I am VERY EXCITED that Clare Helen Welsh has asked us to reveal the cover of her newest picture book. Many of you will be familiar with Clare’s characters Dot and Duck who appeared in How Rude!, a wonderful picture book that looks at the importance of treating others with respect. Dot and Duck are back in How Selfish!, illustrated by Olivier Tallec, which will be published in April.
So without further ado here’s the new cover…
Isn’t it adorable! I love the way that Olivier uses so much background white space in the illustrations for this book 🙂
It is really fascinating to hear Clare’s story of how the two stories were created. There’s even a twist in her tale!
‘Dot and Duck:’ How it all began
The world of publishing can feel like a best-selling mystery sometimes. So, as well as a cover reveal, we thought we would lift the lid on how ‘Dot and Duck,’ the mini-series, came to be.
It might not be what you expect!
It all began with a boy called Luke and his penguin. Yes, that’s right! The story started out as a text called Luke and the Penguin Problem. As you can see from this early draft, it was written in third person.
LUKE AND THE PENGUIN PROBLEM
Luke and Penguin were best friends… at least they were until they found THE STICK.
“It’s a sword” said Luke.
But Penguin thought it should be a flag.
“Sword, look!” said Luke and he poked Penguin in the tummy.
It gave Luke a little giggle, but of course…
…it made poor Penguin cry.
It was a popular submission with the editors at Quarto Publishing, one of whom asked if I would consider re-writing it in dialogue only. I had always wanted to write a dialogue only text – one that relied heavily on the interaction with words and pictures – so, I was delighted to accept the challenge. It’s rare for me to feel precious about my characters and words. I always save originals in a folder on my desktop and so enjoy seeing where new ideas and avenues lead.
Little did I know that the editor at Quarto had recently met with the agent of the hugely talented, Olivier Tallec. Olivier had recently published a successful series, which included the titles; ‘Who? What? Where?’ ‘Who was that?’ and ‘Who done it?’
If you haven’t come across these books, they play to the strengths of Olivier’s illustration style. He is an utter genius when it comes to expressions! I was delighted when Quarto offered a deal on my rewritten text and confirmed Olivier as my partner in crime. First, however, the editor wanted a more unusual animal character. So it was bye bye, Penguin…. Hello, Duck! This meant the title also had to go, but I was pleased to be able to make Dot an androgynous character.
…and so How Selfish! was born.
Yes, those eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that How Selfish! was written before How Rude! yet they are being published in the reverse order.
This is because for the acquisition of How Selfish! I was asked if I would compile a list of ‘how’ pitches that could be used if a series were developed. How Rude! was among these and it was felt that this would be the strongest title to lead with.
Of course, How Rude! didn’t exist! Except as a one-line pitch.
Writing How Rude! was a completely different experience. I knew the books couldn’t feel too similar or repetitive but had to both end with the characters learning from their mistakes in some way or another.
Thankfully, Dot and Duck’s voices were firmly in my mind, but there were still many, many drafts. As it turns out… there are lots of slightly different kinds of rude and there’s no room for error in a book such as this.
Here’s a snippet of the final submission and Olivier’s spreads. As you can see, he brings another layer of depth and humour in his illustrations.
Dot: Hello, Duck. It’s lovely to see you. SMASH! [Duck knocks the sugar to the floor]
Dot: How rude!
Duck: A tea party! Cool! Hang these up. [Duck throws hat and scarf on the floor]
Dot: How rude!
And the rest, as they say, is history.
People say that there’s a lot of ‘luck’ in publishing and I believe this to be true. Thanks to my agent, Alice Williams, ‘Luke and the Penguin Problem’ landed on the right desk of the right person at the right time. But I do also think it’s important to be flexible with early drafts and ideas. Picture books are the epitome of ‘many heads are better than one.’ You just never know where a piece of advice or feedback might lead!
I’m so very glad that I was open to working in this way. Dot and Duck are brilliant characters to share at festivals and events. Children love the interactive role play! It might not be your most typical route to publication, but hopefully this ‘behind the scenes’ look at Dot and Duck goes to show that concept is key and that if you’re open to editorial, you might find something very special indeed.
Thank you so much for telling us the story behind the story Clare and congratulations on the publication of How Selfish!
How Selfish!: Duck finds a stick and decides to make a flag but Dot snatches it to make a sword. A squabble ensues and Duck tries to swap toys for the stick. Loneliness ensues until they find a brilliant way to solve their problem.
How Selfish! is told completely in dialogue and the situation that Dot and Duck are in is familiar to both parents and children. The story takes place outside and Dot, Duck and their games are splashes of colour on a predominantly white background. This is a brilliant story to initiate conversation about sharing, solving problems and how to play nicely with friends. We absolutely love the way that they resolve their problem!
Age Range: 2 +
Author: Clare Helen Welsh / Illustrator: Olivier Tallec
Clare is the author of over 30 books for children, including picture books and early readers. She is passionate about using creativity and the arts to promote a love of learning and emotional well-being. Whether lyrical and sensitive, or quirky and funny, Clare hopes all her books bring a little added something to story time. How Selfish publishes on 21st April and is available to pre-order here! She is represented by Alice Williams of Alice Williams Literary.