It’s Up to Us!

This National Non-Fiction November, the FCBG is excited to share this blog by Christopher Lloyd, author and publisher, who is talking about his children’s Terra Carta, It’s Up To Us.

LIFE IS FULL of unexpected surprises – as well as delightful opportunities. So it was when Bob Worcester, chairman of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, called me out of the blue in August 2014. He wanted a children’s book on Magna Carta to be part of the legacy of the 800th commemoration.

And so the Magna Carta Chronicle was born. It’s a softback book that tracks the evolution of freedoms and rights over 800 years through a series of newspaper-style stories and a lavishly illustrated fold out timeline. Actually, although aimed at children aged 8 upwards, it works very well for anyone aged 8 – 108.

Part of Bob’s great plan was to send a copy to every primary school in Britain. And so, with a flourish of his charismatic ambition, funds were raised at a charity auction in the Guildhall at the City of London Corporation. Once the project was over, I took Bob out to lunch to say thank you. Very soon after, he invested in my publishing company, What on Earth Publishing, helping us make the transition from cottage industry start-up to pukka children’s non-fiction press. To say I am grateful to him (and bad King John), is a gross understatement.

So it was with great interest that in January this year I read about HRH The Prince of Wales’ announcement of Terra Carta – a new treaty for business leaders that includes a series of pledges to put the planet first. The Terra Carta is part of HRH’s Sustainable Markets Initiative, and has more than 400 corporations already committed.

But are middle-aged business executives really the most important audience when it comes to mitigating the long-term impact of climate change? I found myself reaching back to the Magna Carta Chronicle. What if we could make these brilliant pledges accessible to a much wider audience – 6-106 as well as their siblings, parents, grandparents, teachers uncles and aunts?

The magic of children’s picture books is that, if done skilfully, they can convey really complex topics in ways that are accessible to young minds. If read out loud with adults, they can impact them, too.

And so the idea of creating a children’s Terra Carta book was born. And what better moment than to a launch at COP26 this November?

After gaining the support of Clarence House and agreeing a partnership with HRH’s educational charity, The Prince’s Foundation, we had just three months to write, illustrate, design and proof read the book before it had to go to press. Only these deadlines would ensure we had copies in time for launch at COP26.

And that led down into a surprising and, in hindsight, an exhilarating path. No artist we approached could possibly create a fully-illustrated 64-page book in such a short space of time. Well, we thought, why not find a different artist for every spread? That’s why It’s Up To Us features 33 artists from all over the world – ranging from Siberia to Kenya and Vietnam to Aboriginal Australia. As it turned out, the approach could not have been more in keeping with the Terra Carta concept of everyone being in this climate change conundrum together, regardless of background, wealth, ethnicity or geography. Do take a look – we have video clips from almost all of the artists explaining what it means to them to have been involved.

“The result is a triumph, both in terms of the poetically rendered text, and the emotional impact of the hugely contrasting illustration styles on display…” It’s Up To Us – The BookSeller, Friday 15th October, 2021

The review published in The Bookseller was one of the most special moments in my career to date. We are blessed with a brilliant team, and everyone pulled together to make this project happen on time.

And just to think – none of it would have happened had bad King John not been confronted by those pesky barons on the meadows of Runneymede in June 1215!

For more details please go to www.whatonearthbooks.com/its-up-to-us

It’s Up To Us by Christopher Lloyd, published by What On Earth Books is available in bookshops.

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