So...the next exciting thing on my social calendar is the launch of The Red Poppy on March 14th at The Children's Bookshop. Beautifully written by David Hill, this is the book I spent half of last year illustrating (with the helpful assistance of Creative New Zealand). It seems to be being well received so far and we are getting lots of very positive feedback about it. Nipper, the brave little messenger dog is going to be at the launch- her real name is Molly and she will be freshly washed and available for patting and posing with. As long as she's fed the odd Anzac biscuit I think she'll be in heaven. I have been asked what drove me to illustrate the book- because as you know, this is mostly a labour of love and there is certainly no guarantee that something you have poured your talents on and sells well will make the book awards and be recognised in the way that we all crave. So I answered with the following:
My husband’s grandfather Rothwell, wrote postcards to his fiancé Hilda, from 1914-1918. Particularly poignant were two from France; they said simply “Am O.K” and “Keep smiling!” I was in the process of scanning and blogging these cards for the family when Scholastic asked me if I would look at a very special story to illustrate. I had decided some time ago that the next book I illustrated had to really mean something to me on a very personal level. Illustrating a book is a labour of love and I wanted to make a body of work that would enthral me and push me to produce as excellent work as I could. For that I’d need to relate to the story; it had to move me. Then I read David’s manuscript. Jim’s letter home never mentioning the horrors of the trenches struck an immediate chord with me; those cheerful words from a young man, disguising the reality of his situation. Rothwell did come home from France to be a husband and father, but was far from ‘o.k’; dying just a few short years later from the cruel ravages of his war experience. Illustrating this book has been a journey through his time for me. I visited war museums, studied WW1 uniform, grew red poppies, photographed mud and rubbed chalk pastel until my fingers bled. I have learned much and my artwork is a tribute to him. It’s been a real pleasure working with David, Diana and Penny at Scholastic and Penny Newman the brilliant book designer who created the vision with me.
If you can, please come to the launch and have a Red Cross Battenburg Biscuit (my son, trainee chef is making them special like) and a glass of wine and help us celebrate our efforts and remember those who went before us, uncertain into war seeking a positive future. Which is what I hope this book will have :)