The Telling of True Life Tales – Part 2

 

This month we have the second part of our blog about telling true life tales, and how the creative work happens behind the scenes! We are publishing it to celebrate our latest competition: Create a Comic! and it’s all about writing and illustration a short comic strip starring your favourite animal.

 

For the occasion, the author Nick Abadzis, our guest judge in the competition, invited us to find out more about Laika and how she became a worldwide star through his masterful storytelling.

 

Did you get inspired? You can check out our competition here and download a full pack of activities to help you create your very own winning story here! We are looking forward to your entries – best of luck everyone

 

 

The Telling of True Life Tales – Part II

 

Guest Blog (c) Nick Abadzis 2022

 

Since I told her story in a graphic novel published in 2007, I’ve observed the tale of the Russian cosmodog Laika morph from an acknowledged historical event into something approaching cultural folklore, something almost semi-mythical as if she, as the first earthling in orbit, was a willing pioneer aware of her own undertaking.

 

She wasn’t. She was a dog, albeit a highly-trained one, and she is the only living being from Earth ever to be sent into space without the express intention of getting them safely home again. She should be celebrated, as the first earthling to cross that frontier, but to my mind, her story is also very much about the system and series of events that condoned the act of human cruelty that made her a sacrificial passenger.

 

I’ve always been careful to note that my way of telling her story was, to a certain extent, historical fiction, albeit extensively researched fiction. The graphic novel is, broadly, a biography with a bit of added supposition to join the dots between known historical events. My version of her story contains many characters who are based upon real historical figures, plus a couple I invented to give the reader thematic focal points and a sense of continuity between the situations and locales featured in the book.

 

I dramatised Laika’s life and extrapolated certain scenes from known events, but the facts of the story and what was known about her – her training, her treatment, her launch in Sputnik II from Kazakhstan on October 3rd 1957 (plus some actual dialogue drawn from the historical record), are all real.

 

Other than the medical telemetry that recorded her vital signs and death from overheating five hours after launch, how Laika felt on her voyage into orbit as Earth’s first space traveller isn’t known as there was no human present to actually observe her, so the scenes in the book that depict her experiences inside the capsule are necessarily imaginary, extrapolations of what I know about canine behaviour.

 

I hope this all served to give my retelling of her story a veracity, a sense of truth that neither contradicts the facts of her life and fate and gives a sense of how she came to be caught up in a pivotal moment of history – one that heralded the technological, information-led age we live in. To put it simply, I wanted to honour Laika and give her life a context and a memorial that I felt she deserved.

 

There is also an animated VR adaptation of my graphic novel, which was created in 2021 by a huge team of character designers, animators, VFX directors and the production staff of Passion Animation. It was directed by Oscar and Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia. I co-wrote the script with Asif, co-art directed the project and also provided some voice acting. It was an entirely different, almost communal experience compared to the more solitary pursuit of creating a graphic novel, but the intention was always the same – to recreate a true story and bring it to wider attention.

 

Since the book was first published, there have been a myriad other retellings of Laika’s story, in reference books, in comics and other print media, online, in recorded song and most recently, in an off-Broadway musical. There will no doubt be many more, as the story of Laika’s lonely journey slowly, inexorably becomes legend, as it edges towards that shadow of the terminator line of stories that are no longer held in living memory but in the realm of communal recollection and antiquity.

 

What I think is key is that no matter what the method, whatever the medium, the telling of a true story, however recent, however old (and if records allow), should be researched to the highest possible degree in order to honour the spirit of those involved in the original undertaking.

 

Laika (the graphic novel) is still in print in English fifteen years after its first publication and many other languages besides. This year it was published for the first time in Russian on 12th April 2022 – the national Russian Cosmonautics Day. Russia is now busy trying to rewrite history books again. Nonetheless, there’s something very gratifying about the book seeing the light of day there, as if the spirit of Laika has found her way home at last.

Storytime Issue 97 Out Now!

 

They say that when we turn eight, you become a ‘big kid’. Oh well… we are now eight, and we feel that we have grown a lot alongside our readers! Storytime has built an amazing library of stories, we have created a wealth of extra activities every month, we have created digital issues and we have made every story available in audio form for bedtime and reading along!

 

Our dream of becoming the place you could go to for the best stories, in any format you like, is now real! And guess what? We couldn’t be prouder to create a magazine that is loved by so many children all over the world. To know that kids in over sixty countries are reading and cherishing out stories in a dream coming true… a dream that started in September 2014!

 

Storytime Issue 97 – Happy Birthday to Us!

 

So what are we doing to celebrate our eighth birthday? We are bringing eight fantastic new stories to the party! We made sure that many fabulous creatures were invited. The host will be Queen Koko, the most fabulous gorilla you will ever meet! She really did exist, and she was super clever too. She learned to communicate using sign language and loved kittens (like we do too)! If that’s not enough to melt your heart, Josh Cleland will make sure you fall in love with his illustrations!

 

What party would be complete without a dragon story? Moe Ali makes The Dragon of the North take over our centre spread and this epic scene shall make everyone curious to read our fairy tale! Will the magic ring of King Salomon hold as much power as it promises? And will you be able to spot all the treasures in this story?

 

You know we have loved animal tales from the start and have featured hundreds of them – because animals make us laugh and teach us valuable lessons, too! The Fox and the Leopard is about two beasts who get into a debate about who looks the most fabulous – but in the end it’s the wise tortoise who teaches us that we are all beautiful in our own way. And we hope you know that you are beautiful too – just the way you are! Tomislav Zlatic had fun with these fab line-up of forest creatures.

 

If you need cuddles and a little mystery, then The Goblin in the Garden might interest you! The brand new Worlds of Wonder section will take you to magical places where the most wonderful adventures can happen! This one is set in an old garden – which shows that enchanting things can happen even in the most ordinary places. Lauren Emmon makes it extra-special with her soft shades and beautiful compositions.

 

But since we are talking about wonders… we are also bringing one of the Seven Wonders of the World into this special issue! (We think Storytime should be the eighth wonder, of course – did we mention we are eight and wonderful too? Yay!) The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were famous for their beauty in ancient times, and Sara Michieli helps us to imagine what they would have been like. If you would like to learn more, our Teaching Resource pack this month is all about wonders – old and new!

 

Our bedtime story is about a classic English hero and making friends… because we would like to remind our readers that the best things in life are the ones we share! Share a picnic, share a skill, share a story! Do it together and create life-long memories. Robin’s Picnic is all about sharing – and it’s made even more vibrant by the illustrations, provided by the talented Lauren May!

 

It’s back-to-school time too, so we thought you would have fun reading about How the Alphabet Was Made! Rudyard Kipling had a great take on that, so we brought his wonderful tale to the party, along with superb illustrations of Estrella Bascunan. We hope you will giggle along Taffy’s ideas and spellings – and don’t forget to make your own words in the Playbox! There are many alphabets and stories about how they were invented, but this is certainly one of our favourites!

 

Our eighth story in this issue is a Chinese folk tale about a very clever girl who becomes The Young Head of the Family. She solves problems and riddles and has brilliant ideas and we hope you will agree that Carol Rempto’s art is equally brilliant. When have you seen a girl arriving riding a buffalo before? That has got to be a first!

 

To wrap this celebratory issue in style we are happy to present – drum roll – our latest competition: Create a Comic! It’s open to all readers aged 4- 9, and we are inviting you all to create a comic strip starring your favourite animal! It can be funny, cute, sci-fi or zany, but it should be totally original! We have created an awesome accompanying pack of resources for this competition which you can download here – and you can use it for help and inspiration! The winner will be published in Storytime next year – and it will be our first-ever comic strip in the magazine! How exciting is that?

 

We will be eating cake and blowing candles all month long, and we are wishing that your month too is sprinkled with sugar and decorated with rainbow icing! Thank you for being such awesome readers and for loving our stories! Here is to many more years and tales to come!

 

With love from all of us at Storytime Towers!

Breathing is a Superpower

 

Breathing is a Superpower!

 

Our My Mind Matters! consultant, Jessica Bowers, has written a very special blog this month about our theme: breathing. We often take it for granted.. but in times of stress it can be a real super power. If this blog reminds you to breath in more often, then our job is truly done!

 

It feels appropriate that while I am writing this blog, I’m breathing in the beautiful sea air of Padstow in Cornwall. When I breathe the Cornish air and see the breath-taking view, I feel present and connected to myself and the world around me. Mindful breathing enables me to embody this experience and feel truly alive.

 

Breathing is an elemental expression of life, and neuroscientists have proven that there is a clear link between our breathing and how we experience emotions in our bodies. However, we usually breathe all day, every day, without being aware of the effect it can have on us.

 

To breathe mindfully involves inhaling air in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Don’t do anything else – just take it in and let it out, paying attention to what you are feeling at the moment.

 

Emotions can be felt deeply in our bodies, and it is vital that we are aware of the role mindful breathing can play in supporting a healthy and positive emotional state.

 

The expression ‘don’t forget to stop and smell the roses’ is not just an empty statement, but a great example of how we can connect with the world around us and take it in. In fact, getting children to enjoy smelling flowers is a good way to help them become aware of the effect mindful breathing can have. If you ask them to breathe in and out while focussing on the flowers they are smelling, they are discovering that breathing connects us to our surroundings and can help us to feel calm.

 

The process of breathing also has a key role to play in grounding us and making us feel calm and centred. Counting can help us to pace our breathing and control any anxious thoughts going through our minds. This can also help kids to focus and settle down. It’s particularly useful before bedtime or story time!

 

If you are working on positive affirmations, they can be much more effective when combined with conscious breathing. Doing this helps us to absorb the affirmations into our bodies as well as our minds.

 

Mindful breathing can be enjoyed by the whole family. If added to our daily routines, it can have a positive effect on our mental health. This is a wonderful gift to give to our children – this simple practice can help develop their emotional resilience and well-being as they grow.
Scientific research has proven that if we stand in the superhero pose (legs apart, hands on hips and chest puffed out) and breathe in and out for two to four minutes, then we will feel more confident and powerful. I suggest you try it for yourself! This is a great one to do with children of all ages. My kids love it (and so do I)!

 

Here are some ideas for how to incorporate mindful breathing into your daily routine:

  • Do it outdoors! Try doing mindful breathing as part of a family walk or scavenger hunt. Find a green spot that feels peaceful and magical and get everyone to breathe in and out a few times before continuing on your adventure. I bet you will feel more energetic thanks to the lovely fresh air!
  • Easy Yoga! This is a wonderful introduction to mindful breathing, and there are plenty of videos available online for children and families. You could include a breathing exercise as part of your evening routine. It’s even better when combined with candles and relaxing music. Your children might enjoy choosing their own songs to relax to!
  • Try it in the morning! I have three children, so I don’t have much free time. However, doing a few minutes of mindful breathing each morning makes a profound difference to my day. I close my eyes and relax my body with every breath and then answer these three questions:
    1. What am I grateful for?
    2. What am I proud of?
    3. What is my intention for today?
  • Set a small, achievable target. This should help anyone who wakes up feeling overwhelmed by the challenges they will face during the day.

 

I hope this blog encourages you to think more about conscious breathing, and I hope you were inhaling and exhaling mindfully while you read this blog. Conscious breathing is a fabulous superpower that helps us to deal with the anxiety and stress we face in our lives. Remember to use it!

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