behind the scenes of a children's book

In this post, I'll take you behind the scenes of the creative process for the German children's book “The Girl With The Long Braids” (German: "Das Mädchen mit den langen Zöpfen"), which I illustrated at the start of 2013.

The story recounts the adventures of the young Teona. She's a feisty girl who can talk to trees and animals. Have a peek at the book cover below.

When I received the script, I took it with me to the park and read it in the warm April sunshine. Slowly but surely, a bolshy little girl with bright blue wellies and long braids appeared in my mind. Her long, long hair dragging over the ground and bouncing in the air as she fearlessly traversed through mysterious forests...

Needless to say, once I'd finished reading it was a done deal. This book was mine!

I decided to start with a chapter that seemed really fun to draw, it's titled: “The Musical World Tree” (German: "Der musikalische Weltenbaum"). In this chapter, it has been raining for weeks and Teona wants to do something about it.

After a particularly harsh storm she decides to have a word with the enormous southern catalpa tree (called the World Tree), which is in charge of controlling the world's weather. In order to reach the World Tree, Teona first has to climb a huge mammoth tree.

After a steep 5 hours of climbing she calls out to the World Tree and asks why the weather's been so bad. The World Tree says that it's lost its voice and nobody can hear it any more. Teona has an idea. She climbs down and organizes a whole load of trumpets. With the trumpets the World Tree can direct the weather in morse code, so it doesn't have to shout any more.


I really enjoyed the scene of Teona climbing the tall tree, so I started doing some research on mammoth trees to get an idea of their look and size. Eventually though, I decided to keep the tree really plain and focus on Teona climbing instead. In the illustration, you see the trunk of what should be a really tall tree and Teona hanging onto one of its branches, pulling herself upwards.

Here's how I set to work:

I first sketched the trunk of the tree with Teona climbing it:


I then put the sketch on a light table and traced it by hand (a light table is a flat box with a translucent top and a light bulb in it):




Once that was done, I scanned the final piece, cropped the image and sent it to the publishing house:



Yet, I was so in love with the result that I suggested to use this piece on the book's cover. All it needed was some color.

I used the light table again to transfer the image onto fine art watercolor paper and then colored it in with watercolors. Check out the result below:


If this article made you curious, you can buy the book here. Don't forget that it's only available in German.





subscribe to get monthly emails on life, creativity and adventure