Archives for the month of: September, 2012

Not long ago my daughter Anna decided she would enter a competition to design and create her own picture book. The competition was being held by the Reading Zone, and entries were to be judged by the amazing author and illustrator, Nick Sharratt.

Anna has always loved drawing cartoons, and a while back she had come up with a clever and heroic character called Bea who was, naturally, a bee. In a little yellow notebook she had drawn thirteen comic book adventures in which Bea had to tackle all sorts of evil foes. The titles included Bea and the Terrible Bee-Eating Toilets, Bea and the Rabid Rollercoaster, and Bea and the Dentist of Death!

Here is the cover of her comic book. You can see the amount of detail Anna always puts into her drawings. I particularly like the bee ferris wheel!

Inside, the comics are all drawn on lined paper, and Anna’s little insect characters are full of expression and doing wild things. Here you can see Bea triumphing over the terrible bee-eating toilets:

One of the original stories in this comic book was called Bea and the Giant Evil Marshmallow. Anna decided that would be the story she would turn into a picture book for the Reading Zone competition, and she set about drawing furiously!

It took a few days for her to draw and colour the 24 pages required for the competition. She changed the title to Bea and the Marshmallow Menace, and you can see the cover at the top of this post. Below is the moment when Bea saves the day, with worrying consequences…

We packaged Anna’s book up carefully and she sent it in through her school. Then there was a very long wait. You can imagine how thrilled she was when the Reading Zone people announced the winners, and she had won first prize in the senior school category!

The prizes are the most exciting thing of all. Anna has received 50 printed copies of her book, her school will receive a collection of picture books for their library, and an author or illustrator will come to the school as a special event!

Anna has been invited to read her story to the nursery and Primary one classes, and in preparation she has made a little Bea toy to take with her. Isn’t she the cutest thing? She is made with a yellow sock, bits of a black sock and braided black wool for her arms and legs. Her antennae are made from a black paperclip, and her eyes and shoes are made with Fimo baking clay. I just hope the children won’t pull her legs off!

Update: Anna had a lovely time with the nursery children at her school, who seemed to really enjoy hearing her read the Bea story. She visited two nursery classes and four P1 classes, and had a great time being a visiting author!

Anna never stops drawing cartoons. Here are two more:

©Anna Rickards 2011

©Anna Rickards 2012

I think she should start a cartoon blog of her own. There are lots of brilliant illustrators’ blogs out there to inspire her. Maybe one day she’ll take the plunge!

Sure enough, Anna has got into cartooning in a big way. You can see her pigeon characters Frank and Howard on her Instagram site HERE.

The other day I went to visit a friend of mine who is a brilliant illustrator. Like me, she is a North American living in Scotland, and like me she has two kids who sort of inspired her to get into writing and illustrating children’s books. Her name is Sara Pinto and she is full of amazing and incredible ideas!

For example, one of her books is called Apples and Oranges: Going Bananas with Pairs. The idea for this book came from a question a teacher once asked Sara when she was five years old. The question was, “What do apples and oranges have in common?” The teacher was probably expecting her to say that they are both fruit. What she actually answered was, “They both don’t wear glasses.” I’m sure the teacher was surprised, but she couldn’t argue because it was true!

Sara’s books are always quirky and full of surprises. Her first book, The Alphabet Room, has a door on each page that you open up to find new things (Apples, Bowls, a Cat, a Dog) filling up the room. Each time a new page is turned the things have changed places so you have to search each time to find them all.

As a follow-up to her clever ABC book, Sara then wrote and illustrated a counting book called The Number Garden. This one uses little gates you have to open to find one sun, two rabbits, three lawn chairs, and so on.

Sara’s most recent creation, The Color Closet, is an iBook for the iPad. It’s all about colours, but these are colours you’ve never heard of before! As you click to open up the closet, all sorts of unusual things appear, and a touch will turn them lime, turquoise, mustard, cerulean or custard. What a fun way to discover how many colours there are!

Here are some examples of the things you can find in this colourful closet:

It’s always a pleasure to spend time with Sara as she is so full of fun and crazy ideas. I always come away feeling inspired and encouraged! Thanks, Sara!

A while back I heard an interview on the radio with Sir Tim Rice, who has written the lyrics for many famous musicals (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King and Evita, among others). He was talking about the brilliant musical Matilda (based on the Roald Dahl book and written by Tim Minchin) and said there weren’t many people writing new musicals these days.

And that got me thinking…

Pink! (illustrated by the wonderful Margaret Chamberlain) has been used widely in primary schools across the UK and abroad to help children think about how it feels to be different. Lots of kids can relate to Patrick the misfit pink penguin, and it suddenly occurred to me that the story would make a great musical!

I decided the best way to make this happen was to ask a children’s theatre company to help me. It didn’t take long for me to find the perfect one: Hopscotch Theatre Company have been bringing fun musical productions to schools across Scotland for many years, and they were very excited about working with me to bring Pink! to the stage.

But mounting a new production takes money, for writing the script and the songs, designing and making the costumes, creating the sets and props and paying the actors and the director to rehearse the show and then take it on tour. We decided to apply for a grant from Creative Scotland to help us.

We spent weeks putting together our proposal and filling out the application form. Then we had to wait another month to hear what the decision would be. And to our huge delight, they said YES!

I am now officially working with the lovely people at Hopscotch Theatre Company to turn my picture book Pink! into a fabulous new musical that will bring a gentle anti-bullying message to children aged 4 to 7.

I’ve already written a first draft of the script and have really enjoyed tackling the challenges of bringing the story alive with actors. How will their penguin suits work? How can we get Patrick to turn from a normal black-and-white penguin into a pink one? How can we make a flock of flamingos fly off into the sky?

I would tell you, but perhaps you should wait until PINK! the Musical comes to your school!