KING OF THE SKY AND NEW YORK CITY

 

Something wonderful has happened. It’s a long way from here, where I stand at my desk looking out over the heads of green fennel, the last sweetie blossoms, to the field, the sheep and the hill top crowned with russet bracken. Far to the west of all that, the book that Laura Carlin and I created with the excellent midwifery skills of designer Liz Wood and editor Cas Royds, has been taken to the heart of New York City. Our story of the Italian child finding a new way to feel at home in a South Wales mining town, King of the Sky, has been picked as one of the Best Illustrated Books of 2017 by the New York Times. It’s the second time that Laura and I have been recognised in this way (first time was for The Promise back in 2014) and it feels wonderful.

Laura and I are in such good company, as the NYT wisely chooses ten books each year, and doesn’t pick out any one: they are all equally valued. I would recommend taking time to look at every single one of the others, all with strong, passionately told stories carried in poetic language and startlingly beautiful images. For anyone unfamiliar with the extraordinary power of this most underrated of art and literary forms, looking at present and past winner of the NYT Best Illustrated is the perfect primer. The variety of stories carried in this year list will astonish you, and you’ll see that the range of subjects, emotions, information and dreams that can be portrayed in a picture book is limitless. You’ll be struck too by the relevance and resonance of these books – how they strike chords on a personal and a political scale.  Our story is one from the historical past of my homeland, but it has particular power today when the world is once again flooded with people fleeing all manner of hardships, and meeting with a mixed reception in their new countries. Just yesterday the UK government refused entry to the UK to refugee children who have no one and nothing, and the US government threatens to judge all immigrants by the standard of just one misguided, insane murderer.

Our story and the others on this Best Of 2017 List have important things to say. The fact that they are picture books should not diminish the value of their diverse messages, but increase it. Picture book authors speak to everyone in a way that is accessible to all ages, and via a multiplicity of routes- emotional and intellectual, visual and verbal. Pictures books work by an alchemic layering that is quite unique.

The book world is a harsh jungle and the NYT list is an opportunity to make a pathway through that tangle and bring these stories to the attention of as many people as possible. Sales matter, not just because its how people like Laura and I make our living but because good sales mean that we may get another opportunity to create something new. So I’m preparing for doing lots of tweets , sending e mails, hoping that among the NYT’s many readers King of the Sky and its nine wonderful companions will find new friends. King of the Sky has already been a theatre production so another dream is that if some wonderful NY theatre producer saw the great theatrical potential of the story and revived and expanded our production of the book as theatre.

But aside from those ambitious dreams I have another which is that the NYT Best of 2017 will bring readers to these ten stories, and perhaps the readers of our story King of the Sky will be drawn to the conclusion that refugees are not a new phenomenon, and the best thing to say to them is ‘WELCOME’ .

HOWEVER  if by some miracle you are that theatre producer …these pictures from the stage version of King of the Sky are just for you!

The most amazing cast Tessa Bide, Huw Novelli, Sonia Beck and David Prince and director Derek Cobley

 

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