making a dummy book of Hansel & Gretel

The dummy, a fragile thing of folded paper and scrappy sketches, is the means by which Simon Lewin, the designer/publisher, may see before I begin to make finished images, how the book will work and how the narrative will flow. My plan for this book is that it should be square… a format I much favour as a painter… which will give me a good shape for double-page spreads. To add to the panorama of certain double-page images, I shall have a single-page fold-out, on the left or right, that will additionally carry the story forward, and will help spring visual surprises on the reader.

Having worked out how some of the characters will look by making this  worked-up trial drawing…

… I’ve now produced a double-page-with fold-out spread for the dummy, showing how I’ll make this particular image work in the book.

I’ve reversed the chase in the dummy copy. In western culture, where we read from left to right, chases are best faced in the direction that readers scan the pages. In the above image the Witch’s house is to the left, and the children, having realised the fix they’re in, have run screaming from it toward the edge of the right-hand page.

When the right-hand fold-out is opened up, the children have progressed further in their flight, and the Witch and her Gingerbread Zombie henchman are revealed in hot pursuit.

I plan on there being several fold-outs distributed throughout Hansel & Gretel. The book will be made up of fourteen pages in total, which amounts to twenty-eight sides for me to tell the story in. This arrangement is quite standard for picture-books. Four fold-outs will give me another eight pages for images, and allow for dramatic impact, such as in the spread shown above.

Elsewhere on my work-table, images for the Witch’s house are developing. In Hansel & Gretel, the house might well be seen as a character, so significant is its presence in story-telling terms. For the Random Spectacular version of the story, I produced this image of the house.

For the book, I’m thinking along similar lines… a sort of be-towered gothic cottage… though this time around with more elements of food incorporated.

Ever on!

10 thoughts on “making a dummy book of Hansel & Gretel

  1. Shellie’s comment made me think of the Russian story of the witch’s house on hen’s legs, ergh. Quite understand about the making of the book…but maybe one day.
    Hugs
    B xxx

  2. Those gorgeous candy cane sticks remind me slightly of a book I remember from childhood that had worms popping up from the earth….they were that same shape and wore hats and big smiles….I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the book…does anyone else?? That be-towered gothic cottage seems to be a living thing…maybe it has arms? Or feet at the base?? Never trust a building with a smile on its face………..

  3. I remember fondly pictures, pages that could unfold and a modern one (well, fairly modern… Ted was about four) of a delightful rainbow balloon. Any chance of a ‘lift and peek or slide and see?’ Or a pop-up…I’m getting carried away down memory lane here, if I’m not careful the next stop will take me wandering into the woods.
    Love as ever
    B xxx

    • I fear that paper-engineering won’t be on the cards for this one, Bern. That makes for very high production costs that can only be met by books targeted at a world market. While not a private press book per se, this one will be in a relatively modest edition, and so what it lacks in fancy tricks, I’ll have to try and make up with beautiful artwork. The extra fold-outs will add a lot of narrative dynamic. But no expensive-to-generate apertures or sliders. That’ll be another book at another time.

  4. What a rich world you paint both in words and pictures, Clive. I’m glad the grown-ups are getting a look-in with your ‘Hansel & Gretel’. I quote C.S. Lewis: “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

  5. Clive – you have sent me down memory lane with your post today. I used to love making my own books, as a child, so to see you explain the thinking behind the format of “Hansel & Gretel” is a delight. I find square story books incredibly satisfying. And the fold-out element of the book, which you describe, has the child in me clapping my hands together in glee!!

    • I had a book when I was child, that was full of surprises. I’ve never seen one since, and I don’t know where it came from or where it went. It wasn’t square, but rectangular, and in a landscape format. It was made of stapled paper, and was quite slender. The images, which were vividly coloured and absolutely enchanted me, told the story of Mother Goose, but as though on a stage, perhaps even in the form of a pantomime. I recall plump, barley-sugar-twist architectural pillars, something I’d never seen before, and a scene where all the buildings were gold, painted in egg-yolk yellows and orange and looking more like gold to me than, well, gold! The pages had shaped apertures cut through, giving views to what lay beyond, and in this way they were like the cut-cloths of a stage, where you can look through layers of canvases and have a sense of three-dimensionality and diminishing perspective conjured out of flat painted scenery in a minimal space. (You don’t see cut-cloths so much these days, but it was once the way things were done, and in the hands of a skilled scenic painter, the effect can be gorgeous.)

      More and more I realise the effect that flimsy, fragile, lost book had on my visual aesthetic. It affected me as a choreographer/director/stage-designer, and it has influenced my visual aesthetic as a painter. What we offer to children should be so carefully considered, because it sticks. Maurice Sendak knew that. Only the best. Give them only the best.

      I’m not sure many children will see this Hansel & Gretel. There are going to be horrors in it that are intended for knowing, adult eyes. Friends with children are already expressing alarm that I’m approaching the story in such a visceral way. But this one is for the grown-ups!!! (-;

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