Storytime Issue 96 Out Now!

 

We are getting into party mode here, preparing to our Anniversary Issue in September and looking at all things we should celebrate. It just so happens that this month’s issue of Storytime is full of reminders about things we should treasure…at all times!

 

Storytime Issue 96 – Reasons to Celebrate

 

First, there is the joy of music. Our cover story, The Marvellous Musicians is a fun fairy tale about three animals who are enchanted by the tunes a wandering minstrel plays. It’s an old tale from the Brothers Grimm, but we decided to give it a Storytime twist – but we won’t spoil the new ending! Caro Vázquez makes the animals stars extra-cute, and his art really conveys the joy that music brings – especially on the issue’s festival-themed cover art. So if you need a pick-me-up, why not put some music on and boogie down?

 

Another kind of performance captivates a young boy in Will’s Play Time. When a troupe of strolling players visit Stratford-upon Avon, his dad takes him to a show, and it inspires him to come up with plays with his friends. Of course, you might have guessed this story is about young William Shakespeare! It was challenging to write because very little is known for certain about his early years – but we used the information we do have as a basis for an imaginative tale about how he might have seen his first play. The artist LaPiz really brought the Elizabethan times to life with her colourful and expertly researched illustrations. In this age of streaming, it can be easy to forget how exciting a live performance can be. If you have the chance, why not go to a play at your local theatre?

 

With summer vibes in the air and holidays still on, we can also enjoy parties and ditch the bedtime curfew! The wonderful Indonesian tale of The Crocodile’s Gift is about a girl who wants to go to a prince’s big celebration. Her wicked stepmother and stepsister take her best sari – but she is given a golden one and special sandals to wear by a benevolent and enchanted crocodile! It’s a Cinderella of sorts, but all the action happens in the gorgeous Maluku Islands, and the twist is all down to a bask of crocodiles – and the gorgeous art by Navya Raju.

 

If you aren’t in the mood for a concert, a play or a party, then you can always enjoy a good book! That’s what little Yaya is looking for in The Mystery in the Library – but she finds something much stranger instead… This story is by Fleur Doornberg-Puglisi, and her love for books and libraries certainly shines through! It is perfectly complemented by the art of Marcos de Mello, who populates the setting with vibrant characters. Have you picked your summer reads already? We hope we are in it!

 

When it comes to small pleasures to celebrate, you can’t forget about food! The treats that are comforting in winter are less appealing in the hot summer months, though… That’s the problem faced by Melody, the possessor of a magical porridge pot and the main character in A Summer Treat. However, this time she comes up with a new recipe that is healthy, delicious and cooling – a kind of Bircher muesli that’s really yummy! The art by Giorgia Broseghini – predictably, looks good enough to eat.

 

Continuing the theme of food, this issue also includes the fish-flavoured tale of The Heron’s Breakfast. Lorena Bayona’s fun and funny artwork takes this story of a bird outwitted by a minnow to a whole new level! It’s a reminder for us not to be too picky and enjoy the servings that come our way…

 

What would be of summer without the company of good friends? Friends should definitely be cherished – but this is a lesson that an untrustworthy fish learns in the Nigerian fable of Why the Fish Lives in the Sea. Ani Manzanas provided the lovely animal art – and she somehow makes it seem totally natural for a fish to be walking around on land!

 

And finally, we have the inspirational story of The Mighty Viking, with suitably epic illustrations by the very talented Gabi Tozati. Hervor is a little girl determined to follow in her father’s footsteps, and will not let sea serpents or her embroidery lessons get in her way. Perhaps that’s the most important thing that we need to remember and celebrate – the fact that we can make choices and follow our dreams!

 

We hope these stories will fill your summer with joy and you feel like sharing stories with your loved one! We can’t wait to share great news next month when we will have even more to celebrate!

 

Keep cool and keep reading, folks!

 

The Storytime team

The Telling of True Life Tales – Part 1

 

The Telling of True Life Tales – Part I

 

Guest Blog (c) Nick Abadzis 2022

 

“Based on a true story”

“Inspired by real events”

“Based on the book by…”

 

How often have you seen words like those at the beginning of a film or TV series and asked yourself, “I wonder how much of this is true?” Or perhaps you watched a “biopic” movie of somebody famous and wondered, “Did that really happen to them?”

True events are witnessed and are recorded – this is history. History is the present. As mundane as our own surroundings may sometimes appear, history happens all around us in a world teeming with events on which we can train an ever greater amount of recording instruments.

Modern times and the recent yesterdays of the living are one thing, but at what point does the contemporary cross the frontier into the bygone and then into antiquity? Every generation may have its own perceptions of course, but looking back, deeper into time and recorded human history, I see a terminator shadow. It’s a line at which the daylight of living memory borders the dusk of the stories of both the recently deceased and the ancient dead.

The story of nomadic ancient humans, until they began leaving artefacts and ruins behind for later generations to study, was oral, passed down generationally, and it’s from that vast, tidal pool of spoken word storytelling that the world’s myths and legends developed. The gods and spirits of the landscape and the seas were a way of comprehending the natural world. Mythologies were an elemental lexicon consisting of earth, air, fire and water and also of the unseen, the human imagination; the spiritual and the divine – the idea that there is much more to this existence than what we perceive with our five, mortal senses.

Humankind is obsessed with its own place in the world and whether we celebrate the adventures of mythical hunter-gatherers, ancient warrior queens, dragon slayers or the first men landing on the Moon, the intent is similar – to comprehend and celebrate our own achievements and our place in nature. We bear witness to ourselves via the mechanisms of storytelling and arguably, all the stories we tell have some element of truth in them.

That is, not necessarily a consensual, widely-held truth, not empirical scientific truth, but an “emotional truth” – a sense that there’s a kernel of wisdom at the core of a story, something authentic and legitimate that either animates the make-believe or honours real-life, real world accomplishments.

Fiction and fantasy are the domains where our imaginations have free reign. Both depend on the rules you invent or abide by for your own invented universe. Telling – or, to be precise, retelling tales from true life experiences requires a different mindset. The lens through which we view history is at least as important as the choice of events we choose to spotlight. If the witnesses to events are no longer alive, there will always be a degree of interpretation, and via that translation and inevitable dramatisation, there is sometimes also an impulse to mythologise.

Via all our highly-evolved modern storytelling apparatus, it’s easy to transmute true stories into modern day folk tales. A myth is constructed, whether its bricks are built of the raw materials of real experience mixed with symbols and something more fantastical yet. A real life tale is a record of sorts, sometimes embroidered and elaborated upon, but still an account of events that actually occurred.

I believe that it’s very important to honour the past, the lives our forebears and ancestors lived, as we stand upon their shoulders. Their stories are our bedrock. To that end, research should be exhaustive, and any storyteller worth their salt should both want to get inside the heads and hearts of their subjects and the conditions they lived under and present any findings in as objective and accurate a way as possible. In terms of the actual dramatising of events, there are inevitably some liberties to be taken, but aiming for a sense of authenticity is essential.

The telling of a true, real-life tale, no matter how recent or however ancient (and if records allow!) will always benefit from in-depth research. Look for the truth behind the words, the facts behind the anecdotal, separate evidence and actuality from fable. That’s the measure of any real life tale “based on true events.”

——–

In September, watch out for our anniversary issue and an awesome competition to create your own comic strip! Nick will be sharing some insights on the creation and the telling of his own “true-life” tale, the hugely successful graphic novel Laika, published in 2007 and still in print!

 

Storytime Issue 95 Out Now!

 

Here at Storytime, we believe that stories should be about fun, first and foremost! Reading for fun if the first step to falling in love with the habit of reading and sticking to it for life!

But for a story to connect with readers, it has to be about something that matters. Even if it wasn’t created as a moral story to teach us a lesson, a good tale should make us think about the world in a new way and give us new insights. With that in mind, we would like to tell you about the stories that will be featured in our latest issue. And since it’s summer, we travelled far and away – watch out for all the marvellous places we have gone to!

 

Storytime Issue 95 – A Different Point of View

 

Our cover story comes all the way from New Zealand! The Sea King is about what happens when some land-dwelling humans insult the monarch of the deeps, and he sends his fish armies to teach them a lesson! Though it is very much a fantasy tale, it is also about how arguments can escalate – which is especially relevant today! Who would you agree with? Thing about how our differences can be solved while spotting all the colourful sea life in this story! Giulia di Cara is the artist responsible for the illustrations and the magnificent cover art, and we are sure you will agree he adds a touch of wonder to proceedings.

 

This month’s fairy tale is The Little Singing Frog, which tells a version of a classic tale with a very special twist. Even the sun plays a part in it! We really don’t want to spoil it, but you will never read that certain classic story the same way again! Rita Ribeiro Lopes has obviously sprinkled some of her fairy dust on the lovely art, too.

 

You might not know this, but the Storytime team are big fans of science fiction. We take you out of this world with The Moon Pirates, which was inspired by the question of how our gadgets might feel if we threw them away! The dynamic duo of Mado Peña and Ernest Sala did an absolutely fantastic job designing cute little A-HAB and his robotic shipmates, and we hope you enjoy this tale from a robot’s point of view!

 

But what would the world look like for a tiny plant in a field? That’s the idea behind The Wild Weed! After its taller and more glamorous friends are plucked by young kids, the weed makes some new friends and finds a purpose in life. This fable was illustrated by the very talented Giulia Quagli, who has a great feel for nature! And on this note, do not forget to download the Spotter’s Guide in this issue and go outside to spot some blooms this summer!

 

The Forest Guardian whisks us across the world to the Amazon rainforest, which is protected by a mysterious (and mischievous!) creature called the Curupira! The story is told from the point of view of an Amazonian native Indian whose forests are threatened by mining companies. Again, this is a magical tale – but it touches on important issues at a time when rainforests are getting cut down and jungle tribes are being forced out of their ancestral lands. Carlitos Pinheiro knows the Amazon well, and he really brings it to life in his colourful and vibrant illustrations!

 

Stories can help us to travel through time as well! The Kind Doctress takes place in the early 19th century and tells the true story of Mary Seacole who grew up in Jamaica in the early 19th century and grew up to become a famous nurse. We’re big fans of historical stories, as they give us a chance to explore another era through the eyes of its inhabitants. Sabrina Filieri did lots of research to create art that is both historically accurate and wonderful to look at!

 

Dusk and Dawn is a fantastic story about two servants of the Old Man in the Sky, who can only meet at Midsummer. Kate Malohatko‘s lush, colourful art adds another layer of enchantment to a story about loving someone and being separated from them – which is something we can all identify with.

 

And lastly, you will never look at bathtime the same way after reading The Tin Soldier’s Underwater Adventure! It stars the toy soldier and the ballerina from Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved story. The phenomenal Giorgia Broseghini illustrated the tale of what happens when they are scooped up and dumped into hot and soapy water as they experience bath night for the first time! Oh how much fun it can be!

 

Which of these places would you like to explore? We hope they will inspire you to love the oceans, protect the forests and remember to look up to the beautiful skies every night and spot the brightest star. It’s a wonderful world we live in and there are plenty of stories to share with you about it!

 

Enjoy a Summer of stories, peeps!

 

The Storytime team

Why is Reading Important for Children?

 

Why is reading important for children?

 

Guest Blog from Readmio

Do you sometimes wonder how to get your children to read? Are you all at sea when trying to find something they might like? And is it even worth it? After all, reading seems a waste of time nowadays… isn’t it?

Modern life is fast-paced, and it’s not always easy to find enough time for oneself. That’s exactly why everyone should learn to this so as soon as possible. By showing our children the joys of sitting down and reading, we are giving them a set of priceless life skills.

 

Time spent together

Children need us to read with them – at least when they’re very little. We read to the youngest ones and share picture books with them; we teach the older ones to read and handle new information. Many parents read bedtime stories to their kids. After reading, we can discuss the stories with preschool (and even younger) children. Adults are often amazed by their kids’ imagination – and this simple pastime opens their minds as well. Stories in books and magazines are an infinite source of inspiration when talking with your kids in the car, over lunch or while waiting at the doctor’s.

 

Language development

It’s simple – the more your children read, the easier it will become for them to express themselves. Children whose parents read to them regularly and who start reading by themselves have richer vocabularies. They can express their own thoughts better and find it much easier to work with text in general. Reading is a skill they will use for the rest of their lives, and expanding one’s vocabulary is similar to collecting LEGO bricks – the more words they have, the more they can build with them!

 

Growing imagination

Reading affects our brains differently than television. There are many educational shows for kids nowadays, but it’s always a good idea to read a few ‘ordinary’ books as well. Both children and adults create their own worlds in their minds while reading, and this prevents their brains from becoming lazy.

 

Gaining knowledge

Kids’ attention spans are usually quite short, so short stories and articles can be a perfect choice for them. When you’re choosing a book or magazine, don’t forget that children are not picky. They will happily read both Snow White and an article about the cosmos if it’s written in a way that’s appropriate for their age. By introducing our kids to a wide range of texts on various subjects, we are opening their minds to amazing possibilities. Reading can make a huge difference to their lives – thanks to you!

 

Employing all the senses

Reading can involve more than just looking at words on a page. Some books include stickers and blank pages where you can write your own ideas. Illustrated magazines can also be very engaging. Thanks to their colourful content, no one gets bored – not your kid and not even you!

  • Experiments! Read the instructions and get down to it! Who doesn’t love at-home experiments? Knowing how to follow instructions will come in handy at school one day.
  • Recipes! Recipes are actually at-home experiments as well! The results will please the whole family.
  • Crafting! Cutting, gluing, colouring, connecting… not everyone will realize that they’re actually learning by doing these fun activities!

 

Forming a habit

Many magazines are published regularly. Children love them and they can easily become part of a fun routine – kids love fining them in the mail every Monday or buying them in a shop with their parents. This builds a habit that will come in useful one day: watching the news regularly and keeping up to date on developments will make them better informed when they grow up.

 

Learning through play

Finally, books and magazines are a magical way to encourage curiosity and a love of learning in kids. Short articles can turn seemingly boring facts into nuggets worth discovering. They can be an infinite source of fun and inspiration! By encouraging our children to read, we can make sure that their desire to learn and explore never fades. That way, they will always find the world joyous and utterly fascinating!

 

This article was made in cooperation with Readmio – an app full of stories and fairy tales for children.

 

Storytime Issue 94 Out Now!

 

You know what is really special about stories? They allow us to meet a variety of fascinating characters that are different from us! We get to spend time with them, and can learn from them as well. Let’s meet the fascinating friends you will make in the latest issue of Storytime!

 

Storytime Issue 94 – Meet New, Interesting Friends!

 

The title character from the story of The Clever Frog in this month’s issue is a very smart and charming chap named Giuseppe. He likes to read and learn things, and he knows many interesting facts. The problem is, he is very proud of being clever – and this stops him from asking for help when needed! Perhaps you don’t have green skin or webbed toes… but can you think of a time when you were like Giuseppe and were too proud (or shy!) to get assistance from others? Anastasiia Bielik did a wonderful job bringing this funny character to life with her illustrations!

 

You might have a pet for a friend – but we can guarantee that it is nothing like Bastet! The Egyptian cat-goddess has powers that protect her land – and she also has a fierce temper. In Bastet Goes Missing, you will learn about this cool character and other gods from Egyptian mythology. The art by Forrest Burdett really adds to the comedy of this fun story.

 

Feeling out of place in a new situation is something that we can all relate to – and sometimes we just want a friend who accepts us for who we are! The Thing in the Woods is about a boy named Elliott, who is packed away to summer camp. He doesn’t know anyone and wants some peace and quiet… so he slips away and ends up meeting a mysterious new friend! Nocturnis is a cuddly purple creature who shares stories about the magical land he comes from, and we get to share Elliott’s wonderful experience through this tale. Ekaterina Savic did the lush art for the tale – and even came up with the cool design for the creature, which graces the issue’s cover.

 

Not everybody can be a champion at a sport, but we can all be inspired by the determination of Billie Jean King, who you will meet in this month’s real-life tale. The Ace tells us about how she discovered her passion for tennis and never gave up on her dream of becoming a champion. (Think of something that you are passionate about – and imagine what you could accomplish if you worked as hard as Billie Jean did!) Irene Saluzzi illustrated this story, and used photos of the real people featured in it as reference. She did a fantastic job of capturing their likenesses in her own beautiful style – and she’s certainly a champion to us, too!

 

The Ugly Duckling is one of the best-known characters from the classic stories of Hans Christian Andersen, and in this month’s bedtime story you will get to hang out with him after he became a swan. It turns out that he is still a bit lonely – but he finds some new and unlikely friends in The Swan’s Nest, illustrated by the amazing Giorgia Broseghini.

 

What would it be like to never be scared of anything? If you want to find out, you could ask The Girl Who Knew No Fear. The title character is a cool girl who sets off to find out what ‘fear’ actually is, and has fabulous adventures along the way. Go along with her by reading this tale – and be sure to check out the lovely artwork courtesy of Fanny Liem.

 

Some people are always positive, and their good mood can be infectious! So why not spend some time with Lucky Hans, who looks on the bright side of life – even when things go wrong? He shows us how gratitude and positivity can help us get through the darkest times! We’re grateful that Roger Simó agreed to create the art for this tale, as he did a fantastic job of capturing the hero’s happy-go-lucky attitude!

 

And lastly, we have The Sun’s Tale, featuring illustrations by the very talented Giovanni Abeille. It is a story literally told by the Sun as she tells the Wind and the rain about the things she has seen and done as she soars through the sky. By reading this story, it’s almost as if the Sun is telling you the tale herself – and it’s filled with magic and wonder.

 

We hope you will enjoy hanging around with all the wonderful characters in our latest issue this month. May this summer be the biggest adventure of all!

 

Happy story time everyone!

 

The Storytime team

Illustrator Interview with Julia Cherednichenko

 

Illustrator Interview with Julia Cherednichenko

 

This month, we are thrilled to have the chance to sit down and chat to the amazing Ukrainian artist Julia Cherednichenko. She did the wonderful illustrations for The Curly-Tailed Lion in Storytime 93, and we are keen to find out more about her work!

 

1. When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?

 

Looking back now, I can see that an extraordinary combination of circumstances brought me to this point. I still feel as if there was some magic involved, or that the universe intended things to work out this way. I’ll try to explain!

I have doing art all my life, but it was just a hobby. When I was 8 or 9 years old, my parents enrolled me in art school, but I left a year later because of health reasons. My formal training as an artist ended. But when you have a passion, some things become inevitable. All my life, my passion was creating things with my hands. I drew, sculpted, embroidered, sewed, and took photos – but those were just hobbies that were good for my soul.

Sometimes, other people told me that I have a talent for art and craft. “You should be an artist,” they said. However, what does it mean to be an artist? To just have talent is not enough!

You need to immerse yourself in the profession. That is how you get knowledge, experience and good mentors. You should have your own motivation to improve your professional skills – and just as important, there should be a pleasant atmosphere around you.

In the society where I grew up and studied, becoming a professional artist was quite difficult, so many budding artists choose other careers. That’s what happened to me.

First, I became an international economist, and then I worked as a manager for 3 years. Everything seemed okay, but I felt that I was not in the right place, and that I was living somebody else’s life, not mine. The first war in the eastern part of Ukraine in 2014 changed everything for me.

I had to move to another part of my country. It was a difficult but very important time for me. During this long ‘trip’ I realized a lot of things. One was that I didn’t want to be a manager or economist anymore. I needed to change something, take control of my life, and choose what I wanted to do. Most of all, I dreamed of changing the world. To make it better, to have make an impact on it, to bring beauty. At that time, I didn’t have any idea about how to do this. I just wanted to find out how to move forward. The answer soon arrived!

One night 7 years ago, I had a dream. It was very beautiful and so realistic. It gave me all the answers I needed. My subconscious told me that I should draw children’s books, that I am an artist, and that I shouldn’t forget this. If I wanted to change something, I should do it right now. The next morning, I got up and I knew who I was. That dream changed everything in my life.

At 25, I made a conscious choice to become an artist and draw children’s books, and to improve my skills in illustration and design. Creating art is my way to be heard, to have a chance to make this world a little better.

2. How did you develop your artistic skills and make a career out of art?

 

Just two words – learning and practice. Every day, I learn something new. I try to discover things that help me to develop in all ways. For example, every morning I read a useful book and watch an instructional video. I have attended a lot of masterclasses and online courses in illustration, design, writing, and even the art of planning. This helps me to develop myself and my skills every day.

As far as professional skills go – for me, the basic step was education. As I said, I had decided to become an artist in a very dark time. I knew that I wanted to start doing graphic design. I didn’t know anything in this field – I had some knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator software, but that wasn’t enough. There was so much more to learn. I think that when you choose art as a profession, you should be ready to study for your whole life.

At that time, my main questions were: “How do I avoid getting lost?”, “How do I make sure I don’t miss important information?” and “How do I make the right choices in my design studies?” It was too much for me at first.

I understood that one day I want to be a very good professional. Therefore, I had to learn from professionals and complete a good education programme that would help me to improve my skills, become competitive, and develop as a creator. I found all these things during my education as a graphic designer.

I had the chance to learn so many things that I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. I wouldn’t have known about lots of important techniques. When you have a general understanding of what a field includes, you can improve yourself in any direction. This is how I got into illustration.

3. Who are your favourite artists? Also, are there other people who have inspired you?

 

Oh, that’s a very hard question! There are so many artists with so many beautiful works that it can be difficult to decide which ones I like best. I love many different illustrators and designers. I’ll list some of them: Carson Elis, Rebecca Green, Julia Sarda, Rebecca Dautremer, Giulia Pintus, Jean Jullien, Anton Van Hertbrugge and many more. I also have to mention Utagawa Kunisada and my favourite, Picasso. This list could be longer! I am also inspired by fiction and nonfiction literature, adventure movies, anything that can capture my eyes or heart. It can be a book, an artwork, a movie, a ballet, an opera, or a theatre performance. I’m especially inspired by the passion of creators.

 

4. What media and techniques do you use to create your art? Are there any that you would like to experiment with?

 

Most of my drawings are created using either mixed or digital techniques on my iPad and laptop. I can’t say that I work only in Procreate, for example, or in Photoshop. I’m an illustrator and designer – so I use many programs, such as Procreate and Designer on the iPad and Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and many more on the laptop for creating illustrations and layouts for books, packaging or products. Besides using digital stuff, I work with traditional techniques – pencils, markers, ink, gouache, acrylic and stamps. I like to mix textures and elements created using traditional techniques with digital illustration. It is interesting to experiment with different means of expression in projects.

Before starting the illustration/book/packaging, I need to understand what style and technique will work best and what new and unexpected possibilities I’ll have by changing the means of creation.

I feel that I have to experiment more with traditional techniques. For example, to work more with hand-drawing and sketching and mixing traditional materials and digital art in one picture. Such experiments can give more freedom, but it also take more time and don’t always work for a project.

5. What are your favourite subjects to draw? (We have noticed that you are particularly good at doing animals, which made you a natural choice for doing our recent story about a celebrity lion!)

 

Oh, thank you very much! It doesn’t really matter to me whether I draw people or animals or nature. The main thing is the idea, soul and hidden meaning of the illustration. In every picture and every character, I try to put a little part of my vision and feelings, something from my experiences, memories, or situations that will evoke emotions in people. It doesn’t matter to me who the character is. I’ll do my best to ‘believe in’ every figure. When you can look at the picture and understand what the character feels, or catch the thought – “Oh, it’s true, it’s about me, it’s me!”

In general, maybe yes, I draw animals more often. I like to observe animals – they are funny, cute and unpredictable. I can imagine any amusing situation with them. Moreover, I have a dog and a cat at home, and I often make sketches and illustrations about their relationship. Sometimes they are so weird! I just have to show this in my pictures. In one sentence, it is never boring with them.

Nevertheless, please don’t think that I only draw animals! I have many illustrations of people, especially children. For example, I have been creating a book for the last 6 months in which there are more than 100 characters, both children and adults. It is a work in progress now, so I don’t know the exact number. Anyway, I hope it will appeal to children all over the world when it comes out!

6. We recently had a chance to read a wonderful book that you wrote and illustrated! What inspired you to create Grandpa is Five Again?

 

I’ll describe to you my thoughts and feelings at that time. Before I started work on this book, I decided to find out more about the process of writing and storytelling. My work is connected with creating books (especially picture books) and pictures for stories, so I have to know not only how to draw, but also how to write text and build a world for the story – how to create it using words as well as illustrations. I thought this knowledge would help me in the illustration process. I wanted to know more, to be better as a professional, and to improve myself. To skip ahead, yes, it did work for me!

I discovered that the process of storytelling is exciting for me, and I came up with so many ideas. Moreover, I wanted to create them with words and pictures. It could be my way to help somebody, to change something, to make this world slightly better by touching the feeling and thoughts of other people, children and adults alike.

Grandpa is Five Again is such a book. It is a picture book about a small boy who has lost his best friend forever. It is difficult but important to talk about death, and I tried to approach it in a fresh way. I talk about how a small child deals with this situation, the sadness and loneliness, using play and imagination. How can this help them to process memories, friendship and love as well as sorrow? I try to explain things from the point of view of a child, in a light and funny way.

I chose this topic because I feel that people often avoid talking about death. I can understand why. It is very hard for adults to deal with emotions that come from it. We get into the habit of protecting ourselves from sad emotions and avoiding difficult topics, and we want to protect children in such a way, too. In lots of families this topic isn’t discussed, because nobody knows what to say.

We need to talk with children about it. We should show them that these emotions are normal, and that death is a part of life. We shouldn’t be scared, because we can’t lose somebody who is in our heart.

I have tried to write a very kind and honest story, full of love, and to create honest illustrations for it. I chose to use traditional techniques (gouache and ink), with a limited color palette for the same reason. It is the most honest way to portray this topic.

I found this idea so important to share with children and adults all over the world – especially now, in hard times, when so many people have lost their homes and families in our country. I am hoping to find the publisher for this book.

 

7. What projects would you like to work on in the future? Do you have any lined up that you would like to tell us about?

 

It is a little hard to talk about future plans, but I will try. I am concentrating my attention on two fields: children’s illustration for books and magazines, and packaging designs for brands. Both fields inspire me very much and I have many ideas to offer. So I’d like to find companies and publishers that share my views and aspirations. At the beginning of this year, I had thoughts about organising my own exhibition, but I didn’t manage to begin this process before the war in Ukraine started. I hope I’ll have a better chance in the future, maybe this year or next year.
To talk about my current job. I have two big projects that should be finished soon. One project is a children’s book for a private client. I will have it finished before June if the situation in Ukraine is okay. I’m working on the second project now with a lovely Ukrainian clothing brand. I have three projects that I have been working on for the past four months, but two of them have been delayed because of the situation in Ukraine. One project, with a product and packaging design about Ukraine, will come out soon in May.

This year, I want to find an illustration agency that can represent me in other countries. Of course, I hope to continue working with your magazine. I hope to work more with international publishers and brands, and to find a publisher for my book, Grandpa Is Five Again. I want to continue writing and creating my projects. I feel inspired by this field, and hopefully you will have a chance to see the results soon!

8. What can you tell us about your creative process? How do you find inspiration and plan your work?

 

It depends on the project. Sometimes it is easy to find an idea, and sometimes I need to spend a lot of time searching, looking for something, even though I don’t know what it is. This process may be familiar to many other creators! When I have a project, I need to find the best concept for its realization.

When I begin, I make a small plan of the project. I write down and draw out roughly what is going to be in each section. During this process, I search for information concerning the project. It can be anything – books, pictures, articles, photos, all of these can help me to figure out the concept. I just put little pencil marks where I think things have to be, because I realize that I can forget about something. I need to see all the details, thoughts and ideas and capture the whole picture of the illustration for the book or packaging.

I create a big mood board and brainstorm for each project. Most of all, I try to find many photos of the people or things that I need to draw. There can be pictures with lovely colors, clothes, patterns or details that I can use to help me create. If I need historical information, I look it up in articles, books etc.

I am inspired by the world around me. My main goal is to be attentive. I don’t close my eyes. Even if I don’t have a project in progress, I still need to observe everything around me (people, situations, nature, things). On the other hand, I am inspired by movies, books, and art of all kinds – especially from different nations, the ancient world, and epochs from medieval to modern times. Different styles of painting, architecture, clothes, and design are very inspiring.

After this, when I have my mood board and concept ready, I start my creative process. I try to work for no more than 6 hours every day (not including weekends) because I believe the best results are achieved when I’m well rested and full of energy. It is very important for me to have a good work/life balance. Of course, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way – but I do my best!

 

9. Like everyone else, we are looking on with shock at what is happening in your home country. Do you find that being creative helps in some small way to deal with such tragic events?

 

Yes, in some way. Art has already saved and changed my life. Nowadays, it helps me very much as well. At first, you are shocked and you can’t do anything. Then you have a choice about what information you want to concentrate your attention on. Art is a very personal thing. Every person can express their emotions without words, just using visual symbols, and it helps to unravel your thoughts and keep conscious in any unexpected and unpredictable situation. It can be very helpful to make a daily routine. My daily routine is creation. When I don’t have words, I can talk in the language of art. I have a choice about what to think, feel or do. My choice is to continue creating in any situation.

10. Is there a final message you would like to share with our readers? How can we support Ukrainian artists more?

 

Be creative, be brave, be yourself. In any situation. do what you can. Be inspired. Keep finding the way forward for yourself. Do only what you want in your soul. The life is short. Don’t stop improving yourself.

I think nowadays that any support is worth much more than we can imagine. I think that the main mission of the creative world is to inform other artists that they are not alone. I feel that many artists have lost themselves in these hard times. They lost their way, their inspiration, and their job. Most of them don’t know that their art is wanted by people in other countries. There are so many creators who are afraid to enter the international market for various reasons, such as language barriers, a lack of information or a lack of self-confidence.

The best way to support Ukrainian artists is to talk to them. To inform them that their art is still wanted all over the world. That European publishers are open to working with the best Ukrainian illustrators and designers, that you are ready to receive their portfolios. Thinking in such a way, we can find so many ways to give support – through exhibitions, portfolio reviews, organization, and supporting art events for illustrators, designers and all other creators in Ukraine and all over the world.

There isn’t only one right way to help. We can find many solutions to support Ukrainian creators. In any case, the most important step is to continue informing other artists that they are not alone.

 

Storytime Issue 93 Out Now!

 

In good times and in less-good times, we humans need other people. It can be for help and support – or to share joyful events! This month’s Storytime is full of stories about the ways in which we connect with others.

 

Storytime Issue 93 – Things That Bring Us Together

 

Egbert is the star of our modern-day tale, A Troll’s Day Out. As one might expect, he is cranky and grumpy and lives under a bridge like most trolls do. But when he is driven out by his mum’s spring cleaning, he finds his way to the park, and makes some friends! Playing with them changes his mood for the better, and it turns out to be a special day he will never forget. As Egbert discovers, connecting with others can expand our horizons and make us happy.

 

A Troll’s Day Out features the winning picture from our Happiness Is… competition. It was created by the very talented Romeesa Adil (aged 6), from the Arab Unity School in Dubai. Congratulations to Romeesa, and a big thank you to everybody who entered the contest! Andres Hertsens created the fun art for this tale, and his design for Egbert is quirky and cool!

 

Holidays become really special when we get to spend them with friends, and that is the theme of Holidays with Heidi (inspired by the classic novel Heidi by Johanna Spyri). Klara goes to the countryside and the girls go on an alpine adventure. What makes this bedtime story especially lovely are the illustrations by Giorgia Broseghini. She lives near the Alps herself, and her love for the landscape really shines through.

 

Another holiday-centric story is The Mooncake. The Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in that country, and little Hao loves to share it with his granny. She enjoys his company and gives him a tasty mooncake as a treat but his brother has his sight on it. Anastasia Zababashkina uses her incredible skills to create art for this story that is just as sweet and light as a mooncake!

 

But while enjoying a cake by yourself can be nice, it can be even more pleasant to share it with someone. That is the idea behind The First Strawberry, a legend from the Sioux people. The first man and the first woman argue, and the woman leaves their home – but the sun creates berries in her path to try and stop her! When the woman tastes the fruit, she hopes to share it with the one she loves. Why not take a leaf from their book and share a treat with someone you like today too? Alisa Kosareva’s art for this tale is positively luminous – you could swear that you could reach out and taste the strawberries!

 

Welcome to Lazy Town! is a story with a moral about how life is better when we work together. That’s a lesson that the people of Lazy Town must learn the hard way, as they can’t be bothered to pick up their litter or even cut up a tree that falls on the main road. Hanna Harris provided the bright, fun artwork, which shows us how the determined mayor manages to motivate the inhabitants. Great leaders can bring us all together – and be inspiring!

 

A similar theme can be found in the Greek myth of The Contest of the Gods. The snake-tailed hero Cecrops becomes the king of a group of warlike tribes and convinces them to unite and build a mighty city. It is so grand that two gods compete to be its guardian, in fact! Special credit must go to Gabriel San Martin, who brings the mythical age to life with his illustrations.

 

Creativity and wonder are in our real life tale this month! A Head Full of Colours tells the true story of famous artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Though he had talent from a young age, the New York native discovered graffiti by teaming up with schoolfriends and making his own mark on the city. His vibrant murals bridged the gap between fine art and street art and is still inspirational today. To illustrate this story, we chose to work with Leandro Lassmar, whose own wonderful creations are partly inspired by Basquiat. We hope you find them as amazing as we do!

 

And lastly, we have the cover story of The Curly-Tailed Lion. Though it is set hundreds of years ago, this tale of a lion who becomes a celebrity in the Netherlands is still relevant in this age of social media! The lion becomes very popular, but soon finds himself stressed as people make more and more demands of him. It is only when his looks fade and ‘lion-mania’ dies down that he finds happiness with a lioness and friends who love him for who he is. There is a lesson there for all of us – being popular is OK, but it’s no substitute for real friendships!

 

The art for this story is by the phenomenally talented Ukrainian artist Julia Cherednichenko. We will have an exclusive interview with her in this month’s second blog – look out for it! She will give us a great insight into her stories, her inspiration and how art is important to us all in the most difficult times!

 

Happy reading!

 

The Storytime team

The Benefits of Audiobooks for Children

 

Audiobooks for Children

 

Guest blog by author and teacher Alicia Ortego

Common wisdom says that reading is a sign of a well-rounded person – and it is hard to disagree with that. But is it necessary to read books on paper, or are audiobooks a viable alternative?

Nowadays, many people prefer listening to books instead of reading them. Some might claim that this is no substitute for reading text on the page, but researchers have found that listening to books can actually be good for you!

 

The Benefits of Audiobooks

 

They’re great to enjoy while travelling!

Playing an audiobook while on a long journey will help the time pass quickly! It gives the whole family something to listen to together, and can provide a welcome break from playing games on a tablet!

 

They give our eyes a holiday!

Too much reading can be had on our eyes! Reading for too long can cause eye strain, and trying to focus on a book while riding in a car causes car sickness for many people.

 

Listening to audiobooks can reduce stress!

According to this research, 60% of children said that reading reduced feelings of stress. Kids have become more interested in audiobooks in recent times because they provide a way for them to relax and escape into their imaginations.

 

Listening to stories puts us in touch with our emotions!

This University College London Study proves that listening triggers more emotions than watching movies. When listening to a book, we expend energy picturing the plot. We focus more, think about it, and get accustomed to using our imagination instead of our eyes. The more we mentally engage with it, the more compelling the story becomes to us.

After a child has listened to an audiobook, why not discuss how it made them feel? This is a good way to discuss our emotions and develop emotional literacy.

 

Audiobooks help develop listening skills!

This research claims that listening to books increases kids’ vocal skills by teaching them about the importance of pauses, intonation and rhythm. It can also increase vocabulary and sentence-construction skills and teach correct pronunciation of words or names that they might otherwise only see written down. (For example, when listening to Harry Potter, kids get a better idea of how to pronounce names like ‘Hermione’.)

 

Reluctant readers can enjoy audiobooks!

This study in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that the brain reacts to stories in the same way if it is read or listened to! This means that children with dyslexia or poor eyesight can benefit from and enjoy books in audio format, even if they might find reading them challenging.

 

Tips on choosing an audiobook for your child

 

Children will let you know what they are interested in! If a child is crazy about action and adventure stories, you won’t necessarily be able to make them excited about fairy tales. Be open to exploring subjects that they like!

Discuss the genres your children enjoy and surf the Internet searching for page-turners (audio ones, of course). Make sure they meet these criteria:

  • Good recording quality
  • A clear, pleasant narrator voice
  • Interesting plots
  • Positive themes

By finding audiobooks that your children will engage with, you will help them develop their language and comprehension skills while they explore the magic of stories!

Alicia Ortego is a school teacher and children’s book author, who has worked with children foir more than 20 years. Her books are available on her blog: https://aliciaortego.com/books/

 

Storytime Issue 92 Out Now!

 

Every month, we carefully craft each issue so that it has something for everyone – the usual favourites and a few surprises to keep everyone engaged! We often get asked where our ideas and stories come from… so this month, we’d like to give you a peek into the creative process behind our Easter edition!

 

Storytime Issue 92 – The Making of our Spring Issue

 

Seeing as it’s Easter, we wanted to bring you a seasonal story to match! The German fairy tale The Easter Hare fits the bill perfectly – it’s a sweet story about two siblings who encounter the legendary animal who makes chocolate eggs for kids to find on Easter morning. We found this tale in a collection of stories by a lady called Margaret Arndt, but we put our own twist on it so our readers could enjoy it now! The vintage settings and atmosphere was something we wanted to keep from the original story, and Gülşah Alçın Özek did a wonderful job to the briefing! Her illustrations combine modern vividness with a lovely traditional look – be sure to check them out!

 

We topped up the chocolate eggs, continuing with the Easter theme in our bedtime story. The Little Red Hen’s Surprise! is about farmyard friends getting together to help the title character when she becomes ill. It’s illustrated by one of our very favourite artists, Giorgia Broseghini – who has now illustrated over 40 stories for us so far! We’re sure you will enjoy this one – she made sure to cover it in chocolate too!

 

Still talking about food but this time, rice cakes instead of Easter Eggs! We have wanted to tell the classic British tale of King Alfred and the Cakes for quite a while – and it really fit in with this issue! It combines a historical background with a fun lesson about how we must pay attention to the little things as well as the big things in life! Júnior Caramez was chosen to illustrate it, and he did it brilliantly, bringing out the humour in the tale.

 

Another story that we have been wanting to do for ages is that of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. It’s a true classic – who can forget the ‘Open, sesame!’ line that opens the cave that the thieves kept their loot in? The problem was, in its original form it is really very dark in places, so we had to find our own twist on it and we hope you like it. Ali Baba and his Brother is funnier and more upbeat than the original, and the bright and cheerful art by the talented Pamela Wehrhahne complements it perfectly.

 

We like to travel far away to find stories so we continue all the way to an African fable! The Hippopotamus and the Tortoise is a fable set in a lush African jungle full of interesting animals, and it features distinctive (and gorgeous!) art by Rebecca Bagley. Her animals are sure to make everyone giggle – and there are many details to spot in each one of them! We were so glad to find an artist of her talent for this story!

 

We then went to South America, to find our myth this month! The Creation of the Moon is a traditional Aztec legend about the hero Huachinog-vaneg and his quest to light up the night. Of course, ‘Huachinog-vaneg’ is a bit of a mouthful, so we shortened it to just ‘Hua’ in the magazine so you can read along! In the story, he is assisted by a rabbit, which we thought would be a nice tie in with Easter! Though there are no chocolate eggs in this story … the rabbit is a great friend to Hua and a bit of a superhero in the quest! Rendering art for stories set in a distant culture is a challenge for any illustrator, but Mai Ngo did amazing research and brought this myth to life convincingly.

 

Nikola Tesla is famous as one of the most visionary inventors of the past two centuries, and he was chosen as the subject of this month’s real-life story – adding sparkles and a sense of adventure to the issue! The Electric Boy chronicles Nikola’s childhood, and the inspiration he found both at school and in the world around him. He was a pioneer in the use of electricity as a power source, so it’s no surprise that he still inspires modern inventors, particularly those working in the field of sustainable energy. The wonderful Astrid de Souris took a unique approach to the art for this story – inspired by classic Japanese animation, which is made this story truly special!

 

And finally, we have our cover story: Ka and the Wolf. Our original fiction about life in the Stone Age has been in production for quite some time! The theme of friendship was our choice for My Mind Matters! so we thought it would link well to this tale! Ka is a boy from a nomadic tribe in the Ice Age who must team up with an unlikely ally to survive.

We wanted to give readers a feeling of what life would have been like for our ancestors and did a lot of research to get the details right! We wanted an exceptional artist to bring this era to life, and we are delighted to have Lavanya Naidu in this issue. You may have previously seen her wonderful art in How the First Letter was Written in issue 73. She can do amazing art set in any era though, have a peek at her portfolio to see it for yourself.

 

Once all the stories are grouped together and commissioned, we start to plan all the fun and activities that will go with each issue. The puzzles feature colouring, games and quizzes for each and every story and our Teaching Resource pack this month will look into the Stone Age life in depth. We learn so much with every edition, and by the end of it we are ready for the next one! What will the May issue bring? You will have to stay with us to find out!

 

Happy Easter dear readers! May the Easter Hare be kind and generous with you all!

 

The Storytime team

Why Diversity Matters

 

Here at Storytime, we create stories for our readers – and we want all of our readers to find characters that they can identify with in our stories. That’s why we believe that diversity matters. How boring would the world – or our magazine – be if everybody looked, thought and talked the same?

This month, we are honoured to have the second guest editorial of the year by the immensely talented Nick Abadzis. He is, amongst many other things, an award-winning comics creator and graphic novelist. He is currently writing and drawing a new book entitled Skin Trouble, which will deal with issues around diversity and representation. Nick is very passionate about the importance of representation in stories and we are so happy to be able to share his thoughts on the matter in our blog. We believe his work is striking and very relevant in bringing greater awareness to this hugely important topic. (c) Nick Abadzis 2022

 

Why Diversity Matters: A Guest Editorial?

 

“Diversity” is a word that is often used to describe humanity. We are indeed “diverse,” in that we are many and myriad. Human beings come in innumerable flavours and that, to me, is a fabulous and beautiful thing. It’s our differences, our self-awareness and our ability to co-operate that make human beings the most powerful animal species to ever walk the surface of this planet. Simultaneously, it’s what makes us so dangerous – to all other life that we share this world with, and to ourselves.

Every one of us is unique and as different from one another as is every single snowflake that ever fell out of the sky over our heads. And, like snow collectively, we form a vista that, from a distance, makes it difficult to tell one tiny element apart from another. In that sense, we are certainly more alike than unalike.

On our social, interpersonal, microscopic street level, things can be a little messier. Our societies are intricately structured, imperfect systems whose communications and (social) media generally reduce humankind’s organic complexity to simplistic, often binary terms that ignore or bypass nuance.

Nuance is a perceptual language all its own. Nuance, or the awareness of it, is the kind of emotional intelligence that any healthy society should aspire to teach their kids so that their lives will be as deep, rich and layered as their parents know they are capable of being.

Children are the future, and every good parent wants to equip their offspring with the tools they’ll need to cope with life and an ever faster, ever-changing world. Certainly, no-one wants their child to be seen as less than the set of potentials they present to their parents.

The declaration of human rights states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” However, no matter how sound our foundational philosophies and intentions, however lofty our aspirations, all human societies remain unfair.

For this reason, representation in media – and all forms of human visual language – is of paramount importance.

Human systems nowadays tend to forsake nuance for brevity, difficult-to-digest facts for easily consumable half-truths or indeed, outright falsehoods. Yet life cannot be reduced to the kinds of absolutes that give us easy answers. Difference and sameness, conformity versus openness to other perspectives – it’s never this simple.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon, and I won’t attempt to examine any of them in detail here, but for the purposes of this short exploration into the importance of representation, it’s worth making the point that when any society seeks to reduce things to an ‘us versus them’ scenario, you know you are at the mercy of a very particular kind of storyteller – the powerful liar.

However, there are ways of approaching the contradictions of the world without either fear or the rhetoric of hatred. To fear is childish, to flounder and even glory in the absence of experience. To conquer fear is the courage of the childlike, to assume curiosity and interest over apprehension and suspicion. It’s in children that we find the many and myriad possibilities of humanity.

As children, we have greater capacity to grow and learn than at any other time in our lives. I’ve found that encouraging active mental channels back to my child-self and the innate, innocent curiosity I had back then – rather than any fear – has almost always enabled me to find pathways forward out of the depressing and stressful periods of my life.

It takes a bit of experimentation and experience to figure out how one’s own emotions really work – to not be controlled by them but make them work harmoniously for you in your everyday experience of the world.

As a professional storyteller, there have been many occasions when I have been asked how one teaches a sense of empathy, of connection, sympathy, rapport. Like any worthwhile project, it’s cumulative and ongoing. Stories equip children with information about the world in advance of actual experience.

Of course, in the realm of storytelling, opposites are useful, as conflict is drama. Good and evil, light and shadow. Left and right, rich and poor, warlike and peaceful, happy and sad. Black and white. Us against Them. Me and the other. Me and Everyone Else.

Tribalism is coded into us, which is why it can be weaponised and used against us. This is why it’s crucial that we teach our children to detect and recognise it and oppose it when it’s being used to manipulate us. Life isn’t black-and-white, or even simply shades of grey – not if we don’t want it to be.

Representation provides nuance. It’s both sophistication and an insurance against division and dehumanisation. Quite apart from that, it gives a child – or the wise adult that they’ll hopefully evolve into – a sense of place in a world that has a greater chance of reaching that aspirational goal of every individual truly being “free and equal in dignity and rights.”

It’s important for any child’s development to see themselves reflected back in the media they encounter. It’s pivotal, for their own imaginative development and evolving senses of empathy and sympathy, to give them the chances to see themselves in others, in fiction, in roles that might inspire them, whether it’s via stories on TV, in film, in literature, in comics, in games, in advertising, in public messaging of any sort. It’s essential for them to be allowed to play out of all sorts of possible roles in their minds (and most parents already know this instinctively).

For all the reasons above, representation is perhaps the most important aspect of all corners of modern storytelling, in whatever creative industry or media spotlight it may occur.

Never before has there been a moment in history when an understanding of difference as a positive has been so crucial. A connection to all our different possible and better selves has never counted like it does now, because it brings about an openness to communication and new ideas that will be essential to our long-term mass survival.

Representation is one of the basic building blocks of fostering such understanding. Representation creates consideration and connection. Never before has it mattered so much that we foster relationships, awareness and understanding between the different peoples of this Earth.

Racial strife, prejudice, differences of belief and opinion aren’t going to go away if we begin to comprehend and represent the wide variety of this world’s inhabitants better, but it’s a good start. This world may be overheating, but it’s still beautiful, full of ideas, passions, sensory experiences and ways of being and seeing that you (and I) will never enjoy directly.

Living those, through stories, via storytellers, via fiction or via documentaries, diarists and journalists… it all makes the scope of life so much vaster and richer than our day-to-day grinds. I can only thank all those sharers of experience for these gifts, for all that insight. It helps me transcend my own parochialism.

One’s own attitude to and perception of the subjects of representation, diversity and inclusion may depend on multiple factors. What I’ve learned in a lifetime of listening and observing is that not many people actually do live in a vacuum, or honestly want to return to a time when we were hunter-gatherers being paranoid about the tribe in the next valley over. “Fear of the other” is the biggest lie humankind ever sold itself. But myths hold power. They shore up all the old systems and still work as the blinkered control-rhetoric of an elite, selfish few who ensure that things stay as they are.

Language is humankind’s oldest technology, and storytelling and shared information our most powerful tool, which is why we should always exercise it and process it thoughtfully. We all have this gene, this ability for telling stories, so tell them well. Don’t live in a world without imaginative sympathy, without benevolent curiosity.

Representation is one of the most important facets of all storytelling, a versatile lens through which we can view ourselves and extend the range of our knowledge and experience. We are humanity. We contain multitudes,  and we can each all live several lifetimes inside of one, if we remain open to those possibilities.

 

We would like to thank Nick for taking the time to share his perspective with us. We hope you have found it as inspirational and thought-provoking as we did!

You can read more from Nick at his blog: https://www.nickabadzis.com/blog

We also recommend checking out Skin Trouble when it is released – we will be sharing it in our channels too and can’t wait to read it. Younger readers are sure to enjoy his comic Pigs Might Fly, which features spectacular illustrations too. It’s a fun adventure story about Lily Leanchops, who invents a flying machine to take on some wicked warthogs. We love it!