by Katie Jennings and Joe Lillington
The books in the Colour Fiction range from Little Tiger Group are perfect for newly independent readers aged 5 and up, especially those still struggling to find their feet. Those in search of both a meaty story and the vivid illustrations you find in a picture book. The illustrator is credited alongside the author on the cover – pictures mean business, after all.
The books celebrate collaboration, exploration and extraordinary acts of kindness, challenging stereotypes and empowering children. Authors so far include star names like Polly Ho-Yen, Lara Williamson and Katie Clapham, paired with much loved illustrators Binny Talib, Becky Cameron and Kirsti Beautyman. And the latest in the series, published this August, is ROCKET BOY – written by me Katie Jennings and illustrated by the amazing Joe Lillington!
Spoiler alert – there are no aliens in this story. When I first pitched the idea, I hoped to write a book that would be picked up by a child who might not normally read fiction. Maybe because they find themselves drawn more to non-fiction, or else because they’re not really big on reading at all. I wanted the story of Callum’s journey to Mars to be a celebration of facts and knowledge, and of imagination and creativity – because these things aren’t mutually exclusive. Above all, I wanted it to feature an EPIC rocket!
As a starting point, I did some research – lots of research, actually. The idea was for younger readers to believe it might, just might, be possible for a kid to build their own rocket and venture where no kid has gone before… (Although, I did stretch the boundaries of possibility by giving Callum a talking cat as a companion on his mission.)
While writing, I tried to make the text as accessible as possible to appeal to reluctant readers. My son is dyslexic and it’s been a long journey to get him to willingly pick up a book and read solo. In the end, it was graphic novels like Joe Todd Stanton’s Professor Brownstone series and Jamie Smart’s Bunny vs Monkey that got him reading. I was aiming for something of that feel here, with lots of dialogue and graphic novel style inserts. I chose to tell the story in the first person and use imagery that a child might themselves use to describe their adventure.
As with all the titles in the series, the right illustrator was key. When the book’s designer, Pip Johnson, showed me Joe Lillington’s non-fiction I knew he’d be perfect. Joe went above and beyond to bring Callum’s quest to life, with his stunning attention to detail, spot-on characterisation and flair for conjuring up strange worlds. There were plenty of ‘wow’ moments when I got my hands on his art for the book. And, yes, I did get my epic rocket in the end!
Joe says: “When I first read through Katie’s story, I knew that the rocket would be one of the most important, but also most fun parts of the book to illustrate. From the outset I thought it was key that the rocket made sense. It had to have the sorts of components a real rocket might have, like the side boosters which detach after take-off and the lander stored in the nose cone (I had Callum use a lampshade for this!). The rocket also needed to look interesting from all sorts of different angles, so I made sure to add lots of fun little details like the lemonade bottles for fuel tanks on the sides. Throughout the whole process I was careful to make sure that everything used to construct the rocket would be something a child really could have found around their house. It was great to illustrate a story with such a mix of everyday life as well as Callum and Oscar’s fantastical adventure!”
Now ROCKET BOY has launched to join the starry ranks of our published Colour Fiction titles, we’re excited for more books to come. Keep an eye out for Karl Newson and Wazza Pink’s THE HAT FULL OF SECRETS in October.
Find out more about the Little Tiger Colour Fiction range here: http://littletiger.co.uk/colour-fiction
Katie Jennings – By day, Katie works as a commissioning editor of children’s books at Little Tiger Press. By night, she gazes at stars and writes. She lives in London with her two young children and a cat who thinks he’s a person. Twitter: @MrsPushkin
Joe Lillington – Born in London and now based in Bristol, Joe Lillington graduated from University College Falmouth in 2014 and since leaving has had two titles published by Flying Eye Books, TOBY AND THE ICE GIANTS and NEFFY AND THE FEATHERED DINOSAURS. Twitter: @LillingtonJoe
Any opinions expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.