Arthur and the Curiosity

Written and illustrated by Lucinda Gifford
Hardback August 2015
ISBN: 9781760068387

I’m sad to say that ‘Arthur’ is no longer available due to Bonnier Group closing its children’s arm Five Mile Press.
If you would like to buy one of the remaining 15 copies – I have them! Get in touch here.

This is a marvellous book for an independent reader, or perhaps a teacher with her class group. The exhibits that Arthur’s class visit will act as ideal talking points as young children should ask many questions, the adult reader will enjoy the explanations which only adds to the experience of the shared reading.
This book should appeal to teacher librarians as much as parents. I’m looking forward to reading my copy to some young children and being involved in a lively conversation afterward.
Jacque Duffy, Buzzwords,

Apart from the funny story, following Arthur and his spying of the animal, the book informs classes about what they might see at a museum, piquing their interest in a forthcoming excursion through the highly detailed illustrations. I can imagine lots of discussion about excursions past and future emanating from reading this book.
Fran Knight, ReadPlus

The brilliant thing about this book is that it truly makes you want to head down to your local museum and check out the specimens and interactive displays.
Liz Anelli,

There’s always been a fine line between the imagination and reality, and this new book from debut author/illustrator Lucinda Gifford perfectly encapsulates that magical line. Tania McCartney, Kids Book Review

In October 2014 Five Mile Press got in touch to tell me I’d been selected as a finalist in their inaugural Illustrator Competition. The prize? A book illustration contract. Hooray!

The next stage was to show I could illustrate a character in several different poses. Five Mile Press liked this illustration from my folio:


They wondered if I could show some of the featured monsters in other poses. So I gave it a go:



Actually, I think I may have got a little carried away:


Anyway – the sketches seemed to do the trick: I had a lovely call from Kay Scarlett a couple of weeks later – I’d won!

When it came to choosing a text to illustrate, the FMP team wondered if I could develop a story myself – around the monsters in my folio, but adapted for a pre-school readership. But time was tight and, if I did want to write my own text, I’d have to be quick about it.

I definitely wanted to illustrate a story of my own! But I felt that the monsters above might not be an ideal fit for a such young children, though the museum setting could work well. I rushed into coming up with other possibilities.

Also, in the original drawing there are loads of monsters, but I thought a story for a younger audience would work better with the focus on child characters, and probably just one ‘monster’. And that monster would definitely need to be friendly – furry, friendly, fierce and funny, in fact. It took a while, but this character – based on ‘Maggie’, my friend’s labradoodle – started to wander around my sketchbook.


And we needed some children. These children aren’t named in the book, but I had a name and a little back-story for them all.


And here’s the main character, Arthur. I think he looks like an Arthur. He’s a thoughtful daydreamer who loves to explore – the type of person who takes time to notice what’s around him.



I sent off a storyboard mid-January. Here’s a section from it (click to view larger version):


My idea was to set the story in a city museum, and have different exhibits on each spread – thinking the museum setting would provide the opportunity to draw loads of little extra funny details.

The story seemed simple, but was hard to explain: Arthur is on an excursion with his class. He wanders off, and comes across a ‘Curiosity’ in a glass case, which is awakened by Arthurs interest (or imagination). The Curiosity then follows the class around the museum.

Of course I had the storyboard, which helped get the idea across. Thankfully, the team at Five Mile Press were excited by the story and, pending some layout and text tweaks, they were keen to go ahead. We agreed on a title: “Arthur and the Curiosity”.

The cover had to be finalised quite quickly, as FMP wanted to take the book to Bologna in March, along with an internal spread. Here are some cover thumbnails:


We decided to go for the third option, with the Curiosity hiding inside a sarcophagus.

Here’s the final cover illustration (with my slapped-in text):


And I started thinking more on those quirky details:



And, now fielding some ongoing projects and a day job, I started on the roughs. I have to say these roughs really are pretty.. rough. I knew that I’d have my work cut out later to get the finals up to scratch – but it was a hectic month… Ideally, I’d like to resolve the linework to a much higher standard at this point. The composition was mostly working though (click to see the roughs at a larger size).




And, finally, done with a bit more time in hand, here are a couple of completed spreads:



Overall, I’m really pleased with how it turned out, though there were times I wished I’d chosen a story with perhaps only a couple of characters and a plain background throughout!