We’re delighted to welcome children’s author Ken Wilson-Max into The Reading Realm.
Ken has been nominated for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards, illustrated the CLiPPA award winning Stars With Flaming Tales and is a patron of CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education).
Today he talks to Ian Eagleton about his new book Eco Girl!
Without giving too much away, can you tell us about your new book Eco Girl?
Eco Girl is about plants and how they give every one of us a sense of place and time.
What inspired this story and what do you hope readers take away from it?
The book is inspired by my childhood in Zimbabwe and in particular my father’s love of trees. I really hope that readers will start to understand how we rely on nature to live and how it relies on us taking care of it.
The artwork is stunning – so warm and rich! Can you tell us about the process of creating the illustrations in the book and the materials you used?
After Astro Girl, this character, Eve, needed another world and another look. I thought a lot about the different landscapes I have seen in my travels and started drawing the ones that have affected me the most. I mostly tried to remember how they made me feel. It is always amazing to convey a feeling in an illustration so much that people recognise it. The main character Eve and her family came about after I found a ‘location’ for the story in my head. It was trial and error until I started to match what was imagined. The whole process took several months.
Do you have a favourite illustration in the book you could share with us?
My favourite image is the one where the family walks through the forest. I sketched it as though the reader might be a bird high in the sky looking down. Some weeks later, I thought a lower view might work better, something like a first or second floor height. It’s more familiar to children and not so high that is frightening. It was easier to put things close to the readers as well as further away from the family. I was pleased with the result!
There’s a great selection of tree-based facts at the back of the book! Do you have a favourite tree fact you discovered while writing the book?
My favourite fact is about Wangari Maathai, who was a phenomenal person. I know about her but it was inspiring to find out more.
How would you say Eco Girl is similar to Astro Girl? How is it different?
Eco Girl is meant to be quite different to Astro Girl. It’s longer, gentler and a little more thoughtful because its about the concept of guardianship and responsibility. There are more characters in it too, who all have to be believed. In both stories the main characters are independent, strong willed and curious. Both stories are introductions to science – astronomy and botany, or dendrology, where it was rare to see women in the past. In both books the female characters are never held back.
Can you tell us about another children’s book you’ve enjoyed reading recently?
I read a book called ‘Butterflies for Grandpa Joe’ written by Nicola Davies, which I enjoyed. It’s thoughtful, touching and skilfully written.
Finally, can you describe Eco Girl in three words?
Trees, family, love