Introducing… new children’s books from the pen of Happydesigner

As children’s book illustrators we like to think we know a thing or two about what makes a good book for youngsters.

We’ve illustrated books for children of every age, from 0, to pre-school, to primary, to teens, and we have learnt a lot along the way, from working with many wonderful authors.

So now we are very proud indeed to announce… cue drumroll… the first in what we hope will be a new series from our fantastic illustrator and author Sarah-Leigh Wills.

Of course, we already know what a great writer Sarah is, having penned her series of ‘Gillie Can…’ books, and you can find out a bit more about the Gillie books here. Books can be purchased here. Published by KA Books.

childrens illustrator Sarah Leigh wills

But this next book is rather different. It follows Sarah’s ethos of writing books with a purpose, and features some truly lovely illustrations.



Start Today With A Smile

From Magic Mouse Books, Start Today With A Smile is aimed at younger readers, but can be enjoyed by just about anybody!

It’s not just a lovely read for the children, it’s lovely to read aloud to children, and it’s all about understanding that you can’t change what happens in life, but what you can change is how you react to events. 

Lots of things happen to the little girl in Start Today With A Smile, but it’s how she copes that gives a hopeful message to readers. The message is: look at the positive in a situation and just smile, because it’s so much better for your mental health.

Sarah’s written the book from the heart and put herself into it. In fact, the main character has very similar hair! She comes across difficulties through the day – odd socks, spills, naughty cats. But she doesn’t let this worry or upset her; she just smiles!

childrens author

Start Today With A Smile should be on sale in the late summer/early autumn. It may well be the first in a series. Watch this space for more details…

“Did you say books, plural?” we hear you ask. Yes you did. Because Sarah has been VERY busy and not only created Start Today With A Smile, but she has also written…

Another drumroll (and why not…)

Sally Sapling

Meet Sally Sapling, a copper beech tree. The book follows her journey through the decades from seedling, to sapling, to mature tree, to very old lady aged 100!

From the 1920s to the 2020s, Sally witnesses historic events, from suffragettes to the swinging Sixties, to the Millennium, to the London Olympics. 

And for her 100th birthday she gets a very special visitor – but we won’t spoil it by letting you know who.

illustrator author

Sally Sapling is a stand-alone book, not part of a series, and we’re very proud of it. The illustrations are gorgeous and the story takes you on a journey through the decades. We’re sure the book will be just as entertaining for parents as it is educational for children.

You’ll need to wait a little while for publication, but don’t worry we will keep you posted.

So that’s Sarah’s collection so far: Gillie Can (available now); Start Today With A Smile (coming very soon); Sally Sapling (in the pipeline). Let’s not forget Oh Erik…. But that’s for another day! And if you happen to be a fan of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, don’t forget Sarah has also written a children’s book based around the band (you can purchase the book via the band’s website). 

picture book illustrator

If you like Sarah’s books, and especially if you like her illustrations and want some help with your own books, we’d love to hear from you.

Written by Jo Smyth (

A few of my previous clients

happydesigner clients

  • “Sarah’s advice has been invaluable, she could have just illustrated my first attempt but knew there was more to be had from the story and pointed me towards the right help." – Darron Jon Love

  • "Sarah loves her work, her friendly ‘can do’ approach is reassuring whether you’re on your first or tenth book."  – Darron Jon Love
  • Sarah is professional, friendly and very knowledgeable, she delivered 100% with a new logo that was spot on! We can't recommend her enough!” - Lucy @ Get Active

  • “Sarah was lovely to work with and keen to make sure that the illustrations were a perfect match for the story. It’s obvious that she really cares about her work and wants you, the author, to be happy with the final results.” – Marion Adams

  • "Sarah quickly understood what I wanted to achieve and the look I was after. Sarah kept me informed and brought me into the whole process” – Darron Jon Love

  • "I hope my recommendation will persuade you to use Sarah! I cannot fault her, for her professionalism, enthusiasm and talent." - Michelle Hawkins, Director: The Flying DoDo

  • "The logos are absolutely fantastic, they are spot on brief and are even better than we imagined!Paolo Pini, Step Up To Languages

  • "Outstanding illustrator with exceptional talent. You couldn’t wish for a better artist, as it would be impossible to find. Such a spectacular gifted designer who is always happy!" - Rachel Lake

  • Sarah is an extremely talented designer and illustrator. She has that rare gift of being able to find something in your business or character that you never knew existed" Craig Green

  • "WOW! Love it! I'm so happy with what you've produced- and with so little input from me. FANTASTIC!!! THANK YOU” - Darren Pascoe: 'Red Rabbit Book'

  • “When we first contacted Sarah, Dainty Dizzy was a concept;  an idea to be shaped into a brand.  Sarah took this idea and illustrated it perfectly….and our brand look and feel was born.” – Dainty Dizzy

  • "She has a keen eye for the quirky detail, she is punctual and a joy to work with. I simply cannot praise her enough.” - Clickety Books

  • “I was so nervous ringing you as i've never done anything like this before, but you were so friendly and put me completely at ease.” - Donna Purvis

  • "These posters and flyers are perfect”
    - Julia G, Manager at the Truro branch of Pets at Home

  • "It's been great working with Sarah as our illustrator! She's been so great in taking all feedback on board and delivers work of the highest standard. Would 100% recommend :-)" - Michelle Gibbs, Doodle Dozen Series
  • “Thank you, Sarah, for the amazing work you did on the illustrations for my book. Working with you has been so easy thanks to your enthusiasm, flexibility, support, professionalism and, of course, the amazing quality of your work." – Stuart Neath

  • Sarah really understood the brief right from the beginning and has been able to translate my ideas and mental images, that at times were quite specific, into magical illustrations that are better than I’d ever hoped. She has absolutely nailed it!” – Gareth Edwards

  • "Thank you both so much for your hard work and dedication. Sarah is a fantastic illustrator! It is nice to know I have worked with someone who is so professional at her job, and will certainly remember her for the future if I need another book illustrating."
  • “Sarah’s re-branding of my business has given it a much needed fresh and quirky feel. She provided us with an extremely friendly courteous and efficient service and injected an energy into the project, that only Sarah could.” – Discovery Leisure

  • "Sarah is amazing - very fast at understanding the requirements, great pictures and never too much trouble. I recommend her wholeheartedly" - Fernando Caldeira-Saraiva
  • Sarah has a great insight into how to best produce a children’s book and is really helpful in getting you there! I really cannot recommend Sarah enough – brilliant designer, friendly and professional. The experience has been a great one!“ – Jodie Jackson
  • “I am so happy that I found Sarah to bring my book to life. Sarah took the time to listen and really made the effort to make sure that I was happy and her brilliant designs translated the words of my book into a beautiful visual story." - Jodie Jackson

  • "Sarah understood what I was looking for and produced a fantastic logo for me.  She is very approachable and friendly – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her” Katie Jarvis, Fancy Prints

  • “Books arrived safely today- I am absolutely delighted with how they look – I can’t thank you enough – you’ve made my dream come true :)” – Jane Collins

  • "I am absolutely thrilled with the colours and love the look and overall feel of the book, its so different and unique, thank you so much"
  • "I can’t speak highly enough of Sarah! She has brought Roopert Snoopert to life in a way I could never have imagined.
    The illustrations are fantastic! Sarah keeps you update with progress from the draft stage right through to sign off." - Paul Micklewright