Interviews with the Editors of the 2017 shortlist:

An interview with Victoria Rock, Founding Children’s Publisher & Editor-at-Large at Chronicle Books, and editor of First Snow by Bomi Park.

First Snow by Bomi Park is one of five books on the shortlist for the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize. The judges admired the way Bomi Park conveys a sense of silence through her artwork, and makes a real emotional connection with the reader. The book feels both comfortably traditional and current.

When did you first come across Bomi’s art and what was it about it that caught your eye?

I was shown First Snow by a Korean publishers agent that I met at the Bologna Book Fair a few years ago. What first caught my eye was the simplicity of the palette. The art also has an incredible balance of graphic punch and softness, a result of the limited colour combined with the soft, tactile quality of the medium. But mostly it was the character in the book (and her adorable dog companion). She is so sweet and classic, but not at all outdated or saccharine.

Which is your favourite spread in the book and why?

That’s a tough question because in many ways it is the sequencing of the images that add up to the whole. If I had to narrow to 3 images, it would be the image of the train, of the animals in the forest and the closing image.

The train, which could feel so incongruous, gives such an energy to this image. By its rushing to the right, we feel the sense of the little girl barrelling forward as well - hers is no idle playing in the snow - and we want to turn the page so we can see where both the girl and the train are headed. You can hear the swoosh of the train, the woosh-woosh of the dog shaking off the snow, the pat-pat-pat of the snow hitting the ground.

On the next spread, where the fantasy really kicks in, everything becomes much quieter. You can almost hear the curiosity of the animals, but because we know the girl is speeding forward like a train, we understand that she is completely unaware of the menagerie of onlookers.

But probably my favourite image is the last one. After all the movement and magic, the book closes with an image that is familiar, iconic really, to anyone who has ever been in the snow. Bomi Park’s composition here is spectacular. Because of the limited palette, our eye is drawn to the pop of the girl’s red scarf, so that while she occupies just a tiny portion of the spread, we notice her right away. Our eye goes to her first, and then to the wonderful expanse of snowy sky, which because of that expanse invites us to linger. Although the book has been filled with a lot of fantastical elements, it is ultimately about the ‘magic’ of the first snow.

What advice would you give to those wanting to make a career in children’s book illustration?

Well the old advice about reading, and in the case of picture books looking at, as many books as possible persists because it is true. Artists of all kinds learn from the masters who came before them. It’s not so much about paying attention to the what of their stories, but the how. Whether in words or images, every book has a structure, a pacing, a perspective. It’s about learning how books are built. Then when you are ready to build your own, you have to think about whether the what and the how of the book you have made are different from what’s already been done.

An interview with Holly Tonks, Commissioning Editor at Tate Children’s Books, and editor of The Museum of Me by Emma Lewis.

The Museum of Me by Emma Lewis is one of five books on the shortlist for the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize. The judges found it an interesting and visually exciting book, and admired Emma Lewis’s use of collage. They spotted the influence of Scandinavian illustrators in the careful design and clean aesthetics.

When did you first come across Emma’s art and what was it about it that caught your eye?

We first met Emma at Bologna Book Fair. She approached the Tate stand and we sat down to have a look at her portfolio. In a fair like Bologna, it’s all very hectic and you see so many portfolios – so it’s always a magical moment when something catches your eye. Emma’s illustration style was a perfect fit for the Tate list – it’s expressive, fresh, unique and beautifully engaging.

How did The Museum of Me come about – was the idea Emma’s, or were you looking for someone to create a book about the idea of a museum?

Once back in the UK, Emma sent a few ideas over – one of which was The Museum of Me. This concept, married with her art style, felt like the perfect project for us. We loved the idea of encouraging young readers to take inspiration from their visits to various cultural institutions and use this to curate their own selection of meaningful objects. We are always looking for books that help us reach out to younger audiences and bring them into the magical world of galleries and museums, and Emma’s certainly felt like it met this criteria perfectly.

Could you describe how you and your designers worked on the book with Emma. What sort of editorial advice did you give her?

As this was Emma’s first picture book, we worked really closely with her to shape the story and select the different locations the character visits. We were really keen that this book had as broad an appeal as possible – so making sure we showed a wide range of cultural institutions that you can find in most major cities around the world was key. Our designer Lizzy helped Emma to shape the compositions and choose the text layout and placements to make sure that the spreads were perfectly balanced. Editorially, we had lots of conversations throughout the process to guide Emma to shape the story and make sure that the reader was always placed at the heart of the book.

Which is your favourite spread in the book and why?

It’s very hard to pick a favourite! But I think it has to be the spread inside the greenhouse. I’m always struck by the impact of the luscious greens contrasted by the vibrant pops of red. The elements of collage that Emma uses in this composition really bring to life the wonders of the greenhouse and the varied textures of nature. It also challenges the reader’s perception of what a ‘museum’ actually is and shows that a collection isn’t necessarily something kept behind glass cabinets or in stuffy buildings but actually has endless possibilities.

What advice would you give to those wanting to make a career in children’s book illustration?

Be confident in your style. I think many illustrators feel like they need to follow the trends of the market and adjust their style accordingly, but sometimes this means that the essence of their artwork is lost. I would encourage illustrators to be experimental and push the boundaries, as this is really how the industry moves forward and new trends emerge.

An interview with Tamar Brazis, Editorial Director at Abrams, and editor of Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube.

Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube is one of five books on the shortlist for the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize. The judges very much liked the inky line and Kate Berube’s considered use of the page and space. They found the story of Hannah genuinely moving.

When did you first come across Kate’s art and what was it about it that caught your eye?

Hannah and Sugar was presented to Abrams by Kate Berube’s agent, Lori Kilkelly. I wasn’t the only one who took notice of Kate’s warm watercolors and gentle storytelling. In fact, an auction for the book ensued! Abrams was the lucky winner of the auction, though I did feel fated to work on the book because I had connected so strongly to the tenderness in Kate’s illustrations.

How complete, or at what stage was Hannah and Sugar when you acquired it for your list?

Kate’s book dummy was very tight when we received it - her story of empathy and kindness was already well rendered. Abrams Creative Director, Chad Beckerman, and I just wanted to work with Kate on the pacing and how to play up some of the strong visual motifs she had already introduced.

Could you describe how you and your designers worked on the book with Kate. What sort of editorial advice did you give her?

Chad and I loved the moments where Kate used vignettes to tell the story, so we looked for places where she could add more vignettes to her compositions. Similarly, she did a lovely job of interjecting quiet moments and pauses into the rhythm of the storytelling. These were also fun ideas to amplify for even greater emotional impact.

Which is your favourite spread in the book and why?

There’s a wonderful progression of images in the book when Hannah decides to overcome her fear of dogs and help Sugar. Kate chose to show this emotional change first with a wordless spread where Hannah and Sugar stare at each other, face to face. (This composition later became the inspiration for the jacket image.) This image conveys how Hannah is mustering the courage and finding strength. The following spread is a simple dark color wash, free of imagery, with just the text “Hannah closed her eyes and took a deep breath.” This lovely, quiet moment helps bring the reader into Hannah’s mind as she decides to move forward and act. Another page turn then reveals how Hannah actually helps Sugar, after she has worked through her anxiety. It’s a very strong series of pages that beautifully illustrates the stages of emotions that we all experience.

An interview with Suzanne Carnell, Publishing Director at Two Hoots, and editor of Little Red by Bethan Woollvin.

Little Red by Bethan Woollvin is one of five books on the shortlist for the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize. The judges loved its humour and originality, and the way the apparently simply illustrations convey so much.

When did you first come across Bethan’s art and what was it about it that caught your eye?

Little Red was our winning entry in the Macmillan Prize for Illustration - a prestigious prize for students, which in its 32 year history has had many of today's best known illustrators among its winners. Bethan's wonderfully bold and graphic artwork stood out straight away, as did the wit and charm of her storytelling.

How complete, or at what stage was Little Red when you acquired it for your list?

It was a complete book. We worked with Bethan on some elements of the artwork, and on the text, but the book that we published was pretty much the same brilliant book that Bethan first presented.

Could you describe how you and your designers worked on the book with Bethan. What sort of editorial advice did you give her?

Emma Farrarons was Bethan's designer for this book. Bethan repainted much of it, in some cases tweaking the layout a little to help with the narrative flow. One of Emma's suggestions was the dramatic cover under the dust-jacket, which is so in keeping with the tone and character of the book, and such a wonderful surprise. We did some work on the text together to get the rhythm just right and bring out Bethan's natural wit - but the storytelling style is pure Bethan.

Which is your favourite spread in the book and why?

The whole book is a triumph, but I particularly love the wordless spread showing a close up of Little Red's eyes. It is hugely satisfying in itself, from the stark red, white and black (the only colours used throughout the book, and which we printed in pantone inks carefully chosen by Bethan) to the visible brushstrokes (which tell you this image has been made by hand, and offer a warmth and engagement that mechanically perfect, sharp lines would not). And then it is such a marvellous piece of storytelling, and a bold choice to have made. It acts as a pause in the middle of the sentence which begins on the previous spread (Which might have scared some little girls . . .) and finishes on the next one (. . . but not this little girl.) and it suggests so much. The page turn into this enormous close-up of Little Red's eyes is quite a shock, and also quite ambiguous - is she frightened after all? Is she about to be eaten? Or is she about to carry out her own clever plan? The previous spread shows the enormous jaws of the wolf poised over a diminutive Little Red, snarling the jagged words "EAT YOU WITH", and we all know how the story of Little Red Riding Hood should go from here. But Bethan's Little Red is not like other Little Red Riding Hoods, and the eagle-eyed among the audience will have seen that she is holding an axe in the previous spread. The wordless eyes spread carries the reader seamlessly from that moment to the next, where Little Red is seen dressed in a wolfskin. Exactly what has happened is not spelt out and Bethan has avoided the more obvious image of Little Red dispatching the wolf, but the eyes spread gives enough pause for the deed to have been done - the equivalent of a blackout on stage. The wolfskin coat is a witty nod to what has happened, but things are still a little ambiguous: because we didn't see the actual moment, we don't know whether Grandma might have escaped the wolf's belly, as in the traditional tale. Bethan would say not - once eaten by a wolf, you tend to stay eaten - but for those of a more delicate disposition, I would say we don't know for sure. Because all we have seen are those eyes. Read into them what you will.

What single piece of advice would you give to those wanting to make a career in children’s book illustration?

For me the most important thing is to develop your own style, and be true to yourself. Look at the work of others and take your influences, but then take the time to master your chosen medium for yourself. Especially at the beginning of their career, when they are still finding their own "voice", illustrators often seem to mimic current favourites in the field, and there are undoubtedly fashions in book illustration as there are in anything. But the artists whose work really stands out, which lasts, and which publishers are always looking out for, are the true originals -- the illustrators whose work is full of character and personality, who have their own way of looking at the world, and a line that could only come their pen, or brush, or pencil. And Bethan Woollvin is a wonderful example of that: confident in her approach and her vision, and unlike anyone else.

An interview with Harriet Birkinshaw, Senior Commissioning Editor at Flying Eye Books, and editor of The Journey by Francesca Sanna.

The Journey by Francesca Sanna is one of five books on the shortlist for the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize. The judges described it highly original and praised the superb interplay between text and illustration.

When did you first come across Francesca’s art and what was it about it that caught your eye?

Francesca submitted her book to our unsolicited submissions email address. As soon as I read it I was completely in awe of how she had shown the plight of refugees so sensitively and empathetically. My response while reading the book was overwhelmingly emotional and I knew we had to publish it as soon as possible.

How complete, or at what stage was The Journey when you acquired it for your list?

Francesca had completed the book for her Art masters final project and she sent in a full pdf of the dummy book.

Could you describe how you and your designers worked on the book with Francesca. What sort of editorial advice did you give her?

Although Francesca had finished the book, we felt that the page count was too long for the age range and the story. First of all, I edited the text and worked on developing it with Francesca. Francesca speaks very good English, but it isn’t her first language so we worked together on the text to make her intentions a little clearer. However, I wanted to keep the narrator's voice sounding a little foreign as she is from a different country. Then with the new text Francesca, myself and Camille, our senior designer, worked together on the illustrations and overall reading experience. With the new version of the text it meant some of Francesca’s artwork had to be tweaked and reworked. Overall, our changes were minimal because we felt that Francesca had already created a wonderful book and we wanted to respect that.

Which is your favourite spread in the book and why?

This is a very hard question for me to answer! The spread I have the strongest response to is when the children and their mother have to spend the night in the forest. Here the illustration expands to show the mother crying while the children sleep unaware in her arms. Francesca has created a wonderful synergy between what the text says and the pictures show. I feel that she has captured beautifully what must be a very desperate situation for a lot of people fleeing a war-torn country and how the decision to leave one’s home cannot be easy.

Can you sum up what Flying Eye looks for when commissioning illustrated books for children?

An artist or writer that has a strong vision whether that be for non-fiction or fiction books. We want to publish books with soul that are created by artists and writers that really care about what they are making.

Check back soon for more interviews from the editors.