the Legend of Kevin
15th Sep 18

the Legend of Kevin

Look out for a fat, flying pony, a lonely boy, and some mischievous monkeys! We spoke with PHILIP REEVE AND SARAH MCINTYRE about their latest book, THE LEGEND OF KEVIN.

The story follows what happens when a fat, flying pony called Kevin gets lost in a storm and makes some unexpected new friends.


Q: What sparked the idea of a fat, flying pony called Kevin?

Philip: Back in 1988, when I lived in Brighton, I picked up a little square bit of driftwood on the beach and painted a picture on it of a very fat, white, flying horse with tiny wings.

He's been on the wall above my kitchen door for years, and a few Christmases ago when Sarah and her husband were visiting, she saw him there and thought she'd make her own drawing of him.

Somehow we decided that his name was Kevin, and we made up a story about him, called 'The Dartmoor Pegasus' which you can read online or in our Pug-A-Doodle-Do activity book. But Kevin was such a fun character we just kept on thinking about him, and now he's going to have his own series of books!

Q: ...And how did you decide on what he would look like?

Sarah: He was almost rectangular when he started out, then he went round as a balloon! Now he's sort of jellybean shape. When I draw him on a flipchart at events, I get a sort of warped view, looking around the side, so sometimes he goes other shapes, too!

Q: How was the book written, since you work together on each title?

Sarah: Often we'll start a new story by Philip asking me, 'What would you like to draw?'

Philip: We always talk about the story together for a long time and work out what's going to happen. Then I sit down and write it, but each time I finish a chunk I send it to Sarah to make sure she likes it, and so she can make suggestions if I get stuck.

Q: Why did you decide to flood a town in this story?

Philip: I like the idea of taking a quite ordinary town and transforming it in that way - the rooftops and tower blocks become islands, the streets are rivers, everybody has to get around in boats or go shopping in diving suits.

Sarah: And, of course, it's a magical kind of flood, so mermaids and other creatures of the deep drift in and start having fun in the sunken shops...

Q: Despite the fun parts of the story, you also cover sadness and loneliness; is it important that children see that it's okay to sometimes feel unhappy?

Philip: I think children know that already. It's just important that we tell a good story, and the best stories often have a bit of sadness in them to balance out the fun stuff.

Sarah: I think children know a lot about yearning. They don't get to make a lot of their own decisions about their lives. They're stuck in the same places with the same people and sometimes that can feel unbelievably tiresome; I remember that so well.

It's great to be able to dive into a book and visit a different place and meet different people - and friendly animals!

Q: It's great to see some characters leaping in from your earlier books including the Sea Monkeys and a particular mermaid - why did you want them back?

Philip: Because they're some of our favourite characters! Also, we like the idea that this book takes place in the same world as Oliver and the Seawigs and Pugs of the Frozen North, even though they aren't about the same main characters. We're building a whole Reeve and McIntyreverse!

Sarah: I really missed Iris the mermaid, it was great to see her again. And when we do stage events, we see how excited the children get about the Sea Monkeys. We were on to something with those little twits. (The monkeys, not the children.)

Q: What are your favourite moments in The Legend of Kevin?

Philip: I love the spreads of Kevin flying over the moor, and the bit where he first lands on Max's balcony. And I also like the spreads where the Sea Monkeys are getting hurled about all over the place - there's always at least one who you can see is thinking, 'Wheee! This is FUN!' as it flies through the air.

Sarah: I like the opening endpapers because they show a stylised version of Watern Tor, a place on Dartmoor where our families went hiking together over the Christmas holidays. It was a bit magical that day with mist and sunbeams, and it wasn't entirely unbelievable that a flying pony might swoop in.

Q: If Kevin the flying pony lived in your back yard, where would you have him take you?

Philip: I'd have him fly up to London to collect Sarah and then we could go to do book festivals and school visits on him. It would be fun to arrive on a flying pony. But we might need a second flying pony to carry our luggage.

Sarah: My new lifetime ambition is to make a grand entrance into an operatic version of The Legend of Kevin at the Royal Opera House, flying down on to the stage on Kevin and making a cameo appearance.

Q: Kevin loves biscuits; in which order would you put yours - Custard Creams, Bourbons, Pink Wafers?

Philip: I'd put them in that order, with Custard Creams as the nicest, pink wafers at the bottom. I don't know why we chose those ones. Maybe we thought everyone would know them. My favourite biscuits are chocolaty ones, but I think Kevin likes the biscuity bits best.

Sarah: Honestly, with a cup of tea, I'd hoover up anything you put in front of me.

Q: Can you give us a glimpse into your next book? What are you each working on now?

Philip: I've just finished Station Zero, the third book in my Railhead trilogy of fantasy novels. And the film of my first novel, Mortal Engines, comes out at Christmas. The only thing I'm writing at the moment is more Kevin books!

Sarah: Yes, Philip's written the second one and today we sat together and worked our way together through the pencil roughs. And I'm doing some publicity for this year's picture books, The New Neighbours and Dinosaur Firefighters.

Q: Where's your favourite place to work?

Philip: I have a studio in my garden where I write. Sometimes, when the rough illustrations need doing, I go and work in Sarah's studio in London with her, or she comes down here, and that's really good fun.

Sarah: It depends what I'm working on! If I'm writing a story on my own, I often like to go to a cafe and drink lots of coffee while I work. If I'm creating illustrations for a book, I prefer to work at my studio because I have room to spread out big sheets of paper and all my art supplies to hand. And I work so much more quickly when Philip comes and helps!

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