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BLUE: walter the royal fire engine

Client - Rob G Cowley, local author

Solution - Children's book

The Brief

The third book in a series of Manx Bedtime Stories, combining a number of local business to create a heart-warming BLUE tale raising money for Age Concern's hardship fund on the Isle of Man. 

The Idea

Written by local author Robert Cowley and illustrated by talented schoolgirl, Graiagh Smith, BLUE follows the tale of an old royal fire engine called Walter who has been forgotten and abandoned. Full of magic, fire engines and happy young elves, BLUE is a story of friendship and appreciating the wisdom our elders can provide.

I was tasked with the creation of the book itself, including organising the illustrations, creating the cover, page design and typesetting.

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I tried to integrate lots of different elements from the story to create a bubbly, eye-catching cover that will attract a younger audience and work well alongside the other two books.

Working with new young illustrator, Graiagh, I created a book map to help aid where I thought the illustrations might sit on the page to compliment the text. Each box holds illustration prompts relevant to the page content. This helped her visualise the size and shape that they needed to be too.

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I also sketched a couple of quick ideas to help explain some of the ideas mentioned in the illustration prompts. This helped her to visualise the ideas we had in mind. 

These are some of the digital illustrations that Graiagh created using the book map as a guide. 


I tried to give the illustrations as much emphasis on the page as possible whilst adhering to the set number of pages and keeping the text as large as possible for young readers.

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The book was typeset in Sassoon Primary - a typeface designed specifically to improve legibility for younger readers. It most closely represents the letterforms that children are taught in school, with rounded counters, long ascenders and descenders and exit strokes that clump words together along the baseline. The slight slant makes blocks of text easier to read.

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For BLUE's creative section there was much more of a distinction between a fan club/Q&A page and a colouring page.

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With each book that is released we get more and more drawings of the characters, which I clean up and feature at the back of the book which is a lovely touch. 

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I created promotional posters ahead of the book launch at the Family Library, trying to keep them as bright and appealing as possible.

Some pictures from the Build An Engine Launch Day at the Family Library, with lego competitions, engine themed crafts, colouring, cake, book signings and a visit from the benefitting charity, Age Concern and a real life fireman!


A picture of myself, illustrator Graiagh (bottom left), author Robert (far left) a couple of representatives from the chosen charity; Age Concern, family members and a fireman at the soft book launch at the Family Library. (Featuring the book!)

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