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The Secret of Black Rock – FCBG Children’s Book Award Blog Tour


We were very excited at #PictureBookClub to be asked to take part in the blog tour for the books shortlisted for the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Children’s Book Award! This is the only book award to be voted for solely by the readers; children themselves. You can view the shortlisted books in each category and register to vote here.

And then we were doubly excited to get the chance to have an insiders look at The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton from Flying Eye Books. This is a beautiful book and anyone who knows me will recognise that the environmental message at the heart of this story will be music to my ears (and eyes)!

Joe was kind enough to share some of his sources of inspiration and preparatory work for Black Rock.

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‘I discovered this picture online whilst looking for inspiration for a university project. It’s a picture of the Old Man of the Lake which is a log that has been floating in Organ’s Crater lake for around 120 years. In 1938 they tracked it’s movements and it travelled 60 miles in just 3 months. This sparked my imagination and made me wonder what could be below the water.’

‘The illustration I did in university after reading about the Old Man of the Lake. An unnamed furry creature that looks more moomin like. This would later become the influence for Black Rock.’

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Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910), Summer Squall, 1904. Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. (61.6 x 76.8 cm). Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.8

‘A painting by Winslow  Homer I looked to a lot for inspiration. I love the tiny ship lost in the distance and the way he paints the froth of the wave in contrast to the rock.’

‘Early sketches of Erin her dog and her mum and a colour test for the scene when Erin confronts the grown ups. I knew I really wanted to have this in because I liked the way it can show how something can be lost in communication without having to get bogged down in the details. It just shows how people can imagine the same thing in different ways. There are things I prefer about this to the final but it didn’t fit in with the final look of the book.’
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‘A sketch, a colour test and the final version of the final image of The Secret of Black Rock. I the first version along with a basic storyboard to Flying Eye to show what I had in mind for the book. Eventually we decided that it would be better if the Black Rock would have more of a tree house style lighthouse as it would be more fun to illustrate and not be too heavy for the Black Rock to carry around all day.’

Thanks so much, Joe, for sharing these insights into the preparation and work that went into creating the characters and story behind The Secret of Black Rock. It’s always interesting to re-read a book after seeing the work behind it and it was fascinating to do that in this case. Maybe you’ll come to Picture Book Club one day and share some of the inspiration behind your next book!

Black Rock is a story about curiosity and bravery and I loved the way the environmental message is entirely hopeful showing that we can all strive to be the change we want to see.

Take a look at all the Picture Book nominees for the Children’s Book Award here. If you’re old (like me) then I’m afraid you can’t vote but children can! And look out for the forthcoming blogs from @librarymice, @playbythebook and @toppsta on the other short-listed picture books.