Monday, 15 May 2017

Creating "Friends" - three illustrated stories for children with Neurofibromatosis

I was very excited when I received the proof copy of Friends
Around the middle of last year I started work on a commission from The Neuro Foundation to write and illustrate three stories for children with Neurofibromatosis. The Neuro Foundation support people with the condition, you can find out more about it and the work they do on their website

I was told that the stories would be published together in a book and should feature characters with Neurofibromatosis. The Neuro Foundation wanted the stories to be fun and life affirming while tackling issues that children might experience such as bullying, making new friends and medical check-ups.

The charity arranged for me to meet children with Neurofibromatosis along with their parents. This is a condition that doesn't fully reveal the extent of how it will affect an individual until adulthood and is unpredictable so understandably there are many concerns about the future. The children were lovely, knowledgeable about Neurofibromatosis and able to talk about it openly. Talking to them was inspirational in many ways.

I also met a specialist, Carolyn Smyth, and through talking to her got an insight into what happens at check-ups. Plus she gave me further insights into what it is like to live with the condition.

After digesting all this I came up with some character ideas. The drawings below are the first I did of Bernie, the main character in Rovertown Dynamos vs. Mogford Juniors.

Early character drawings of Bernie.
Following on from that came rough drafts of the stories. This developed into rough layouts which were edited over and over again with the help of The Neuro Foundation and my partner, Mark Panton.
An edited layout for The Missing Fish.

Around two months ago I started on the final artwork using a template supplied to me by Comic Printing UK. The book was to be perfect bound and the template helped me avoid losing important illustration details in the gutter. Comic Printing UK have a lot of artwork advice on their website - if you are working on a book I recommend having a read and if you are looking for a printer I recommend them for that as well.
A page from The Windiest Playground in the World.
Copies of the book were delivered to The Neuro Foundation today and it is now available on their website. It is A5, fully illustrated in colour and has 52 pages including the cover.

The proof copy of Friends. I will be picking up my copies of the book tomorrow.

Friday, 10 February 2017

One Hundred Thousand Jumpers - illustrations for a children's book about adoption

A book about an adopted girl written by Rachel Braverman, illustrated by Amanda Lillywhite and designed by Erik Christopher
One Hundred Thousand Jumpers: written by Rachel Braverman and designed by Erik Christopher. Front cover typography, and all illustrations by Amanda Lillywhite. A book for children about an adopted girl.
When Rachel Braverman told me that she was looking for an illustrator for her story about an adopted girl I was immediately interested, especially when she said it was based on the real experience of adoption. I have an adopted daughter who came to live with us at 27 months old (she is now 14) so I am aware of the unique challenges that many adopted children face and I know that it is hard to find books that show the difficulties and joys of their experiences in an easy to read format*.

When I read the story I was impressed, Rachel has explored the fears of a newly adopted child but it is an uplifting read. Becca (that's her on the cover) has just arrived at her adoptive home. She immediately builds a rapport with her ready-made older sister, Fallon, and the family cat, Oscar. However her relationship with her new mother, Mummy Mo, is more difficult. The story is about how Becca learns to trust that this will be her forever family. It's also about knitted jumpers, Mummy Mo is a keen knitter, hence the title.

One Hundred Thousand Jumpers was designed by Erik Christopher. It is available in Kindle and print versions on Amazon.

If you have any comments or questions about the book please feel free to contact me via this blog, Facebook or Twitter.

*I am aware of the Tracey Beaker stories of course and I think they are brilliant but they are a bit too long and complex for some readers. This book has twenty four story pages split into five chapters and each chapter has an illustration.