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, written by Pippa Goodhart and illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi is going to be published in October 2016 by Tiny Owl Publishing. It is the first title of an intercultural 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 interview with Pippa Goodhart, the author of this book.
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 Bottle of Happiness is available to pre-order from here.
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