THERE is a painful irony, admits Glasgow author and illustrator Ross Collins, in the way his dog sabotaged his book about a dog sabotaging a book…

“My dog, Hugo, basically destroyed artwork I was preparing for This is a Dog, which is all about a dog who thinks he is more important than any of the other animals in the story,” smiles Ross.

“It was extremely ironic.”

(Hugo does have the book dedicated to him, however, so Ross has forgiven him.)

This is a Dog has made it on to the shortlist for the 2021 Bookbug Picture Book Prize, alongside Brenda is a Sheep by Morag Hood and My First Book of Birds by Zoe Ingram.

The winner, announced on World Book Day in March next year, is chosen by thousands of children across the country who can cast their votes online either at school with their teacher or at home with their families, via the Scottish Book Trust website.

Glasgow Times:

The books are given out free to primary one pupils during Book Week Scotland in November. Among the young readers making the decision will be Ross’s five-year-old son Ridley, who started school this year.

“He’s pretty excited about the fact his dad’s book will be in the Bookbug bag,” says Ross. “So I reckon I can at least count on his vote. And those of all the other children who won’t be allowed to come to any of Ridley’s birthday parties if they don’t vote for me…”

Schoolchildren of all ages (and their older siblings, and their parents, aunties, neighbours, grannies...) love Ross’s books. He has written more than 100 of them since winning the Macmillan Prize for his very first one, The Sea Hole, in 1994, just after he graduated with a First Class Honours degree in illustration from Glasgow School of Art.

His stories, beautifully illustrated, are both hilarious and heartwarming, full of gentle messages about acceptance, family and friendship.

Ross’s latest book is There’s a Mouse in My House, his sequel to There’s a Bear on My Chair, which won the first Amnesty CILIP Honour, awarded to a children’s book which tackles human rights issues.

Glasgow Times:

It is the story of a small mouse trying to get a bullying bear off his chair: judges felt it could teach children “a great deal about peaceful protest.”

Ross had not planned a sequel, he explains.

“So many schoolkids asked me, when are you going to write There’s a Mouse in My House?” he says. “It wasn’t just, ‘when are you going to write a sequel’, it was as if they already knew what it should be about, and what it should be called.

“I started to think – how could you make a rhyming book around that idea, and the answer is, you can’t. Bear is a brilliant word to rhyme with, but mouse is not. So I wrote it off for a bit – but I kept getting asked, and eventually I came up with a structure I was happy with.”

The tables have turned on the pesky bear in this story – this time, he has an unwelcome guest to get rid of.

“Would you believe it?/He said no!/I’ll chuck him out with one quick throw…/but now that he’s learned taekwondo/ my body aches from head to toe…”

There is even a nod to Ross’s all-time favourite comedian Billy Connolly in the book – in one of the pictures, Mouse is wearing a pair of big banana boots, just like Billy’s.

Glasgow Times:

“I was very happy to get that in there,” smiles Ross. “I’m a huge Billy Connolly fan, always have been.”

Ross lives in Glasgow’s west end with his partner Jacqui and aforementioned son and dog, Ridley and Hugo.

He is also working on illustrating new versions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, which are being republished to mark the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s classic.

READ MORE: Glasgow author Ross Collins scoops Amnesty prize for picture book

“It’s a bit daunting, to be honest,” Ross admits. “The original illustrations are so well known, that it is about balancing having respect for what has come before, and putting my stamp on it.

“I’m really enjoying it though, it’s made me work very hard.” He jokes: “Harder than I usually work, though I probably shouldn’t say that.”

Glasgow Times:

Ross’s book The Elephantom was adapted into a critically acclaimed stage play by the National Theatre time behind War Horse – plans to tour it to China and bring it to the Edinburgh Festival fell through when Covid hit, but some of his other tales, including What Does an Ant-Eater Eat? And There’s a Bear on My Chair, have been recreated by the show’s head puppeteer Toby Olié on YouTube.

“He came up with the idea to entertain young kids during lockdown and he has done a brilliant job,” says Ross, who adds that the worst part of life in lockdown has been the cancellation of all his school visits and events.

READ MORE: Glasgow author's book is a stage hit

“It’s a great shame,” he says. “But to be honest, I know I’m luckier than most – I work from home anyway, so I have basically been self-isolating for 25 years.

“It has had a lot less impact on us than on many others - it’s even allowed us to take solace in what’s important in life.”