Blog Tour: The Storybook Knight
Welcome to another fun blog tour!
Today I’m sharing my review of The Storybook Knight and some fun bonus book content. Plus, I had a chance to interview the author/illustrator team behind this fun book!
The Storybook Knight (2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Picture Book)
Leo is a knight, but he doesn’t like to fight. He would rather read than seek out danger. His parents have a different view of how a knight should behave so they send Leo away on a quest to fight a dragon. Leo embarks upon his quest with his faithful horse, saddlebags full of books, and a story in his heart.
The Storybook Knight, written and illustrated by Helen and Thomas Docherty, is a tale of following one’s heart and believing in oneself. Children will love the clever rhyme and adorable illustrations as they root for Leo and his books. The concept of Leo knowing his heart, but being forced to try something different by his parents will resonate with young readers. Leo carries his love of books with him on his quest and it serves him well. He goes on a great adventure as his parents wished, but he always stays true to himself. A beautiful and subtle lesson of trying new things, but maintaining one’s integrity at all costs. Especially relevant in this age of social networking when children are bombarded with messages from all sides and face more peer pressure than ever.
Wonderful read! A book for children to carry in their hearts, or saddlebags, when facing life’s obstacles.
Interview With Helen and Thomas Docherty
Thomas and Helen Docherty are the husband and wife team behind The Storybook Knight. They were kind enough to answer a few questions about their newest book, the creative process, and working together as a team.
Where did you get your inspiration for THE STORYBOOK KNIGHT?
HD: It was Tom who came up with the idea of a knight who didn’t want to fight, but he wasn’t sure how to develop the story, so he passed it on to me. I decided to give our knight a passion for reading and some pushy parents who send him off on a quest to ‘prove’ himself… but of course, he ends up proving that the word is mightier than the sword. I think that’s an important message for us all!
How many books have you published together?
HD: Four, so far: The Snatchabook, Abracazebra, The Storybook Knight and an earlier book which we co-wrote (and Tom illustrated), Ruby Nettleship and the Ice Lolly Adventure.
What is the creative process like working as a team? Do you develop the story together or does one part develop more fully before the other (writing before illustrations or vice versa)?
HD: When we work together on a book, the writing always comes first, as a story has to be commissioned by a publisher before Tom can start work on the illustrations. In some cases, as with the Storybook Knight, we work on the initial story idea together before I start writing.
TD: By the time I come to illustrating Helen’s stories, I’ve had a long time to watch Helen develop the text, so I often have quite a few ideas in my head of how the characters and scenes might look. And as the illustrations progress I’m always showing the rough drafts to Helen and getting her feedback and advice – I really appreciate her input.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
HD: An author! I spent most of my childhood writing stories and making them into little books, which I also illustrated. But I put that ambition aside for a long time; I was a language teacher (French, Spanish and English) for many years before I finally started writing again and became a published author.
TD: I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I think I was too busy climbing trees and playing ball with my brothers to give it much thought. Having said that, I always liked drawing and as I got older it became clear that I was going to end up doing something creative. But it wasn’t until after I had graduated from Art College (where I studied sculpture) that I thought back to all the amazing illustrated books I had enjoyed as a child and begun to think that I might like to do something like that myself.
As a child, what was your favorite book?
HD: I had so many favorites! But some of the books that I loved and re-read the most were Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce and a series of books about a girl called Aurora by the Norwegian author Anne-Cath. Vestly.
TD: I am dyslexic and really struggled with my reading when I was young, so picture books and comics were very important to me because I could ‘read’ the pictures, instead of the words. My favorite books were the Asterix comics, and I spent hours looking at and often copying the pictures. It was Asterix books that eventually got me reading, and I’ve never looked back since!
Which part of the writing or illustrating process do you enjoy the most?
HD: The part I enjoy most is when I’ve got a really exciting, complete story idea and have worked out the rhyme scheme I’m going to use. Usually I’ll start with a sentence – not necessarily the first one – which establishes the rhythm of the story in my head. Then I’m ready to start writing… the fun bit!
TD: I love the start of a project when I’m doing lots of quick sketches and you can see the characters and the world around them grow. I also love thinking about the colors that I will use to add drama and atmosphere to the story.
What struggles have you faced as a writer or illustrator?
HD: The hardest part is coming up with a watertight idea for a story. The best stories have their own internal logic; you may not see the end coming when you’re reading the story, but when it does, it all makes complete sense. But of course, those brilliant ideas don’t come every day. The other challenging aspect of being an author is that not every story you write ends up being commissioned – I’ve had plenty turned down by my publishers. You have to learn to get over the disappointment and keep going!
TD: I have good and bad days, just like everyone else. I still do most of my work by hand, using paper and inks and watercolor. A large page can take me a couple of days to paint, and sometimes I mess up and have to start all over again. This can be quite stressful!
Anything else you’d like to add about your work or THE STORYBOOK KNIGHT?
HD: A little known fact is that the original storybook knight was called Gareth, after my dad (and also after one of the Knights of the Round Table). However, our UK publishers wanted a more universal name, so I chose Leo instead – which is our nephew’s name, and works well in lots of languages. The Storybook Knight has been translated into Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian and Slovenian so far.
TD: My favorite character in the story is Ned, Leo’s faithful horse. He doesn’t say anything, so I had lots of fun giving him a personality of his own: loyal, brave, and always on the lookout for a tasty snack.
Bonus Book Content and Giveaway
Storybook Knight landing page
Join Leo’s Storybook Knights, plus pledge your allegiance and receive a certificate of membership!
Download an educator or activity kit
Are you sharing The Storybook Knight in your classroom or looking for more ways to engage your child? Download an educator or activity kit for even more adventures with Leo and Ned.
Rafflecopter: Enter for a chance to win an original sketch of Leo and Ned by illustrator Thomas Docherty! Comment on this blog post plus tweet about the giveaway for two chances to win!
Click on the link below to go to the rafflecopter entry page.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you have trouble entering or have any questions please comment below or contact me.
Learn more about the author and illustrator by visiting their pages or following them on Twitter!
Thomas Docherty on Twitter: @TDIllustration
Helen Docherty on Twitter: @docherty_helen
Thank you to Thomas and Helen Docherty for taking the time to answer all my questions and to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for letting me be a part of the blog tour and providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.