Big World, Tiny World: Forest by Jess Racklyeft

Jess Racklyeft speaks about her new picture book, Big World, Tiny World: Forest at PaperbarkWords:

Jess Racklyeft on Big World, Tiny World: Forest

Big World, Tiny World: Forest was inspired after watching the way my children would find a little universe in a tiny mossy garden – naming snails and building them houses – finding worlds in worlds, and working out where they fit in these spaces. I wasn’t sure how to bring this loose concept to life, but after a wonderful chat with the Affirm team we had brainstormed some ideas and confirmed the exciting possibility of a die cut circle through the whole book representing size and scale on each page. 

Image from Big World, Tiny World: Forest by Jess Racklyeft

With this structure in mind the next tricky part was working out how a shape – a circle – could be conveyed in different ways – from suns in outer universes to pebbles. With a lot of doodling and a little bit of writing the idea fleshed out and the rough sketches came to life. I am fairly new to writing, so the next challenge was building a text that would support the images and concepts. I also really wanted to make sure the child could find their place in these worlds upon worlds, and make it accessible to read and work out where you would be on each spread – dipping your toes in a river or looking at earthworms under a big tree.  

Image from Big World, Tiny World: Forest by Jess Racklyeft

The next stage is my favourite part – painting! Watercolours, digital drawing and pencils all came into play to try and bring the feeling of a beautiful forest to life. I really enjoyed getting into the details of the smaller spaces, and sneaking in a ladybird onto every spread. 

We had the wonderful designer Hannah Janzen lay out the text and tweak the illustration layout, and once the cover was complete the next (longest stage) was the wait for a printer proof! With this book I knew you’d never know exactly how it would shape up until you received the book itself, so was nervous when the package finally arrived. But luckily we were all thrilled! The die cut and gold foil star really worked beautifully, and the rich colours printed so well.  

Jess Racklyeft (photo credit Penny Lane)

The underlying message, which is explained a little more on the opening page, is the preciousness of our natural world and how important forests are to us all. We are all connected, just like the pages of the book! I really hope readers find a sense of nature and beauty in the book and it reminds us all of how lucky we are to have forests around us (even if it takes a little trip out of the city to find it sometimes!). I am currently working on a follow up to this book exploring another amazing part of our natural world and hope to build a little library of big and tiny worlds!

Big World, Tiny World: Forest is out now through Affirm Press. You can watch the beautiful book trailer here.

Big World, Tiny World: Forest at Affirm Press

Jess Racklyeft’s website

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