What better way to celebrate Bookshop Day than with a book that follows the long journey of a picturebook from printing press to reader’s hands via, of course, a lovely independent bookshop? This is exactly what Special Delivery: A Book’s Journey Around the World (Nosy Crow), written by Polly Faber and illustrated by Klas Fahlén, does. The narrative text is concise but informative, including lots of details about the processes and people involved in the distribution chain. The artwork is colourful and elegant, with sharp lines and a wonderful mid-century quality. The book ends with a few pages on “special delivery numbers” which is a great section for little readers who are particularly keen on numerical facts, and because the narrative focuses a lot on the logistical side of book distribution, this is also a great read for transport fans. Special Delivery is equally brilliant for reading aloud and pored over endlessly; it is a delight of a book and I’m very pleased that its author Polly Faber agreed to answer a few questions about its creation.
A Q & A about “Special Delivery”
with Polly Faber
“Special Delivery” is the third narrated information book you have written for Nosy Crow that focuses on people’s work. What inspired you to start this series and more particularly to write “Special Delivery”?
It came about by accident really. I wrote a fictional picture book text about Jane the crane operator because, even though I’m scared of heights, I really LOVE cranes. My agent sent it to Nosy Crow and they liked it but thought it would work better as a non-fiction text and asked me to consider reworking it. They were absolutely right. That book became Building A Home; non-fiction but with a narrative flow. I found I really enjoyed approaching a topic in that way. Then the fun of nerding out over big machinery and industrial processes led me to wonder if they’d let me do a second book with Klas Fahlen about another secret passion – container ships. Thankfully, Nosy Crow liked that idea too! I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the books I thought up in my head eventually come from China to get to me in finished form.
How different is your approach to writing an information book, comparing to when you write fiction (for example your other recent title with Nosy Crow, “Kitsy Bitsy’s Noisy Neighbours”)?
It definitely includes more eccentric YouTube searches! But I still start with working on the frame of the story – understanding the shape and arc of that is just as important as with a purely fiction text. I combine that with research to try and make sure the information presented is accurate. I am so blessed to live in the People With Proper Jobs Who Like To Make Films About Themselves On Their Phone era. You have no idea how happy watching a 15 minute Vlog of a Felixstowe dock worker can make me.
In contrast, writing Kitsy Bitsy was me with my noise cancelling headphones on, working through frustrations about three neighbours’ back-to-back house renovation projects….
Is your writing routine similar for example?
Yes, my writing routine is a straightforward go-to-my-laptop-after-breakfast-and-write one. In theory…Writing picture book texts always feels a bit like chipping away at a sculpture to me. You only have a few words so you want each one to matter and to sing whatever the purpose or subject. I do a lot of reading out loud of what I write too; I know what it is to be a parent having to endlessly reread a clunky text!
The meta element of the book will really tickle little readers. Is it something that was planned at the writing stage or came later when illustrating?
That was something I planned more or less right from the beginning. Although I planned for it to be a surprise at the end to start with (there’s also a little surprise in “All Through The Night” – my book about nightworkers – which readers can then go back and spot the clues to once they’ve finished) During the illustration process it became clear it was more important to show the right factory and right machinery than to maintain the surprise and the result was equally pleasing. There is a small but subtle difference in fact between real book and meta book, which my husband actually spotted before me.
Do you have any say on the layout and/or how the factual information is turned visually?
A say in the sense that I am shown the roughs at various stages and invited to comment. But in reality I just make happy, squealing noises! I love the design but that’s not my skill set and I’m happy to leave it to the experts beyond the odd small contribution. There’s an extra visual story about birds in “Building A Home” that I asked to be included but “Special Delivery” was more straightforward.
If you could choose one spread in the book; which one would it be and why?
I love the freight train spread which I think conveys a real sense of transport urgency and excitement. And of COURSE my beloved container ship.
Finally, can you tell us about any forthcoming releases we can look forward to?
I am hoping that there may be another narrative non-fiction book with Klas and Nosy Crow about another odd interest of mine but I can’t say too much about that yet. In the meantime I’m delighted to have my first Christmas picture book coming out in October: ‘Through The North Pole Snow’ is published by Walker and has the most wonderful spare but warm illustrations by Richard Jones. I can’t wait to show it off.
Thank you so much Polly for taking the time to answer those questions. “Special Delivery” is available to buy from all good bookshops or can be purchased via our partner bookshop, Storytellers, Inc.:
Source: review copy sent by the publisher