Who better to illustrate a book for children than young ones who’re still very much in touch with the joy and magic of childhood? Shantini Venugopal, the author of Why JellyBeans Are Colourful (WJAC), talks about her children’s book, which was illustrated by 22 young artists.
TELL US THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THIS BOOK.
I originally wrote the story for a play called The Party in 2010, but the inspiration came from a close friend who told me it would make a great children’s book since it talked about sharing. WJBC materialised as a book in early 2012, and has since helped launch a programme I devised titled Give them theatre, Watch them create where storytelling is used as a medium in schools to encourage the use of English using theatre techniques.
WHY DID YOU GET CHILDREN TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR BOOK?
When my son was a toddler, I used to create loads of bedtime stories – some were worthy of publishing and it was always with the idea of having him do the drawings for the stories. When I was having difficulty getting an illustrator for this project, that same idea dawned on me. I also thought it would be very interesting to see my words ‘come alive’ through children’s eyes.
HOW WERE THE YOUNG ARTISTS SELECTED?
The 22 illustrators who participated are children of my friends. I broke the story up and gave each of them a particular passage to work on. However, they had the freedom to choose the medium to present it, i.e. colour pencils, acrylic, poster colours, etc. Most of them worried that their drawings would not be good enough for a book. I told them that as long as they did it from the heart, it would be treasured by me. I also involved a student who had risen above being intellectually-challenged and who is an established artist in his own right. One of the children made three clay figurines, placed them in her garden, took a photograph, then digitally added ‘colourless jellybeans’. The end result was brilliant! The 22 illustrators created masterpieces that I am very, very proud of.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD BOOK?
I had the company of Hans Christian Anderson, Aesop, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and many more authors. I was intrigued by the adventures in these books, but the ones that made the most impact were those written by Enid Blyton, which prompted me to create a ‘club’ with children from my neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur. We called ourselves the Secret Eight and went around trying to find ‘mysteries’ to solve! We held secret club meetings and ventured off to nearby areas to uncover ‘hidden treasures’. I had a wonderful childhood using my imagination, inspired by the books I read.
IF YOU WERE A JELLYBEAN, WHAT COLOUR WOULD YOU BE?
I would create a new jellybean with stripes using the primary colours – red, blue and yellow, plus black and white, since these are used to create all colours. This way, all colours will be ‘represented’ in one sweet and no colour feels ‘left out’!
To purchase WJAC, email the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org The book is priced at USD8.
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