Andrea Edmonds is an artist and illustrator who has worked on children’s books, greeting cards, stationery, commissioned artworks and animation. She loves developing story and character ideas fueled by a stash of dark chocolate and countless cups of tea. Her latest book, written with Robert Vescio, is The Voyage – a powerful story of a family fleeing their war-torn country and making a dangerous trip across the ocean.
Today, Andrea’s on the blog to tell us all about how she went about creating the beautiful illustrations for The Voyage. Read on!
The global refugee crisis is currently at its worst -with over 65 million people forcibly displaced.
More than half of those people are children.
The author Robert Vescio was inspired to write a story about the refugee crisis that was unique, simplified, and suitable for young readers. So, when EK Books offered me the opportunity to illustrate The Voyage, I was honoured to be able to contribute to such an important and contemporary picture book.
Robert took great care to choose just 14 words to tell the powerful story of a family fleeing war to make a dangerous trip across the ocean to a new life in a new land. Thought-provoking and simple, his concept of using sparse but powerful words leaves the reader with space for reflection and discussion.
Robert chose words to evoke emotion, so that the reader could imagine what such a journey would be like. Children are encouraged to expand on the words by asking questions and communicate their own understanding.
The illustrations enhance the meaning of each word, and tell their own visual narrative. After reading The Voyage for the first time, I researched refugees from different parts of the world and was saddened to read of the millions of refugees in the Middle East, and of the current crisis in Syria.
This influenced me to create a Middle Eastern family to be the central characters of The Voyage.
My aim was to create a family that readers could identify with and be drawn into their experience, visually and emotionally. I drew inspiration from the beauty of their culture and traditions. The architecture, colours, fabrics, music and food, of the Middle East were all referenced to set the mood and scene.
Giving the characters an authentic backstory added deeper meaning to Robert’s sparse but powerful text. I started with character sketches first:
Father: A traditional Oud player. He comes from a family of musicians, it’s his livelihood and he grabs his instruments to take with him when he flees.
Little Girl Daughter: The central character, who clings to her beloved pet duck and darbuka drum. She enjoys playing music with her family, spending time with her friends, visiting her Grandparents, and playing in the garden with her pet duck and baby brother.
Mother: Loves gardening, she clings to her baby & also takes with her seeds from their homeland to plant in the new country.
Baby Brother: Loves playing with his big sister & pet duck.
A storyboard and rough layouts of each double page spread were created before the final art work commenced.
We hope that The Voyage will gently introduce the concept of refugees to young readers and help to raise more awareness in our communities, encourage empathy and a deeper understanding of the trauma, exhaustion, and loss that refugees experience.
This Voyage is featured in our Refugees and Displaced People collection, where we feature the best books to help readers of all ages understand the courage and plight of forced migration.
Displaced by war and conflict, a refugee family sets out on a voyage into the unknown.
Told in only a few words, this is the powerful story of a family fleeing their war-torn country and making a dangerous trip across the ocean to a new life in a new land...