A new addition to the family

One of the joys of being a writer is the ability to do some good with it. I spoke about this in a recent blog – how I’m writing bespoke charity books for children. The most recent of these commissions has just been published, so I thought I’d say a little about how it came about.

The recipient of this little book – Ruairidh – was born in June and his grandmother, Susan, commissioned the book for him. My usual aim for children’s books is for them to be suitable for reading aloud at bedtime – so longer stories, designed for the 4-8 age range. Still, I’m never one to ignore a challenge and especially not when it comes to raising money for breast cancer research.

So, in consultation with Susan and with friends of mine with experience of small children, we developed the idea of a book which mentioned his name lots of times and which included all the family and friends he would be most familiar with. And Where’s Ruairidh? came to life.

The idea is simple – on each page, we see if we can find Ruairidh and, instead, find someone else. Grandpa Watson is cleaning his car. Cousin Ada is under the trees. Iggy the dog is ready for his walk. It is a very different type of writing for me – requiring real simplicity and brevity.

The next challenge was in the artwork. In my previous books, because they are full stories, illustrations were only needed from time to time – usually around four or five of them, plus the front cover. For Where’s Ruairidh? every page needed an illustration. That’s a big ‘ask’ of an artist who is giving their time for free. Of course, having an artist in the family (my mother) made it a bit simpler – even if she still doesn’t quite understand how digital images work and how I got the illustrations into the book without her artwork ever leaving her hands!

We had a few false starts with the illustrations. Watercolours don’t scan all that well and the colours kept washing out – but a shift to gouache solved the problem. Even so, there was some rework required after scanning, where things didn’t quite turn out as we planned.

The greatest fun came in the research. We wanted settings and characters that Ruairidh would recognise as he grew older so Susan had to e-mail photos of every family member and every dog, while my Mum went hunting for just the right kind of fire engine and a good image of the Red Castle in Montrose.

Image of the first sketch of a fire engineImage of the illustration of Grandpa Watson Image of a crawling baby





We also hit on the idea of having Ruairidh crawling across the top of the book, so a line illustration of a baby was developed – and then reworked to stop it looking quite so like the Fairy liquid baby – although she now seems to be walking!

With so much artwork, the book did take a bit longer than the usual ten weeks but it has been a rewarding experience and very educational for both myself and my mother. And, most importantly, has raised funds for Breast Cancer Now. May Ruairidh get many years of pleasure from it!

If you would like to have a book written for your child, take a look at Cate’s page on charity books and then drop her a line. 

If you wish to make a donations to Cate’s fundraising efforts for Breast Cancer Now, you can do so here 

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