It is a pleasure to welcome back Anne Wan to Chandler’s Ford Today and also to welcome her illustrator for her latest book, Manners Fit for the Queen, Sally Goodden.
Anne and Sally held a story and crafts event at Chandler’s Ford library last Saturday, 2nd February.
Manners Fit for the Queen is a slight departure from Anne’s usual children’s writing in that here she is catering for a much younger audience with a picture book. That does not make the book easier to write, far from it.
Hector causes chaos with his terrible table manners. His sister, Isobel, has found her own way to cope with the mess. But how will she cope when they are both invited to a garden party with the Queen?
Picture books look easy to write but they’re anything but. The writer must keep their intended audience in mind at all times. The book needs to be engaging to young readers and it should be entertaining enough for adults to want to read said book when the children are not at the stage of reading it for themselves. Above all, it cannot be boring and should be able to stand repeated readings. A good picture book is read many, many times!
Picture book writers who work with traditional publishers usually have little or no say in who the illustrator is so can give no direction as to how the pictures will be. It is vital to get a picture book right for so many reasons, not least of all is cost. But when they are right, they have an amazing impact on young readers. (The Gruffalo is the obvious example here).
Given a love of books generally starts at an early age, encouraged by shared reading, libraries etc., picture books have a vital role to play here. Picture books encourage the view reading is fun and of course they are great for parents/grandparents to share with their youngsters. Even better are where the picture books are humorous. Everyone likes a laugh after all.
Incidentally, just because you “grow up” doesn’t mean you stop loving picture books. I love a well illustrated book. The Lord of the Rings has wonderful maps in it for example and I still treasure The Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales, a two volume fully illustrated set of books.
Good pictures kick start a child’s imagination in picture books by helping the story come to life. When a child “sees” the story, they “get” it. Picture books also play a vital role in helping children to follow stories through. The pictures develop a child’s imagination as they are reading. Is this how they pictured how Narnia would look for example? What would they have in the setting if they could put something in? Picture books can encourage not just a love of reading but a love of drawing too.
And now over to Anne and Sally to share the background to how Manners Fit for the Queen came together.
THE ILLUSTRATOR’S VIEWPOINT
Allison: Sally, how did you team up with Anne for the illustrations?
Anne and I got together through Hiltingbury Infants School. I had painted a mural of storybook characters in the library there, and Anne came into the school to talk to the children about her Snow Globe series. When she spied my mural she made enquiries and we got together to discuss her picture books.
My previous history is that I started illustrating books in the mid 1990’s, having spent 5 years training as a Scientific Illustrator, and gaining a diploma and BA (Hons) in Scientific Illustration. I was freelance for years, illustrating a wide variety of nature and science books.
Since moving to Chandler’s Ford 8 years ago, and having children, I decided to branch out into a more free, loose style of painting. Instead of producing intricate detailed studies for nature books, I focussed instead on large colourful wildlife paintings for exhibitions, and commissions of pets – animals are my absolute favourite painting subject. I have also painted murals in both the Hiltingbury Infant and Junior schools, and the Minor Injuries Units in both Southampton and in Portsmouth. My website is www.animalartist.biz
I was delighted to be asked by Anne to illustrate her book as it’s my first children’s book. The process was quite different to working with a publisher, as I was aware that this was Anne’s first picture book, and therefore her baby! I very much wanted to understand the vision in Anne’s head of what her characters looked like. We spent a lot of time together trying out different illustrating styles until Anne decided on the fun simple cartoon style.
I sketched up each page in a mini book and we worked very closely together on which areas to emphasise, how the pages flowed together, colours and layouts. When I finished the painted artwork I scanned in each page and used InDesign to create the book layout. It was fun to be creative with the formatting of the text, as well as the illustrations – something that is usually done back at the publishing house.
After initial meetings, sketches, etc the book really started in earnest when schools went back at the beginning of September, and we sent it off to the printer at the end of November, so 3 months.
THE AUTHOR’S VIEWPOINT
Allison: How did you team up with Sally for the illustrations? What other books has Sally illustrated?
Two years ago, I visited Hiltingbury Infant School to speak to the children about my Secrets of the Snow Globe series. While I was signing books in the library, I noticed a stunning mural painted on the wall and was impressed at how the artist had captured the different painting styles of illustrators such as Quentin Blake and Lauren Child.
Having written numerous picture books, but not being artistic myself, I was keen to discover who the artist was. The librarian at the school informed me that the mural had been painted by a parent of one of the children who attended the school, Sally Goodden, who is a professional artist specialising in murals and animal portraits. Sally was delighted at the chance of illustrating a children’s book as it was something she had always wanted to do. This venture was a first for both of us!
I should imagine one of the joys with being your own imprint is you WOULD be able to let Sally know what you were thinking of in terms of images and then leave her to interpret that. Or was it a case of giving her the text and waiting to see what she came up with?
It was actually a very collaborative process, definitely a perk of being both author and publisher! Sally was clear from the start that she wanted to create illustrations that I was happy with and would amend drawings until we both felt they were right.
As a publisher I was aware that the book needed a strong hook and marketing focus. As a parent and teacher, I wanted the book to appeal to other parents and teachers who would want to help children improve their manners. Therefore the book needed to be vibrant and engaging using a clean cartoon style with plenty of action and funny details.
Because the book also focuses on the Queen and Buckingham Palace, I wanted to use pastel colours, and a smattering of the union flag, so that it would sit well on the shelves of gift shops and appeal to tourists.
Before Sally began drawing, I spent time researching the right style for the illustration and the right colour palette. Sally then sketched several examples of how the main characters could look. Once I chose how I wanted Isabel to look, this provided the style for the rest of the book.
Sally then sketched out thumbnail drawings of each double page spread of the book. Although I gave her an idea of what I wanted the content of each page to be, she then interpreted this in her own way. For me this is one of the real joys of working with an illustrator because they see things differently and create images that are sometimes unexpected but often wonderful!
Manners Fit for the Queen is aimed at youngsters who enjoy exploring pictures. Have you a specific age range in mind?
The official age range for picture books is 3 to 5, but this book has appealed to older picture book readers too.
What inspired the book? What made you write for a younger audience than you usually write for? Do you hope to write more picture books? Did you find it took longer than your Snow Globe series? (I know better than to think a short story takes less time to write than a long one. The gap in time is often not as much as people think. Flash fiction makes you very aware of that!).
My interest in writing for children actually began with writing picture books. Before I wrote the Secrets of the Snow Globe series, I had already written 27 picture book stories. This book was inspired, sadly, by the terrible table manners of my own three children when they were younger. Exasperated one morning, I said, ‘It’s a good job the Queen doesn’t have to watch you eat!’. As soon as I had spoken those words I thought, ‘That’s the good idea for a story!’ and began thinking about what would happen if child with terrible manners had to attend a party with the Queen.
Actually writing the book only took a couple of weeks and was much quicker than writing the stories for older children, but then there was the inevitable editing! I rewrote the story numerous times over a period of several years, cutting out sections introducing new ones and developing characters to make the story really work. I also submitted the story to The Literary Consultancy (also known as TLC) who provided a picture book specialist to edit the story. In response to their advice, I then made further changes. The editing didn’t stop there. Sally and I were still making changes to the text during the final stages of typesetting the book.
Did you find you needed to rewrite any of the story because Sally’s illustrations inspired those changes?
Yes. With one particular section, the layout of the illustrations on the page and the way that the text was split up to accommodate these, did affect how the story was read. I had to change the wording to ensure the meaning wasn’t lost.
At Chandler’s Ford Library on 2nd February – Summary
Allison: Did you enjoy the event at Chandler’s Ford Library?
It was a lovely morning meeting parents and seeing their children enjoying making bejewelled crowns and plates of pretend messy spaghetti!
Allison: What did you like best?
Seeing the children enjoying the story and joining in with the actions.
Allison: What worked really well?
Having a story bag with props and a puppet worked really well as it helped to involve the children in the story.
Have you got any other dates on the horizon with the other libraries in our general area?
I have two more library visits booked for the spring, focusing on my latest book in the Secrets of the Globe series called Menacing Magic. These will be at:-
Bishops Waltham Library, 16th February,
10:30 am-12:00 noon: children’s craft and readings
Winchester Discovery Centre, 9th March
10:00 am – 12:00 noon: children’s craft and readings
I will hopefully visit these libraries in the autumn to share the picture book Manners Fit for the Queen‘.
Allison: What do you think are the joys and pains of preparing for this kind of event?
I enjoy sourcing fun craft activities for the children but they can be time-consuming to prepare.
Many thanks, Sally and Anne, for some fascinating insights into the hard work that goes into producing a picture book and the very best of luck for future story and craft events. Reading should be fun and picture books do so much to encourage that.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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