During the last few years, children’s books have transformed, from mere stories to an active and entertaining outlet that have the power to unleash a child's imagination.
Colouring books, exercise books, and instructional books now populate the shelves of many bookstores, so that children are able learn through different characters, and countless new experiences.
We want to prove that diversity has a place in this world, but also that any child can really be the author of their own story.
Lene Noss Ditmansen, founder of MoR
Many years ago, I helped Lene develop a brand for her children’s creativity company, MoR (Myk og Rar – “soft and quirky” in English!)
Lene and I have collaborated on many projects since. For her latest idea, she asked me to join a winning team – comprised of writer Kari, and Lene’s nine year-old daughter Olivia.
Our task was to create a very special and original book for children, called The King's Daughter ("Dattera til Kongen" in Norwegian).
This particular book project began many years ago, when Lene sent me the very first sketch of Ellen, aka The King's Daughter.
She had been drawn by Olivia – who was then just four years old.
Back then, Lene had asked Olivia a very simple question: "Who is the princess?"
Olivia gave an answer that was just as simple: "The King's Daughter!”
The simplicity of Olivia’s answer inspired Lene to create a brand-new book for children. However, a realistic project for the book would not be devised until Olivia was a little older.
Recently, with the help of writer Kari, the nine year-old Olivia started to develop Ellen's story with characters and plots.
All of a sudden, the book transformed into a modern version of Alice in Wonderland: full of creative dialogue and some extremely entertaining plot twists!
Now that the stories and characters were ready and in place, it was my turn to transform the book’s words into images.
I think the most difficult part of this task was pretending I was a child myself!
There is a lively, carefree abandon about childhood that tends to get left behind as we grow up.
But by following Olivia's suggestions and accurate feedback, I gradually forgot about proportions, perfection, and completeness – and the result was that I designed the most enjoyable and funny characters for the book:
- Ellen's best friend, Dagmar, a tomboy dragon who loves marshmallows (and hates boys!)
- Ellen's lovely nanny, Marit, a many-handed monster with a very special power.
- And finally, Prince Aron, a small and deceptively cute prince, whose speciality is lying.
Of course, Olivia supervised the whole process. From typography to colour choice, she had a very clear idea of the book’s ideal look and feel, and she never left me second-guessing.
I was so impressed by the simplicity of her thoughts, and by how much imagination a child could bring to a creative project!
The design of the cover was a simple introduction to the book, setting expectations for lots of fun and creativity. As part of my scope, I also designed some perks for the crowd-funding campaign.
The colour palette for the book is very extensive, made up of some very bright colours. These were carefully matched, to avoid identifying a specific gender.
We also used a mix of typefaces for the book. The handwritten style represents the spontaneous nature of the dialogue, while a more regular typeface was used for the narrative voice.
Each spread of the book also contains specific activities for the child, which is the most exciting and original session of the book.
Exercises are constructed for the child to add their own twist to the story, so they will eventually create their own plot!
In April 2019, the first version of the book was available on the Norwegian crowd-funding website, Startskudd.
If the target amount is reached, the complete book will be released by the end of the year, and available across Norway in bookstores, toy stores, and on various websites.
This was another great experience that my work brought to me. However, the book would not have been created at all, without that magical combination of Olivia's imagination and Lene's vision.
So, if there is a lesson to be learned from The King’s Daughter, it is this: we should never forget that we are able to dream and create.