Last week was publication week for Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World! Hooray!
The book has had some lovely reviews in the run up to publication from book enthusiasts as excited as I am about celebrating history-making women. It’s been a real treat to work on researching, writing, designing and illustrating, not to mention intriguing to explore the distant (and slightly tenuous) connection I have to the suffragette branch of the Pankhurst family.
The story goes that Emmeline was married to my great, great grandad’s brother’s son on my paternal side. Much to my disappointment I can’t claim to have actual suffragette blood running in my veins, I’d like to think I would have made a good suffragette were I around at the time though.
No matter what my surname I’d want to write and illustrate strong and I hope, dynamic, female characters, because those are the characters I wanted to read about as a child and why on earth should female characters not be all of the above? That said the Pankhurst connection has followed me all my life so has perhaps to a certain extent prompted me to think more deliberately about female role models in the books I create.
The idea for Fantastically Great Women came when my agent, Mark at Plum Pudding, saw this photo of Lady Winkleton – a character from my fiction mystery series Mariella Mystery Investigates.
In the Curse of the Pampered Poodle, Lady Winkleton is an Edwardian lady explorer and philanthropist responsible for setting up Puddleford Museum, and accidentally getting her pet poodle cursed.
Her lady aviator look was inspired by Amelia Earhart, who would later be a starring lady in Great Women. After seeing Lady W Mark pointed out that there really isn’t a lot of non-fiction children’s books about women and wouldn’t my Pankhurst connection make me the author/illustrator to explore that book? (Excellent idea Mark, and I love it when a small doodle grows into something else very unexpected.)
Amelia Earhart was the first spread in the book that I tackled, and the spread that got interest from the book’s publishing home, Bloomsbury.
When I visit schools I don’t just talk to children about books, I talk to them about following their talents and aspirations whatever they might be, and how reading and creativity can support that journey.
It’s important to me to spark the feeling that anything actually is possible if you put your mind to it. That’s why was keen that Fantastically Great Women told the stories of a broad range of inspiring women (women whose stories aren’t told often enough) and also, that it helped young readers make links back to their own lives. I hope that readers leave the book with the feeling that they can change the world in their own way too. The great women in the book never set out to be ‘great’, they just followed their hearts and were up for an adventure … or three!
I hope it’s an important book for girls, showing them that the world would be a very different place if it wasn’t for these women but it’s not a book just for girls. Equally, I hope boys feel inspired and enjoy each story of adventure, discovery and bravery.
To celebrate and share the Girl Power I decided to have a Fantastically Great Launch Event for the book, and where better to host it than the home of my studio space – Sunny Bank Mills, Leeds? Thanks so much to the fantastically great bunch of friends, family, librarians and families who came along!
The Fantastically Great Women are officially go, go, go! How will you change the world?