The making of Robin and the White Rabbit

Emma Lindström

Illustrator Emma Lindström talks us through how Robin and the White Rabbit came to be, and shares her process for creating the striking water colour and photo imagery that adorn the book.

Under a tree in the schoolyard, a lone child is sitting. They sit there looking at the others… all the while turning further and further away. The feelings are piling up around the child, but no one’s there to help the child reach through the wall of feelings that separates them from the other children. The child is told that they must play with the other children, that they should be involved in the world around them. But how do you do that? The only thing the child knows right now is that it is fairly safe to sit under the tree… But what if a white rabbit would show up? A soft and kind rabbit who you can hug and play with…

Hello, my name is Emma Lindström. I am a preschool teacher with several years of experience supporting children with special needs, now specialising in visual aid.

In the summer of 2015, I sat at a café with my new-found friend Åse. We met only a few days earlier, by chance at a picnic. Åse talked about her experiences with people in need of visual communication, and soon we started to discuss the importance of understanding the need for people to communicate in ways other than spoken language. I related to my experiences as a support teacher in preschool and Åse talked about the various projects she participated in and her experiences from Konstfack College of Arts. After a while we considered what it would be like to create a picture book that highlights visual communication.

We visited many cafés spending hours discussing our idea. Somewhat unexpectedly a white rabbit became central to the concept, in order to make the world a little bit happier. In the book, we meet a child in a school… this is a child who may not be so involved in other stories. It is not a child who goes on wild adventures or comes up with exciting ideas. It is not even the troublemaker in the class. So why do we want to write about this child…? Because this child is also a great kid! We just have to listen and explore who this person is.

You have probably seen them – maybe you have been there yourself – the child who sits there break after break watching what the others are doing, but never joining in, the child that without fail is the last one to go out to the playground, or perhaps the one who goes directly to sit by the tree time after time. These children are not seen as exciting or worth listening to. For some children the only escape route is exclusion, when things get too much or the surroundings demand that everything is done in a way that they do not understand, or feel part of.

In a certain sense, this is a harsh book, but it is not without light and warmth. All that the book requires of us is that we scratch the surface of the child’s world. In this book, a small white rabbit does just that. A white rabbit with a blue shoulder bag loaded with visual communication. In the book we focus on words for feelings, and activity cards as a basis for communication. It is a book that can be read as a story for children; whether they live in exclusion, are in need of visual aid, or just want to hear a story. It is also a book that can be read by educators, parents or other adults with the aim to discover new perspectives and gain inspiration.

The Creative Process

In many ways complementing the spoken language with methods of visual representation can be described as a journey. Maybe the journey starts with a voyage into one’s own imagination.

“Do I dare start drawing?”

Some might think back to art lessons at school. Perhaps you find yourself asking questions like “what if I use the wrong kind of images?” or “can you even really talk about feelings with pictures?”

Although I have always liked to draw and paint, it was all new to me to communicate with someone using images, until the day I was persuaded to try. I was working in a preschool with a child who, like the child in the book, seemed to be surrounded by a bubble. I was fortunate enough to meet Marie – an absolutely amazing special educator. She helped me to replace the anxiety I had of making mistakes with a healthy curiosity to find more ways to breaking through. It doesn’t need to be more difficult than that. This is where I started my journey. I could not have imagined that there was a whole world of communication that I had not discovered before!

In the book we meet a child sitting alone under a tree. The words that come to the child do not go in and instead settle like a bubble. Fortunately, just when everything seems very dark, a white rabbit pops up with visual aids, and starts to make a hole in the bubble. The white rabbit shows in its own easy and playful way how easy it is to get started with visual communication.

Are you ready to jump in?

  1. Start with a sketch

Emma Lindström

2. Find the right lines to draw Robin’s portrait

Emma Lindström

3. Working with details

Emma Lindström

4. Sketch is ready

Emma Lindström

5. Start with the aquarelles (thin, transparent watercolours)

Emma Lindström

6. Take your time

Emma Lindström

7. The finished aquarelle drawing

Emma Lindström

8. Scan the image

Emma Lindström

9. Erase “background noise” and edit the details to your taste

Emma Lindström

10. Trialing different background photos

Emma Lindström

11. Finally finding the right one. This one was hard. Unfortunately it was an old photo with my son on it, so I had to do some retouching

Emma Lindström

12. Editing the photo to fit with the aquarelle

Emma Lindström

13. Adding the text and the final colour editing. One image done!

Emma Lindström

Discover Robin and the White Rabbit here, and enhance the well-being of sensitive children by giving them a tool to express themselves.

If you would like to find out more about communicating with hard to reach children, and hear the latest news and offers on books relevant to you, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and you may unsubscribe at any time. You may also be interested in liking our Autism, Asperger’s and Related Conditions and Special Educational, PSHE and Early Years Resources Facebook pages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.