Welcome to my latest piece which is part of a blog tour with Templar publishing. I am very excited not only to share my review of this wonderful book but also TWO interviews between author Anne Booth and David Litchfield.
A Shelter for Sadness is written by Anne Booth, who is no stranger to my blog. You may recall me reviewing her wonderful book Bloom. Together with award winning illustrator and author David Litchfield’s (The Bear and the Piano) striking art work, you have a very poignant picture book exploring sadness.
Inspired by Etty Hillesum’s words, a Jewish woman and victim of the Holocaust, Anne infact wrote this book a few years ago and who would have thought that in 2021 this book couldn’t be more needed, during a pandemic.
The young boy pictured on the front cover is central to this book. He reassures readers of the varying emotions we may experience day to day and gently shares that sadness may well be one of the emotions amongst them.
Sadness has come to live with me
and I am building it a shelter,
I am building a shelter for my sadness
and welcoming it inside.A Shelter For sadness written By annE Booth
The young boy creates a shelter for his sadness and he takes great care. He explores the different things sadness may need, space to lie down, curtains for darkness, windows should it want to hear sounds all because the sadness is welcome anytime.
As the story progresses readers are presented with magical double page spreads which represent the different seasons. The floral filled backdrops are utterly magical and so representative of David Litchfield’s signature style. Also the emotive artwork of sadness and the young boy hugging are so tender. Through exploring how sadness and the boy interact, readers are being provided with practical tips such as being together but possibly not saying anything, hugging and talking.
Anne Booth has brilliantly written a book that will not only be a great book to curl up and explore with readers at home but also in learning settings too. The book represents the importance of acknowledging our feelings and allowing time to deal with those feelings, no matter how big or small. David Litchfield’s artwork is an absolute treat and his softly drawn sadness with it’s heart exposed could be replicated by a young reader who may well open up about their feelings after reading this book.
The book is available to purchase.
Interviews between Anne and David
I often discover that during a book project an author and illustrator may not have as much interaction as one would expect. Of course because all that is happening around us, this has been further limited but I am very excited to share two interviews. The first led by Anne asking David all things art and the second led by David where we discover more about Anne’s inspiration for the book. Enjoy!
A: When did you know when you wanted to be an illustrator?
I have always loved drawing and I remember when I was 5 or 6 I used to make my older brother and sister little comics. Seeing the reaction on their faces when they read them was really nice and made me realise that my drawings could actually have an effect on people. Art was by far my favourite lesson at school and I have drawn everyday for most of my life. But it wasn’t until I was a fair bit older that I realised that I could actually do this as a job. I hd been working as a tutor at Bedford College for 8 years or so when I decided to quit my sensible job and pursue illustration full time.
A: Did you study illustration at college?
I studied Graphic Design at Camberwell College in South London. I loved the course and being surrounded by like minded people, but I was always disappointed that we didn’t draw more. I made friends with some students on the illustration course and was totally jealous of what they were doing. But I thought that Graphic Design was the more sensible route to take at the time as it seemed like there was more opportunities at the end of the course. In a way this was true because very soon after I graduated I started teaching Graphic Design at Bedford College.
A: How long did you take to do the illustrations for ‘A Shelter for Sadness’ and is that longer or shorter than you normally take?
I jumped at the chance to draw the book a long time ago actually. Because of other projects I wasn’t able to start straight away and it was well over a year from reading your beautiful story to me being able to start drawing it. I’m so grateful that you were able to wait for me 🙂
So in that sense it was quite a long time to make the book. But once I started the artwork it was actually quite a quick book to draw. One of my favourite things to do is experiment with different paint and textures and overlay them all together on my computer. There was a lot of that involved in creating the skies and atmosphere on each spread of the book. Luckily that all seemed to come together quite quickly for this project. Also, once I had found the look of ‘sadness’ and the boy I could move quite quickly also. It did take a fair bit of sketchbook time to get these characters right however.
I think overall the book took about 6 weeks to draw. Which is actually mega quick thinking about it.
A: What sort of techniques and mediums did you use? (Is that the right term – mediums?)
That is the right term. If I was still in my old job I would be giving you top marks for that Anne 🙂
I use all sorts really but mainly water colour paints, pencil crayons, ink and Photoshop wizardry. I try and make as many elements of a drawing on paper using traditional mediums. And then scan them into my computer and play around with them on Photoshop until I’m happy with the look and feel of a piece. Its a very fun way of working and is generally termed ‘Mixed Media’.
A: How much harder/easier is it to write and illustrate your own text?
Each way of working has their own happy little challenges. I think that there may be a bit more pressure when working with an author as you are handling another person’s vision and world that they have created. I always worry that I’m just not visualising their story the way that they would have liked. But I do very much enjoy working with authors and when you know that you have found the right look and the author is happy, its just a really nice, rewarding feeling.
I do also love coming up with my own stories and I’m so pleased that I have the opportunity to do that too.
A: How did you come to imagine Sadness like that?
I sketched out lots of different versions of what I thought Sadness would look like. He/She started off looking a bit like a ghost but I felt that was a bit too scary and not really what we were trying to convey with the book. I also considered a teardrop and a cloud, but they just felt a bit too obvious and literal to me. In the end I started thinking about what I would have drawn when I was 6 or 7 years old if someone had asked me to draw ‘Sadness’. All of those confusing and conflicting emotions you are feeling are very hard to define when you are that young (and maybe they still are when you are older too) so I just thought having a character that looked like a scruffily drawn scribble would fit the bill perfectly.
I’m really pleased with how Sadness looks and I have to admit it’s so much fun to draw 🙂
A: Bonus question: How did you get to be so brilliant? xx
Ha ha. You are very kind indeed. It’s the same old answer for doing any job well. Find something that you love doing and try and do it as much as possible. Every new drawing that you create- whether it’s good or bad- you learn something new from.
David interviewing Anne
D: Anne, when did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t know. I think it wasn’t so much about ‘being a writer,’ as always just wanting to write and draw all the time. I remember, when I was five, writing and illustrating a story for school, and it becoming a HUGE project, much bigger than the teacher expected. I loved it and put so much work into doing it, and it made me so tired, but I couldn’t stop doing it at school or at home, and I was SO PROUD at the end. I wish I could find it now, but if I did, it would probably only be a few pages! I loved writing stories at school, but when I went to university and read other people’s stories, I lost confidence that I was good enough to be a published writer myself. I kept writing in my journal or diary for years, and often wrote little stories, but it took me ages to believe that I could send off my stories and they could become books for people to buy or borrow and read!
D: How do you come up with ideas for your stories?
Lots of ways! It might be something which has happened to me, or to my children, but it might be something interesting I read in the newspaper or see on TV, or also might be just me imagining ‘what if such and such happened…’ Sometimes it starts with a feeling, and me trying to find words to express it, or it starts with a line from someone else. For ‘A Shelter for Sadness’ it started with me going to a talk, and the person giving the talk quoting from Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch Jewish woman who wrote whilst living under threat from the Nazis (she eventually died in the Holocaust). Etty said
‘Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that is its due, for if everyone bears grief honestly and courageously, the sorrow that now fills the world will abate. But if you do instead reserve most of the space inside you for hatred and thoughts of revenge-from which new sorrows will be born for others-then sorrow will never cease in this world. And if you have given sorrow the space it demands, then you may truly say: life is beautiful and so rich.’ (Esther ‘Etty’ Hillesum (15 Jan 1914 – 30 Nov 1943)
Etty Hillesum’s idea of giving a shelter to sorrow was what made me think of the idea of building a shelter for sadness, and then I brought to the book all my experiences of being sad, and what I had noticed in other people’s lives.
D: Do you listen to music when you write? If so who do you listen to?
That’s such a good question, and I immediately put on music in the background, as I answered it. I love all sorts of music and used to listen to music a lot, but for a while I have tended to write in silence. Recently I have been listening to The Tallis Scholars on Spotify, who sing beautiful Renaissance choral music and asked for support during Covid-19 as all their concerts had been cancelled. I am so glad to have discovered them as I love them and am listening to them at this very moment! I love folk music, both songs and instrumental, so I love, for example Kathryn Tickell, whose beautiful music can inspire many feelings. Many folk songs have great stories, so they might inspire me to write new books, and the lyrics of many modern songs are great, but sometimes music with great words can distract me. I really like listening to music from different cultures, and listening to music as a break from writing, and then it can give me ideas I go back to. I love having a little dance in my house these days -writers need exercise, and dancing and dog walking are my favourite forms of it!
D: Do you have a place that you go to when you feel sad?
In my home, my bed, or my writing shed in the garden, or I go for a walk in the countryside near my home. When there isn’t a pandemic, I often go to a church to sit quietly and pray, and think about all the other people who have found comfort in that space over the years.
My dad died in June 2017, and around the time I wrote ‘A Shelter for Sadness’ I went for a week’s retreat here and went for a walk in the woods and slept a lot and ate lovely meals and talked to a kind person and cried and cried. It’s a beautiful place in Wales where I felt my Sadness was very seen and sheltered.
D: Do you like drawing?
I do, very, very much, but I don’t do it enough. As a child I drew constantly, in drawing books but also on scraps of paper & on the back of envelopes, and my children tell me I doodle all the time now when I am on the phone. Whenever I write picture book texts I try to write words which can be illustrated, but as I know it won’t be me illustrating them, I try not to imagine the illustrations too closely so I can get a lovely surprise from the illustrator’s vision. I really want to draw more, and one day I would love to be good enough to illustrate my own stories, as you do, David, but I am a bit overawed by the brilliance of the illustrators I work with! Thank you for asking me that question – like the one about listening to music, it has reminded me to go back and do something I love.
Filza: Anne, when you feel sad, what do you do to make yourself feel happier?
I am very lucky, because I live with my husband, so the first thing I will do is ask for a hug! Talking to someone who loves you and will listen to you always helps, so talking to my husband or children or making a phone call to or writing to a friend is great. If we are living through sad times, as we all are now, I try to go for walks during the day and look at the sky, or listen to birds, or notice the trees, and just enjoy their beauty. We have a little puppy, so cuddling and playing with him makes me happy. My husband and I always try to watch a funny programme or film or read something positive before bed. Music can really help – listening to it, or singing songs, and dancing to music is a very cheering form of exercise and makes me happy. I LOVE drinking cups of tea and having some chocolate with them. But sometimes the best thing when I feel sad, is NOT to make myself feel happy, but to let myself feel sad. I go to my writing shed in the garden, and light a candle, and have a good cry, and write and write in my journal or talk out loud and pray and say exactly what I feel sad about. Listening to music or looking at beautiful art or watching a sad film or reading a beautiful, sad poem or story can also make me cry, and that can actually make me feel much better!
Do head over to other bloggers and discover their thoughts on the book as well as fun, bonus material.
Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a copy of the book for the purpose of review. All words and opinion are my own. The post contains affiliated links.