Sunday, October 30, 2011

Five little fiends

This book by illustrator/ author Sarah Dyer has five little fiends as the main characters. They live in a statue and come out each day to marvel at the world outside. Then, one day, they decide to keep their favorite part to themselves.

So each of them lay claim on the sun, the moon, the land, the sea and the sky!
But soon they discover that these elements of nature function only together- alone there is no beauty and all could be lost. Each of the fiends restores his favourite element and the world is complete and joy giving once again.

This delightful little "ecological parable", urges us oh- so- subtly, to look at the bigger picture and share, respect and coexist.

The fiends are not scary and make the message more indirect and palatable. There is a predominant use of red, black and white in this large picture book which has also been translated into ten other languages! If that does not reflect the universal appeal of the story what will?

Here is a chat with the very forthcoming Sarah Dyer, a gifted illustrator and the author of this book:

ST: Five Little Fiends works at many levels and can appeal to a lot of ages. How did the concept evolve in your mind?
I wanted to concentrate on telling a good story and not try to hard to get a point across. I hope that is why it works because I haven’t forced an important point about sharing and the environment across. Children are much cleverer than some people give them credit for and I think they understand what the messages in the book. It also allows them to explore other themes surrounding my story.

How did the illustration come about and how did you arrive on Fiends as the main characters? The colours are predominantly red and white. Why so?
Fiends was a project I started in my second year of University so I had plenty of time to develop the characters. I had feedback from the tutors on the course which also helped develop them further. They started off looking a lot scarier at first so it took a while to get looking impish rather than threatening!I wanted to keep the illustrations simple and the message strong – I didn't want to decorate the pages with unnecessary things – I wanted the reader to really concentrate on the narrative and the Fiends as characters.

Tell us a bit more about your illustration style.
My style has developed over the years (Fiends is now 10 years old!) I use coloured pencil, collage paper, and oil pastels – but I’m not tied down to a particular way of working. I like being open to using whatever I feel is best for the illustration.

Who are your favourite kids authors? Can you recco some must read picturebooks?
Books I think are fantastic are: The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbuch , Beegu by AexisDeacon, Banana! By Ed Vere, Whatever by William Bee, The Runaway Dinner byAllan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman, Three Monsters by David McKee and Rosie’sWalk by Pat Hutchins.....I could go on and on! I love children's picture books!

What other books on the Elements/ Nature do you feel children must read?
I think children should take an interest in nature by not only reading children’sbooks but also nature books, going outside and generally exploring whatever fantastic nature is on their doorstep. A book that is great that supports these themes is: Debi Gliori ‘The Trouble with Dragons’.

In today's context multi cultural books are extremely important. Which are your favourites? Why?
I think 'Bugs in a Blanket' by Beatrice Alemagna is a lovely book about inclusion, difference and tolerance. I think the best books dealing with multi culturism are not obvious…again children don’t need to be preached to, they understand a great deal and are very aware of what is going on around them.

What are your upcoming projects?
I've been a bit out of the loop with work for a while as I had my first baby in January. But now he’s 8 months old I've found some time to start a new project. I've recently collaborated with an author (Lucy Coats) for my next book. She has written the text based on an idea I had. I'm very excited to be working withher because it's given me a whole new way of working on the illustrations. It's nice to have someone to bounce ideas off and great for me to fully concentrate on just the images - definitely the bit I prefer. I enjoy coming up with ideas but find actually writing the text extremely difficult. Hopefully this new book with Bloomsbury will be out in 2013.

Any anecdotes you wish to share from your career writing/ illustrating for children?
Attending book festivals and schools let me meet the children that are actually reading my books. It gives me a real insight into who I am writing/illustrating for. I think it's healthy to connect with your audience every now and then – they can be very critical though at such a young age! I learnt very quickly after being heckled at my first festival not to let them totally take over! It always lovely to see their eager faces when I read them my stories and show them original artwork….makes me want to rush home and start new stories!


Sarah graduated from Kingston University in Illustration in 2001. Her first book 'Five Little Fiends' won the Bronze Smarties Prize and the UKRA (United Kingdom Reading Award) award. It has been an international success, translated into eight languages. Since then she has written and illustrated six more books with publishers Bloomsbury and Frances Lincoln. The most recent called 'Batty'. She attends many Festivals, Workshops, and Schools to carry out events and readings. Recent visits include Bath, Cheltenham, Edinburgh and Hay. When she is not writing and illustrating she teaches on the Foundation and Illustration BA Courses part-time at Kingston University. She lives in Hove with her husband and son and her cat, Betty.

And I could not resist this- another book from Sarah that looks and sounds delightful-


Anonymous said...

What an eye-catching cover! Can only imagine what the inside pages would hold. So true, subtler the tone, the more effective the message.

Thanks for your untiring efforts Arthi!


Artnavy said...

Thanks Uma for dropping by.

Am sure Sarah will be pleased.

utbtkids said...

Art, what a terrific book. Loved the story line- 'the elements need to coexisit' Looking fwd to pick up this book.

Sarah's answer to the first question says it all! 'concentrate on the story rather than the message' Apt question, beautifully answered.

Great job Art. Thanks Sarah.

Artnavy said...

Thanks utbt and Sarah is one of the most grounded, approachable illustrators/ authors I have had a chance to interact with

BTW this book came to me via Uma of Adya fame.

Sarah said...

Hi, thanks for all your kind comments. So lovely to part of this great blog - thanks for the nice review!
All best, Sarah

Artnavy said...

It was a pleasure to have you here and do keep dropping by

all the best on your new book ...

Anitha G L said...

Sounds great. Would love to get it and read it to the kids, and also to see if they get the message :) !

sandhya said...

Sounds like a lovely book, Art.

"Children are much cleverer than some people give them credit"--very true, as I've found out everytime A comes up with an original comment on a book we both read, and almost always something that I would not have thought of!

Artnavy said...

welcome here Anitha

Sandhya- All kids are but A is very special that way- time u published her sweet elements least at the gallery?

Praba Ram said...

What a treat, Art! Couldn't agree more on keeping it simple and subtle.

"Message indirect, non-preachy and palatable!" - she has said it all!

The discussion we had earlier on our st group on "offering it all directly may not be a bad thing actually", esp if your target audience is first generation readers who are accessing books for the first time, comes to mind. Wonder what her thoughts are on that, Art!

I completely agree with her that we don't give kids credit often...

Praba Ram said...

Thanks you both for this wonderfully stimulating, thought-provoking material!

Sheela said...

I love the use of red in the illustrations! Interesting behind-the-scene look at how Sarah works. Thank you!

Artnavy said...

P and Sheela

Will pass on your query to Sarah

Related Posts with Thumbnails