Hello, Ms McIntyre.
I am a member of the Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy in Israel, and we hold monthly reading clubs. This month a bunch us of who have kids decided to start a reading club for children, too, and Cakes In Space was selected for the first session. It takes place this Saturday, and we were wondering if you could send the kids a video greeting from the illustrator. We think it would be so cool, they loves the pictures so much. :)
I don't usually have time to do this, but my co-author Philip Reeve and I have a good Hebrew publisher/translator named Gili Bar-Hillel who's been very supportive, and I was thrilled to get some feedback from Israeli readers! So I sent the book club this impromptu video from my studio:
And Itai and the book club came back with this video, full of questions! I asked Itai and he got permission from the parents to post it here. If you've read Cakes in Space, perhaps you were wondering about some of these things, too! (Thanks for translating everything, Itai!)
Here we go!
Yotam's question: Philip Reeve - did you draw him on purpose with lightning on his face?
I did! Philip's a huge fan of David Bowie, and I think he even looks a bit like him. Bowie also wrote famous songs about space, so it seemed very fitting for Cakes in Space! (It's not a Harry Potter scar.) :)
Here's a picture of David Bowie with the lightning bolt, and Philip in his magnificent spacesuit, modelled off David Bowie's Starman costume from 1972.
Bowie photo by Brian Duffy, Starman suit from the V&A exhibition by tailor Freddie Burretti, Sarah & Philip's costumes by tailor Wendy Benstead, photo by Sarah Reeve
Here's a mashup someone made of one of David Bowie's songs with clips from the more recent movie, The Martian. The film has a very similar orange colour palette to the one Philip and I chose for the book, and I like how they're both stories about people who are doing their best to survive while stranded alone somewhere in space.
May Tzur's question: The monster on the wall, that looks a bit like the killer cake on the front cover of Cakes in Space - is there a connection between those or did it just come out like that?
I think it's just my drawing style! The monster is Morris, from Morris the Mankiest Monster and he has incredibly disgusting personal habits, so I wouldn't want him anywhere near my cakes. ...That said, another artist named Bevis Musson DID make him into a cake once, for his son's birthday, which was pretty cool. Check out the green icing bogeys!
Yael's question: Why did you pick the hair of Astra’s mum and of Astra to be how it looks, and why did you pick the Nameless Horror to be black spaghetti?
May Tzur: Astra’s mum’s hair and Astra’s hair are pretty much like the Nameless Horror… it looks like they’re made out of the same matter.
That's a very good point! With Astra's mum, I was inspired by some of the complicated braided hairstyles I see in my neighbourhood, but I tried to give it a a sort of space-age twist. And I like it, that her hair reminded you of the Nameless Horror. He seems so scary at first, but really, he becomes a bit like Astra's parent, looking out for her when when the spaceship is in danger, while her real parents are asleep in their pods. I'm not sure why we decided he would look like black spaghetti, it just had to be something that could form itself into any shape, and spaghetti seemed fun to draw, twining itself around things. But maybe the similarity to Astra's mum's hair is a little clue to his real nature.
[SPOILER ALERT] Philip and I imagined him being lonely by himself in space, and I like to think in that last picture of Astra and her parents, that they've sort of adopted the Nameless Horror as part of their family. That's the hardest part of the book for me, when the Nameless Horror is injured after the battle, and only Astra's there to comfort him; I wondered if he might die.
There is another scary part of the story that we don't even mention, but which you can imagine if you think about it: after Astra goes back to her hibernation pod, the Nameless Horror is looking after the ship. Astra's written a letter to ask everyone not to be scared of the Nameless Horror. But what if the grownups had woken up first and not seen her note? They might have thought the Nameless Horror was an enemy instead of their protector, and they might have tried to fight him. That could have gone very badly!
Tomer: What are those eyes [on the front endpapers]?
That's one of the things I love about this book, is that there are so many little details that hint at untold stories! In the English version, you only see the word 'Speckled' and then... I'm not even sure what's back there, I thought I would let the reader decide! What do you think it is?
Abigal & Yoav: Thank you for your comments, I’m glad you enjoyed the story! :) And thanks to all of you for your enthusiasm! And to Gili for translating our book!
For anyone reading, here's a link to Cakes in Space activities on my website, and another link to the Hebrew edition of Cakes in Space, published by Utz Books. (Utz also publishes Oliver and the Seawigs, link here.)
Edit: Some comments about the Hebrew translation from Gili!
Some little things that changed in the translation: "speckled" changed to "eyes", because in Hebrew an adjective can't come before a noun, only after. So I had to make up a noun that might work there in the cut-off illustration...
Also, in Hebrew, the nameless horror is a she instead of a he, because the word "horror" in Hebrew is in feminine form. It seemed to me the nameless horror could just as easily be a she as a he, or maybe both, or neither!
You're absolutely right, Gili! And thank you! :)