Through our Frugi Time: Bedtime Stories, we’ve been hosting a range of amazing children’s authors who have been reading their favourite books, perfect for helping get your little ones ready for bedtime. So snuggle up and get cosy in your Frugi PJs, before you head to the land of nod with our newest edition of Bedtime Stories!
This month we’ve been joined by children’s writer and illustrator Alice Melvin reading her new book Mouse’s Wood.
Mouse’s Wood follows Mouse, who first ventures out in wintry January to visit his friend Squirrel. He moves from friend to friend and maps out the changes in seasons, through to December, from picnicking among the bluebells with Shrew in May to taking refuge in Fox’s cosy caravan as winter draws in. The book is the perfect read whatever the time of year and a heart-warming celebration of slow living in nature. Enjoy!
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Frugi Meets Alice Melvin…
“Hi I’m Alice, I live in Scotland and work as a freelance illustrator creating children’s books and other paper products. I’m also a mum to two girls aged 10 and 7. When I’m not at my desk I love being outside in nature – walking, sketching and wild swimming.”
Did you always want to be a children’s illustrator?
No, my earliest job ambition was to be either a train driver or a rock climber! But I have always loved drawing and making since childhood.
When did you write your first book and what encouraged you to become an author and illustrator?
I had my first children’s book published in 2007, when I created An A to Z Treasure Hunt with Tate Publishing. But I have been making books since I was a child, and for my illustration degree at Edinburgh College of Art I created a travelling library of tiny hand-printed artists’ books. Books have always formed a significant role in my life, and I feel very lucky that I now get to create books that will hopefully find a place in people’s homes.
How has your work changed since your first book compared to now?
When I first began working as an illustrator I worked predominantly in the medium of screen-printing and this process greatly influenced the style of my work. Since having children I’ve found it harder to find the time to work in the print studio, so my style has adapted and evolved to embrace different mediums.
What are your favourite mediums to use when creating? Have they changed or evolved at all over time?
Yes my style and creative process is always evolving, adapting to personal circumstances and reflecting my changing interests. I’ve been very lucky to work with publishers, first Tate and now Thames & Hudson, who have been supportive of the shifts in my creative style. At the moment I’m loving drawing with Caran d’ache Supracolor water-soluble pencils, Royal Talens Ecoline ink, and my trusty Karisma pencils that I’ve had since I was at high school!
As a parent, have you introduced your little girls to the world of illustrating?
Yes! I find juggling my illustration work with parenthood a challenge, but one of the positives of working form home is that the girls get to witness all the stages of the illustration process, from sketching with me outside, to sitting alongside me at my desk as I work.
Tell us about your new book Mouse’s Wood and the inspiration behind it?
My new book Mouse’s Wood follows the character of Mouse on a walk through the wood and also through the unfolding seasons. Beginning amid January snows the story takes the reader through each of the months and explores the changing life of the wood. Throughout the book there are die-cut flaps that let the reader peep inside the woodland homes of Mouse’s friends: from otter’s river-side cabin to squirrel’s tree house. I wanted the book to be a celebration of the woodland habit, full of details for children to spot, and hopefully encourage them to get outside among the trees.
The story and illustrations of this book grew out of many months of outdoor sketching. In 2019 I was wrestling with the trauma of a sudden bereavement and drawing outside became my way of navigating very difficult days. Having completely lost my interest in illustration the healing process of drawing nature helped me rediscover my creativity, and eventually create this book. The book is dedicated to my friend Julian and also to the wild, green spaces that grounded me when I needed them most.
I usually find inspiration in… nature.
My favourite thing to draw is… trees.
My favourite thing to write about is… being outside in nature.
My essentials for creating are… sketchbook, pencils and a cup of tea!
The best part of writing and illustrating a book is… hearing that your book is being enjoyed by a child.
What I love about books… is that hidden between the covers there is always something to discover.
Reading is important to me/my children because… it engages, enlightens, challenges, excites, informs, delights and comforts.
I’m currently reading… Parenting in a Changing Climate by Elizabeth Bechard, Threads by William Henry Searle and Growing Your Own Vegetables by the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. I often have multiple books on the go to suit my mood and tiredness levels!
The book I remember most from my childhood is… so many! But Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome remains a firm favourite.
My girls are currently reading… Hannah and I have almost finished the fantastic How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell and Florence is reading The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine.
Your Instagram feed is a visually wonderful, hand-sketched journal of illustrations. Please tell us about these drawings and what they mean to you. Do you have a favourite spot you like to revisit and draw from each season, or are they less planned? Do you carry a sketchbook with you everywhere you go?
Thank you! Although working in my sketchbook has always formed an important part of my creative practice my relationship with my sketchbook underwent a profound change in 2019. Attempting to navigate myself through the trauma of a sudden bereavement, I began drawing outside in nature as a way to ground myself amid the disorientating experience of sudden loss.
Working outdoors in my sketchbook became something that I prioritised and it has remained central to my practise ever since. I now draw outside as often as I can, sometimes revisiting favourite spots, or else exploring new paths to see where they will take me. If I know I’m going to be outside I’ll make sure that I have my sketchbook and pencils with me (and a flask of tea!)
This season’s collection was inspired by our Design Team’s “Rainbow Days”: a day filled with all the activities, people and places that bring you joy – what would your Rainbow Day be and why?
It would be spent outdoors in nature, where life always feels simpler and it’s easier to find perspective. Where you can feel the elements on your skin and the ground beneath your feet. Where your ears are filled with the sound of birdsong and the whispering of the wind in the trees. Where you can feel your legs pleasurably ache as you climb a hill, or your skin come alive as you swim in the cold embrace of the sea. Where you can feel the stresses that weigh you down lighten, and find gratitude for the many small wonders that are waiting for us just outside the front door.
You’ve chosen some lovely clothes from the new Frugi Spring Summer collection – what did you pick and what did you and the girls love about them?
They’ve chosen a gorgeous selection of colourful rainbows and bright florals, and Hannah’s going to be ready for adventure in her reversible toasty trial jacket, fabulously made from post-consumer plastic waste.
It will be wonderful to know that they are wearing clothes that not only look good and are very hard-wearing but which also have such great environmental credentials too. Thank you for creating beautiful clothes that step lightly on our precious planet.
Learn To Draw a Blue Tit with Alice…
Alice is a very talented children’s illustrator and nature lover! We asked Alice to show us how to draw a blue tit, just like the ones she’s drawn for Mouse’s Wood. Watch the video below for a step-by-step guide on how to create your very own blue tit drawing. You may have already spotted our little birdy friend in Alice’s Bedtime Stories reading of Mouse’s Wood!