Autumn may already be here, with the end of the year in sight, but there’s no stopping the team here at Happydesigner. Because we are on a roll – and we have some VERY exciting news to announce.
For a long time now, our superstar illustrator Sarah-Leigh has wanted to find the perfect project to collaborate on, one where we invest many hours of our own time and have a real stake in the outcome.
Well, like buses – well, almost – two have come along at once, and we want to share them with you here.
Why are they both so right for us? Because they fit perfectly with the ethos we have here at Happydesigner of working on projects with a purpose. We’ve written about this before.
Both these projects will bring so much to the world of children’s literature, and it’s a thrill and an honour to be involved with their direction and development right from the beginning.
So… drumroll please…introducing:
The Elephants Trunk: Pioneering personalised children’s books
This is such an exciting idea and a way to bring real inclusion into the children’s book market because The Elephants Trunk is a company which is providing personalised books for ALL children.
The team behind The Elephants Trunk – Derek and Teresa – are passionate about ensuring children of all shapes, sizes, nationalities, looks, heritage, and abilities can be included in their books. So along with Sarah-Leigh’s unique ideas and input into the project, together, we have come up with something we believe is very special. Sarah-Leigh has also been working hard on a whole library of illustrations that all customers can pick and mix to create the perfect books for the special children in their lives!
For example, we include options for children with hearing aids, walking sticks, and guide dogs, and we’re adding more and more as we go along.
Until now, children’s personalised books have been quite limited, with very little choice, leaving many children feeling excluded. With The Elephants Trunk, everyone can join in.
We started with one flagship book, and thanks to our collaboration, we are continually expanding the range together.
You can find out more about The Elephants Trunk here – www.theelephantstrunk.com. We hope you love these personalised children’s books as much as we do.
Signing Friends: Bringing children’s signing books to life
Our second collaboration fulfils a lifelong dream for Sarah-Leigh. She’s always wanted to learn a form of sign language and create a signing book, and now she is getting the chance to do just that.
We were approached by Singing Hands, run by Suzanne and Tracy, who met in 2000 through the Project for Children with Special Needs in Richmond.
Tracy is mum to Miles, and Suzanne is mum to Ella, and because of Miles’ and Ella’s communication difficulties, both learnt Makaton signing. When they looked around, they found resources were limited, so they began to run Singing Hands sessions for toddler groups and nurseries, and from those small beginnings, an entire organisation was born.
Fast forward to 2022. Suzanne and Tracy wanted to create books to enable adults and children to learn Makaton signing together, which is why they got in touch with us here at Happydesigner.
This really was our dream project, and together we are producing a series of children’s books in association with The Makaton Charity. So far, we have at least 14 books on the go to be launched in the spring of 2023, for which Sarah-Leigh will be drawing THOUSANDS of illustrations.
Featuring four friends, Poppy, Lolo, Jack and Zack, who have different special needs, the books follow everyday activities and events – like going to the shops or celebrating Christmas – but with Makaton signing complementing the text.
The books will be accompanied by activity books and flashcards, all aimed at helping children and parents learn Makaton signing together, and each book will also be accompanied by a video from Suzanne and Tracy. The books and assets can also be used by professionals, such as teachers and nursery staff.
Along the way, Sarah-Leigh is getting the chance to learn sign language as she draws, and our Studio Manager and musician extraordinaire, Barry, has written a theme tune for Signing Friends too.
By the way, Suzanne and Tracy have both been awarded MBEs, and we’re so proud to be working with such an illustrious duo.
We have tough criteria about who we will collaborate with, and both The Elephants Trunk and Signing Friends meet these… and some!We can’t wait for the books to be released and available, but in the meantime, check in with us on our social media posts to see how we’re getting on. Or, if you want to chat about a children’s book illustration project of your own, please get in touch.
Written by Jo Smyth (www.wordworker.co.uk)