Hooray! A Bottle of Happiness is coming out tomorrow.
There was once a big mountain. The people on one side were rich and worked only in order to get even richer. The people on the other side of the mountain were poor in possessions but had a wealth of stories and laughter.
One day a poor young boy decides to seek a new story and this leads him to the rich people’s market place. He would love one of the ripe pieces of fruit, but what can a poor boy trade? Is it possible to bottle joy and happiness?
A Bottle of Happiness is going to be published tomorrow. It is the first title of our Intercultural Bridge project started by Tiny Owl, where a British author collaborates with an Iranian illustrator (or vice versa) to develop a picture book, see the story from their own cultural angles and reflect them in the book. Below you read a short interviews with Pippa Goodhart, the author, and Ehsan Abdollahi, the illustrator.
Open your minds to different ways of seeing the world! -Pippa Goodhart
1-What inspired you to write this story?
I wanted to create the kind of traditional fable or parable story that uses simple events to demonstrate some truth about humankind. I wanted my story to show that sometimes the things that we laugh at as nonsense might actually be wisdom of a different sort. I suppose I wanted to make people open their minds to different ways of seeing their world.
2- When you were writing the story, which two places were you thinking about?
I wasn’t conscious of having any particular places in mind, but, thinking back to when I wrote it, I had just had my first visit to India. I suspect that the happiness I saw amongst people with few possessions there, and the contrast back home in Britain where people who owned a lot felt discontent at not having more, may well have been the source of the story.
3- In the story, Pim, a child, brings happiness to the rich town. Do you mean that children bring happiness to the lives of the grown-ups?
Not just children, although it is certainly true that their instinct to laugh and be happy can be wonderfully infectious. But some adults, and some cultures, possess that gift too. The capacity to enjoy life is a matter of character and social habit as much as of age.
4- Was this your first experience of working with a non-British illustrator? How was the experience? Any difficulties or misinterpretations?
It’s been a treat to have my story brought to stylish visual life by Ehsan! I have had stories illustrated by non-British artists before, but never had the experience of choosing the artist, or of then working with them and having the chance to make suggestions at each stage of the process. As the story suggests, I think that the mixing of cultures can add new riches to both.
5- Do you think the illustrations reflect the story? Are you happy with the outcome?
I am very happy. Ehsan’s pictures are strange and beautiful, giving a distance from real life that lets us consider the story’s ideas free from preconceptions. Oddly, his characters are shown with rather blank facial expressions, not making obvious that one group is happy whilst the other is not … and that, I think, works well by making us readers work a bit harder to imagine the feelings that fit with their body language.
6- What do you think about Tiny Owl’s intercultural project? Your book was the first book in the project. What do you think it adds to children’s literature?
I am truly honoured to have been asked to write a story for Tiny Owl. What Tiny Owl is doing, bringing cultures together through stories presented in very beautiful books, is exciting and important, and what our world needs. Bringing Iranian stories and artistic styles into the English-speaking world is enriching the world that our children grow-up in.
7- Is there anything else you want to add to this interview?
Just a ‘thank you’ for making this book so very beautiful.
A child’s language, is an international language!- Ehsan Abdollahi
Ehsan! how did you start your work as a children’s book illustrator?
I started focusing my work on children first in two issues of the Badbadak (Kite) weekly which is a children’s magazine in Iran. The first book in which my work appeared was Who Is Like Whom? and then Yule-Night Gathering, which was bundled with a game which engaged the kids directly with the story.
After that I worked on Ahmadreza Ahmadi’s books They Call Me Blue-Eyes, and Nagahan Cheraghha Roshan Mishavand (Translated and published in the UK by Tiny Owl as When I Coloured in the World) and I think working together with him was a turn-point in my professional career. I felt a kind of closeness to his pen, and our work together was smooth and pleasant. When I Coloured in the World still creates a child-like joy in me and I personally feel very good about the book.
Was this your first experience with a non-Iranian author?
A Bottle of Happiness was my first work with a non-Iranian author. I am very happy that I was able to leave a good impression on the author
How did you like the story?
It’s definitely a great story and I was able to connect to it quickly
Did you see any difference between a British storytelling and an Iranian one?
In my opinion, a child’s language, is an international language
I might be able to explain this better with an example: if you put two kids with different nationalities next to each other, they will be able to communicate very quickly and easily.
I think both the author and I were feeling the same thing with this book. We were both using a child’s language, which is, in my opinion, the language of love.
A Bottle of Happiness is about two different towns, one rich, but not so happy, the other happy, but not so rich. How did you reflect the spaces in your illustrations?
I had to find a way to show the emotions of two different communities next to one another.
I decided not to use any skin colour at all, and simply used the paper-colour to show the skin.
Since the book was meant for an international audience, I also decided to design the character’s clothes to be a mix of clothing from different parts of the world; I enjoyed designing the mixed clothes quite a bit myself, since I am also interested in fashion design.
The richer community has fuller and more sophisticated clothing.
But I really can’t say that I designed rags for the less fortunate community, no!! They are both beautiful, even the worn, short, and tight clothes I designed, so that the reader would enjoy looking at them.
The poor people in the story are happy people, and through this aesthetic I gave them more happiness.
I had to stress the atmosphere in the whole space. I used orange for the happy people, and I used grey for the sad spaces and red to show love and friendship.
You have said before that in illustrating this book, you were inspired by the sharp colours in the clothing of southern Iran. Can you say more about this?
Considering that since long ago the south of Iran has been a centre for trade, Indian cloth-of-gold and Chinese silk have become part of people’s clothing. This has become incorporated with the people’s native tailoring style.
Because of this, sharp colours are a defining element of Southern Iranian characteristic.
Are you happy with the outcome of the work?
This was a very interesting experience for me. I really enjoyed it. I hope that anyone who reads or looks at this book in any part of the world enjoys it too.
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More about A Bottle of Happiness:
- Stunningly original nd beautifully presented. A review by read it Daddy. Link