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?
- Start with a sketch
2. Find the right lines to draw Robin’s portrait
3. Working with details
4. Sketch is ready
5. Start with the aquarelles (thin, transparent watercolours)
6. Take your time
7. The finished aquarelle drawing
8. Scan the image
9. Erase “background noise” and edit the details to your taste
10. Trialing different background photos
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
12. Editing the photo to fit with the aquarelle
13. Adding the text and the final colour editing. One image done!
Discover Robin and the White Rabbit here, and enhance the well-being of sensitive children by giving them a tool to express themselves.
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