Building Bridges of Colour not Walls of Mistrust!

Jackie Morris reading Tiny Owl books

Read a wonderful blog by artist Jackie Morris protesting the decision to deny a visa for Tiny Owl illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi to enter the UK.



During a short holiday break, where internet access was joyfully reduced, on the occasions when a signal was achieved I discovered a disturbing story.

The artist, Ehsan Abdollahi, who had been booked to speak at Edinburgh International Book Festival had been denied a visa to enter the UK.

Ehsan’s work first came to my attention when the wonderful publisher, Tiny Owl, sent me a copy of When I Coloured in the World by Ahmadreza Ahmadi, illustrated by Ehsan. When I Coloured in the World is such a beautiful book, about colour, about peace, about so many things, with spaces in text and images for so much conversation to arise.

The decline of the visa came with Kafkaesque excuses. Ehsan is divorced. The suggestion is that with no one dependent on him he might chose not to return once in Edinburgh. Perhaps the publishing world in the UK might prove just too attractive.

But Ehsan has a full time job, is published in the UK and can continue to be so.

Ehsan would have been coming to the UK to talk to children and adults about his wonderful books, to meet with artists and authors, to share ideas, to exchange thoughts. But it would seem that while deploring the antics of Donald Trump and his ‘Muslim ban’ the UK home office has been quietly emulating it. For this is the third year that Tiny Owl authors and illustrators have been denied visas.

Our two titles illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi

In a world that is increasingly dangerous we need exchanges of ideas. Children have the right to meet those who create the books they love. And we have so much to learn from artists from all around the world. This denial of free movement echoes as Beverley Naidoo states in her letter to The Guardian, the days of apartheid in South Africa.

Read the article in The Guardian about the denial of the visa. It makes one ashamed to be British. This obviously intelligent, creative and hard working man, having provided information about his finances is then questioned about whether the money is really his, as if his salary as a teacher and his income from publishing is some kind of front. ( And why he should wish to come to the UK and stay for the rich pickings in publishing to be had, well, that’s laughable. )

Ehsan Abdollahi’s self-portrait with his declined application

It’s a sad story. I hope it has a happy ending. If Ehsan is denied entry to the country then James Mayhew and I will begin our event by talking briefly about When I Coloured the World, and I would ask that all others involved in the festival do the same. But I hope that the British Embassy will see the light, see the colour, and understand that culture builds bridges and that allowing the free movement of culture might just lead to a better world, a better understanding of each other.

Tiny Owl work hard to build bridges between cultures, between writers and artists and children and dreamers. I love their books. I love what they do.

It’s a small world. Tiny Owl have a big heart.


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Pictures flood the mind in a way words can’t!

Our campaign to celebrate wordless picture books carries on…

Tiny Owl recently launched a campaign to celebrate the importance and beauty of wordless picture books. We wanted to investigate some intriguing questions – why are wordless picture books so important? Do they fill a gap that books with words can’t fill? Are their messages more universal? Do they aid literacy? Or is it just that they’re so beautiful to look at?

We contacted experts in all kinds of areas of the book industry, from authors and illustrators to booksellers and journalists, as well as teachers and parents, to ask them for their thoughts. They were given this question:

Wordless picture books are becoming more popular with people of all ages. Why do you think this is?

Here are four more responses, from Dianne Hofmeyr, Bonnie Adamson, Laura Bellini and Jayne Truran.

Stay tuned for more responses soon!



Dianne Hofmeyr

Dianne Hofmeyr:

I hope to write one wordless picture book soon!
Pictures flood the mind in a way words can’t.

The urge to draw is very strong in even the youngest child. When a child picks up a crayon for the first time, they attempt to draw first through scribbles, and then through drawing themselves in the head-foot representation of a round head with sticks for legs and later even fingers and toes.  Later they draw themselves in relation to their environment and bring in a baseline and a skyline. This is true of any child. And while they draw they tell their story out aloud. They are mirroring their world and placing themselves in it without the help of text.

If imagery is the very first encounter with story in any child who is able to hold a crayon, then a wordless picture book taps right into a primeval need that is a very powerful.Images unlock new spaces. In a wordless picture book, the story dances through the mind with no interruption. No barrier of words. No definition by an adult. There is simply the inchoate acceptance of the image and what it means to that particular child – how it slots with his world.

I love wordless picture books so much that I have started my own collection and hope to write one soon. But the challenge for any writer is to see the images first!

*Dianne Hofmeyr is a children’s book author.


Bonnie Adamson

Bonnie Adamson*:

As an illustrator, I can think of nothing more satisfying than creating a wordless book

As an illustrator, I can think of nothing more satisfying than creating a wordless book. I’d like to say that the challenge of telling a story in images alone taps into something primal – but I suspect, for me, it has more to do with sight gags in early cartoons I watched on TV as a child. And the wordless books I find most engaging are the ones that make full use of humour: the lift of an eyebrow or a significant glance at the audience; pacing that ramps up the mayhem and a twist waiting at the turn of the page. Universally priceless!

*Bonnie Adamson is a children’s book author/illustrator.


Laura Bellini

Laura Bellini*:

One can find their own way to ‘read’ and make it unique!

Wordless picture books are important for both adults and children but for different reasons.

Adults, who generally need words to guide them, can find pleasure in getting lost in the illustrations – and getting back to something that was natural and spontaneous in their childhood.
Children have the chance to tell stories finding their own words and this helps to build their linguistic and storytelling skills.
They can both enjoy the beauty and the poetry of images that these books have.

As an author of wordless books, whilst working, I like to lose myself in all the tiny details that are not simply decoration – even the smallest detail can add something really important to the story.

In fact, the small details are a big part of this kind of “reading” and, by looking closely, you can follow a path that forms the structure of the story. From there, one can find his or own way to “read ” and make it unique.

*Laura Bellini is the author/illustrator of our forthcoming wordless picture book series: Little Eli


Jayne Truran

Jayne Truran*:

Wordless picture books can deal with difficult topics

A visual treat for the eyes and the senses. Wordless picture books can deal with difficult topics with sensitivity and empathy encouraging conversation that may be difficult and hard. Who wouldn’t feel and share the grief in The Sad Book or the plight of the young person in Way Home or the feelings of a refugee in The Arrival. Words are learnt through conversation and what wonderful conversation these illustrations encourage. On top of this the beauty of the illustrations and the craft of the illustrator are a joy to behold.

*Jayne Truran is a Librarian and book enthusiast


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