Inspiring story behind a children’s book


Nothing is ever as easy as it looks.Do you think writing and illustrating a children’s book is easy? I thought it was a cake walk because a children’s book needs a simple story and some pictures related to that story. But, I was wrong.

Recently, I attended a ‘Read Africa Week’ event at my local library where the Elizabeth Zunon, illustrator of the book ‘One Plastic Bag : Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of The Gambia ‘, described the effort that went into creating this inspiring book.  Here are the details  shared by Elizabeth in that session.

Story behind the book:

The book One Plastic Bag’ is a real story of an African woman ‘Isatou Ceesay’ living in Njau, Gambia.  In Nijau , discarded plastic bags accumulated in heaps and the place started breeding mosquitoes. It was unsafe for children to play outside. Goats died when they swallowed the plastic. Isatou wanted to clean up the environment and started collecting the discarded plastic bags. Isatou and her friends cleaned the plastic bags and using their creativity, like crochet they wove the plastic  bags into purses. They also created ear rings, necklaces,bracelets out of the plastic bags. All these were on display at the library and it was hard to believe that they were all made out of plastic bags. Here is a picture of one such purse.img_1598

Isatou  story is very inspiring.  It’s amazing how she made such wonderful art out of the plastic.

The author of the book  Miranda Paul visited Gambia, met Isatou,  learnt her story and wrote the book.

Effort behind the illustration:

The illustrator’s work was equally hard. Elizabeth Zunon, illustrator of the book, wanted the pictures in the book to appear as real as possible. She was in the United States where as Isatou lived in Gambia. So Elizabeth took pictures of herself performing the activity which had to be illustrated for the book. These  photos helped her to understand the lighting, shading, and facial expressions . Based on the photos she drew pictures. She wanted give 3D effect to the pictures wherever possible. She carefully studied the dressing of Isatou and chose bright colored fabric which resembled the patterns on Isatou’s’ dress and glued pieces of fabric to the pictures. Thereby, she created an art work for each illustration , took photos of them and scanned them to the publisher. She said it took her 9 months to do her research, take photos and illustrate the entire book! Wow! I never thought that illustrating a children’s book would require so much effort.

The story of Isatou , research by the author, effort by the illustrator are all amazing. Nothing is ever as easy as it looks! 

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