Book Reviews, Childrens Book Illustration, Jim Field, Orchard Books, Q&A, Rachel Bright

The Lion Inside PLUS Q&A with Rachel Bright & Jim Field

The Lion Inside was published 3rd September 2015 by Orchard Books. It’s a book the Mudwaffler was very much looking forward to reading… and the general feedback is… THIS BOOK IS BRILLIANT!

Said the Mudwaffler… ‘A ROARING success from two of the UK’s finest picture book talents’

 

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Beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated and collectively masterful. This is a book that’s sure to get creased and tatty in the Mudwaffler’s nest from read after read after read…

The Story

We’re in Africa. The sun is beaming rays of golden light across the land, softly silhouetting a craggy old rock… and at the foot of that very rock is a tinyful house. It’s the home of our protagonist – a little brown mouse.

Poor Mouse is so small, so tiny, that nobody ever notices him… he is trod on, sat on, and worst of all… forgotten. And it’s getting to him.

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Meanwhile, way up at the top of that craggy old rock is Lion. And he lives an entirely different life – everyone knows who he is.

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He’s a shouty show-off, to say the least… but Mouse wishes he could impress a crowd like that.

Then… late one dark night, he realises what it is he needs… a ROAR!

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BUT!

What happens when the only one who can teach Mouse to ROAR! is also  a big boasty Lion who might eat him up???

It’s time for Mouse to be strong. To take the chance. To be brave.

So, he sets off to find the Lion… and to find the Lion inside…

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Rachel Bright’s text is so expertly written, so easy to read, that you almost forget that you’re reading to yourself… the words slip out effortlessly, wrap you up, and place you right next to mouse on his incredible journey.

The pacing of the story is fantastic, and the rhymes take you to a place of sadness and wanting one minute, and then to a fit of laugh-out-loud hilariousness the next. Read it again. And then again. It’s fantastic.

The Artwork

Jim Field’s illustrations in The Lion Inside capture not only the African setting superbly, but the whole feel of the story too… the ups and downs, the light and the dark, the panoramic and the up-close.

I knew what to expect from Jim… I knew it’d be great. But there is something in the texture in his illustrations in this book that really goes to an extra level. It’s a different style to his work with other publishers, and it packs a mighty punch alright… this scene in particular got me going from the start…

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And here, mouse is portrayed so beautifully, it’s picture perfection… See the angle Jim has chosen to illustrate this scene from. See the light of the moon, and to the side, the rock… the destination. Then see Mouse’s smile. You know right there that he’s going to go for it. And if that doesn’t make you want to be an illustrator nothing will.

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I’d urge you to see this behind the scenes look at Jim’s process for The Lion Inside, here: www.jimfield.co.uk/The-Lion-Inside, it’s a really lovely opportunity to see something that is often forgotten about once the book is published – all the ideas, the roughs, the colour tests, the character sketches…

The Lion Inside is something special. Buy it. Borrow it. Read it. And thank me later.

I think the Mudwaffler rather enjoyed The Lion Inside! In fact I think it’s fair to say that the reason there’s been such a long delay between his last book review and this one is because he’s been in Africa, trying to find his ROAR!

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Now, it’s WAFFLE time!

We are incredibly luck to have both Rachel and Jim join us for a Q&A…

Rachel, what inspired you to write The Lion Inside?

I love to take a big idea about life and find a way to distill it into simple story, where every word has it’s place. The big idea with The Lion Inside is really that at one time or another in life, we all struggle to get heard or appreciated….and this is never more true than when we are young. I wanted to tell the story of this feeling being something that really unifies us all – big or small. After all, we all just want to be heard & loved. Mouse and lion were rattling around in my head for some time and I wanted to tell a story that had this big idea at it’s heart, but was funny and silly and exciting all at the same time. One where the characters did something you didn’t expect them to do. We’re all on our own mouse journey – but if we keep going, even when the odds are stacked against us, the lion-sized rewards we discover along the way are worth every tiny mouse-step.

Jim, what inspired your illustrations for The Lion Inside?

I wanted a different feel for The Lion Inside than the previous picture books I’ve illustrated. My intentions for this book were to try and capture the arid dry, sun-drenched landscapes of Africa. At the start of a project I like to experiment with different styles and mediums keeping it loose until something clicks. As it was my first book with Orchard they were completely open to my approach to the book which was brilliant as it gave me the freedom to experiment and find what suited the book. I feel each story is unique and I try to treat it visually this way.

Characters are something that can either come to me very quickly or take ages, this little mouse took ages. After many sketches and digital coloured versions it was little digital mouse sketch I did that I felt gave me a direction of where the book should go.

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I always struggle with decisions on colour and I wanted to keep this book limited in its colours, the beautiful work of Japanese illustrator Tadahiro Uesugi inspired my colour palette for The Lion Inside.

What are you currently working on (any sneak peek news!?)?

Rachel – Well, I’ve got few things cooking! Jim & I have almost finished our next story together…this one is set down under! I’ve seen some of the artwork and it looks absolutely spectacular. Some sort of magic seems to happen when he puts his paintbrush to something I’ve penned. I’m also drawing and printing myself – a whole pile of pandas! They are for a book I wrote called ‘Amazing Daddy’ which is coming out early next year. My fourth Love Monster story ‘Love Monster & the scary something’ is on it’s way too in October. It’s such an amazing mix to be working on! I’m also putting together a new release of gifts and cards for mybrightside range…never a dull moment!

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My fourth Love Monster story ‘Love Monster & the scary something’ is on its way too in October.

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It’s such an amazing mix to be working on! I’m also putting together a new release of gifts and cards for my brightside range…never a dull moment!

Jim – I’m currently working on my next picture book with Rachel Bright and Orchard set in the Australian outback, I’m not sure I can say or show anything but there is this little tiniest of peeks from the first spread.

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I’m also working on my second book with David Baddiel which I’m sure I can’t say anything or show anything. I like the mix of styles from fiction to picture books, it’s a good challenge.

Rachel, what is your favourite thing to write about?

I just like writing about what it is to be here together on our watery planet! And I suppose that means there isn’t anything I don’t like writing about! I feel like a student of life and telling stories is a way to help understand it. I heard Maurice Sendak once said ‘I write stories and someone tells me they’re for children’ – I really identified with that. I just write what’s inside and it finds it’s own audience. Some of the best picture books I think are for everyone – not just children. Someone once said to me ‘all your books are about love’ – I think that’s the highest possible compliment.

Jim, what is your favourite thing to draw?

I go through phases, character wise I prefer to draw animals, anything really ducks, hippos, elephants, mice, I’m well versed in drawing lions and cats now but like most of us illustrators I’m not keen on drawing horses/donkeys/mules. I always struggled drawing trees and landscapes and focused on just the characters but at the moment I’m really enjoying the opposite, I love to try and capture the light and mood of a scene – like a still from a film that’s playing in my head.

Who (or what) are your influences?

Rachel – Ooof! Such a big question. I could list a string of artist’s and writers who have lit me up and made me want to do what I do…it would go on forever! I try to be a sponge and soak up inspiration all around me – I think to be interesting you have to be interested. Never stop growing, learning – looking at art, philosophy, the natural world, architecture, food, poetry, music….the joys are endless!

Jim – I love the work of Charley Harper, he’s my all time favourite artist – I try to absorb his clever sense of composition and colour but stylistically my work is worlds apart.

I admire lots of illustrators and artists past and present, Tomi Ungerer, Ronald Searle, Mary Blair, Abner Graboff, Alexis Deacon, David Roberts, Marc Boutavant many friends of mine are hugely talented folk and they keep me motivated to try and keep up with the quality of work they produce.

Rachel, do you have any advice for writers who are just starting out?

Write everyday. Even if it’s just a scribbled sentence. Write the ideas down as they come – always have a notepad at hand. Most importantly – really believe that if you have words in your soul – the world will hear them. Show people your work and be ready to hear feedback – praise and otherwise – and be open to growing continually and championing your own ideas. You have everything you need to take you everywhere you want and how amazing that for us writers, that a pencil and paper is all you need to get started.

Jim, do you have any advice for illustrators who are just starting out?

Draw a lot. Then draw some more. Have a thick skin. There’s no set path to being an illustrator, don’t just focus on one route of illustration – it helps to work in different platforms to develop as an artist.

 and three for fun…

What are three words that best describe you?

Rachel – Relentless optimist. Hopeless Romantic. Can never stick to word counts 😉

Jim – Shy, focused and clumsy.

Rachel, what is your favourite word?

Love.

Jim, what is your favourite colour?

Currently orange.

If you could share a cuppa with anyone (alive or dead), anywhere, who would it be and where would you go?

Rachel – My late grandad, in his garden, amongst the flowers.

Jim – I think I’d love to have a cuppa and a natter with my grandfather – Da as we called him.  I miss him a lot and I’d love to show him what I’ve been doing over the last 10 years, he was always a great believer in me. I’d be happy us sitting in my grandparents back garden in the sun,  he’d be wearing his sun hat and telling me about old stories, I’d tell him new.

ENORMOUS thanks to Rachel Bright and Jim Field for featuring on the Mudwaffler.
I should point out that these questions were answered a couple of months ago, so one or two of the books mentioned are now published too! With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to show another illustration from Jim and Rachel’s second book (snagged from Jim’s Twitter page)… this is going to be another stunner!
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Be sure to check out…

Rachel’s website: www.lookonthebrightside.co.uk

or find her on Twitter: @Rachel_Bright2

Jim’s websitewww.jimfield.co.uk

or find him on Twitter: @_JimField

 

Swamp Hugs! Till the next time…

The Mudwaffler

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