Jane Godwin and Gabriel Evans talk about their thoughtful and wistful picture book, Little One.
The story of Little One came from my own memories of a treasured toy (‘toy’ feels like too insignificant a word for these important transitional objects!) and those of the young people around me. It’s a story of how the loss of that treasured object becomes part of the growing independence of the child. When Pippi loses her doll, Little One, there is much searching and even an attempt to replace her, but ultimately the event becomes a rite of passage in Pippi’s own growth and sense of herself in the world.
I love the way Gabriel has filled the book with both strength and softness in his artwork, and how the natural world, with its own changes and growth, seems to spill from the pages.
Growth is positive and necessary, but its shadow side is loss – leaving something or some part of yourself behind; a sense of a place you can never go back to. To me, one of the challenges of growing up is to maintain one’s childlike essence, true nature and vulnerability, while learning along the way, and ‘growing wiser’ from the difficulties life will inevitably throw at you.
I observed in one of my nieces a strong bond with a doll that she’d had since birth. She took it on a family overseas trip and it was lost in the hotel laundry, never to be found again. My niece gets a faraway look in her eyes whenever we mention this doll, and her nostalgia and a sense of grief is palpable, even though she is now eighteen, and in many ways a typical eighteen-year-old girl! My own tragic experience of losing a beloved toy involved Fluffy, a toy kitten (which when I think about it was probably made from real rabbit fur) and our springer spaniel dog… who I think mistook my Fluffy for a real rabbit. Sob!
Little One is my first collaboration with author, Jane Godwin. I’ve always enjoyed Jane’s picture books and their celebration of youth.
I first read the manuscript back in early 2020 and felt the narrative had a timeless quality to it with generous space for the art to blossom and tell its part of the story.
It was a story of losing a treasure and the resilience that comes from that.
To match the timeless quality of the story, I approached the illustrations with gentle layers of watercolour combined with the more robust colours of gouache and the energetic lines of pencil.
Flowers and seasonal changes were both used as a way to visually hint at Pippi’s development and growth.
I was living in Sydney at the time and the buildings and parks surrounding me definitely influenced the setting. But I also wanted to keep the location general enough that the story could be taking place in a number of places around the world.
This was a beautiful story to immerse myself in during the 2020 lockdown and I very much look forward to sharing it with readers around Australia. Although I can’t easily travel interstate, I look forward to sharing the process for making the pictures on social media and connect with students from around Australia through online educational platforms.