Monthly Archives: August 2017

Poppy and the Blooms – Guest Post Fiona Woodcock

Last week on the blog I reviewed the glorious ‘Poppy and the Blooms’ by the lovely and talented Fiona Woodcock. Exquisitely produced and filled with the most sumptuous and delicate spreads, it really is a joy to behold. I’m always fascinated to learn about the creative process that the author/ illustrator goes through when developing a book so I’m thrilled to welcome Fiona to the blog today for a special guest post on the story behind ‘Poppy and the Blooms.’

The story behind ‘Poppy and the Blooms’ – Fiona Woodcock

Like a lot of my stories, this one started with the characters.

My agent Vicki spotted a rough sketch of the Buttercup character in some ideas for a different story, and encouraged me to develop her further and create a gang of flower characters. The original suggestion was for a woodland tea party with Poppy initially on a toadstool rather than a skateboard. I later changed that in favour of making them active and urban, giving them all skateboards (apart from Dandy who got a scooter!)

This BLOOM image from the previous year fitted with the flower theme and hinted at where I could head with the treatment of the flowers.

I chose wild flowers, partly because I love the way that they pop up with determination through the cracks in the pavement. Their strong willed nature appealed as something to explore and the initial concept started to form of feisty wild flower characters, running wild on skateboards and scooters in a riot of colour, spreading flower seeds and colour as they go.

I liked the ethos of guerrilla gardening, seeing potential in neglected and unexpected places and I knew that throughout the course of the book there would be a transformation and that between them they’d have the ability to dramatically change the urban environment.

An important reference point I came across at the very beginning of the development is this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A weed is a plant whose virtue has not yet been discovered”.

I was interested in showing common garden weeds in a different light, and the flip side is that they are also allowing us to see the potential of the urban environment too.

I wanted it to be about contrasts. The man-made monochrome structured world, contrasting with the unstoppable freedom and power of nature. But how to get all these ideas into a story proved quite tricky!

In the early stages of working on it with Lara Hancock and Jane Buckley at Simon and Schuster there was initially an abandoned fairground that was being saved. We’ve all seen the haunting images of abandoned places being reclaimed by nature and again I had an old rough sketchbook drawing of a disused roller-coaster covered in foliage that I’d been thinking about for years. But soon we realised that it was much simpler to communicate the idea with the last park in the city. Although it was hard to sacrifice the potentially striking images, it was a bit of a turning point in terms of getting to grips with the story.

Whilst I was working on the idea, Leicester City won the premier league at odds of 5,000-1. Although I’m not a die-hard football fan, I grew up in Leicester so inevitably got caught up in their fairy tale story of achieving the impossible. I loved the idea that the Blooms are also challenging preconceptions of what they might be capable of. It also ties in with the idea of the collective ability to change things and do good if you work together as a team/ gang.

So with a lot of guidance from Lara and Jane I tried to inject as much drama into it as possible and we talked about the Bloom’s adventure almost being like a game of snakes and ladders, as they slide down and then climb up again overcoming all the challenges that come their way. I’d sketch out the roughs on post-it notes stuck into a tiny dummy book, which allowed us to easily try different sequences whilst checking the impact of the page turn.

From a visual point of view it was challenging to convey the idea of a big city when our main characters are only a few inches tall, but I tried to turn this into a positive, with dramatic changes in scale.

The artwork process was very rewarding, carefully placing the pops of colour in an entirely grey monochrome world. I experimented with rubber stamps, charcoal and children’s blow pens creating all the elements on paper, which were then collaged together digitally.

Finally, another quote that had a big impact early on was that

‘One field poppy plant can produce as many as 50,000 seeds.’

This staggering statistic reminds us of what one flower or individual is capable of and that even something very small can make a big difference.

 

A huge thank you to Fiona for stopping by the blog, ‘Poppy and the Blooms’ is available to buy online or from any good bookshop.

 

 

Poppy and the Blooms – Fiona Woodcock

‘Hiding Heidi’ by Fiona Woodcock was one of my most favourite picture books of 2016, I was totally captivated by the stunning illustrations and beautiful story, so I was delighted to receive a copy of her new book ‘Poppy and the Blooms.’ Poppy and her friends Dandy, Bluebell and Buttercup are a lively bunch of skateboarding wildflowers who like nothing better than filling the world with colour and sunshine. When they find out the last park in the city is about to be closed they know they must do everything within their power to stop this happening. How can such tiny creatures possibly hope to save this last piece of greenery all by themselves?

Exquisitely produced and filled with the most sumptuous and delicate spreads, ‘Poppy and the Blooms’ is a joy to behold. Fiona cleverly contrasts the gloom of the city with its muted grey palette by scattering splashes of bold and vibrant colours across the pages in the form of Poppy and her friends. Their unrelenting quest to stop the park closing throws them in the path of challenging obstacles but we soon learn that perseverance and determination goes a long way to helping them achieve their goal. Wonderfully endearing and utterly charming this story is brimming with positivity about how even the smallest of actions can make a significant difference. Perfect for sharing with younger readers, ‘Poppy and the Blooms’ would make a delightful addition to any home or library,

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this glorious book.

The Explorer – Katherine Rundell

It was with great anticipation that I opened the pages of Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer as I absolutely loved being transported to the rooftops of Paris and the wilds of Russia in her previous books. Therefore I knew without a doubt that ‘The Explorer’ would  allow me to fully immerse myself in the ferociously hot, damp and somewhat dangerous Brazilian jungle, so that I would feel that I had actually travelled there. We meet Fred, Con, Lila and Max flying in a tiny aeroplane above the Amazon river unaware that in a few moments time their plane is going to plummet to the ground. Their chance of survival seems slim but when they’re caught in a canopy and manage to scramble out of the plane they soon realise this was just the start of their problems. With no hope of rescue they are totally lost and all alone, how can they ever find their way out of the jungle so that they can return home.

It’s extremely difficult to put into words just how glorious a book ‘The Explorer’ really is – which presents somewhat a difficulty when you’re a book blogger! Katherine has an outstanding gift for exceptional storytelling that always captivates and enchants the reader. This should feel like a terrifying situation that our characters find themselves in, adrift from the rest of humanity with no sustenance to keep them alive, but it feels more thrilling than despairing. Fred as the eldest of the group feels a need to take charge of the situation although he’s not naturally a brave person. He longs to be an explorer and makes his father proud and is driven by this desire, to try and escape from the jungle and keep everyone alive. Con is naturally hesitant and the lack of love in her life has made her distant and untrusting. Whilst Lila is trapped by this terrible guilt of having to keep her baby brother Max alive at any cost.  All of the characters are tested to their limits, forced to do the unimaginable – eating a tarantula is something that stays in my mind – and as they do this they discover these unknown reserves within themselves and it’s that keep them going in the darkest of times.

Nothing can quite prepare you for the journey that Katherine takes you as you become lost in the jungle too. Wonderfully atmospheric, all our your senses are stimulated by this rich evocative writing. You can feel the torrential rain soaking through your skin, hear the unknown calls of animals in the jungle and taste the acrid smell of smoke burning through the trees. All around you, you soon discover a new world as you see the most amazing sights from pods of pinkish-grey dolphins to ingenious monkeys who have the most creative techniques to sourcing honey. Yet at the heart of this story it is the emerging friendship between these four children which I found the most fascinating, Katherine takes them on a physical and emotional journey which is wonderfully compelling. And without wishing to spoil anything the epilogue is just sheer perfection and brought tears to my eyes. An extraordinary adventure which I know will be enjoyed for many years to come, what a stunning read bravo Katherine!

Thank you to Emma and Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of this sublime book.