In 2018 Kate Milner won the Klaus Flugge Prize for most exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration with her debut, My Name is not Refugee. It was a book that encouraged children to think about and empathise with a character in a heartbreaking situation. In It’s a No-Money Day, published this month, she has done this again with great care. The subject of life below the poverty line & food banks from a child’s perspective is treated with compassion & understanding. This book is a must have for every single school. I am therefore delighted to be able to participate in the blog tour organised by Barrington Stoke to mark its publication.
I loved My Name is Not Refugee and thought it dealt with a deeply upsetting subject sensitively and appropriately for a young audience so when I heard about Kate Milner’s latest picture book I had high expectations. I was most definitely not disappointed. This is a deeply affecting book and the illustrations play a significant part in its impact. In my review I mentioned that they convey much that is not voiced by the innocent voice of the child narrator and I am therefore pleased to welcome Kate Milner to my blog today to provide some background to some of her excellent artwork for this special book. She has selected three illustrations.
Kate Milner: I really enjoyed giving a visual texture to the one bedroom flat that this mother and daughter share. I wanted the feeling that they live in a space that has been carved out of a building which originally had a different purpose; that’s why there is a fireplace next to the kitchen sink. The reader can feel that the wallpaper is peeling, tiles have fallen off and clothes need to be hung above the bed because of lack of storage. It was fun to draw but there is another reason why I like this spread, it shows the love between them and that is the absolute heart of the story.
Kate Milner: This spread took a while. In the first version the mother and daughter were waiting alone to be let into the food bank and I had a lot of fun drawing huge bill boards hanging above them advertising fast food. The publishers wisely suggested a queue of people might be better. It was important to me that these people feel like normal citizens, neighbours and friends, because it is normal people who have to use food banks. I am particularly fond of the older couple at the back of the line. They are doing all they can to retain their dignity.
Kate Milner: If you are struggling financially you fantasise about what you will buy when you win the lottery. I do it, I suspect nearly everyone does it at times. My mother and daughter play a game to decide what they might choose if they ever have spare money; a holiday maybe, a washing machine, a kitten. Actually very ordinary things that most of us take for granted. I loved drawing the sweet treats the little girl imagines for herself. I especially like drawing food, not quite as nice as eating it but less fattening.
I should like to thank Kate Milner for taking the time to describe the illustration process which I think adds an extra dimension to my understanding and appreciation of the book. The love between the mother and daughter, ‘the heart of the story’ as described by Kate, is apparent in the illustration depicted here and throughout the entire book adding to its poignancy. The queue at the food bank encourages the reader to linger and there is a feeling of recognition as we look at the wide variety of people portrayed. This is both wise and important.
Please do follow the rest of the blog tour this week to find out more about this moving and thoughtful book.