Life in the distillery
Shaping and producing child-centred art and early years writing involves a process of distillation (as a Scotsman I would say that, wouldn’t I?). It is the slow extraction of the essence that is the story from the mass of images, ideas, research and other material ingredients gathered to produce it. Because, to put it quite simply, a picture book (say) is not a little story, it’s a big story told short and this is really crucial to grasp. Much has to be said and done in less than eight hundred words and thirty-two pages (a gold star for guessing why thirty-two pages1). And writing this book as a critical exposé of such a process, as a detailed critical exegesis, as an accompanying and justifying, critical narrative is not something that can just be bashed off because there is much to know.Every picturebook writer/illustrator I have ever met has said the same thing to me,which is that picture books are absolutely the hardest books to write. There is nothing simple about them because there are so many things to address in the cult and culture of childhood if the art produced is to have an engaging presence and is fit for purpose.