Author – Rik Ivens

Rik Ivens Author Illustrator Animator

At Home with Pickles

We all have the ability to invent, whether it’s ideas, designs, machines, or stories.

One day I was taking a drive along a winding country lane near Kings Newnham in Warwickshire, when all of a sudden a little voice sounded out from behind, “I wonder if anybody lives in that barn over there in the middle of that field.” The little voice came from my curious 7 year old son – Connor, who would often chatter away while sat with his younger companion – 4 year old Freya my sweet and very observant daughter.

Before I had a chance to reply and properly think my answer through, I said, “That’s where the professor lives.” Then Connor replied “Professor?” And I said, “Yes that’s right” while thinking to myself I’d need to expand on my answer convincingly and quickly. Connor continued with, “So what does the professor do there?” Then I said “Well… he invents things.” And you can guess what came next, “WHAT does he invent?” Enquired Connor inquisitively. I noticed that there was an old singular barn that stood in the middle of a field of turnips. My creative thinking juices were in full flow by now and I replied with, “You know not all of the professors experiments go according to plan and sometimes things can go a bit… wrong!”. Even I surprised myself with what I was about to say next. “It has been known for curious naughty boys who have tried to explore Professor Pickles barn, to end up accidentally becoming part of the Professors experiments… like the case of THE TURNIP CHILD!” There was a big gasp from Connor followed by “Oh no! Really?”. “Of course” I replied. Connors questions stopped, as he curiously pondered, needing time to digest this astonishing tale. Which was just as well because by now I had all but run out of ideas of where this story would go next. This short interaction resonated with me. It was fun, engaging and as ‘Real’ as I wanted it to be! The urge to expand it into a story was too powerful to resist. So from that point on, Professor Pickles DID indeed exist… well, to me and Connor at least.

That evening I decided I would write and illustrate a children’s picture book about the Professor. It would have a start, a middle and an end and it would include all of the ingredients necessary to make it worthy of any child’s book collection. On reflection this seemed like a very fitting and natural project for me to embark on.

At that time I was working for a popular children’s educational publishers, I loved my job. I was designer for ‘Literacy Time’ an engaging popular teacher resource pack which consisted of posters, leaflets and questionnaires. In order to make substantial savings on the work budget I’d regularly offer up my illustration skills. On one occasion I recall illustrating a Michael Rosen poem called – ‘Some thought’s about Eggs’. For this poem I depicted a lab coat wearing wacky doctor sat amongst a nest of Easter Eggs. Although the character was sufficiently different enough from my Professor Pickles character, I believe this gave me SOME added inspiration at the time. However, I would definitely say that most of the DNA that went into Professor Pickles characteristics comes from a mixture of various people I have known throughout my life… mentioning no names of course!! But for example, during my time working as a designer for a scientific publishers one of my responsibilities included drawing chemical equations under the supervision of a highly qualified eccentric scientist who shared a few similar traits with my character. Though I’m unsure how my ‘scientist colleague’ would feel about themselves being likened to the GREAT Professor Pickles?

Did You Know?

  • When I was at school my class tutor’s name was Miss Pickles. She was a Science Teacher!
  • Is it any wonder that Professor Pickles’ head is the shape of a peanut? I would not be lying if I told you that one of my favourite experiments in the school Science laboratory was measuring the energy of a peanut. 

  • I started writing and illustrating Professor Pickles Turnip Tangle in 2002. Later I decided to also turn it into an animated book.
  • Could it be just plain coincidence that in my most recent job I worked right next door to a bookshop? Well, it wasn’t planned and actually this bookshop specialised in children’s books. What’s more is that it had stood there for over 40 years.