Robertsbridge illustrator brings classic children’s tale to life

Sarah Massini with the Velveteen Rabbit. Picture courtesy of www.johnnypowell.net
Sarah Massini with the Velveteen Rabbit. Picture courtesy of www.johnnypowell.net
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An illustrator has brought a well-loved children’s classic back to life.

Sarah Massini, who lives in Robertsbridge, was commissioned by publishers to provide illustrations for The Velveteen Rabbit.

The children’s book, written by Margery Williams (also known as Margery Williams Bianco), was first published in 1922 and has been republished many times since. It charts the story of a stuffed rabbit and his desire to become real, through the love of his owner.

Sarah said: “The Velveteen Rabbit has been a much-loved story since it was first published. So when publishers from Nosy Crow asked me whether I was interested in being the illustrator of this, the first in their series of beautifully produced classics, I felt part privileged and part petrified. And indeed it did take me a while to not be like the proverbial rabbit stuck in headlights.

“I spent about a year working on The Velveteen Rabbit, taking inspiration from our Sussex countryside through the seasons. It’s had a lot of very positive reviews and feedback. I feel very lucky that Nosy Crow believed I could do justice to this beautiful and touching story.”

Sarah has illustrated more than a dozen for publishers in London and New York.

She added: “My next published book will be the second in a baby/toddler series called A Recipe for Playtime, by Peter Bently. I’m very excited about my two current projects. Both are beautifully evocative stories, firstly a tale by Sam Hay about a boy who finds a lost star and the second is about friendship, written especially for me by Tracey Corderoy. I have a number of further books lined up with Bloomsbury, Egmont and Nosy Crow.

“My job is to breathe visual warmth into a text, to create a world and characters that a child can identify with and also to add extra interest – stuff that isn’t necessarily written in the story but which adds body and depth, that goes a little bit beyond the story while also staying faithful to it.

“Usually a publisher will send me a text, and if I like it I’ll go through a three-stage process: preparing thumbnails, then rough pencil drawings and then colour art. This all happens in close collaboration with the art director and editor at the publishing house.

“My husband Peter encouraged me to give illustration a go, knowing that it was something I felt very passionate about.”

Sarah is at Battle Books tomorrow (Saturday) from 10.30am to 4pm. There will be story-telling, Velveteen Rabbit-themed crafts, tips for drawing rabbits and other animals, book-signing and rabbity biscuits. The event is for children aged three to eight. Entry is free. To book call 07894 436871 or email keren@battlebooks.co.uk.

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