child and polar bear, from The Ice bear by Jackie Morris

a white duck in a tailcoat

Tell Me a Dragon, front cover of book by Jackie Morris, a girl feeding fairy cakes to a large blue-green dragon

Starlight Sailor, front cover, illustration by Jackie Morris, showing a child and a dog sailing in a paper boat across a sea of blue through which a blue whale swims

 

woman sleeping peacefully with a polar bear, from East of the Sun and West of the Moon

the jester from Singing to the Sun by Vivien French and Jackie Morris

snow leopard, front cover of The Snow Leopard by Jackie Morris, snow leopard head looking out of the picture, with great blue eyes

The Barefoot book of Classic Poems, front cover

How the Whale Became by Ted Hughes, front cover

Can You See a Little Bear by James Mayhew, front cover of book.

The Seal Children, front cover, showing child, Morlo, swimming with his mother, the selkie, by Jackie Morris

Lord of the Forest, front cover of book, by Caroline Pitcher and Jackie Morris, showing the face of a tiger

Little One We Knew You'd Come, illustrated by Jackie Morris, Mary and baby Jesus

Mariana and the Merchild by Caroline Pitcher, illustrated by Jackie Morris

The Snow Whale by Caroline Pitcher and illustrated by Jackie Morris

The Greatest Gift, illustrated by Jackie Morris

The Time of the Lion by Caroline Pitcher, illustrated by Jackie Morris, book cover showing a boy and a lion

Out of the Ark by Anita Ganeri, stories from world religions, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Stories from World Religions by Anita Ganeri, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Animals of the Bible by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Miracles by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Parables by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Cities in the Sea by Sian Lewis, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Cantre'r Gwaelod by Sian Lewis, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Grandmother's Song, illustrated by Jackie Morris, written by Barbara Soros

Bears Beras and More Bears by Jackie Morris

Journeys Through Dreamtime by Anita Ganeri, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Stories From the Stars, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Jo's Storm by Caroline Pitcher, illustrated by Jackie Morris

 

 

 

snow leopard face from the poster for The Snow Leopard by Jackie Morris


The Snow Leopard by Jackie Morris

This is the story of a girl and a leopard, of the high, cold mountains and star spangled snow, prayer flags and magic. Woven out of folk tales and dreams.

old notebook with the first seeds of the snowleopard's story jotted down

The book began with the words, caught in the wind while out on a walk along the cliffs in Pembrokeshire and captured in the small note book that should go everywhere with me, when I remember. As I tried to put the pictures together with the words the two elements began to merge, writing pictures and words together. I read books on snow leopards. I had always been fascinated by these wonderful creatures, so seldom seen. Their huge tails and thick fur, their mythical quality as well as the mountains through which they range, knowing no boundaries or borders made by man all makes these animal so beautiful.

Many years ago I bought The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiesson. At last I settled to read it, thinking it was about the search for the leopard. It wasn't, it was a search for other things, but the book created wonderful images in my head, images of wildness and patience.

When it came to going to see leopards though the publishers budget would not stretch to a trip to the Himalayas. However, throughout Britain, in many small zoos and safari parks, there are leopards in captivity. I was lucky enough to be allowed into a private leopard sanctuary where a family of snow leopards lived. In the wild you can search for years for a sight in the distance of the elusive leopard. Here I could get close, very close up.

 

photograph of a curled up snow leopard from Satago Leopard Sanctuary in Welwyn Garden City

 

snow leopard's head

 

Snow leopard licking his paws at the Santago Leopard trust. Beautiful cat called Shadow.

 

family of snow leopards

With a collection of drawings and photographs, lots of photographs, and the thumbnail sketches coming together, and a firm commitment from Frances Lincoln I started on work for the book, taking the thumbnails and making a dummy book to see how the words and the pictures fit together.

 

thumbnail sketches for The Snow Leopard, something like a story board, working out ideas for the book and how it will flow.

sketch for the back cover of The Snow Leopard
sketch for the front cover of The Snow Leopard

The front cover was easy. Lord of the Forest had worked so well with the image of the tiger. The back cover had to be the face of the child.

The small thumbnails were worked up and changed. Changes would still be made later as the book came together and the rhythm of the turning pages had to fit and move together. With the leaping leopard the image is first reversed, and then in the finished painting the child's eyes are closed which makes the picture much stronger, more magical.

Also with the painting of the child holding the leopard's head the image is reversed and proportions changed.

Small sketch for The Snow Leopard

 

More worked up sketch of the thumbnail above

paiting of Snow Leopard leaping up to the mountains, carrying the child on her back.

 

thumbnail sketch for the child and leopard. Originaly teh child was a boy.

more worked up sketch from dummy book of child holding leopard's head.

snowleopard and child from The Snow Leopard by Jackie Morris

 

front cover, first attempt, oh dear
front coover, second attempt, oh dear oh dear
final painting for the front cover of the snow leopard.
The cover was more difficult than it should have been because I was not thinking properly. It took three attempts. The first one looked like a white tiger, the second was not right and the third version worked. She looks straight back at you with her blue cats eyes. The back cover, which had threatened to be hard, was easy, in retrospect.

back cover of teh Snow Leopard showing the child looking out from the book

The book is now published, in French ( La Panthere Blanche, Gautier Langereau, 25% bigger than the UK edition and better for it ) and Danish (Sne-Leoparden, Klematis ) and in the UK and USA by Frances Lincoln ( distributed in the USA by PGW and in Canada by Raincoast)

Child and leopard sleeping together with thick tail curled around the child.

Snow leopards are some of the most beautiful and rare cats on the earth, threaded around with myth and magic. To find out more about these animals and their habitats look at The Snow Leopard Conservancy and The Snow Leopard Trust.

 

For teachers wishing to work on The Snow Leopard there are wonderful resources and lesson plans to be found at The Snow Leopard Trust here, including information on where the leopards live and their prey and the people who live around them.

To find out more about the myth and magic look for Mergichans here. It was only after writing the story and looking for more information on leopards that I found them, and reading this myth made me realize that there is magic in the world.

For more about Snow Leopards and to find out how the wonderful footage of leopards from the Planet Earth series almost wasn't included read the interview with Nisar Malik.

watercolour painting of a snow leopard for The Snow Leopard by Jackie Morris

 

To buy any of the books featured on this site

  • Order from your local bookshop. Small books shops are a treasure and face strong competition from the big sellers on line who buy at huge discounts. Nothing beats browsing around in a well stocked small bookshop, where you chance upon a gem that until then you had no idea you wanted.
  • Order on line either direct from publishers or from one of the big on-line booksellers
  • If you are after one of the books that is out of print try and find it on abebooks.com They have a fantastic resource for tracking down out of print books.
  • All of these books are available from your local library.



 





 





©Jackie Morris