Would you like to raise an environmentally conscious child? It is more important than ever that children understand how important sustainability is for the future of our planet. Written by Helen Mortimer and illustrated by Katie Cottle, we present Omar, the Bees and Me. This heartfelt story manages to do quite a few things at once. Omar, the new boy in class, is a Syrian refugee, so it touches on cultural identity. It also cheers on the importance of friendship. The book gifts us with educational facts about bees. We chatted to its award-winning illustrator, Katie Cottle.
Why did you start writing/illustrating books for children?
I’ve always loved making up stories and drawing pictures. I studied illustration at university and picture books just seemed to be the most natural fit for me and the work I wanted to make.
How did you get your book out into the world?
This book (Omar the Bees and Me, written by Helen Mortimer) was actually shown to me by the publisher (Owlet Press) as they’d seen my existing work and thought I’d be a good fit to illustrate this one!
Why did you write this book? Why did you want to illustrate this story?
I loved the many themes within the text. The main storyline is about bees and plants, but then there’s also Maisie and Omar’s friendship, and then also Omar’s background. I loved the characters and world that Helen had created in her writing, and it was a really fun challenge to illustrate!
Do you relate to any characters in your stories – which ones and in what way?
I relate to a few characters across my work. In The Green Giant, there’s Bea who lives in a very grey city and misses the greenery. I currently live in Bristol in a small grey flat – I would absolutely love a garden or a magical greenhouse! In The Blue Giant, Meera wants to help clean up the ocean. I’ve been trying my best to make more sustainable choices in my life, too. And in Omar the Bees and Me, I really relate to Omar being really shy until he makes a new friend, and Maisie and her big ideas!
What’s your favourite book and why?
My favourite book changes all the time! My current favourite picture book is ‘You Matter’ by Christian Robinson. The text is simple but so powerful, and the illustrations are beautiful! I love all the texture and character.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was little I wanted to be a hairdresser! Funnily enough, I do cut my own fringe…
What do you want children to get from your books?
I want children to get inspired by my books! Inspired to keep learning about the things in the books like the environmental issues, or also inspired to draw their own stories. Also, I’d hope they get some entertainment from them, too!
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Don’t force it”
Finish this sentence for us…Reading from diverse bookshelves….
…broadens readers’ worldviews, empowers creators’ voices, and should definitely be the norm!
A message to readers of your book?
Thank you for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed my work!
Purchase Omar, the Bees, and Me here.
For more books that are concerned about looking after our planet, press here.
To see more of Katie Cottle’s illustrations, visit her website.