Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Silver Serpent Cup • Round Hill School Edition

The Silver Serpent Cup illustrated by Ed Eaves and the Round Hill School Edition.

I have a new picture book coming out next month called The Silver Serpent Cup. The version you can buy in the shops is illustrated by Ed Eaves who also provided the initial inspiration for the story (more about that in a future post). However this post is about another very special version of the book that was illustrated by the children of Round Hill Primary School.

Round Hill is my local primary school and both of my children went to it. Last year Gina Bore, the school's literacy co-ordinator, got in touch to ask if I would get involved with the school’s book week. We talked through a several ideas and the one that took Gina’s fancy was based on a day-long illustration workshop I occasionally do in schools. In the standard workshop, I spend the whole day working with a single class. At the beginning of the day, I present the children with a picture book text. Then I teach the children some of the principles of character design and illustration and they spend the day producing a class version of the book, with each child illustrating an individual spread. I use texts for picture books that are currently in production, but have not yet been published to avoid the children having any preconceptions about how the finished book should look. At the end of the day, I show the children roughs or final artwork that the real illustrator has produced for the actual book.

Gina wondered if we could extend this activity over a whole week and have the whole school (more than 400 children) illustrating the book. I wasn’t sure how well this would work, but I said I’d be happy to give it a go. In the end, it worked brilliantly!

The book week was in February. I introduced the project to the whole school in an assembly on Monday morning, read them the text and gave them a few very basic tips about book illustration such as “Beware of the gutter!” Then I spent some extra time with the year 6 classes giving them some more in-depth advice. Every child in the school produced a spread, endpaper or cover design. Each teacher selected a complete set of illustrations from their class to make their individual class edition, so we ended up with 12 different editions of the book. I then chose at least one spread from each class edition to go into an overall Round Hill School edition.

This was quite a Herculean task, so when I went in to collect the class editions, I wasn’t sure what I would find. Fortunately the whole school had got behind the project. The children were buzzing about it in the corridors and Gina had a stack of impressive class editions for me to take home.

The school had already whittled down the illustrations into 12 class editions, which left me with about 200 spreads to choose the school edition from.

A set of illustrations for 6H's class edition

It was a tough job selecting the spreads for the overall school edition and I had to leave out lots of excellent illustrations. I was really impressed with the original way in which many children had chosen to interpret the story. And the children who had been working on the book’s cover had written some really appealing blurb to go on the back. Eventually I settled upon a final selection which I bound together to make the school edition.

The Round Hill School edition

Here are some of the spreads from the school edition, with Ed’s illustrations for the regular edition shown beneath them.

Lauren's cover had a lovely detailed drawing of Mole's tunnelling machine on the front
and some very engaging blurb for the back.
Jack's illustration style for this train spread reminded me of David Tazzyman who illustrates the Mister Gum books
Rabbits class used eye-catching collage for all their spreads, including this one by William.

We wound up the week with an assembly on the Friday afternoon, just before the school broke up for half term. After showing the children the illustrations I’d chosen for their school edition, I showed them the illustrations that Ed Eaves had done for the actual book. The children were really impressed by these and were able to appreciate Ed’s artwork all the more having spent some time creating their own versions.

Here's me revealing the illustrations I'd chosen for the school edition …

I’d explained at the beginning of the week that we would choose one spread from the school edition as an overall winner and that the spread’s illustrator would win a copy of the actual book, signed by me and Ed, along with a dedication in one of my future books. I’d decided that, as the book’s illustrator, Ed was much better qualified to make this decision than I was and he announced the winner via a live FaceTime video connection during the assembly. 

… and here's Ed announcing the overall winner via FaceTime

The spread Ed chose was this endpaper, showing all the different vehicles. It was a collaborative effort by Otter Class, so we awarded the prize to the whole class.

The winning spread was this endpaper created by Otter Class

The project would have worked nearly so well if the whole school had not got behind it so enthusiastically, so I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to all the young illustrators, their teachers and TAs and Gina who did such a terrific job of co-ordinating the project in the school.

The Silver Serpent Cup is published next week by Oxford University Press.

Click here to find out more about the book.

Buy this book at amazon UK Buy at amazon US 

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