This Thursday sees the launch of A Piglet Called Truffle – the first book in a brand new series, written by Helen Peters and illustrated by Ellie Snowdon. Helen and Ellie told us about their experiences creating the book – complete with a selection of images from Ellie’s sketchbook!
Like Jasmine, I grew up on a farm, and Jasmine’s character was inspired by my sister Hazel, who has spent her life looking after animals. When she worked as a veterinary nurse, she brought home numerous unwanted animals over the years, including budgies, hamsters, black rats, cats, chickens, dogs, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hedgehogs, a baby sparrow and a lamb called Jasper who features in my earlier books. So I didn’t find it difficult to imagine the character of Jasmine, a nine-year-old girl who loves looking after animals and wants to run an animal rescue centre when she grows up.
The Jasmine Green series is for readers aged seven and up, a younger readership than that of The Secret Henhouse Theatre and Farm Beneath the Water. I really enjoyed writing for a lower age group. It’s been great fun creating the world of these stories, particularly the characters of Jasmine’s five-year-old brother Manu and his best friend Ben, who get up to all sorts of mischief, usually with the best possible intentions. Their antics were directly inspired by the things my own children got up to at that age.
I find that characters really come to life when they start talking to each other. Dialogue is my favourite part of writing. When I get stuck, I try to find a way to get them talking, and usually an idea will come out of their conversation that helps to move the story forward.
This is the first time one of my books has been highly illustrated and I absolutely love Ellie’s style and all her illustrations. She has captured the spirit of the farm where I grew up so perfectly that it’s almost uncanny, and I can also rely on Ellie to give the animal characters far more charm and personality than I could possibly convey just in words. If I had to choose one favourite illustration, it would probably be the old farmer pushing his wheelbarrow across the farmyard, because when I think of my dad on his farm, he is always pushing his wheelbarrow across the yard exactly as Ellie has drawn it in that picture.
Being a bit of an animal lover, I was absolutely thrilled when Nosy Crow asked me to illustrate A Piglet Called Truffle and the rest of the Jasmine Green series. Helen’s wonderful stories reminded me so much of the books that I loved to read when I was growing up and I really wanted to capture the warmth that radiates from her characters in the illustrations.
It has been a fantastic experience bringing the world of Oak Tree Farm to life and I’ve learnt a lot of various aspects of rural farm life along the way! Getting to draw a variety of different animals was such a fun challenge, and expressing their personalities through various facial expressions was rather entertaining at times! Tom’s two little guinea pigs, Snowy and Twiglet, were my two particular favourite characters to draw – they are such a funny pair!
The inspiration behind the illustrations comes from a love for British nature and its wildlife. I was lucky enough to have spent two years studying in Cambridge, which is surrounded by some really beautiful landscapes and old farms, and so I had the chance to go back there with sketchbook in tow to do some observational drawing in the early stages of Truffle. Once I had received the brief from Nicola Theobald (the wonderful Nosy Crow designer) I was good to go with the rough stage! I started by mapping out the roughs in the space given within the text, which determines the size and composition of the illustration. I like to put lots of detail into my pencil roughs at this stage so that I know exactly what I’m doing when it comes to producing the final artwork. These go through several tweaks and changes with feedback from both the team and Helen until I get the thumbs-up to go ahead and produce the final artwork, and bring the story to life (the most fun part!).
It has been an absolute joy illustrating A Piglet Called Truffle and I cannot wait to see what Jasmine gets up to next in her adventures at Oak Tree Farm!
Thank you, Helen and Ellie! A Piglet Called Truffle will be in shops on Thursday – you can find out more about the book here, and read the opening chapter below: