Wee Donkey’s Treasure Hunt is the third picturebook I’ve worked on, and the first I’ve dared to write in rhyme. I’m not a poet, and I know it, but I’ve always loved children’s books written in verse – that lovely sing-song rhythm that carries you through the story – and with a bit of picturebook practice behind me, I was dying to give it a go myself.
I’m not sure exactly where the idea for the book came from, though I remember a friend sending me photos from a donkey sanctuary years ago that were ridiculously cute, and it’s possible Wee Donkey has been waiting all that time to pop out. And she’s even more adorable than I could have imagined, which is thanks to illustrator, Gerry Daly.
There’s a touch of magic in every spread, with Gerry sprinkling Blarney kisses and fairy dust across the pages, and for everyone who worked on the book, there’s a few familiar faces too! Wee Donkey is as cheeky and loveable as a wee donkey can be, marching through every scene with just a little wooden cart and a lot of confidence.
I’m like a lot of artists, juggling freelance and part-time jobs to stay afloat, and it was nerve-wracking when the pandemic made work disappear. But for those of us who envy the life of a hermit, there was a silver lining – lockdown was the perfect excuse to vanish into a comfy armchair for days at a time, to drink endless cups of tea and just write. I was lucky to also have the publication of Wee Donkey’s Treasure Hunt to look forward to. I’m so delighted with the book, and I hope lots of young kids out there will be too!
I studied Fine Art, but the wobbly path towards children’s book illustration has been very gradual, and also a happy surprise! Since my first pack of crayons I’ve loved to make pictures. I’ve worked in graphic design and even coding websites, but it was when my uncle came to me with an idea for a children’s story that illustrating really clicked as something I could perhaps do.
I became fascinated with how pictures and words perform together within a picturebook. My first collaboration with Erika was Where Are You, Puffling? It was great fun to illustrate little Puffling, and all the characters that she meets across Skellig Michael. I learnt how solid story structure and pacing, in sync with composition and movement can build a beautiful book. Everyone loves a good page-turner, especially young readers!
I really enjoy bringing events to children. Visiting schools, libraries, festivals and bookshops is fun and rewarding. Children learn about Irish wildlife and draw along with me.
I was bringing Puffling events to bookshops for World Book Day in March when the lockdown suddenly brought us all to a halt. With the remaining events cancelled, and those for the rest of the year gone or reimagined, it has been a real challenge. I miss the live events, and look forward to them beginning again.
I’m very grateful to have had Erika’s brand new story Wee Donkey’s Treasure Hunt to focus on. It has been fab to share this summer with the characters. When illustrating, you become very absorbed in a story’s world, and Wee Donkey has already brought us many laughs along the way.
Any free time I’ll often spend seeing art, reading, cycling. This helps keep my antennae ready for when any inkling of a new idea might go pop!