From the very first moment I read the text I knew I wanted to be a part of the project

Every now and again I discover a book, a painting or a song that stops me in my tracks and reminds me why I love making picture books. Jim Helmore's The Snow Lion gave me one of those moments...

 
 
The story begins when a little girl called Caro and her mother arrive at their new home at the top of a hill. We're not told why they are moving house or even where her father might be, but we soon learn the Caro isn't particularly happy at the moment.

The story begins when a little girl called Caro and her mother arrive at their new home at the top of a hill. We're not told why they are moving house or even where her father might be, but we soon learn the Caro isn't particularly happy at the moment.

As always, I began sketching ideas out in my sketchbooks first. My first character sketches of Caro were quite different from how she eventually appears. She began life a little older and perhaps drawn a little more formally. It didn't take long, however, before for the true Caro began to emerge!

As always, I began sketching ideas out in my sketchbooks first. My first character sketches of Caro were quite different from how she eventually appears. She began life a little older and perhaps drawn a little more formally. It didn't take long, however, before for the true Caro began to emerge!

together.jpg
Caro's friend Bobby and his dog evolved from my sketchbooks in a similar way...

Caro's friend Bobby and his dog evolved from my sketchbooks in a similar way...

The Snow Lion took many, many pages of sketchbook scribbling before I was satisfied I had found his character. It was clear early on, however, that his and Caro's relative sizes would be important to how we understood their relationship - too big and he seemed overbearing, while when he was much smaller he seemed to lack the qualities of comfort and support he needed to offer her.

The Snow Lion took many, many pages of sketchbook scribbling before I was satisfied I had found his character. It was clear early on, however, that his and Caro's relative sizes would be important to how we understood their relationship - too big and he seemed overbearing, while when he was much smaller he seemed to lack the qualities of comfort and support he needed to offer her.

Although his scale may shift fractionally through the spreads to suit the circumstances, his warm fur and soft mane is always available when she needs him!

Although his scale may shift fractionally through the spreads to suit the circumstances, his warm fur and soft mane is always available when she needs him!

A very early character sample. The painterly quality of his fur made it into the final book though his bushy mane grew in stature!

A very early character sample. The painterly quality of his fur made it into the final book though his bushy mane grew in stature!

Although the story suggests that "The walls were white, the ceilings were white, even the doors were white.." we didn't want the opening spreads to appear too stark or clinical to young eyes. Despite the house being bare when they arrive we wanted to show how it is also a place full of possibility and fun and maybe hint that one day it would become a warm and friendly home. As Caro slowly begins to grow in confidence and we see see the lion less and less,  we allowed colour to creep into into the artwork. Things around the house were used to add character and a touch of comfort to the pages without detracting from the narrative arc of the story. I found I particularly like painting rugs!  I'm particularly happy with how the painting party pages evolved. The spread above marks the transition in the story when the new and unfamiliar house begins to become a happy home, full of colour and warmth. It's also the last time that Caro and the Snow Lion are together in the house (although in the next spread the reader might just glance the lion's tale disappearing back up the still-white white staircase! It was a real honour to work with such a beautiful and sensitive tale. It's a story that I hope will resonate with all little ones who are struggling with change of one kind or another. The Snow Lion reassures both Caro and the reader alike that loneliness and sadness are natural but never last forever.

Although the story suggests that "The walls were white, the ceilings were white, even the doors were white.." we didn't want the opening spreads to appear too stark or clinical to young eyes. Despite the house being bare when they arrive we wanted to show how it is also a place full of possibility and fun and maybe hint that one day it would become a warm and friendly home. As Caro slowly begins to grow in confidence and we see see the lion less and less,  we allowed colour to creep into into the artwork. Things around the house were used to add character and a touch of comfort to the pages without detracting from the narrative arc of the story. I found I particularly like painting rugs! 

I'm particularly happy with how the painting party pages evolved. The spread above marks the transition in the story when the new and unfamiliar house begins to become a happy home, full of colour and warmth. It's also the last time that Caro and the Snow Lion are together in the house (although in the next spread the reader might just glance the lion's tale disappearing back up the still-white white staircase!

It was a real honour to work with such a beautiful and sensitive tale. It's a story that I hope will resonate with all little ones who are struggling with change of one kind or another. The Snow Lion reassures both Caro and the reader alike that loneliness and sadness are natural but never last forever.

Thank you for coming by!     

Thank you for coming by! 

 

 

Big, cuddly lion-sized thanks to Jane and Lara and everyone else at Simon and Schuster for your knowledge, judgement and patience when we were putting it all together. And special thanks to Jim for writing such a magical tale.

The Snow Lion is available now all over the World!  In the United Kingdom you can order it from places like Amazon.

Or maybe if you're fortunate enough to have one, you could support your local book shop. Here's mine!