A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Bethany Straker: Isabel Atherton’s ‘Ruby Moo’s Deep Sea Adventure’ is a new children’s book hitting the US shelves in September. It’s a quirky, imaginative and fun book that the author herself will tell you a little bit more about, and as the illustrator, I will talk a little about working with her on this lovely story.
Isabel Atherton: Writing
At the time of developing the concept for this picture book, I was living in a seaside town called Whitstable in the UK. It’s a beautiful, quaint little town and it’s famous for its oysters. I wanted to do a bit of an ode to the place and decided that my next picture book would be based by the seaside.
The cow character was inspired by riding the train to Whitstable station and seeing cows and sheep in the beautiful Kentish countryside. I decided I wanted an emancipated cow – one with ambitions and dreams to get out of the cow field and do something with its life.
I am always anxious showing my ideas wondering if they’ll be shot down, but Beth totally got the premise and her enthusiasm is infectious. We had so much fun developing the look and character of the book. I love the style of the 1960s and said to Beth think psychedelic, which she totally got! One of my favourite spreads is of the giant squid. I just love the whole nautical feel to the book and hope readers will too!
Thanks, Beth! I think this was one of our most fun and out there collaborations!
Bethany Straker: Illustration
When Isabel showed me the working title of the book, ‘Mr Cow’s Deep Sea Adventure’, I smiled and knew I’d like it. This type of unconventional storyline, marrying two unrelated ideas, is Isy’s signature style. The idea of a cow underwater conjured up some very pleasing visual imagery for me – I was in!
The illustrations needed a brighter, more psychedelic look than previous books I had worked on. Often, I steer towards a muted colour palette even for children’s books as I like to illustrate the griminess of a story. This one needed a madness to it, a slightly unhinged feel. I chose yellows, purples and greens against the sea-blues, and made sure the fish were a rainbow backdrop to our hero.
Mr Cow himself stayed male right up until the finish of the book. We had enjoyed finding a character for him: I would show Isy some ideas and she would steer me towards her vision. One thing we knew is that we wanted him to have a gleeful, innocent expression and a very simple outline. I chose a dumpy, soft triangle with a lack of detail that would stand out against the background. It was only later, with the lure of udders, that we decided to rework the book with our character being a girl. With the addition of some lovely ruby jewellery to match her name, this adventurous cow was now an ambitious and thrusting female.
The supporting character of the giant squid was a favourite of mine, as I could play around with tentacles and colours, and try to find a balance between his initial creepiness and the realisation that he was a friendly soul. A monocle seemed a good addition.
I began adding detail to the backgrounds more than in the characters, as I wanted the textures of the pebbled beach, the shipwreck and the sea to be described. It’s been one of my favourite books to illustrate, and the odd thing was I found it the most difficult to work on at first. I felt like something lacked in some of my originals, and spent time reworking and rethinking spreads until I was happy. In the end, I think it’s been some of my best work. Thanks for working with me on this, Isy!
ISABEL ATHERTON is an author, literary agent, and director of Creative Authors Ltd. When she is not helping her authors she likes to write illustrated books herself. She is the author of ZOMBIE CAT, an illustrated adult humor book (for Skyhorse Publishing), SMELLY GHOST, THE BAD EASTER BUNNY, SPRINGY CHICKEN and RUBY MOO’S DEEP SEA ADVENTURE, all children’s picture books (Sky Pony titles). She splits her time between London and Whitstable—a seaside town in Kent, England.
BETHANY STRAKER is an illustrator and designer working in Kent and London. She is currently working on 6 picture books for Skyhorse publishing and currently has a book out written by Isabel Atherton, called ‘Zombie Cat: The Tale of a Decomposing Kitty’. Her new books include a book she wrote called ‘The Funny Bunny Fly’, ‘A Curious Robot on Mars!’ written by James Duffett-Smith and ‘Smelly Ghost’ by Isabel Atherton. Previously, Bethany has illustrated for magazines for Disney, CMP Information, Bliss magazine, the National Magazine Company and GoGo’s Crazy Bones. You can see some examples of her work on her website, www.bethanystraker.com