City of Light Publishing started the picturebook project Hello! A Welcoming Story, written by Gina K. Lewis. It is a flipbook picturebook, two-books-in-one. These books follow the daily lives of 5 refugee students and 5 local students who welcome them to the classroom, each book narrating the story from each group's perspective, as parallel stories. It is a powerful book about migration, embracing differences and sharing experiences through daily life.
Children 5–8 years old
I was called to illustrate the book, including internal illustration and cover pages.
10 months (ongoing)
Release date: September 1st 2021
Photoshop, Pencil and paper, Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere, Word, Zoom.
Illustrate Gina Lewis' text Hello! A Welcoming Story with my colourful style, giving faces to migrant children.
The solution process
We have been working since September 2020 and been having weekly meetings every Saturday, following the picturebook process, on its different phases.
I firstly had a couple of meetings with Gina Lewis, the author, and Marti Gorman, the publisher, to talk about the project. Both of them are in Buffalo, New York, so all work and meetings have been made remotely. Gina is a teacher and she has several student refugees, which is why she wanted to tell their story through her book. I could identify with living somewhere that is not home, as I am a Peruvian living now in Denmark, so I connected with the book and proceeded to give these 10 children a visual identity.
Once the character designs were approved, I proceeded to make a storyboard based on the text. I had illustrated other picturebooks before but it was the first time I got to illustrate a flipbook: two books in one, one reflecting the other. I started by the 'I'm New Here' book and then I did the 'You're New Here' book.
To establish the colour style and parallel visual narratives I designed the cover jacket of the book, using bold colours and design that showed the refugee children arriving and the local children welcoming them to school.
This was the longest stage, as I had to balance it with other projects I was doing at the moment. I could manage two illustrations per week, so I worked on the internal illustrations between November 2020 and January 2021. Every week we reviewed them and I jotted down the modifications I was to make on them according to Gina and Marti's review.
The CBC commissioned a small video and PDF showing how to draw one of the characters in Hello! A Welcoming Story. I chose to show how to draw Habiba, a girl from Somalia who wanted to make new friends in her new home. I filmed, illustrated, animated the short video and assembled the PDF. Fatima Lock and Alex Lagos, my teammates in MJ Campos, helped me by writing a small screenplay and editing the video.
What did I learn
For me, it has been the first time I make a picturebook with a publisher in the USA, so I have been learning a lot about the process, additionally to the one regarding assembling the book itself. I also learned more about diversity in picturebooks and education on an international scope, which is very important for the type of work I do.
Constraints and limitations of the project
Marti, Gina and me have a time zone difference so it has been tricky to find an ideal time to meet. Sometimes, Ana Ochoa (layout artist) and Tricia López (social media manager) have joined our meetings and it has been more complex finding a good time to talk as Ana is in Manila and Tricia in Los Angeles.
"María José Campos is a remarkably creative, talented, and professional artist. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with her over the past year on Hello! A Welcoming Story, an important picture book that will release in Fall 2021. Far more than merely the illustrator, however, Campos has been an integral part of the creative process, contributing valuable insights on every facet of this complex and innovative publishing project.
Her versatility became apparent when she drew upon her excellent animation skills to create an animated video featuring Habiba, a character in Hello! for the Children’s Book Council’s celebration of Children’s Book Week (May 1-9, 2021). Shown in schools and libraries across the nation and paired with a downloadable drawing activity which she also created, these materials generated enormous interest and many accolades.
Most remarkably, María José Campos has not missed a single production deadline. She is organized, focused, and self-directed, and always seems to get it right the first time around.
Best of all, she is a delight to work with. María José Campos cheerfully takes on any task and always exceeds expectations. I highly recommend her as a valuable creative professional."
CEO of City of Light Publishing