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Seek and Find Storybook! An inspiring interview with our illustrator Jessica Phang

Curious about how all the ideas come into creating our new seek-and-find storybook, Brave Katie in the Wizard’s Funland?

Our in-house illustrator, Jessica Phang, is here to answer you! We interviewed her to learn she created this wonderful children’s gamebook from scratch! So let’s see what she said.

1. How did you come up with the book idea?

Our producer suggested that we create a book that can help children learn more about their family members. And he said, “what if the child needs to answer some questions about their mum and dad, meet different characters and pass through some obstacles to reunite with her family?” My first thought was, ‘are we going to make the child lost in the middle of nowhere again?’ hahaha.

At that time, I was really into Barbara McClintock’s Adèle & Simon and thought, why not make a seek-and-find book? It sounds challenging to create a book with different places and lots of culturally inspired details, but I had a strong feeling that the book would be super fun!

After a few brainstorming sessions, the idea of Katie’s family visiting a theme park was born. The whole family getting lost in it is perfect for stringing different locations together; hence the theme park idea got approved (I would LOVE to go to a magical theme park one day).

2. Why ‘Brave Katie’?

As a child, the fear of losing sight of my family while strolling in a huge public space is real; it can be pretty scary. That’s why I decided to make Katie a fearless and curious child that’s able to walk to so many places alone in search of her family. Also, I really like the idea of having a pet by her side hence a little ducky that accompanies her while she finds her family members in this huge Wizard’s Funland.

3. How did you approach illustrating Brave Katie in the Wizard’s Funland?

It was my first time creating illustrations with so many details, but the idea of making all these Funlands illustrations excites me so much that I just can’t wait to finish it.

I started by researching and deciding what places Katie gets to visit and making loose sketches to work out the composition. All the locations are loosely inspired by my own experiences, like Oo Oo land — I get to draw funny ghosts and the Chinese operas and instruments that I’ve learned to play and appreciate back in high school. And Storyland, where I placed all the fairy tales I’ve read and loved as a child, it was really fun building all these worlds.

In the process of illustrating I found it rather difficult to fill all the space with so many park tourist characters, I started to draw my friends, colleagues and even character from our previous books; I had a little fun. It was a lot of work creating this book, and I hope that readers can have fun wandering around, making up stories for the characters and discovering details even after looking at the book multiple times.

The 2 years span of making this book allowed me to look at the illustrations again and again, fine-tuning it, adding silly creatures in the corner of the page and having some laughs while drawing them.

4.There are a lot of question bubbles in the book. What about that?

We decided to let the characters that Katie meets have speech bubbles so children and parents could play-pretend and ask the questions like, ‘Who is the sweetest person in your family?’ or ‘Who in your family likes spicy food?’. By the end of the story, both parent and child can learn a little more about each other, which is a lovely addition to the book.

5. Any thoughts after completing ‘Brave Katie in the Wizard’s Funland’?

It’s indeed a big book project. It allowed me to grow as an illustrator by throwing all these challenges like redrafts, storytelling, colour choices and many more in one go. Nothing has a clear answer in this process, so I’m happy that everything turned out better than I expected. Another pleasant surprise was the guidebook that I could co-write and illustrate some of the inspirations and stories behind my illustrations for Brave Katie! I hope readers will enjoy both the storybook and the guidebook!

Looking for a bespoke gift for a little one? Our seek-and-find storybook is the perfect gift to inspire children’s imagination, grow children’s attention span and encourage parent-child interaction!

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