Former Herts Ad reporter writes about finally getting his first picture book for children published

Albert the tortoise with the book he inspired, Albert Upside Down

Albert the tortoise with the book he inspired, Albert Upside Down - Credit: Ian Brown

A former Herts Advertiser reporter has written a new children's picture book about a tortoise, Albert Upside Down.

It is first in a heart-warming new series from the award-winning duo of TV writer Ian Brown and animation director Eoin Clarke, packed with charming illustrations and perfect for inquisitive, playful little minds. 

Former Herts Advertiser reporter Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke have created children's picture book Albert Upside Down

Former Herts Advertiser reporter Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke have created children's picture book Albert Upside Down, which is published by Graffeg. - Credit: Ian Brown / Eoin Clarke / Graffeg

Thirty years on, former Herts Ad reporter turned TV producer Ian Brown writes for us again to celebrate his first book for children.  

Former Herts Advertiser journalist Ian Brown, pet tortoise Albert and the cover of his book, Albert Upside Down.

Former Herts Advertiser journalist Ian Brown, pet tortoise Albert with his book publishing contract and the cover of his book, Albert Upside Down. - Credit: Ian Brown

The last time I wrote for this newspaper was 30 years ago. A lot has happened in between.

But I remember then, the area and my colleagues vividly. Nowadays, often better than what I've just had for breakfast.

I'm thrilled to write here again to celebrate the publication of my first book for children, Albert Upside Down – the fulfilment of a dream held since before my time as a reporter.

The cover of Albert Upside Down.

The cover of Albert Upside Down. - Credit: Ian Brown / Eoin Clarke / Graffeg

Dozens of attempts to get published floundered over the decades as my career switched from junior reporter here to national newspapers, TV news and writer and producer of primetime television shows.

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I've written or produced for Top Gear, The South Bank Show, This Is Your Life and The Simpsons, working with hundreds of household names, including Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan, Simon Cowell, Ant and Dec, Sharon Stone, Des O'Connor, George Lucas, Martin Kemp, Bruce Forsyth, Paul Whitehouse, Jamie Oliver, Ross Kemp, Gordon Ramsay, Davina McCall, Trevor McDonald and YouTubers Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee.

It amazes me and seems a long way from the hundreds of hours spent covering parish, town and county councils, magistrates' and coroners' courts, golden and diamond weddings plus the Herts Show, with its livestock and colourful characters.

Ian Brown reporting for the Herts Advertiser on the opening of one of the Radlett's first automated public conveniences

Ian Brown reporting for the Herts Advertiser on the opening of one of the Radlett's first automated public conveniences - Credit: Ian Brown

I always wanted to be a writer. I thought working in TV might be nice. When I left school, because my father had died two years previously, I felt I should work rather than go to university.

A handwritten letter to the BBC (no emails back then) went unanswered. A job in a local shoe shop followed, as did many more letters to the BBC – now typed as I'd invested in a typewriter.

Eventually, the BBC did respond. At an interview, I was advised journalism might be a way into television.

A year's training at Harlow Technical College, as it was, taught me the basics of speed typing, shorthand (devilishly difficult), how courts worked, local and central government.

Towards the end of the course, I was taken on by then editor of this newspaper Robert Richardson. I was now a cub reporter.

Albert the tortoise with the Albert Upside Down book.

Albert the tortoise with the Albert Upside Down book. - Credit: Ian Brown

Rising through the ranks here taught me much that I have used throughout my career; meeting deadlines, working accurately, how to deal with people. I had my 21st birthday here. I bought my first new car working here.

A week later, a photographer colleague pranged the back of that new car as we drove to a report of a fire.

Journalism skills from here helped enormously when I joined This Is Your Life. There was no internet, no Google, no Wikipedia and still no email. Tracing long lost friends was down to dogged research.

All that came after five years here, freelance work on national papers as a sub-editor and a spell in TV news.

From there I moved into entertainment shows.

Ian Brown and Albert the Tortoise.

Ian Brown and Albert the Tortoise. - Credit: Ian Brown

Between TV contracts, I was trying to land book deals. Eventually, I struck upon an idea featuring the family pet tortoise Albert. He was rescued by my wife when she was a little girl, 50 years ago.

Real Albert lives with us still. He could be 80.

Illustrated by Eoin Clarke, my colleague on the grown-ups cartoon show The Bruvs, a series of Albert books was born.

Now the first in a series of picture books for 3+ and tortoise fans of all sizes is being published by Graffeg. There are also ebooks and an animated ebook.

Insects on the belly of Albert the tortoise in book Albert Upside Down

Insects on the belly of Albert the tortoise in book Albert Upside Down - Credit: Ian Brown / Eoin Clarke / Graffeg

Thirty years between my first writing job on this paper and now seem to have passed in a blur.

Getting a book published took all that time and is as much a landmark for me as my start here.

As I'm on about a tortoise, what is it they say about slow but sure?

Albert Upside Down by Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke is published by Graffeg and is available to order now from local bookshops, online and for worldwide shipping from Graffeg.com

Albert Upside Down is a new children's book by Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke.

Albert Upside Down is a new children's book by Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke. - Credit: Ian Brown / Eoin Clarke / Graffeg


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