"In June 2017, Penguin Random House UK and Ministry of Stories launched seventeen unique new picture books, all written by children between the ages of 8 and 12 and brought to life by volunteer illustrators."
I was quite nervous when I met my author back in February. It is a truth universally acknowledged that children can be the toughest critics. I attempted to mentally prepare myself for the stinging honesty that I was likely to face.
On that Saturday morning in the Ministry of Stories' London workshop, my author looked at the character sketches that I had prepared. I waited in quiet anticipation.
"Do you like it?" I asked hesitantly
To my relief, she nodded.
Once I began asking more specific questions, alterations began to form in her mind. The villain was too fat, the hero needed a different outfit, and I needed to add a few more objects to the utility belt. Without a doubt, this was her book. It was my job was to make sure it was perfect.
For every question I had, there was a quick reply. Entire backstories were invented on the spot. Almost instantly, my author had created an imaginative world for these characters. She knew their likes and dislikes. She knew exactly where they lived. She knew all about their family life and their childhood experiences.
As an illustrator, I was beaming. This was the kind of collaboration I dreamt of experiencing. We bounced ideas off of each other, made adjustments with confidence, and grew more and more excited about the project.
I wonder if this is a direction that children's literature can successfully grow. As I opened up the sixteen other books written by these young authors at the launch party last Friday, I was astounded by the variety and imagination that these stories captured. I laughed as I read how a fox ate so much fried chicken that he turned into it. I was charmed by the story of a miniature boy desperate to get to the moon who discovered that it didn't matter how small he was - if he used his brain, he could build a rocket to get there. The books provided a glimpse into each child's mind. They were embedded with cultural meaning and personal experience. They were the most interesting and humbly charming books that I had ever read.
I had an incredible experience illustrating for this Penguin Random House UK and Ministry of Stories project. To those amazing individuals from Penguin and the Ministry of Stories who worked to make this possible, I am so grateful to have been included.
And why stop here? Perhaps this really could be a new kind of picture book.
For more about this project check out:
To see all 17 books in all their downloadable PDF glory: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk/picturebookproject
For more on the Ministry of Stories and all their work promoting children's creativity: http://ministryofstories.org/