I interviewed Madeleina Kay for this blog a couple of weeks ago – and wrote about her Letters2Europe project. At the time, she mentioned an anti-Brexit children’s book in the pipeline. Since then, I’ve seen several of her eye-catching illustrations appearing on social media, so it seemed like it was time to go back to Madeleina – and Alba White Wolf – to learn more.
1. Tell me a little bit about your project – what is the book called, what’s it about, and when and where will it be available?
The book’s working title is ‘Alba White Wolf’s Adventures in EUrope’ but is liable to change. It’s about celebrating the diverse cultures across the EU member states and hopefully instilling a sense of the huge privilege it is to be part of the EU which allows us to travel easily, live and work in those different cultures.
It will be available when I’ve finished working on it! (I’m estimating around September).
Initially, it will be sent out to Crowdfunders. It should also be available on Amazon and from my Etsy shop. If I can get it in some book shops, that will be a huge achievement! I will also be donating copies to libraries and schools, if they request it.
2. What inspired you to create a book about Europe for children?
My first children’s book about the refugee crisis went down extremely well with parents, teachers and children. SO I wanted to write a sequel. Over the last year, through Remain campaining I have realised the lack of education about Europe and the EU in schools. Various initiatives are being run by organisations such as YEM (Young European Movement) TES (The European Society) MLMS (My Life My Say) to increase civic education, at schools and universities, but these tend to be aimed at older children and young people. I wanted to create a children’s book that would celebrate European culture and hopefully begin to change the conversation around Europe and the EU so they are not seen as the enemy but our friends and allies. I think it is important that children growing up in the “Brexit Era” don’t develop a narrow minded xenophobic perception of the world, and this story book was one way to help challenge that.
3. Where do you get the ideas for the illustrations for each country? Is it hard to choose what to draw?
It’s incredibly hard to chose what to draw because there is so many fantastic elements in every single country, you could illustrate a book about each of them! I also wanted to get a balance of culture/architecture/landscape, I didn’t want every illustration to be a piece of historical architecture. I have only visited 3 EU countries myself so my working knowledge was vastly insufficient. To decide on the content of the illustrations I really had to do my homework. I did my research online, watching youtube videos from travel vloggers, reading articles and researching tourism websites. I have also been putting out posts on Facebook asking people to contribute their thoughts, ideas and opinions. This has helped me pick up on lesser known gems of information and also get a sense of the really key elements because they recur in multiple people’s comments. I write everything down in my notebook and spend a long time looking through google images. Mainly i’m looking for things that will make a striking visual image, but also reflects the tradition and heritage of the country.
4. What do you hope children will learn from the book?
That membership of the EU is a good thing!
No, in all honesty politics doesn’t really come into the story. It is more about celebrating the diversity of European cultures. I have engaged with many brexiteers online who often argue “We are leaving the EU not Europe”. But the reality of Brexit is that will drastically reduce our ability to experience and engage with those countries and cripple the next generations cultural opportunities.
5. Do you also hope adults will learn something from the book?
I would hope that if any parents who voted for Brexit were reading the book with their children, that they would realise they have deprived their children of enjoying a diverse range of cultural experiences. Hopefully there guilt will inspire them to become Remain activists.
6. Do you have a favourite illustration from the book?
It’s too difficult to pick a favourite! I really like Romania because of the mixture of myth, architecture, nature and comedy I managed to get into one image. The illustration of Malta is also significant to me because it is based on a poster that my High School Geography tutor had in his classroom of the Gozo rock formation. He is retired now and he sends me postcards from his holidays in Europe, most recently of a Greek ampitheatre. His grandchildren all have copies of my books. He said he was amazed I could remember the poster despite the fact that I saw it every day for 3 years in morning/afternoon registration and geography lessons.
7. Has your illustrated journey around Europe made you want to travel to any of the places you’ve featured in particular?
I have only visited France, Netherlands and Spain before, so I have a lot left to visit! I would love to reenact Alba’s journey in real life and take her on the tour of the EU countries and recreate the illustrations as photographs! Perhaps this will be my ambition when the book is a best seller and I can use the money from sales to fund the trip! From my research a few countries have really stood out as places I would like to visit; Estonia, Romania and Malta.
8. What does the real life Alba think about her new-found fame?
Alba is a totally pampered princess and she loves all the fuss and attention she can get! I often complain that she gets so much more media coverage than me and I put in all the hard work! She’s been on international News and BBC 3 times, in the Guardian, the Daily Mirror, the Financial Times, and countless European publications – I just can’t compete! A mother once spotted me at a festival in Sheffield and told her 2 daughters I was the lady who wrote ‘the book about Alba White Wolf’, the little girls squealed with excitement and demanded to know where Alba was, they were so disappointed that I had left her at home!
The only things I would add is that I am hoping to turn the black and white illustrations into a colouring book, or possibly an activity/colouring book with fun facts and non-fiction info to help educate kids about Europe.
Oh and I am hoping to get a few copies into the EU parliament when we take the Letters2Europe project to Brussels!
When Alba was in The Guardian
Support the Crowdfunder for the book!
Follow Madeleina on Twitter
Visit the website for more updates