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An Unexpected Visitor: Behind the Book with Bright Star Jessica Courtney-Tickle

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Jessica Courtney-Tickle is an incredible talent. Her soft and misty landscapes are dream-like and comforting. The perfect, peaceful way to send little ones off to sleep at night. Her debut picture book is due out in February and published by Egmont. The theme is environmentally friendly as is the material from which the book is made; Egmont use paper sourced from sustainable forests, which is the first message you see on opening the book.


The Unexpected Visitor will be Jessica’s debut author/illustrated title, published by Egmont on February 9th 2017.
It’s an exciting time for Jess, who will be joining us for a story time at The Bright Emporium on February 12th, for a reading and signing of her picture book. We cannot wait! Here, Jess talks about her inspiration… LM

Visitor first colour sketch 2

What inspired the idea?

The idea came from a series of etchings I did while at university. They are the very first glimpses of the fisherman and the whale in the book today! The original idea was that the little fisherman met the whale one day and they went on all sorts of adventures together, absent-mindedly eating fish along the way. As the etchings went on, the fish in the water were supposed to get fainter and fainter to show the affect the two friends had upon the sea. Unfortunately I was so excited about the project that I forgot a very important part of the process and none of the plates worked. But the idea sat in my sketchbook for a good three years until I had the confidence to show it to anybody. By that time it had turned into a story all by itself. The character of the little fisherman was also inspired by my little (now actually quite big) brother whose name you might find at the beginning of the book…

The Visitor early roughs

Are you very environmentally conscious? 

It’s probably the topic that makes me want to write and draw most of all. I definitely don’t want to imagine a world without fish or whales or forests or tigers or any of the other wonderful things we are in danger of losing. I think that when we become conscious of these problems we start to talk about them and we start to learn more about how we can help. It’s one of the reasons I love Oi! Get Off Our Train [by John Burningham] so much, not only is it a beautiful picture book but as a child it encouraged me to ask questions about the animals, why were these things happening to them? Couldn’t we help them? The story inspired me to be more thoughtful and to learn more about the world around me. It’s even inspired me to write my own story all these years later… Picture books have so much power!

The Visitor early rough sketch

It has a great message for children about sharing, and not taking more than you need – something we know happens all too often in the western world. Will there be more books like this? Not only is it a beautiful picture book, but an educational lesson also, which could aid teachers in primary schools – could there be a series perhaps?

The next book I’m working on does have a similar theme! It’s about sharing and friendship and there is an environmental problem tied in there too. It’s different characters and a different setting this time though, hopefully I can say more about it later on this year. I’d just love to write a whole series of books! I’m still very chuffed and a little disbelieving that even one of my ideas is going to be published, it’s wonderful to have something you really believe in picked up — though it’s making me very, very nervous too!

Visitor first colour sketch

What is next on the horizon for you?

I have a few lovely projects coming out in the next year. Publishing alongside The Unexpected Visitor is Animal Journeys (360 Degrees, written by Patricia Hegarty) which is my first foray into non-fiction and full of animals and habitats! I am also working on a text with the fantastic John Agard and Faber books right now which is a true celebration of diversity and nature together… I’m definitely in my element!

Animal Journeys

Animal Journeys, written by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Jess and published by 360 Degrees.

With thanks to Jessica, and to Egmont for allowing us to share these beautiful images before publication day!

Visitor first sketch

Jessica opened a brand new art building dedicated to the children at College Green Nursery School in Kensal Green, London.
Read more about Jessica and her last book, The Story Orchestra, published by Quarto .

And if you’d like to meet Jess, come along to Storytime Sunday on February 12th at
The Bright Emporium! More info and tickets .



Jessica Courtney-Tickle is represented by Bright Group 


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