Picture perfect for the imagination

Written by Kerrie Alexander

Tucked away safely as a treasured keepsake in her mother’s draw is Jess Palmer’s first stapled book, she created in Grade Two with a silly story line and lots of shapes and scribbles.

Now, there’s another milestone piece of work to add to the collection.

That small assignment helped ignite the passion the 40-year-old Hervey Bay resident has today as a travel writer, illustrator and now – a proud published author – after the recent release of her first children’s picture book Imagine If: The Sheep Book, picked up by world-wide publishers Austin Macauley.

The same sense of freedom and creativity Jess felt at school has flowed on into her career as a children’s book author, where perfect is not expected and silliness is the norm.

The story and the illustrations in the 30-page book were all the fruits of Jessica’s incredible artistic talents and big imagination.

“The book (in Grade Two) was terrible and didn’t make any sense but I absolutely loved making it,” Jess said with a laugh.

“I love the freedom of illustration, particularly children’s illustrations.

“A purple cow with a frog on his head wearing a yellow polka dot shirt would be totally acceptable in a children’s picture book.

“I love writing children’s stories for the exact same reason.”

Jess has illustrated for other authors in the past but with travel writing slowing down during the Coronavirus pandemic, it was the perfect time to bring her own dream to fruition.

She said seeing the final product and having it recognised by some of the best in the business was one of the biggest highlights in her career to date.

“I had written the words quite some time ago and when Covid-19 shut down the travel industry and my work as a travel writer slowed down to a trickle, I suddenly had the time to start the illustrations.
“It had been a dream of mine for quite some time, so I just thought … why not?

“I didn’t really have anything to lose except the time spent on it.

“It took about a year from start to finish, with the illustrations taking the longest as I had to squeeze them in around paid writing work and being a mum.”

The bright blue whale, shooting a yellow sheep out of its blow hole on a waterspout, on the cover of the book leaves you wondering just what adventures are about to take place.

Jess said the narrative was inspired by her own two children’s unwillingness to sleep in their younger years.

In the story, the children are told to count sheep when they complain they’re not tired.

But what happens when those sheep have no interest in being counted? What happens when those sheep have some adventuring to do?

“My children could never be described as ‘’good sleepers’’ when they were little,” she said.

“The story begins with a mum telling her kids to ‘’just count sheep’’ but the children’s imaginations have the sheep going on all sorts of weird and wonderful adventures.”

The book was put to the ultimate test with her two biggest critics, her six-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, who gave an enthusiastic tick of approval even though it’s aimed at a predominately younger audience.

“My youngest loved it but my eldest is getting a little too old for picture books.

“However, he did sit through it and I did get a laugh out of him when we got to the page where one of the sheep eats baked beans and ‘’blasts off’’ into space.”

‘Imagine If’ officially went on sale on August 31. To get your hands on a copy, visit http://www.austinmacauley.com/us/book/imagine-if.