A little basic research revealed the owner of the property to still be living in the attached middle terraced house - a house you almost miss because it is covered by a huge tree in the front garden.
I set out to create my own story based on these initial pieces of inspiration, in a bid to answer all the questions swirling around my head. Soon a fictionalised story involving an old lady living in a house full of years of memories started to take shape.
Printed & Published by
Moorleys Ltd, November 2022
Another idea which stemmed from the lockdown pandemic of 2020, was a story about an old house in disrepair. A house situated fairly local to me, caught my eye one day on a cold walk during Winter.
A narrow end terraced house which was clearly inhabitable, had smashed windows revealing old lampshades and faded curtains, a broken front door and a wildly overgrown garden next to it. Curiously a small red post box stood alone (still in use), inside the little front yard of the property.
The magical character of "Wooglefog" became a way of making the old lady's world seem a little more accessible to the younger generations. When thinking about the name, I was reminded of the first book I wrote and illustrated way back in my college days, "The Googlegog Tree". By playing around with the letters, I felt like "Woogle" and "Fog" somehow described the misty character formed out of memories, which was slowly manifesting in my head.
I found myself returning to the wonderful work of Raymond Briggs, particularly my two favourite books, "Ethel & Ernest" and "The Snowman". The first is an illustrated book about the lives of Raymond's parents. Ordinary working people who simply lived their lives - a snapshot of British social history. This gave me the courage to create a children's picture book using an old lady as the main character. As I designed what she might look like, inevitably, she started to resemble my own grandma. From this, I started to introduce details from her own house e.g. the clock, the gas fire, the crocheted blanket. I wanted the house to feel real to the reader, so it became a combination of my own Victorian semi-detached house and my grandparents 1930s detached house for some of the interiors.
After "Bonnie's Ball", I was ready to create a picture book that was a little longer and had more detail to offer in the illustrations. My stories are always intertwined with various aspects from my own life, and I had been thinking a lot about the older generations of my family.
My grandparents in particular were very much at the forefront, and I remembered seeing heartbreaking news footage during the pandemic of husbands and wives now on their own after losing a loved one. I knew I wanted to communicate something with a special message, to raise awareness of loneliness and getting older.
Designing the magical Wooglefog creature was not an easy job. My mind saw a semi-transparent, misty being which changed and altered depending on the scene in the story.
However, it became clear very quickly that it had to have some sort of continuity, to make sure the readers understood the main storyline. In thumbnail storyboard sketches, Wooglefog already had a dog-like quality, so I built on this using a fox as the main basis of character inspiration. I exaggerated the bushy tail and the ears became larger, which also helped to express emotion in places.
My previous three children's picture books happened to be set in three different seasons, so it felt right to set this latest one in Winter. The character of Father Christmas helped bring light relief and a significant turning point to the story.
I liked the idea of Father Christmas only being referred to as "the jolly old man on a red and gold sleigh", to indicate that Wooglefog had never met him before, but the readers would know exactly who he is.
Father Christmas is more of a care worker in my story, a figure of kindness who helps to highlight the little broken house to the adjoining neighbours.
The story is intended to showcase the importance of looking after each other, community and friendship, but also remind us that as we get older, we all need a little help now and again.
The book is designed with 5-7 year olds in mind, but I hope it's appeal reaches much older and a little younger too. Follow the link to my online Etsy shop, KerryDIllustrations, to buy a signed copy.