As adults we often worry: about paying the bills, about work, family, politics, health — well just about everything really. But as adults we also know there’s a way to sort things out (hopefully and for the most part) We know we can talk about it, and there is help out there. We understand why we worry — mostly.
For children, it’s a totally alien feeling they don’t always know how to express. And who should they tell — should they tell anyone? How can it be fixed, what should they do? Why do they worry? In the media we see articles and accounts of stress born anxiety becoming ever more prevalent in our society — or perhaps we just talk about it more.
The worries of our children are different, but still relative. So how to deal with it and how to help?
With a background in publishing , and a good deal of experience in this area, author, Matthew Morgan decided to take on the subject which is not hugely covered in children’s picture books. Thank Goodness for Bob is so heartfelt and beautifully written, it’s a joyous and reassuring read for both parent and child. Gabe Alborozo, also with very relevant experience, was the perfect choice of illustrator. His empathy for Max undoubtedly shines through his artwork.
We couldn’t more highly recommend this book. Every home should have one.
Here’s a bit more from Matthew and Gabe… LM
Thank Goodness for Bob, Published by Egmont.
When I read this picture book, it totally blew me away. I remember having a very vivid imagination when I was small, which caused no amount of concern on my part for what might happen. Something like this would have helped me enormously – plus a dog like Bob. Is it drawn from experience? (to Matthew) and Gabe, it must have been wonderful to illustrate, just because there is so much thought behind the idea.
(Matthew) I’m a naturally anxious person, and when my eldest son started to go to birthday parties, and then to school, I noticed he was becoming anxious too. I wrote Thank Goodness for Bob in response to that – to show him that we all worry sometimes, but that we don’t need to let it stop us enjoying ourselves.
(Gabe) It was. It was quite different to anything I’d illustrated before in many ways but the characters were so strong and the themes so relatable (I have a fair amount of first hand experience of the subject) that it flowed very easily. Also I grew up with various dogs that were very good listeners (most dogs are) so it all fell into place.
I think this is your first collaboration, with a beautiful book as a result. Will there be future projects perhaps?
(Matthew) Hopefully! I think Gabe’s done a fantastic job at bringing Max and his worries to life.
(Gabe) I’d very much like to I must admit. Matthew’s written on a subject in such an empathic, gentle but strong way, that I would love to see what else he creates.
Matthew and Gabe will be at The Bright Emporium for a storytime on Sunday 29th January 2017.
Matthew, what first inspired you to write for children, and what is your background – did you study in a writing field?
I have a very vivid memory of writing a story while at primary school that my teacher helped me to make into a book. The excitement that I felt – at telling a story, drawing pictures to accompany it and creating a physical object that I could show to other people – has never left me. I went to university and got various jobs, but didn’t start writing for children until some years later, about the same time as I started working as an editor in children’s publishing. For the past 15 years I’ve been alternating between the two: writing or developing children’s fiction, non-fiction and picture books.
Matthew’s bestselling Yuck! series, co-written with David Sinden and illustrated by Nigel Baines.
Will we hear more from Max and Bob in the future?
What can we look forward to from you next?!
A picture book about getting things wrong.
Gabe, You use a monochrome and a very calm, muted palette in much of your work, which is distinctive of your style, but in this book you’ve gone for bright colour – is there a reason behind the colour choice, and what usually decides the palette you use?
Nothing specific. My style has quietly changed over the last few years as I adapt to certain briefs, as it will continue to do. This book was the sort of ‘first screening’ of it in many ways and it seems to have worked fairly well, however if you’d seen the very first colour work it was much brighter and bolder but for many reasons, mostly technical, I had to dial the colours and textures down a touch.
You have an incredible background in illustration, from cartoonist for Private Eye, Punch and many other very significant publications, but also as a prop maker in film and TV! An amazingly creative career; what made you decide on making children’s books?
It’s a tricky question actually. It kind of happened in a very fluid way. A huge part of what children’s book illustration is today is from 150 years or so of cartoonists moving from the magazines to books. Their ability to create illustrative pictures very quickly in large numbers and in exchange for food was a natural choice for publishers. So I think if you are from that cartooning tradition the move to children books, or indeed any other type of fiction illustration is almost seamless and natural.
I think what I’m trying to say is that it just kind of happened rather than a conscious decision.
What is your creative process?
When illustrating only, it’s basically a matter of reading the text a number times and then processing the words and turning those thoughts into pictures, which can involve a fair amount of looking out of the window, cups of tea and walks. Have a think, let it percolate and allow the images to form. Quite frankly I would then quite happily go to final art and just copy down all the pictures I’d thought of. But publishers do like to see roughs! So it’s then a case of creating the first roughs and sending them off for approval. After that it becomes a bit of a collaboration between myself and the Art Director.
When illustrating a story you haven’t written, how do you begin to develop your ideas, and where does the first illustration start from? Is it important to work through the story in order, or not so much?
For me all the pictures take shape mentally pretty quickly. Once they’ve had a bit of thought it really is just a matter of copying them down onto the paper. (Give or take – they’re never quite as you imagined them)
Once the roughs have gone through the process with the publisher and its down to final art I tend to do them as the mood takes me. A bit here, a bit there. If I feel ‘landscapey’ I’ll spend a day doing backgrounds, or if not then characters. Just go with the flow really.
What’s next on the horizon for you Gabe?
Well hopefully a very great deal of work. I currently have a book to finish up in the next month or so, and then it’s a case of continuing development on a few of my own that I’m discussing with various publishers at the moment. This year I’d very much like to shift a gear and begin doing more fiction work both for children and adults if possible. My cartoonist roots are feeling a bit itchy! Lots of irons are in a lot of fires so it might prove to be an interesting year.
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With huge thanks to Matthew and Gabe.
If you’d like to meet the artist and author, you can do so!