This was my guest blog on the fantastic Dorkymum blog.
Following on from “Tom and Millie’s Great Big Treasure Hunt” comes “Tom and Millie’s Whizzy Busy People” (out in hardback in June when “Treasure Hunt” is released in paperback).
It seeks to answer that very important question for a small child: what is the best job ever?
There is the same Richard Scarry inspired busy-ness. This time Tom and Millie visit the workplace of all their family members, spotting their friends along the way as they seek out the perfect job.
The aim of these books was to create a friendly world full of lots of little scenes to pore over, share and talk about with your child. There are hundreds of characters interacting with each other, so something new to spot each time. I also wanted to have the fun element of having to find things on the page.
As well as all the characters, I also have to think about creating the whole world they live in. I wanted Tom and Millie’s world to look familiar enough to be recognisable to a child and yet different enough to make it interesting, somewhere you would really want to visit. The key to this is a very subtle and delicate process, I bung in everything I can think of that I like.
You will see plenty of palm trees - they always cheer me up and make me think of sunnier climes. I added a few to the recycling centre, it desperately needed something to make it look a bit more exotic!
Designing the hospital took quite a bit of thought. It’s quite modernist with chunks of Mondrian block colours and there’s a good sprinkling of Frank Lloyd Wright with that stream and waterfall meandering through it.
Because these scenes took so long to paint - with the cast of hundreds - I had to do some of the drawing and painting at home. My youngest, Dylan, who was five at the time, would watch me as I painted and then do his own versions (much better than mine!). You can see in this one that he’s picked out the penguin and the pizza oven!
The allotment scene is inspired by Stanmer Park, not far from where we live. There’s an eco house a bit like mole’s there. The tree house is based on one Queen Victoria used to play in at Pitchford Hall in Shropshire (at 300 years, it’s the oldest tree house in the world!)
I love canals and feel there should be much more made of them, so they crop up here and in the recycling centre scene. Of all the spreads this is my favourite - somewhere I would be happy to hang out for quite a while.
Tom and Millie do find the ‘best job ever’ and I defy you to find a child who would disagree with their choice.
But I’m not going to tell you what it is, you’ll have to wait ‘til June.