You may remember from earlier blog posts, a certain keen 8-year-old illustrator and comics creator named Emma. Well, Vintage Books and Random House were pleased to announce today that Emma Brink-Morrison has won their competition have her artwork on the cover of the new Vintage Classics edition of The Secret Garden! Read about it on the Vintage Books website here. Hurrah, Emma!
I first met Emma at Caption Comics festival in Oxford. That made her stand out straight away, because there are hardly ever any kids there, mostly just adult comics creators. But she boldly showed me her sketchbook and I was very impressed. (Original Caption blog post.) Then I met her again at the Cartoon Museum and saw more of her lovely comics!
Of all the books I've ever read, I think the cover of The Secret Garden has been the one I've most been attached to. My dad bought it for me when I was about Emma's age, and read it to me, and I've always treasured not just the story (which I must've read 200 times and practically memorised), but that particular book itself. All the other editions felt wrong somehow, and the ones showing Mary Lennox looking rosy-cheeked and healthy made me feel quite cross. (Don't even get me started on some of the films.) I liked this cover because Mary looks accurately sickly and sour-faced, like she is in the story, but also a bit mysterious. You can tell she's the kind of person who wouldn't take any notice if the housekeeper, Mrs Medlock, told her not to go exploring in the rest of the house. And Dickon's not too good looking either, but a bit elvish, which is also just right.
The Secret Garden cover illustration by Johnny Pau
Since I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of Emma in publishing, I thought I'd get in quick and interview her now, via e-mail.
Congratulations, Emma! How did you get the news that you'd won?
I came back from the park and my mama checked her email, she shouted Emma! And I thought that I had done something wrong. But I felt surprised when she told me why she had shouted I was so happy that I had won.
Tell us a bit about creating the picture. Which medium did you use? And what made you decide to use that particular image?
I did some sketches with the girl and others with the robin. I chose the robin because I thought it better to have something else other than the little girl. I used pastels but in my other sketches I tried other materials.
Had you read 'The Secret Garden' before, or did you come to it as a first-time reader? What did you like best about the book?
I read the book before, and my favourite part is when Mary finds the key and first enters the garden.
Do you think any other artists influenced the way you drew it? Who are some of your major artist influences?
Sarah McIntyre, Metro posters, Manga, Tintin, Barbapapa, Benjamin Lacombe.
Aw, thanks for that! I know you keep a sketchbook. Do you tend to draw in it at home, or do you take it with you and draw when you're out and about?
I draw at home. At the park I don't draw, I hang from trees.
What's the best thing about keeping a sketchbook?
Well, when I finish the page I just have to turn the page. I do not have to get up and go to the cupboard to get more paper.
That sounds good! I've heard you'd like to be an illustrator as a profession. If you could have any book project published, what would you most like to do? (Dream a bit here.)
I would like to draw comics.
Where can I get a copy of the book?
From me, because I will get ten copies.
Thanks so much, Emma! You can also order the book from Vintage Classics here.