The book is called "The Ones Who Walk Above" and tells a story of a young badger who leaves his home on a quest to find the truth behind the legend of the fabled characters of the same name from his childhood stories. His path to discover the truth leads him on a dramatic journey through the forest, making friends with many other woodland creatures on the way.
Although we had lots of previous experience illustrating various projects for a variety of clients, this was the first time we'd ever completely illustrated a children's book.
The book was to be aimed at children aged around 8 years old but was much longer than a traditional children's book and the text was more challenging. However, we really resonated with the book's core values of family, friendship and a respect for wildlife and nature. The illustrations had to add to and illuminate the text, whilst making some of the language and thought-provoking ideas contained within it more accessible to the chosen age range.
We wanted to keep the illustration style simple and graphic but at the same time make sure there was a warmth to it and enough detail to hold up to repeated reading. We wanted people to feel a strong connection to the characters so they had to look appealing and easy to relate to, but also remain true to their description in the text itself.
One particularly challenging aspect of the illustration was the night time setting of the book. It had to be dark and moody enough to translate the night time world of a woodland, but bright and colourful enough to appeal to children.
After extensive rounds of character design sketches, storyboarding to break up the text whilst maintaining an appropriate rhythm, and finally working up the illustrations, we chose a main colour palette of blues and purples, choosing accents of near complimentary colours to provide balance and draw the eye to certain key elements. The colour palette widened towards the end of the book reflecting a more abstract opening up of the text and of the story.
An unusual use of typography was also employed on some pages to emphasise certain elements of the story and to make the experience of reading it more interactive.
We were really pleased that national charity the Badger Trust showed a keen interest in supporting the book and we were invited to launch it with them at the start of National Badger Week at Lush Cosmetics' Oxford Street store in London. In addition, the CEO of the Badger Trust Dominic Dyer agreed to write the foreword for the book, and we have received some great endorsements including from leading TV Naturalists Chris Packham and Nigel Marvin.
We have been told by many adult customers that they are buying copies of the book to donate to children's libraries because they feel this is such an important book, which is really thrilling to hear.
We are currently selling the book through our own publishing company Little Red Hen via Amazon's print on demand service, but hope to look for a new publisher in future so watch this space...
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"A fairytale of our 21st century countryside with all the questioning, sadness, cruelty and poignancy that the genre demands."
Wildlife TV Presenter, Naturalist & Author
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