Picture-This Books: Interview with Holly Wadsworth-Hill
By Annabella Costantino
Picture-This Books are a recently established children’s picture book company, founded by Holly Wadsworth-Hill. Each of her titles The Imagination Garden, The Light Inside and Not Black and White are unique picture books that allow children aged 5+ to illustrate the narrative themselves. These titles are a wonderful demonstration of how readers can participate in an interactive storytelling experience, honouring the gift of imagination. This issue, we had a chat with Holly about what she has learnt and experienced as an independent business owner during COVID-19.
"Wander, Wonder, Imagine. A mindful journey through your child’s imagination."
What inspired you to start Picture-This Books?
“The seed was sown when I was on holiday in Northern Ireland with my youngest son. He’s autistic and can struggle with people, but he loves being outdoors. One day, we’d just got back from the beach and I was reading a story to him before bed. He was listening to the story but not looking at the pictures, so he had been looking at the book and imagining the main character to look different than how it was illustrated. We went back through the book, just looking at the text and we realised that you could have easily imagined anything – that was where it started.”
What do you think are some of the most important lessons a child can take away from a book?
“My books aim to celebrate and normalise difference. When researching for the first book, I looked up the representation of colour, socioeconomic background and disability in children’s books, and the statistics were quite shocking. I believe that every child should experience hope when they read. They should leave the book feeling like their imagination has been fuelled. I think the best books leave you feeling better about the world and give you a thirst for knowledge. Children’s books give us a method to think outside of – and not be confined to – a box, space or title.”
If you had to choose, what is your favourite book out of the ones you have published so far?
“Each book is special in its own way, but my favourite book is The Light Inside. Whilst writing it, my grandma was ill and I wrote a lot of the book when I was caring for her. The story is about a child who is afraid of the dark and at night they can’t get to sleep. They tell their parents that they see a mysterious figure – which turns out to be the moon. The child starts to relay all their fears to the moon, and it reassures them their fears are just part of being human. In a lot of ways, the moon symbolises my grandma and how she would always be there when I needed someone. It’s dedicated to my mum and grandma so it is my favourite so far – I think The Light Inside will always be special to me.”
What have been your biggest achievements and challenges since launching Picture-This Books?
“I launched The Imagination Garden online in November 2019. So far, my biggest achievement has been every time I receive an order for my books from an independent bookshop. When an independent business reaches out, that feeling never gets old. When we first went into lockdown last year, it meant that in some ways, books were very well received. With the mindfulness element, books provided children with something to do, given the absence of school. But the biggest challenge was when the bookshops were closed. As a creator who is self-employed, it can also be hard to keep yourself on task and balance admin tasks.”
What’s next for Picture-This Books?
“I have an upcoming summer publication for preschool that will be about stepping into the story. The idea is to have a preschool edition come out in the summer and then another one around the end of October. I’m also just about to launch a virtual book club, which is starting from 1 May. I used to run a storytelling club before COVID-19, and the children got to interact with stories. I’m in a position now where I can get that started again as a monthly online meeting. I’ll be editing my fourth book soon and making plans for adult editions as well!”
Massive thank you to Holly for chatting with us. Are you inspired to make your next picture book purchase? Check out her website here for more information on her books and to support her amazing brand. Alternatively, her titles are also available from independent bookshops Chicken and Frog, Modo Creative and Books Paper Scissors, as well as Waterstones. To receive future updates on Picture-This Books, follow Holly on Facebook and Instagram. Go over and say hello – your imagination awaits!