Endangered animals: The Black Footed Ferret

character, children's books, idea, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max

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The black-footed ferret was Once thought to be globally extinct, but it is making a comeback. It is found in North America and for the last thirty years, people have worked hard to give black-footed ferrets a second chance for survival.
There are now nearly 1,000 animals across North America and of course there is much work to be done to make sure they not only survive, but thrive.

Good luck to the bandits of the prairies!

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Bringing History to Life

design, Ken Wilson-Max, stories

Are you worried children will be bored by stories of events that took pace ages ago?  A little self-conscious that you might start to sound like an old person, a know-it-all? You wouldn’t be the first parent or grown up stuck with the challenge of making history sound, well, current for children. Talking about war is an even trickier proposition. Trust in your child’s intelligence, imagination and empathy. Then do some research, because the facts are already written. Then, all you have to do is tell the story in a way that relates to here and now.

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Take for instance, the story of Momčilo Gavrić (pronounced, Momchillo Gavrich), the youngest soldier in the First World War, which started one hundred hers ago in July, 1914. He was  the eighth child of eleven. His mum and dad were Alimpije and Jelena Gavrić. With 10 brothers and sisters, imagine the house they all lived in. Life must have been quite full and loud and happy. In the middle of summer, August 1914, one hundred years ago, Austro-Hungarian soldiers attacked. His dad, mom, grandmother, his three sisters, and four of his brothers were killed. The happy house was burnt to the ground. Momčilo was at his uncle’s house at the time. His life changed forever.

Momčilo found the Serbian army nearby and told them what had happened. The soldier in charge, Major Stevan Tucović, ordered someone in the unit to look after Momčilo, as he lead the unit to where the Austro-Hungarian soldiers were.

When he was 10 years old, he was promoted to the rank of Corporal by his commander. The unit was sent to Thessaloniki, in Greece. Major Tucović sent him to Sorovits where he was sent to school for a while.

Back in Serbia, the commander of the Serbian army was shocked when he saw an eleven year-old boy in uniform. Momčilo’s commander, Major Tucović told him the story; that the boy had been with them since the Battle of Cer, and that he had both been taught discipline and had even been wounded during his time in the unit. The commander promoted Momčilo again, to Lance Sergeant. 

He was sent to England and finished his education at Henry Wreight school in Faversham, Kent. In 1921 he went back to his country after Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić ordered the return of all children to Serbia. Back in Trbušnica he found his three surviving brothers. He died in 1993 at the grand old age of 93.

What a story! There is so much to discuss…


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There’s more to Ken Wilson-Max’s Lenny Goes to Nursery School (Frances Lincoln, £9.99), with its jolly little hero successfully making it through his first full day away from home. A multi-coloured cast of characters have an equally good time in this picture book, also sturdily produced.

Nicholas Tucker, ‘Children’s summer reading: Treats for the very young’,
The independent on Sunday
 
 

Lenny Goes to Nursery School Book Review – Our Verdict: A nice little book that can help you talk through starting nursery with your little one, including what he will do all day and how he can make friends and have fun. Quite simple and easy for children to understand and good pictures though it’s quite expensive.

Little Darlings Magazine

 

Two Reviews: Lenny Goes to School

character, children's books, design, idea, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, pre school books, publishing, stories

I’ll Tell You About My Dad

design, Events, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, Zimbabwe

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When I was told that my father was not well, and furthermore, what was ailing him was the dreaded cancer, I didn’t know how to react. I don’t believe anyone really knows.

He’d had some back trouble, common for older people, and the x-ray brought some unexpected spots of clarity to his doctor.

By the time he had his follow up appointment I was getting on a plane.

By the time I landed, he knew that there was nothing that could be done.

Each day thereafter became a treasured event. Every word, every touch was amplified and committed to memory.

I left for London ten days later. Our good bye was simple and heartfelt. I believe we said all we could say to each other. He was weak but I felt like I hadn’t been held so tightly since I was a boy.

He did his best to keep us positive in his last days, often joking and doing something silly. His sense of humour was his greatest and final gift.

Three weeks after he found out he was ill, he passed away. His funeral was truly uplifting, both African and European at the same time, just like him.

I wait for the time when sadness comes, but for now I want to celebrate his life and achievements.

Why do I post this here? Because no matter how old we are, we are all children of someone else.  How many times do we long for our mother’s cooking? Or the company of our parents when things are tough?

And then how many more times do we slip back onto our routines and forget these people who care for us the most?

I appreciated my dad from the day I landed in the UK, 26 years ago. I loved him for being himself and for passing on his strength, personality and humour to his children. We will miss him, but every time we laugh, we’ll remember him. He will be with us.

Ken Wilson-Max Snr, 1938-2014

‘Judge me by my successes’ 

 

World Book Day

design, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, publishing

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World Book Day is a celebration of authors, illustrators and reading. It is designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books marked in over 100 countries.

On  the 6th of March, children of all ages come together to appreciate books and reading.

The main aim of World Book Day is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading. But the two are no Longer as connected as the once used to be: electronic books, games and apps now form a growing part a child’s reading life. At the same time the number of titles published each year is almost unsustainable as it is staggering. 292,037 new titles and editions in the USA, 149,800 new titles in the UK for a start.

We’ve been led to believe that paper from managed forests is environmentally friendly and responsible.  Looking after the environment is slowly persuading businesses (like publishing) to rethink  their priorities, but, seriously, with the years it takes to grow a forest one has to wander if the act of chopping trees to make books has contributed to the current changes in our climate…

Perhaps we need to be thinking in terms of promoting reading more than books? I’m definitely in the keep books camp, but it would be great to see smaller numbers and higher quality. After all, the books we have are the ones we love.

http://www.worldbookday.com
http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/learning/world-book-day

Animals? Me?

character, design, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, kids, pre school books, Zimbabwe

I’m not known for painting animals, it has to be said. It took a long time to accept that I could draw and paint animals that look like humans , mainly because I got hung up on the word that describes this process; Anthropomorphism.

Or, perhaps I couldn’t let myself enjoy considering the possibility.  The work I do is mainly about people and objects and how they interact. I spent a lot of time doing that.  But, as every day is a learning day, last year seemed like the perfect time to start focusing on a new skill – two new skills, actually; creating animal characters and then creating stories where they could be free. Creating them in my own way  is like cutting through a thick jungle with a blunt blade and maybe one day things will start to come together.

It’s taken all this time to believe, understand and get excited about this new process. Here are a few from the sketchbooks. All of these characters have made their way in to a book idea with the working title ‘Norton’s Nose Knows’… I’ll leave it at that for now!

K

 

 

Slightly Worried Animals

african, children's books, design, idea, Ken Wilson-Max, kids, publishing, Zimbabwe

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What if animals knew they were endangered? Just an idea…