A tale of two illustrators

Once upon a time, not so long ago two illustrators were talking. Both were struggling with aspects of the world of publishing. Both worked hard for a living. Neither were particularly happy. And during the conversation, about crafting of books they spoke of how they were not really taken seriously as writers, for sometimes it seems that the words in picture books are seen merely ( merely?) as pegs on which to hang beautiful images, when in fact the words and the images work together to create a space between where magic dwells, neither more important than the other.

The two illustrators made a pact to write a text, each for the other. James Mayhew wrote first, and Can You See a Little Bear was born.

Beautifully written, it’s a book that can be read fast, for tired parents, or slow as slow as the images are packed with opportunities for stories and tales to be told.

Because James is an illustrator he understands how space needs to be left for the images to be imagined, the world of Little Bear to come into being.

Little Bear did well. It sold out in hardback very fast, was translated into a few languages, came out in paperback, and a small board book that was like a little gem, but then it went out of print, and despite asking, pleading, bookshops requesting, the publishers decided not to reprint. And sometimes this can be the death of a book.

But now Can You See a Little Bear is back, in a beautiful new hardback, with a mock linen cover and beautiful paper. This is the cover I wanted on the book originally, and it’s cute as buttons.

Both James and I had small children at the time of making this book, and we wanted something that was beautiful and packed with details and we hoped it would be a book that would be tucked under a pillow at night to inspire dreams. We wanted Little Bear to be a friend.

Can You See a Little Bear publishes in July but is available from Solva Woollen Mill a bit earlier we hope. Anna has Can You See a Little Bear available for pre-order. It has a really small print run, so if you want a first edition be fast.

Meanwhile, time passed….. books were published…. James and I continued to talk, then…… Mrs Noah started to talk to me, and it rained. James became involved in many wonderful concerts, bringing music and art to so many children, and I wrote Mrs Noah’s Pockets. There’s more about the genesis ( see what I did there?) of the book in another blog post.

I still remember how nervous I felt sending the text to James. Would he like it? Such a relief when he said yes. And then it was my turn to be amazed as James danced into a new and beautiful language and put flesh on the bones of my spare story.

Mrs Noah is a rebel with a sewing machine. She knows her own mind and quietly gets on with doing what she knows is right.

Some people love her, others have described my text as a ‘butchering of the biblical story’ (wearing that badge with pride, thanks for that.)

Both of the books are published in hardback by Otter-Barry Books, distributed in USA by PGW. Signed copies of Mrs Noah’s Pockets are available from Solva Woollen Mill along with my other books in print.  They also have what I think might be the last copies of East of the Sun, West of the Moon for a while….but that’s another story.

Meanwhile I am really pleased to say that Mrs Noah’s Garden has been commissioned and James will begin work on the artwork soon.

And now, I have much to do, before heading to Hay on Wye with prints, London for the British Book Awards and then Edinburgh for Connect with Nature festival and The Lost Words exhib at Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. I will be doing a talk on the Saturday at the festival, followed by leading a talk around the exhibition, which will be a bit like doing a powerpoint, but with lots of gold leaf.

For now, I have prints to prep, and a fish to finish painting and words to write in otters. But first I need to turf the golden dog child out of my seat. For she has found a pool of sunshine.


About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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