Meet the Author & Illustrator: Petronela Dostalova

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October 2020 | Authors

Thing leads a simple life with his friends Cactus and Moose. But this wonderful, imaginary world gets shaken up when another Thing is spied through a telescope. Thing is anxious about what will happen when they meet. He even convinces himself the other Thing is dangerous and untrustworthy.

The idiosyncratic illustrations bring a beautiful story to life with a great message about individuality, friendship, and not jumping to conclusions. There are plenty of potential friends out there if we just have an open mind and open heart.

We hope you enjoy learning more about the author, Petronela Dostalova. She comes from a Czech-Slovak-Hungarian background, but left for the United Kingdom when she was 18. The Things is her debut picture book.

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You were born in the former Czechoslovakia, but left for the UK to receive your Arts degree when you were eighteen. You now live in Tattingstone. What made you want to leave home? What made you decide to stay in the UK after completing your education?

I wasn’t accepted in the first selection for the university course I applied for in Slovakia. I slipped through in the second round but by that time I have decided to move to the UK and go to art college there.

I moved to Ipswich where I completed a foundation course in Arts and Design at Suffolk New College which then led to an Arts degree received from University of East Anglia which led to the MA in Children’s Book Illustration received from Cambridge School of Arts. It took almost a decade and I felt very much at home in the UK and I still do.

The Things is your debut children’s book and you are both the author and illustrator. What was the inspiration behind this quirky book?

The Things  evolved from a university project called Reds and Greens. I really liked the idea of the Reds and Greens but the story was missing an ending. I was getting quite frustrated with the project. It has come to the point where I felt at unease whenever I have seen a file named Reds and Greens on my computer. I renamed the files and called them The Things with no particular intent other than to trick my feelings.

A few days later I felt fond of the title and the numerous other titles which can be derived from The Things. I still haven’t had and ending for the story but I knew what the last sentence of the story would be “… and that’s the way Things are!” The Things has been written almost back to front!

Children will thoroughly enjoy and totally understand the surreal world that the Things live in. How did an adult create this?

I maybe failing in growing up a little.

The Things is filled with positive messages for children–not making assumptions, keeping an open mind, finding new friends–but the messages are subtle. Any advice for parents for “discussion topics” after they read the book with their child?

I would certainly ask what could have made Thing to think that Other Thing may be dangerous? What makes us constantly assume about others and trust that our assumptions are correct?

Since you are both the author and illustrator, did the drawings come first or was it the story?

With no hesitation drawings came first.

What is the best part about being a children’s author? Who were your favorite authors as a child?

I think the best part is being able to watch a book being “born” from concept to the physical book. Karel Capek, Ellis Kaut, Astrid Lindgren, Kormos Istvan are the ones whose work had a big impact on me.

When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges for parents or opportunities to address?

There is a vast number of topics covered in picture books. I think if we would start to take picture book stories to heart there would be less trouble in the world and I see that as a big opportunity not to be missed.

Do you have anything we can look forward to reading in the near future?

I am currently illustrating someone else’s text and also collaborating on a children’s TV program but I am not allowed to say more just yet.

Thanks to Petronela Dostalova for sharing the process behind “The Things” and explaining more about how she became an author and illustrator. We look forward to her future work! You can find out more about Petronela at her website, here.

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