Our new series, Picture Book Art: Meet The Illustrator, is getting such a lovely reaction from you all. We are delighted to welcome Richard Jones to the series. Richard is an ex-librarian and illustrator of many books including the beautiful The Snow Lion. With Perdu bounding onto the shelves, we are very privileged to have a nice, lingering look at how it came to be.
The story of Perdu arrived in the world after a inspiring conversation with Helen, my editor at Simon and Schuster. We’d been talking through story ideas and both agreed that a story about a dog could be wonderful. Anyone who has followed my work for even a short while will know I always try and squeeze in a dog or two. They’re usually gentle and polite creatures, and more often than not, they sport a neckerchief! Perdu would have neckerchief scarf of his own and it would become an important part of his story.
I began as I always do by filling a notebook with hundreds of thoughts and scribbly sketches. Quite early on in the process I decided that Perdu would be alone in the world and would go on journey from one way of life to another. He would be in search of a place to feel happy and safe, a place to call home.
I didn’t want my Perdu to be a victim in the literal sense. He would be brave and strong and take on his search for a home with optimism and hope. He does get into a few scrapes along the way, however!
One aspect of children’s books that I love is that one can have multiple narratives running through a story at the same time. They can weave, loop and brush against each other, revealing different sides of the same tale. Perdu would have someone looking out for him on his travels and using this design device, the reader could be aware of it before he is! The character of a little girl with a distinctive red bobble hat began to take shape.
Perhaps the low point of the story comes when Perdu is scared away from a restaurant after trying to find something to eat. In the hullabaloo of the chase, he loses his precious scarf and escapes into a park.
When he loses his scarf, Perdu feels like he’s lost it all. For him the scarf is a connection to his previous life and it means everything to him. So when the little girl finds it lying on the road and returns it to him, she is returning to him his sense of self, his status and self worth. A small, kind gesture with wonderful consequences!
Of course Perdu must have a happy ending and with the little girl he does find his place to call home. The final spread was inspired by an earlier painting I made a few years ago.
I knew Perdu would have to be pictured fast asleep and cosy in a bed of his own. There is something impossibly touching about seeing a happy and contented dog snoring away, isn’t there?