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Essington author's tales are inspired by children and nature

Great ideas and inspiration can strike at any moment for author and illustrator Rebecca Tonks.

Illustrator and children's author Rebecca Tonks from Essington
Illustrator and children's author Rebecca Tonks from Essington

That's why she keeps a notebook on her bedside table, so she's ready to write down ideas as soon as they spring to mind.

"When I'm falling asleep and I think of an idea or when I wake up in the morning with an idea, I can jot it down straight away before I forget. I get a lot of my inspiration from my children and the things they come out with and the way they view the world. I keep notes on my phone. I also get inspired by nature, I love trees and plants and sketching the landscape. I love drawing from real life. Sometimes I sit down and sketch my children," explains the mother of three.

Rebecca, who lives in Essington, is celebrating the publication of her new children's picture book titled My Little Squeak, which she has both written and illustrated.

She loves visiting schools to share her stories with young readers and help them to work on their own creative projects.

And it was during one her author/illustrator visits that she met a special child that would spark an idea for her new book.

"My Little Squeak is inspired by the most beautiful child who I came across during my school visit.

"He had a one-to-one support teacher helping him because he didn't talk. It was a two-day creative workshop and he really threw himself into the activities - he was amazing.

"At the end, he pulled me aside to show me what he had done," explains Rebecca.

"The character featured in my story is a little boy struggling to find his voice. With the help of an unexpected friend, he finds the confidence he needs.

"The child behind this story really stayed on my mind and I felt it was important to write the book to show that even with difference and anxiety, joy can be found.

"Following all the challenges we’ve faced over the last couple of years with Covid, mental health, particularly in children, has become a much needed and important focus."

Rebecca, who graduated from De Montford University with First Class honours degree in contour fashion in 2004, had worked as a designer for many years.

This has included graphic design for a variety of high street stores including Next and also running her own wedding stationery design business.

Following the arrival of her three children, she says she found myself increasingly drawn back to her first love of painting and art which naturally led to illustration and children's books.

"I got into painting and drawing again for my own mental health. It snowballed from there. People saw what I was doing and they started reaching out to me," says Rebecca, who accepts fine art commissions alongside her writing and illustration work.

She has now illustrated six children's books, which includes The Long Journey Home, by her good friend, Kay Scott-Jarvis, and Where's The Moon by Michael Ward.

Last year, Rebecca published her first self-penned story, Icky Sticky, which she dedicated to "the children of lockdown for their courage and resilience during difficult times".

Describing the book, she says: "In an attempt to explain lockdown and Covid to my own children, Icky Sticky was created. This story not only documents our recent situation but also reassures and gives hope for the future."

When she's writing, Rebecca,who is a member of Walsall Writer's Circle, will always start by scribbling down ideas and drawing pictures.

"I'm a visual story-teller. From the pictures, I will piece together the words. The story will have a rhyme as children love the pitter-patter of the words as they bounce off each other," she explains.

When illustrating, she says she starts by rereading the words and highlighting ones that "jump from the page" before starting to draw her ideas.

Her illustration style is a mixture of traditional and digital and she uses mix of mediums including acrylics, inks, watercolour and gouache.

She also uses digital illustration app Procreate to develop her hand drawings and sketches and sells her print illustration artworks via her Etsy shop

Rebecca runs a number of sessions as part of her school visits, including story-telling, ask the author events, art and illustration creative workshops and creative writing workshops.

She has previously been involved in a wishing tree art project at St John's Primary Academy Essington. Rebecca also worked with pupils at Edward The Elder in Wednesfield to create a Wall of Love and Hope. During these workshops, each child created a colourful heart design which will then go on to form a full wall display in the school hall.

"I have been extremely fortunate to have the support of local schools. The children are really inspiring. The way they see the world is very honest and that can be really refreshing," she tells Weekend.

​Rebecca will be appearing at Walsall Festival of Words,which takes place at the New Art Galley and other town centre venues on June 8 and 9, to showcase her new book and discuss her writing and illustration work.

My Little Squeak is available from Amazon. For more information, visit www.bectonksillustrator.com

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