Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.
A hungry guinea pig is very funny, but our March selection, Crunch!, is more than that. Carolina Rabei’s picture book is a touching story with a positive message for your entire family. Crunch, a lovable guinea pig, learns the value of sharing and helping others, and this book will make a great addition to your home library.
Elephant Books was able to catch up with Ms. Rabei and learn about her writing and illustrating process for the book. Crunch! was shortlisted for the “Read It Again” competition, enabling Carolina to participate in numerous workshops for children and attend many school visits. We hope you enjoy learning more about our March Author of the Month!
You have spoken about childhood memories of “endless happy hours spent drawing and listening to your brother’s exciting bedtime stories”. Has writing and illustrating children’s books always been your career plan?
Since an early age I loved drawing. I was influenced also by my aunt and uncle who are artists. They were the first people to nurture my talent and encouraged me to study fine arts. So I felt from an early age that my career would involve drawing and creating, but just after my degree in Graphics and Graphic Design I decided that I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator. Therefore in 2012 I came to Cambridge, UK to take an MA in Children’s Book Illustration.
Achieving a distinction in Children’s Book Illustration at the prestigious Cambridge School of Art is very impressive. Wanting to share your expertise with children is also impressive. Can you tell us a little about the Art Workshops you hold at schools? Does working with children help your creative process?
Indeed, children are very inspiring and spark great original ideas all the time. Just listening to them interacting and playing is inspiring to me as a picture book maker. I like discovering what they get excited about and what they love about my work. And also the things that they may not react to is also important to observe.
Is it true that the inspiration for Crunch! came from your own pet guinea pig?
Yes, but the ideas for the book came later on. I just love guinea pigs and wanted to create a book having a guinea pig as a main character. Then I thought I had to outline in the story their personality and love for eating! I think good ideas come from our own life stories or things we have a passion for.
The illustrations are wonderful in the book; almost like working with rough wood cuttings. How did your create this look and feel?
Thank you! I love the look of woodcuts and linocuts so I tried bringing those aspects into to my illustrations even though I work digitally. I create my final artwork in Photoshop, but the sketches can be done on paper or also digitally. I think the use of textures is vital to my illustrations. I like creating those textures on paper with inks and sponges and then I scan them in and make them into brushes for Photoshop that later are used to introduce the textures into my illustrations.
While Crunch! is a light-hearted story about a very hungry guinea pig and a new friendship, there are many positive underlying messages for young children. Do you have any “talking points” or suggestions for parents that might help create an interesting discussion after reading your book?
I think the main message for the children to take from my book is that sharing is caring! I always like to ask the children at the end of a book reading if they share their food/ toys with their friends and hear they answers. I think that’s probably what parents could also discuss, why its important to share things with your friends.
Any thoughts about a follow up book with an adventure for Crunch and Cheddar?
I did have some ideas before for a follow up story but got involved in other projects. So perhaps now maybe it’s too late!
What is the best part about being a children’s author?
I love the fact that I work from the comfort of my home, and also plan my day the way I want. It doesn’t mean I work less hours, but I can adjust it to my needs. And the fact that my books can be read all over the world is amazing. And last but not least, meeting the readers and seeing their reaction to my work is always a great experience.
Many thanks to Carolina for sharing insights about her work and approach to writing and illustrating. We look forward to future titles from her and are excited to share Crunch! with our young readers this month.
If you’re interested in learning more about Carolina Rabei, you can visit her website here.
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