The MAGIC OF FORESTS and all things non-fiction BY VICKY WOODGATE
I just LOVE the beginning of an idea, followed by the research and then its pitch time! It might be my favourite part of the book making process. I love the seed of an idea, pun intended J and with The Magic of Forests, my latest non-fiction offering, this was no different.
I write and illustrate non-fiction books, its hard work but very rewarding. Coming from an arts background – I spent most of my career as a commercial artist, illustrating, prop making and even painting film sets and theme park rides, a varied fun career, but something was niggling in the background.
“Come on Vicky, you know what you want to do now, create books!”
So, one day with pitch in hand (yes it was a paper mock up) after 2 months of research from an idea I was passionate about I got my first book deal, hurrah! Then the REAL work started.
My book process starts visually, (this of course after a period of more intense research), with thumbnails, a little like how you would start a picture book but for non-fiction, I feel this can really help intertwine the words and pictures. I then write the text alongside my rough artwork, I love injecting a bit of humour too, traditionally non-fiction could be a little dry, of course now this really isn’t the case, the wealth of incredible non-fiction offerings for children is astounding. I often use the illustration to lighten up the mood if the subject matter or fact is a little tough and use a chatty conversational text.
I decided what I really needed for my next book (no 4) was a guide, someone to take us through the subject matter and that is where Mimi the cat was born.
Creating a narrative non-fiction element has been such fun, to bring a character to life within a nonfiction setting. Why a cat? Because that book was all about SLEEP, and let’s face it cats are EXPERTS at sleeping. And full disclose I am a little obsessed with them, of course it helped I had two of my own.
I split the book into five sections, an About, Myths and Legends, the Human World, Natural World, and Mental Health, I liked the idea of breaking things down, and making it an easier read, a visual feast and not too overwhelming text wise. Happily, this was the perfect framework for a series. In book two, Mimi then took us through a journey of the world of Seasons and now she has climbed many a tree to bring us the magical world of Forests.
I have found children have really responded well to a character, it brings an easier accessibility for the child to broach subject matters like Climate Change and being unable to sleep.
In the latest Mimi adventure, The Magic of Forests, we cover what is the difference between a wood, jungle, and forest, what exactly IS a tree, and how to be a leaf detective. We delve into some of the myths and legends that surround our forest worlds, any excuse to put a witch’s hat on a cat! The relationship between us and forests, the difficult subject of deforestation. In the nature section we find out what lives in what different type of forest and just how good for our mental and physical health forests really can be.
With the wealth of choice now in non-fiction for children, creators, be it writers, illustrators, and publishers, we will all have to be more creative, pushing the boundaries to create even better content rich books, I can’t wait!
An oak tree can produce 10 MILLION acorns in its lifetime!
The Magic of Forests written and illustrated by Vicky Woodgate published by DK.
Vicky Woodgate has written 6 non-fiction books for children and there are some exciting projects in the pipeline. She currently lives on the south coast of England with her husband. 3 recently discovered hedgehogs, 2 slow worms and a visiting fox.