Astro Girl is in bookshops and making its way to libraries across the UK as part of the Summer Reading Challenge, so I thought it might be an idea to remind you about the other books with strong female characters I have worked on over the years.
First up, I Can Do It Too, written with much fun and energy by Karen Baicker. I remember how much I enjoyed painting the text! It was easy to bring her to life. It’s still available on Amazon and other good bookstores in the US. Perhaps we need an official UK version? Ahyway, here’s the review from Kirkus:
“Is there anything so heady or contagious as the shiny, new confidence of a child who has freshly mastered the everyday, but oh-so-difficult? No matter that a few drops of juice miss the glass, or that her buttons are a bit askew, the lively little heroine of this satisfying story absolutely exudes positivity and innocent pride in newly-acquired skills. With bright, broad, touch-me artwork and easy-on-the-ears rhyming text, Wilson-Max and Baicker conspire to communicate, most successfully, the infectious exuberance of their cake-baking (okay, batter-testing), trike-riding young subject. (P.S. Thanks for the helmet.)
This sturdy cardstock offering has plenty of finger-paint child appeal: each carefully composed page depicts the earnest little girl’s effort to replicate the activity of a nearby friend or family member, and artfully integrated, actively designed type swings and sings and whooshes across paintings that pronounce her hard-won self-assurance with a boldly saturated palette. Physical skills are not the only kind in focus here, for a happy contagion of kindness is also afoot. The support of her family and congenial companions has the very finest of effects, and best of all, at the end of it all, is our little heroine’s unspoiled and generous display of encouragement for one even smaller than she.” (Picture book. 1½-4)
I am taking part in Pathways, which is a fantastic new programme for young and emerging children’s books and comics talent in the UK.
The Pathways into children’s publishing programme is a groundbreaking new two-year illustration programme for diverse, talented and ambitious artists taught by world-class illustrators and writers, university tutors, children’s editors and art directors. Pop Up Projects has partnered with House of Illustration in the UK and secured 12 publisher and 10 university affiliates who are giving money and time to this project to support the next generation of children’s illustrators!
The project aims to increase diversity and representation in children’s books. Help them find new and ethnically diverse illustration and comics talent from across the UK!
Applications are open until September 2nd. Enourage the young people you know to take part and make sure that they see themselves in the books they create.
You can find out more on pathways-org.com, or on Instagram (@PathwaysINTO), Twitter (@PathwaysINTO) or Facebook (@PathwaysINTO)
In books for the very young say as much as possible with a few words. Illustrations have a high literary value. They really speak to the reader.
If you develop your stories with text, write freely first, then each time you revisit your story craft the maximum meaning into fewer and fewer words. If you prefer to work visually, sketch as much as possible until the images start to pick up some of the slack. The reason they are called picture books is because the words and pictures are equally important. More than that they complement each other and together create a new language.
Let’s break that down; Some people write on their own, some illustrate, some do both. Publishers can start the process from either point but tend to work with words first more often. They will read the text and then make a decision about the illustrator based on their company’s style.
Writers, your part of the book project is going to have other hands and brains joining in. It might be a good idea to write with that in mind.
Normally, illustrators are handed a text and asked to interpret it. Some of the decision-making is already done. The illustrator’s main challenge is to interpret the text in a fresh new way, to listen to the comments and guidance from the book designer or art director. Try using the rule that carpenters use: measure twice, cut once. By the time you get to producing the final piece you will have sketched all the possiblilities you can imagine.
For creators who do both, the challenge is all about discipline. It’s really hard to wite and draw at the same time! Plus you have to be honest enough to look at what youve done and say if its good enough… or not. So do one first, then the other. Repeat until you have what you want.
I first wrote a post with this title about a year ago. I was intending to take you through the lifetime of a book project ‘in real time.’ Each project is different though, and the project I chose is still in its early stages so there isn’t much to report.
So while that’s taking shape, here are a handful of tips and suggestions for anyone thinking of creating a children’s book.
#1 Listen first, draw or write later!
Working on a childrens book? You can learn from listening to young children at their pace. These intelligent, brave people are happy to express their opinions and ideas. Learn to listen first, draw or write later.
This really means know your audience as well as you can. Take them seriously, as seriously as if they were CEOs or leaders. Remember that one day they might be! Find out all you can about child development, for instance. Observe young people and how they interact with others. These insights will inform your ideas.
Find out about how bookstores and publishers sell books for children. Do they aim at the children or the parents? Challenge your own opinions, and others’ about what works and what doesn’t. Most of all remember the books you loved as a child, and more importantly why you loved them.