Once upon a time there was a Little girl who loved making books...
When I was little I always felt a bit "different". I spent many happy hours making comics and scrap books and other paper projects. I loved using words and pictures to tell stories and make sense of things in the world around me.
I shared my creations with my family and schoolfriends, getting such a thrill from others enjoying what I had made. I never dared to dream this was something I could do as a grown up, and I duly became an accountant (so boring), then a school teacher (less boring).
In 2018, after the death of my Father, I decided I was fed-up with my sub-optimal every day life. I wanted to start living the life I had always hoped for as a kid, one where I am genuinely happy every day.
I booked myself in for a transformational workshop in Peru, where I learned that happiness is a choice. We are happy when we choose to see that everything is exactly as it should be. Since then I have been working on making choices that serve my happiness.
6 months later The Happy Book Company was born and I have never looked back. I gave myself a year to work part time, hone my drawing skills, and produce my first book. I told myself I would make this happen, no matter what.
I won a place on the Network for Creative Enterprise, a partnership between UWE Bristol and four West of England cultural hubs, and started working at The Guild Co-working Hub in Bath which soon became my second home. I so enjoyed working around other creatives and flourished in the vibrant community of artists and small creative business owners.
I was selected to exhibit my work with 9 other creatives from the Network for Creative Enterprise at Knowle West Media Centre in Summer 2019, showing how we had grown our creative practice, and the vision we had for developing it into the future.
I was invited to work alongside Dr Michael Johnson from the Innovation School at The Glasgow School of Art to further nurture and grow The Happy Book Company. This programme, the Value of Creative Growth, opened my eyes to the path way beyond the creation of my first book, to a happy global publishing house.
I made a book! Squirrel and the Three Bears, my first children's picture book was written, beautifully illustrated and printed in time for the Frome Book Fair in July 2019.
Enjoying autumn seemed like a great plan. But when the snow sets in, Squirrel must do whatever it takes to get ready for the cold. Will she dare to ask for help?
Squirrel is far from perfect, but we learn to love her for this. She is the only Squirrel brave enough to approach the Bears, who end up being much friendlier than we would expect. This is a book about how asking for help is actually the most courageous thing you can do.
Squirrel learns that vulnerability is our super power. In truth, I am Squirrel. Making my first books there were so many things I didn't know how to do, and my previous belief of having to be fully independent and do everything by myself wasn't going to cut the mustard. So I needed to learn how to ask for help. So I made this book and based the three bears on real people in my life who are always there for me when I need help: My Dad, my teacher Mikis, and my partner Colin. I saw the magic of how being vulnerable not only got me out of trouble, but also helped to build dreams, and amazing friendships.
My creative process evolved enormously. The illustrations started as watercolours, but required more texture and vibrancy. I switched to chalk pastel on rough coloured paper, which I enjoyed smudging and blending, with extra detail added in pencil crayon.
Through making this book I became confident working digitally, and enjoy the freedom to add tiny details late on in the editing process, like the teeny weeny scarves on Mr and Mrs Hedgehog.
The supporting cast of woodland creatures have their own distinct characters, opening up the possibility for future spin offs and sequels. The chess-playing badgers in particular are proving to be very popular so watch this space.
Squirrel and the Three Bears was a resounding success on Kickstarter, which funded a large print run of the book, and saw copies being posted to every continent in the world. Except Antarctica, but we'll get there soon.
I launched straight back into making a new book once Squirrel and the Three Bears was out in the world. The story had been evolving since September 2019 when I had thought of the title: The Girl Who Walked to the Moon.
Little Tessa and her moon mission dream was brought to life in April 2020, and I couldn't be happier with her.
Little Tessa dreams of being the first woman to land on the moon.
After her rocket made from boxes gets her off to a slow start, Tessa sets off on an epic adventure around the world to find out how to make her moon dream come true. Ancient moon rituals from three different cultures grant her the wisdom she was missing, but will she be able to put it into practice?
It's a spiritual tale for practical people, showing us that success involves stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.
Little Tessa goes on an adventure around our beautiful planet, learning valuable lessons about the moon and herself along the way. The people she meets may not know how to build a rocket, but they do help Tessa to see that she already has everything she needs to make her moon dream come true.
First stop North America (right): Tessa learns that trusting in herself and her choices is the best option for moving in the right direction.
Second stop Peru (below): Tessa fights her demons to find her true power.
Third stop, Indonesia (below right): The moon shows Tessa how we all have dark and light in ourselves which is what makes us human, and it is what makes us great.
Back home Tessa is faced with reality and has to put all these great lessons into practice. Will she triumph? Will she be the first woman to land on the moon?
The story sparks lots of questions about different cultures in our world and how people are quite different but in some ways the same. I want my stories to start conversations between families and encourage curiosity amongst young people to go and find out more about the wonderful world we live in.
I was an unstoppable 7 year old, and that fire-ball got lost somewhere between university and real-life when I realised that I hadn't ever learned how to deal with the ups and downs of being a human. I'd kept myself safe and comfortable in the small pond of my school years, and couldn't cope with the wild ocean outside, even though it looked really fun and I really wanted to go swimming in it.
As The Girl Who Walked to the Moon I face my fears one after the other on the adventurous journey to the moon and into myself. What I found was more incredible than I ever imagined when I started making the book, teaching me never to underestimate what I can do, if I just choose to dream big and never give up.
If you want your child to be one of those people who grows up really believing that they can do whatever they put their minds and hearts to, then this book is for you.
The Girl Who Walked to the Moon did fantastically on Kickstarter, picking up retail contracts for sale in USA and Singapore, alongside many other enthusiastic backers.
I wanted the illustrations to be full of love and detail and little things to find so the book can be enjoyed in a different way each time it is opened.
The spreads are painted with gouache and acrylic, with details added in digital pencil crayon. I enjoyed working on dark coloured paper with brightly coloured paint, and made use of digital tools to create complex worlds of stars, planets and far away galaxies.
The story is written in rhyming couplets and is fun to read aloud as a family at story time. It's a great educational tool for appreciating the cultures of people around the world, learning about the geography of our beautiful planet, and realising that girls can be bad-ass astronauts too.
"She travels through snow and ice, deserts and mountains and each place gives her hope, happiness and a solid dose of self-love.
It is learning to understand and cope that give us strength to continue on the path to our dreams.
With subtle themes of bereavement, doubt and perseverance this will be perfect for all readers with a dream in their hearts!
The smile on Tessa's face as she says "I will only succeed; I won't settle for less" is wonderful and reads like a mantra for us all!"
Erin, Children's Book Reviewer, Asset Reading Advolcate, UK
" I honestly can't describe how much I enjoyed reading through your book (I read it twice already). Everything from the narrative, artwork, message, cultural meetings - it all speaks to me on a core level, and I wish every child in the world would have this book on their nightstand. Even though I don't know you that well, I really felt that the little girl was you. And how you managed to attach indigneous spirituality in a novel way. Well done."
Morten Ris, Journalist, Norway
"It is so beautiful and spot on, well done, you should be super proud. It is amazing to me how many delicate subjects it touches so seamlessly and how much you feel the love that was put into it."
Liesje Hasson, Artist, Peru
Sometimes sad things happen in happy books. Sometimes scary things happen. And sometimes the absolute worst things we can imagine happen.
My brand of happiness isn't about sunshine and rainbows and marshmallows and unicorns, although a sprinkling of these is very nice. But I believe that happiness is about feeling all of the things, and that this is all a wonderful part of the human experience. My stories uncover the beauty in the 'bad' and how the darkest clouds have the sparkliest linings.
Through writing stories about the things I am most scared of I no longer live in anxiety. Being less full of fear means there's lots of extra room for the really good stuff.
Which is why the sequel to The Girl Who Walked to the Moon is all about the most incredible thing in the whole wide world. The magnetic force thing that holds the universe together. The thing that none of us can live without. The thing we want the most. Love.
The Happy Book Company is not just about making books, I love sharing them too.
I organised a fun-packed book tour for World Book Week in February 2020 and visited bookshops and schools in Bath and London, sharing my story with over 1000 young people in just 2 weeks.
I absolutely love reading my story to kids, and talking about how and why I made it. I'm always fascinated with the questions children will ask and how welcoming they are to me in their classroom.
I was so enthralled to have met so many young people before going into schools became a lot more challenging from March 2020, and I look forward to filling my calendar with exciting Happy Book events in 2021.
What's next for Little Tessa?
Things go awry on her way to the moon and she finds herself stranded on the back of a giant asteroid with a broken rocket, a pedantic man, and a very fluffy dog called Mr Fluffy - a beautiful reflection of my colourful year since March 2020.
I am developing The Girl Who Walked to the Moon into a high adventure series where Little Tessa travels to the edges of the universe and back. She'll learn more and more about the world around her, and in doing so find the keys to unlock all the wonderful and ever more mysterious corners of her own heart.
In this first sequel, Little Tessa becomes Queen of Stars. I'll say no more for now, watch this very starry space.
I started The Happy Book Company because I believe we can teach
ourselves to be happy every day, whatever happens.
My happiness is my number one priority in life, and I will stop at nothing to feel more love, pride, and gratitude for the amazing human I am, and this wonderful life I have been gifted.
On that note, I would like to thank all those wonderful people who buy my books and share my stories with their families and friends. You make me a very Happy Book Company and without you I wouldn't be able to live the life I had always dreamed of.
It is my absolute pleasure to make beautiful paper projects for people to enjoy, and in doing so help everyone to realise, like I have, that we’re not so different after all.