John Harrold, who worked on the Rupert Annuals and the Daily Express' Rupert Bear strip for more than 30 years, was also given an extra tier of challenge with this, his first major publishing commission since leaving Rupert and friends behind, as The Elves and The Shoemaker, 1897 is a story told almost entirely without words. John worked closely on the project with Independent Literacy consultant and publisher Alan Peat, who strongly believes that wordless picture books are a valuable way of encouraging children of all ages to enjoy stories. Alan said: "John had decades of experience drawing Rupert Bear, where he carefully structured the frames and their sequential relationship to ensure that the stories could be easily understood by young children who hadn't yet learned to read." "Wordless picture books are an immensely valuable tool for the development and enjoyment of both reading and writing. They help children to gain an understanding of how whole stories are constructed. They also serve as a prompt for the imagination." "With Rupert, John honed his ability to create narrative images that were as independent of the text as possible.
He said at the start that illustrating 'The Elves and The Shoemaker 1897' simply meant taking things one stage further!" John and Alan's new version of The Elves, is sited in 1897, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee year. "We wanted to include incidental historical details, chamber pots and the like, to add an extra layer of interest for readers of all ages, " Alan explained. "It gave John the additional challenge of seamlessly integrating these into the story, which he has managed to do brilliantly. It's a real testament to his skill as an artist and illustrator." John said: "I relished the challenge of recounting the late Victorian version of 'The Elves and the Shoemaker' in a purely graphic form without employing dialogue or any of the little explanatory captions such as 'Later that day - '; 'Next morning - '; or 'Autumn turns to winter' that one normally uses in graphic works to inform the reader of the passage of time." "I've tried to create extended sequences of unbroken, chronological action in order to facilitate their retelling by children, but there were, inevitably, moments when I had to convey, in some way or other, the passage of time.
This is something which is often done in TV or cinematic dramatisations through evocative music. These elements, which link the extended sequences, were, I must confess, the hardest parts of the story to handle, demanding the greatest ingenuity." "I very much hope that the visual narrative and images will fire many young imaginations." John is currently working on a series of children's books together with Alan Peat and Creative Educational Press Ltd and is in the process of finishing 'The Magic Stone' a delightful, contemporary tale with colour illustrations and text, written by Alan Peat.
Publisher: Creative Educational Press Limited