoises, turtles and dinosaurs, as well as the real-life pet that has inspired the series.

Now in his eighth decade, Albert has arguably become the UK’s most famous tortoise, with a huge following on social media and celebrity fans including Jeremy Clarkson, Michael Aspel, John Craven, comedians Paul Whitehouse and Julian Clary, and children’s author Philip Ardagh.

He’s so popular, in fact, that there’s even an official Albert the Tortoise 2022 calendar.

Albert is a remarkable creature, and author Ian Brown gives him full credit for inspiring his career as a children’s author, first being prompted to put pen to paper after seeing his pet accidentally tip over while navigating a rock and wondering what would happen if he wasn’t there to help.

Ian, however, is no stranger to the written word, formerly being a national news journalist and a respected writer and producer on some of the UK’s most-cherished TV shows including the long-running This Is Your Life, Top Gear and The South Bank Show.

And the new Albert book isn’t the only release by Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke to look forward to this month, as October also marks the debut of Hugg ‘n’ Bugg.

Featuring Hugg the yeti and Bugg the mountain flea, Hugg ‘n’ Bugg Finding Home is a comical rhyming story about two misfits who discover that they make a winning team.

For Bugg, seeking shelter from the bitter cold, finds a warm residence in Hugg’s fur, while Hugg benefits from his new friend’s advice and encouragement to overcome his loneliness.

Before they meet, Bugg checks out many different potential homes, including a cave full of bats to other Himalayan animals, but none seem to work …

Next, a goat and some shaggy yaks

Make space for Bugg upon their

Alas, that too won’t do the trick,

And he’s soon flicked off by a

slobbery lick.

He finds Hugg at the top of the mountain, hiding from others because he believes his appearance makes him scary.

Once Bugg arrives, however, the little flea tames Hugg’s fur to make him more presentable to his neighbours.

Children’s picture book author Ian Brown has just launched a new series of comical rhyming stories, Hugg ‘n’ Bugg. Once again, the artwork is provided by illustrious illustrator Eoin Clarke.
Children’s picture book author Ian Brown has just launched a new series of comical rhyming stories, Hugg ‘n’ Bugg. Once again, the artwork is provided by illustrious illustrator Eoin Clarke.

The book is sure to be just as big a hit as the Albert the Tortoise series, being very funny and addressing important moral themes on the power of friendship.

And Eoin Clarke’s artwork is, as ever, exemplary, being warm and colourful, and establishing the new duo and their world from the very first page.

It’s the little comic touches that I liked most, with Hugg, for instance, having whiskers in his ears and hair sprouting from his nose to his toes – abominable, indeed, but ever so cute.

Both Ian and Eoin, whose impressive resume includes the animated opening credits on TV shows including Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing and CBBC’s Operation Ouch, are clearly having lots of fun with the books, and it’s great to know that their award-winning publisher, Graffeg, will be delivering further adventures next year.

In the meantime, the kind-hearted publisher is gifting copies of both Albert in the Air and Hugg ‘n’ Bugg Finding Home to UK charity Bookmark, which helps children develop their reading skills and which has the goal of getting every child reading. 

I can’t recommend these two titles highly enough. The latest Albert adventure is picture perfect while Hugg ‘n’ Bugg are flea-mendous fun for youngsters.

Both Albert in the Air and Hugg ‘n’ Bugg Finding Home by Ian Brown & Eoin Clarke are published by Graffeg Limited. Albert in the Air is out now while Hugg ‘n’ Bugg Finding Home is released on 27th October 2022. Both are available in paperback, eBook and animated eBook formats, priced £7.99 and £3.99 respectively. For more information about author Ian Brown and his books, visit You can follow Albert the Tortoise on Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok. You can also follow Hugg ‘n’ Bugg on Facebook, while Ian Brown can be found on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.



Children’s picture book author Ian Brown cut his teeth as a journalist before moving into television, where he enjoyed a distinguished three-decade career writing and producing for such popular shows as This Is Your Life and Top Gear. In this exclusive interview, Ian reflects on those golden days and discusses his new calling as the author of the Albert the Tortoise and Hugg ‘n’ Bugg series.

Q. How do you think your experience as a journalist and TV writer has prepared you for becoming an author? 

A. Meeting deadlines and working quickly, I suppose. They were both big disciplines in my previous roles. Also, I’m not afraid of a blank page or blank screen. Lots of writers say they have to have their opening lines sorted and a title … I really don’t mind sitting down in front of a blank sheet and starting to type. Hopefully something comes out of it. It’s not meant to be perfect at that stage. 

Q. Your Albert the Tortoise picture books are loved by young and old. What do you think is the secret of their success?

A. The added bonus with them is the inspiration behind them – real Albert the tortoise, our family pet. When people hear about or discover him they are fascinated. The books work for older readers reading to little ones or early readers or grown-ups who are tortoise fans. People have taken to the illustrations by Eoin Clarke too. There is a lot going on beyond the basic storyline. Lots of things to discover in the pictures.   

Q. What gave you the idea to write adventures for your pet tortoise?

A. It just came to me. One day, Albert really did go upside down in the garden. He overreaches or goes on uneven ground and topples over. We rush to him and put him the right way round. But I just thought, what if the other little garden creatures came together to help him. I saw it as a little film, I suppose. It was almost instant.   

Q. What can you tell us about future Albert books? 

A. I can’t give too much away but there are set to be four, for certain. He encounters a pond for the first time and the garden shed is also involved. We have the ideas mapped out and they are coming together. It is very exciting to be extending the adventures Albert and his garden friends can have.  

Thanks to dream team Ian Brown and illustrator Eoin Clarke, Albert the Tortoise has become a firm favourite with readers of all ages.
Thanks to dream team Ian Brown and illustrator Eoin Clarke, Albert the Tortoise has become a firm favourite with readers of all ages.

Q. You have just released the first in a new series of children’s picture books, Hugg ‘n’ Bugg, featuring perhaps the oddest partnership in literary history (a yeti and flea). Where did this idea come from? 

A. It’s been ruminating for decades – more than 50 years. I first wrote about the characters for a school project. We were given an assignment to write anything we wanted with the title ‘The Himalayan Flea’. Of course, it has all changed greatly. I have reworked it, rewritten it, changed the names of the characters loads of times. It evolved into a comedy rhyming picture book and it just seems right. 

Q. What future Hugg ‘n’ Bugg books can readers look forward to? 

A. Excitingly, there are set to be three more books. I can say that a comb is involved and a surprise. Beyond that I better not say. The second book is almost there and the others are being mapped out gradually. We have a lot of fun with these characters. 

Q. Based on the feedback you receive, what do children and parents love most about your picture books? 

A. All ages seem to enjoy the comedy. Then there are the little life lessons about being nice, kind and how the smallest amount of help can make a big difference. The first Albert book was all set to be published and the lockdowns started. All the little messages in it suddenly became ever more important and relevant – about helping others and teamwork. The illustrations are praised, too. There is so much going on. Lots of movement and you are in the thick of the action. There is a lot to see beyond the main storyline.   

Q. Your books feature the wonderful artwork of illustrator Eoin Clarke. How did he come to work on them?

A. I had been working with Eoin on a few animation projects (he is also an animation director and he’s won a lot of awards for his work). When the idea came for the first Albert book, I asked if he might be interested. Luckily, he was. The first look for Albert was a bit more Disney-like. But we settled on a character that is correct in relation to the actual animal. In fact, all the creatures are correct. It’s just that some spiders wear boots and some ants have hats. After so many years working together, we have a sort of shorthand and any idea I might have for an image, Eoin will vastly improve on it.  

Across his career, Ian Brown has got to work with hundreds of celebrities. Here, he is pictured with singer Ronan Keating
Across his career, Ian Brown has got to work with hundreds of celebrities. Here, he is pictured with singer Ronan Keating

Q. In your time as a TV writer and producer you have worked with hundreds of celebrities. Looking back, which celebrity were you most thrilled to meet, and why? 

A. On the big red book tribute show This Is Your Life I got to write or work with some amazing names. Every now and then we would do shows in Hollywood. For one show, the big finish was set to be legendary movie star James Stewart. He wasn’t particularly well at the time and nor was his wife. But we worked out a plan to pick him up from his home, get him to the studios and take up only a short amount of his time. Unfortunately, on the morning of the show, he was too poorly to attend. So, he invited me to his home to pick up a personal note from him to the person being honoured that night. Going to this huge star’s home, knocking on his door, meeting with him, going through what he might write … I have to pinch myself to this day with some of the things I have done.   

Q. Both Albert the Tortoise and Hugg ‘n’ Bugg would make for must-watch children’s TV. Have you any ambitions to translate them to the small screen?

A. As both illustrator Eoin Clarke and I are from TV, and we both see the books in that way when first envisaged, it is, of course, in our minds. We would love to help make that happen. People do keep saying it to us. If we’re approached by the right production company or the right deal comes along, it would be amazing. In the meantime, we are concentrating on the books and getting them right. 

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