Behold! A wondrous picture book about a new baby! And if that’s not enough we also have an interview with the brilliant illustrator David Roberts. His Royal Tinyness: A Terrible True Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by David Roberts and published by Walker Books.
A fairy tale style story told from the point of view of the Princess big sister. A kind and clever girl with long, flowing wondrous hair, her life is suddenly turned upside down by the arrival of the noisy, smelly, King Baby.
All anyone can talk about now is His Royal Tinyness and the poor Princess has to fend for herself; cooking her own meals, doing all the cleaning all by herself and dressing just in old rags… At least that’s the way The Princess tells it. It turns out she has quite the imagination and is drawing her own version of the events leading up to King Baby’s first birthday.
The Princess plans to tell all The Land the awful truth about her treatment during the party, that is until His Lordship starts to cry. He is inconsolable and no amount of cooing and fussing from his many adoring subjects will soothe him. There’s only one person who can cheer him up…
A uniquely written story with a clever and very funny narrative that is sure to make adults smile as well as entertain little ones. The fantastic vintage illustrations see The Princess’s drawings run alongside the real events and it’s great fun to spot the differences in The Princess’s exaggerated version of events.
A fantastic take on sibling rivalry and the almost universal feeling by one sibling that their parents treat another like a king or queen.
We are thrilled to welcome illustrator David Roberts to our blog to talk about all things drawing, siblings and wearing tights on your head…
King Baby’s family are fabulous, what made you choose vintage 70s for them and are any of the characters based on anyone from your life?
I love 70s fashion. I was a little boy at this time and I can remember being fascinated by the fashions I saw on TV and in magazines. Looking back through old photographs from my childhood I am captivated by some of the clothes my family wore and the clothes my parents dressed me and my brother and sister in. The patterns, colours and fabrics made fashion so much fun.
For the family in ‘His Royal Tinyness’, I upped their budget a lot from what my family could have afforded, as I was very inspired by three fashion designers from that period: Zandra Rhodes, Bill Gibb and Ossie Clark. They all had a sort of fantasy/fairy tale style to their designs, which I thought would work really well for a book about a girl who imagines she is a princess and her brother a king. Although the princess character isn’t based on myself – I did used to wear tights on my head to imagine I had long flowing hair!
The tights on the head is a genius idea!
We love the two versions of the story that run alongside each other in this story, can you tell us a bit about how this was created?
The little girl in the story has created a fantasy world for herself where she is a princess whose life has been turned upside down by the arrival of her baby brother ‘His Royal Tinyness’. She creates a story telling us how awful life has become all because of King Baby. However, in reality she is having a lovely time and is well loved and cared for alongside her new brother. It was a real challenge to try and show the imaginary world and reality within the same illustration so I decided to do it through her drawings telling one story, the fantasy, with the rest of the illustration showing the reality.
How much inspiration did you draw from your own experience with your siblings for this story? And, were you the jealous one or the King Baby?
Well, I am the middle child so do I need to say more! I have a younger sister (queen baby) and an older brother. I think I probably made both their lives a misery!
Which books do you remember enjoying when you were a child? And, are there any current writers and illustrators that you particularly admire?
When I was little we would go to the library once a week and borrow a different book each time. So although I read hundreds of books I didn’t own any of them. One in particular that I do remember was John Burningham’s ‘Mr Gumpy’s Outing’. I love the way he draws the people and the animals all having a day out together, I love the feeling of a hot summer’s day and sailing in a boat down the river.
Other books I remember are ‘The Fantastic Mr Fox’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’, ‘The Wishing Chair’ and ‘The Faraway Tree’. All stories my brother used to read to me before we went to sleep and I would lie in bed imagining all the pictures to go with the story.
There are so many new picture book makers that I admire. I particularly love Tor Freeman – I love how she draws animals and there is so much humour in her characters. She is an absolute genius!
I also love Jim Field, Kitty Crowther, Liz Pichon, Ed Vere, Kate Hindley, Nadia Shireen, Maisie Paradise Shearring and Jùlia Sardá to name just a few as there are so many.
You have worked on tons of books and worked with so many wonderful authors, do you have a particular project that you really enjoyed or has stayed with you for any reason?
I’ve been lucky to work with so many fantastic, imaginative and creative people. In one way or another they are all my favourites because the stories are all so varied. Whether it’s doing retellings of fairy tales with my sister Lynn or Ying Chang Compestine, or spooky stories with black and white illustrations to capture a scary atmosphere with Chris Priestly or Sally Gardner. Hilariously funny books that make me laugh out loud whilst I’m drawing for Sally Lloyd-Jones, Michelle Robinson, Philip Ardagh, Peter Bently and Julian Clary or books about following your dreams like Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere and Ada Twist with Andrea Beaty, or wonderful rhyming texts with the awesome Julia Donaldson. All these books are enormous fun and were a real pleasure and honour to work on. Most recently I wrote and illustrated a book about the women’s suffrage movement. I’ve always been interested in history since I was young so this was a hugely exciting project for me.
Apart from illustration, writing and making hats, what other skills do you have that you’d like to share with us?
I’m very good at sitting down and doing nothing but I don’t get much time for that! I love knitting, particularly socks, hats and gloves (mittens – fingers are far too difficult!)
Sitting down and doing nothing is too often overlooked as a past time!
Thank you so much David for taking the time to answer our questions.
Buy His Royal Tinyness: A Terrible True Story from Wordery.
Many thanks to Walker Books for sending a copy of this book for review.
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