Painting Stories with Polly Crosby

To celebrate the upcoming release of The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby, out this thursday, Polly is on the blog talking about what stories and painting mean to her.

Make sure to stay tuned until the end where we have a special artistic competition for you to join…


Before I wrote stories, I painted them. My childhood in the 80s was all about reading, running wild in the countryside, and dabbing my ideas down onto paper in the form of fantastical paintings. I loved looking at art too: picture books, art books, and paintings on walls. Art galleries were full of mysterious ghostly portraits of people long since dead. I liked to walk through each room, imagining their lives, their stories.

There’s something about the immediacy of paintings that I love. You only have to glimpse it and you see a whole story, but if you stare at it for a while longer, other little nuances and details reveal themselves, like clues to hidden treasure.

It wasn’t until I was older that I realised that books could do this too. What I read aged fifteen had a very different message when I re-read it twenty years later. In books, clues could be hidden in similes and metaphors, lost in descriptions and secreted away in dialogue.

I think because of my background in art, I’m a very visual writer. When I came to write The Illustrated Child, I knew I wanted the story to be about paintings because art is so important to me. But how do you go about painting a picture when you only have a fountain pen instead of a palette? And then it struck me: those little clues that I loved searching for in pictures as a child would be the perfect starting point. I wanted the reader to visualise the pictures I described. To search each one for the clues that I knew I was going to hide.

A lot of people who have read The Illustrated Child have said how they would love to see a version of the novel with the pictures I describe actually featured as full colour illustrations. But this produces its own conundrum: which illustrator would be best suited to the task? The wiry, eerie pen of Ralph Steadman, the shiver-inducing detail of Shaun Tan, or the sumptuous jewel-like colours of Jim Kay?

As incredible as an actual illustrated Illustrated Child would be, to me, the most wonderful thing about books is that whether or not we’re any good with a paintbrush, we are all artists in our own minds. That is where the magic of books really lies.


The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby is out this Thursday. It’s available from Waterstones, Amazon, Hive, and your local bookshop.

To celebrate the release, we want you to channel your inner artist. We are giving away a beautiful art set from Winsor and Newton and a copy of The Illustrated Child. To enter, download the PDF below and paint Rommily. Then upload your work onto Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #IllustrateTheChild. If you’re a bit internet shy, you can also email it to with the subject line ‘Illustrate The Child’.

You have until midnight on the 8th November to enter. We can’t wait to see what you come up with! Download the cover below and don’t forget to use the hashtag #IllustrateTheChild so we can see your artwork!



Download the PDF: #IllustrateThechild

T&Cs found here.

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