We are pleased to host a guest post today from Kate Read, whose book One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller is shortlisted for the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize (see more about this year's shortlist here). In the book, Kate uses bold colours, composition and collage to tell the story of one famished fox’s encounter with some angry hens, making this counting book a real 'thriller'. The Klaus Flugge Prize judges described it as ‘visually stunning’, and added,‘There’s real drama here and the way the story is told is joyous. She’s done a very clever thing and created a counting book while keeping within the beats of a story.’
Kate tells us more about the fascinating processes that come together to create books like One Fox.
Guest Blog Post
by Kate Read, author of the award-nominated picture book One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller (available here)
I work in my studio in Norfolk and start an illustration by painting up lots of paper, mono-printing and playing with textures based on what I am trying to represent. I like using paint and scissors rather than diving straight into digital media, everyone works differently and it’s important to use what makes you feel good. I really love to see the human touch in artwork as individual imperfections have a unique quality that can’t be produced digitally.
Creating a book is a group effort. I’ll meet with my Editor and Designer to discuss first thoughts and then begins a ‘to and fro’ of ideas and refining the story and images. I will begin my own process by playing in collage and researching a subject but I won’t make finished images until the storyboard has been agreed by my Editor.
I love collage and really enjoy playing with shapes and colours placing different colours and textures next to each other to see what works best. I will usually have sketched out a rough idea of shape and if I’m starting something new, I will want to have plenty of research into the character or place first. I do this by drawing from life, from video and collecting a sketchbook full of references as a reminder and a way to get to know the character. When I make my work, I’ll try and slightly forget about these so I can focus on being creative and making each illustration stand out, safe in the knowledge that if I need to, I can look back over my sketchbook.
When an image is looking good, I’ll scan it into the computer and have a play with it in Photoshop, layering pieces over each other until I’ve achieved the right composition. Sometimes this means I have to return to physical collage, cutting and sticking, but that’s ok, it’s all part of the process. Often I skip the digital manipulation altogether and make a whole image in paper, it really depends what I’m working on.
I listen to music and podcasts when I’m working but I have a specific playlist which I put on when I need to concentrate, it allows my brain to relax a little into the task in hand and not get distracted.
I try and work every weekday and spend time with my family at the weekend but if I have a deadline looming then I’ll snatch a few extra hours of snipping in the studio. If I’ve walked my dog in the morning, he’ll sleep under my desk. If I haven’t, he’ll pester me until I take him out so it’s better if I start the day with a stretch of both our legs and some fresh air. It also allows me time to think about any tricky areas of my work before getting stuck in.
One Fox was my final project of my MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University. It was published by Two Hoots which is an imprint of Macmillan in 2019 and I’m really proud of it. I wasn’t planning to make a book which taught a lesson, but the counting book format really lends itself to the build up of tension and whilst kids learn to count, they also learn about twists of fate, solidarity and sticking up for one another against a menace.
I really enjoy my job and I love that I have hilarious conversations about the intention of a snail and the correct colour of a chicken’s feathers with a straight face. But the most rewarding part of the job is when I hear that children have enjoyed my book and want to read it again and again. That really feels special.
Click here to read more about the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize.
Where next? > Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub
> Browse our Topic Booklists
> View our printable year group booklists.
> See our Books of the Month.