Review – No Matter Who We’re With

No matter who we're withIt’s heartening to see the partner publishing arm of the kids publishing industry is not only thriving but consistently providing ways for rising Aussie authors to produce their work. IP Kidz, an imprint of Interactive Publications, is one such entity and Robert Vescio is one such author. His new picture book, No Matter Who We’re With was released just last month.

The title immediately suggests a topic slightly left of field, yet the cover depicts a family relaxed, joyful and at ease with each other. Or so we think…I do so love the juxtaposition of ideas a picture book can present like this even before you open it.

We soon discover that the protagonists of the story, two young siblings, spend time with both mum and dad who live apart. The cause of the parents’ separation is not dwelt on and in spite of this physical inconvenience, the children love both mum and dad unconditionally because ‘they take very good care’ of them. The parents’ love is no less understated and reciprocal.

Dad is great at dress-ups. Mum has a ‘splendiferous garden’. Both are pretty good at satisfying the kids’ culinary demands.

Robert VesicoVescio has crafted a quaint, endearing story; fun and straightforward in its delivery; positively instilling comfort and an assurance that families can still thrive and survive despite not living in a coexisting environment. (Interestingly, this theme is just as relevant for families with spouses serving abroad or serving time for example, not just those with divorced parents)

The children narrate the tale themselves which gives the book an uncomplicated, personal and almost childlike touch. Reference to the time before the children’s parents separated is gently repeated throughout; a time they clearly still remember and cling to. But there is little to be maudlin about. The children take delight in every minute spent with either parent. Their reactions represent acceptance of a common family situation. Their behaviour offers reassurance that security, peace and love can be enjoyed no matter what your family circumstance.

Cheri ScholtenCheri Scholten’s cheerful illustrations sustain the atmosphere of unreserved love. They are almost manga in appearance and use colour and perspective effectively to emphasise detail. I especially love the gigantic bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese Dad dishes up after the kids spend the afternoon making cupcakes at Mum’s.

Parents and carers should find No Matter Who We’re With easy to read and share with children regardless of their actual circumstances.

Recommended for 4 – 8 year olds.

IP Kidz March 2013

Stay tuned for my next post featuring another excellent title addressing this theme.



As an author, it’s always inspiring for me to hear about small independent publishers in Australia willing to team first time picture book illustrators and established authors to produce books that readers will enjoy and that give Australian creators an opportunity to showcase their unique talents.

Long Live Us, from IP Kidz is a perfect example of such a venture. Written by Edel Wignell and illustrated by Peter Allert, it is a fractured fairy tale incorporating some much loved fairytale characters. There are the three pigs, Goldilocks, the Three Bears and of course, the evil troll.

Today we’re going to meet the author and illustrator of this hilarious tale and tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers, we review Long Live Us and talk more about the book.


Former teacher, Edel Wignell has been writing full time since 1979 and she loves doing research and being able to abandon herself to her imagination. She says her greatest writing achievement to date has been:

The publication of the novel, Escape by Deluge (Walter McVitty Books). It was published in the UK (with a fabulous cover by Allun Hood), the US and Sweden. It was a CBCA Notable Book, and shortlisted in the Adelaide Writers’ Festival and the West Australian Young Readers Book Awards.

The author of more than 90 books, Edel has these tips for new writers:

When your work is returned, don’t respond as though this is a personal slight. There are many reasons why a ms isn’t right for a publishing house: they may have  recently accepted one with a similar theme; they may have enough mss for boys and want one for girls… Be persistent and professional: check publishers’ websites, if possible improve the ms, then send it out again.

Edel’s tale, Long Live Us won a Fractured Fairy Tale competition and she thought it would make a good picture book so she created a parallel strand to be shown only in the illustrations.

It stars The Troll from the Three Billy Goats Gruff and is an epic tale of goodies verses baddies featuring food and hunger which Edel points out are very important topics for children.

Peter Allert’s illustrations vividly capture the drama of the story, and children will enjoy finding the many humorous details he has interspersed.

Edel says this wasn’t a difficult book to write because she is familiar with folk tales from many countries and the fact that good always triumphs.

Playing with this notion was fun.

Below are links to teachers notes and the book trailer for Long Live Us.

  • for Teachers
  • Trailer:


Peter Allert has loved to draw ever since he can remember.

When I look back at my life I always wanted too express myself artistically through illustrating but was never sure how this talent would translate into developing a career.  One day I just decided to put time aside and focus on developing my skills, I wanted to understand what skills I had and how I could improve them.  Being mostly self-taught I started to do some art classes and received constructive feedback on my work.  This was a great experience because you are sharing with other experienced people.  I also started researching writing and illustrating for children’s books and attended conferences to understand more about the industry.  I made a lot of great friends with similar interests I could share ideas with.  I believe this is when I decided that I wanted to be an illustrator.

Peter says it’s very inspiring to create unique and engaging characters in your own little world. He says that what inspired him the most about working on Long Live Us was the creative process.

I had to first create character profiles (rough illustrations) for the publisher of the Troll, Witch, Goldilocks and Wiley Wolf.  It was fun working out what the Troll might look like. How tall? What colour he might be? Did he have fur or even a tail?  Then I had to create a world around the character’s that was both colourful, and engaging.    Watching the world slowly come to life was the most inspiring.  I still have a lot of the original illustrations around me for inspiration on my next project.

Who is your favourite character and why?

My favorite character is the Troll and his friend the little red dragon.  They work well together and you can see the friendship between them.  The dragon however insisted on having his own dressing room.

How did you decide what the main character would look like?

When someone says there is a Troll under a bridge you often get an image inspired by previous fairytales read to you as a child or what you may see in popular media.  I wanted to build on those ideas but most of all I wanted the character to have its own personality to shine through.  I think I brought my own style to the Troll.

Can you tell us about the illustrating process for this book?

As I read Long Live Us I made notes of the first ideas that popped into my head.  I also made small sketches of these ideas some of which ended up it the final book.  I then worked on what the characters may look like and received feedback from the publisher and the author.  Once they were happy with the style of my illustrations I started drawing a series of storyboards (rough drawings outlining how each page may look and where the text would sit on the page), adding or changing them as the book developed.  Once storyboards where approved I worked on each illustration making sure they all looked consistent and then added the final colour.  The illustrations were then scanned and sent to the publisher to create a mock up book.  This was then sent back to me as a PDF file in order to supply feedback.

What was your favourite part of the illustration process?

Applying colour to the final illustrations was the favorite part for me.  Watercolour pencils can produce a rich and vibrant finish when applied to the right paper.  When I was finishing the final illustrations for Long Live Us the colours made everything come alive.  Sure it takes a little while longer with pencils but the final results are worth it.

What was the hardest part of the illustration process?

Continuity, making sure every illustration looks consistent throughout the book.  This can range from the proportions of the characters (such as their size and shape) to the texture and colour of their cloths. Being very familiar with drawing the characters before you start the book is essential.

Did you get to collaborate with the author or did you work fairly independently?

I worked closely with the author Edel Wignell and the publisher Independent Publications feeding ideas back and forth but I mostly worked independently.  I understand working with the author does not always occour but I found the process a positive experience.

Can you tell us about the medium you used to illustrate this book?

With this book I used watercolour pencils on watercolour paper and then used different sized paintbrushes to smooth over the colours.  I then used standard coloured pencils to sharpen the images.

How long did it take to illustrate?

This is a very common question, one I still have trouble answering.  This particular book took approximately 12 months to complete while I was working full-time from the initial sketches to the final artwork.  Usually if you are entering into a contract with a publisher there are already deadlines established and often this dictates the time it takes.

How many books have you illustrated?

This is my first fully illustrated book and I would like to thank Dr David Reiter from IP Kidz for giving me the opportunity.

Any tips for people who would like to become children’s book illustrators?

I do have a few tips I would like to share, I can only say these worked for me and I hope they do for you.

Create an area to work

Create a place where you can work undisturbed and make it your own.  NO HAWKERS!

Make a place for yourself to work on your writing or illustrating regardless of other commitments otherwise you will be too easily distracted.

Have belief in yourself

Have the courage in yourself and believe in your own work. It is very easy to assassinate yourself or believe the work you are doing is no good but you are a better person when you set your sites on your qualities.  Set yourself achievable goals and be fair with the assessment of your work and abilities.

Don’t forget to come back to Kids’ Book Capers tomorrow to read all about Long Live Us, a colourful and fun new picture book from IP Kidz.