Monday, June 9, 2014

Fancy writing or illustrating your own children's book? Delve into "The Picture Book Maker" by Karenanne Knight (IOE Press)

The Picture Book Maker

Written by Karenanne Knight

With illustrations by Emma Yarlett and others

Published by IOE Press

One of the most frustrating aspects of reviewing children's picture books is the assumption that writing or illustrating for children is an easy option. While covering independently published and self-published titles for children, we're often reminded of the importance of a good editor - but even more importantly than that, a really strong grasp of the essentials that can mark the difference between a mediocre children's book or a truly great (and hopefully marketable) one.

Karenanne Knight got in touch with us at ReadItDaddy to ask if we'd review a book that (despite its title) is a thorough and structured insight into what it takes to become a children's author or illustrator (or both!)
I've been struggling for a while to produce a few book ideas of my own and I've found this book absolutely invaluable in so many ways. Beginning by examining the children's book in detail, Karenanne draws on her vast experience from researching and teaching visual literature methodology at The University of Falmouth. Karenanne is a lecturer for the BA Illustration Course at Falmouth, and also writes and illustrates her own books so is quite an authority on the subject.

Having a go at one of the character exercises. This fellah is a complete bookworm.
I'm half determined he's going to have a cat too :)

It shows in the book, which offers study opportunities and exercises to improve your writing and illustration and also learn the rules and techniques necessary to start putting your own book ideas into practice.

The book feels very much like the study materials my wife and I use in our Open University courses, so you don't have to be an academic to get the most out of this book - but you will definitely benefit from reading it thoroughly and engaging with the exercises (which are brilliant and really thought-provoking, by the way).

Find out how Gemma's initial sketches turned into this gorgeous, gorgeous book in "Oh Dear Geoffrey by Gemma O'Neill
One thing I did notice, is that Karenanne's descriptions of the models and processes that go into a children's book (with good examples of the sort of books that tick all the right boxes - such as the sublime "We're going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury) start to make you think about your own favourite children's books and how their structure and composition does indeed adhere to a successful 'rule set' that you can almost identify as a pattern for the perfect children's book.

In essence, it makes me think about the way books that hit our "Book of the Week" slot consistently fit a formula expertly described by Karenanne here (it also raises interesting questions about the book reviewer mindset. Do we subconsciously look for these elements when selecting the best books to review and mark highly?)

Karenanne thoughtfully embraces inclusivity and diversity in "The Picture Book Maker" and also thoroughly researches the history of child literature, going back as far as the very first books that were purposely written for consumption by children and coming right up to the present day with books that have wowed us in the last couple of years.

With an exhaustive recommended reading list, thoroughly involving exercises, and so many snippets of brilliant advice, this deserves to become "The Bible" for anyone starting out in children's literature, whether author or illustrator - and it's certainly going to be of huge benefit to existing authors and illustrators who want a bit of extra inspiration and advice.

Emma Yarlett is an ex-pupil of Karenanne's, and has contributed to the book with various insights and illustrations from her own work. When Emma describes this book as "Worth its weight in gold" we really had to sit up and take notice, and she's definitely not wrong.

You can obtain your copy of the book from the IOE Press Website.
Do your local indie a favour - Buy through Hive
Also available at Waterstones
Also available at Amazon

You can also find more information about the book and Karenanne on this handy downloadable flyer.

(Our thanks to Karenanne, Emma Yarlett and Gemma O'Neill for letting us use some of the brilliant illustrations you'll find in the book in this article).

Charlotte's best bit: Seeing the visual processes behind designing characters for a children's book (in one example, Sidney from Emma Yarlett's brilliant debut "Sidney, Stella and the Moon") and ticking off the books in the recommended reading list that we've read and reviewed ourselves.

Daddy's Favourite bit: An absolutely essential book that offers deep insight and inspiration on the processes of beginning your journey as an author or illustrator. Laying out the rules and expectations from publishers who deal predominantly with children's literature, "The Picture Book Maker" is something I would recommend to anyone who wants to create books for children, where you can refer to and study the book at your own pace with clear instructions and exercises to test your author or illustrator mettle! Fantastic and absorbing stuff!

(Very kindly sent to us for review by Karenanne and IOE Press)

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