I don’t have all that much experience doing narrative illustration, although it’s something I’d like to get better at. So when I saw the competition to win a free spot on the Make Art that Sells Illustrating Children’s Book course I thought it would be good practise. We were supposed to design the cover of an imaginary children’s book called “The adventures of the sugar plum fairy” which we were free to interpret however we’d like.
Almost instantly after reading the prompt, a story to go a long with it started to spring into my mind and although I had other things to do that morning I had to take a break to write it down before I lost it. It was only after I wrote down a whole story that I started to work on the cover design. (And I changed the title a bit to go a long with the story I wrote)
I went through more than one version, and asked for some opinions in facebook groups before I settled on my final design. Below is the first two versions and the final, and if you scroll down past them, You’ll find the story I wrote to go along with it!
first two versions:
THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY AND THE DISAPPEARING MOON
On a lovely autumn evening as the sun was setting, the sugar plum fairy took a stroll through the enchanted forest. She began to feel tired and decided to climb a tall tree and find a place to sleep awhile. Inside a large hole in the trunk she settled down on what felt like a comfortable pile of leaves and drifted off.
She awoke suddenly as everything started to move as if in an earthquake and she reached out in the dark to grab the first thing she found, squeezing her eyes shut in fright.
But when she opened her eyes, still holding on with all her might, she was in the air, with the ground far below her. She realised she was on the back of an owl who must have been sleeping in the same tree all along, dragging her out along with him as he took flight! All the fairy could do was hold on and wait for the owl to land again, because fairies are like butterflies- their wings are made for fluttering near flowers, not soaring above the tree tops.
After some time and much distance the owl set down in another tree on the edge of a small clearing. The fairy was frightened, as she discovered she was now in a part of the forest she had never been in before and everything was strange and new and very, very dark.
Climbing down from the big tree the fairy saw she was surrounded by dozens of mushrooms, just barely illuminated by the stars. Wandering through them, she accidentally bumped up against one.
“Ouuf!” it cried out. Startled, the fairy whirled around to see the mushroom tip back his funny red top and a sweet little face looked up at her as if startled from sleep. The sugar plum fairy had never seen a talking mushroom before.
His noise awakened some of the others. All the mushrooms were alive! The fairy introduced herself and soon made friends. But she noticed that her new friends seemed a little sad. What could be the matter?
“We eat moon beams,” one of the tiniest mushrooms explained. “Every night the moon reaches the crest of the hill just beyond the entrance to our clearing and shines directly down on us for awhile before rising higher in the sky where the tops of the trees hide its’ rays from us. But the moon has disappeared! It’s been 3 days since we’ve seen it…3 days since we’ve eaten…”
“We’re afraid it will never come back! what will we eat then?” asked another.
The fairy was very sad for her new friends. “Well,” she said, “Since none of you have any legs and can’t go find the moon yourselves, I will go!” And making her goodbyes the fairy hurried off to find the moon.
Fluttering through the trees on the edge of the little clearing, she came upon Mrs Mim, a hedgehog and her 4 little children. They were peaking out of their home under the roots of a nearby tree.
The fairy asked her if she knew why the moon was dark. But Mrs. Mim did not. She wished it would come back though, as the dark frightened her little ones.
Further on she found another animal to ask. Fast Jack, a beautiful grey rabbit, was also concerned about the missing moon, as it made him trip and stumble as he tried to run through the trees. But he didn’t know either. “You should ask Mr. Amble,” said Jack. “He’s the oldest and wisest of all of us. He lives just there in that old hollow log.”
So the fairy walked on towards the log and knocked lightly on the wood near the entrance.
Mr. Amble, an old tortoise, ambled out, his old wrinkled face looking questioningly up at her. She was very afraid he wouldn’t know where the moon had gone either, but she asked him anyway. Mr Amble took a long time to answer, but finally he said, “I am old and can’t walk all the way up the hill on the north side of the clearing, but you are young and fast. There is something there that was not there before. Go there and I think you will solve the mystery.”
Excited to finally have a clue, the sugar plum fairy raced north as the ground started to slope up beneath her. Finally she reached what seemed to be a massive wall of rock: a giant shape looming above her, taller and wider than a whole thicket of trees. Above it and around it she could see the faintest glimmering of light. “The Moon!” She thought excitedly.
Half climbing, half flying, the sugar plum fairy rushed to reach the top of this strange wall- surely the moon was just past it! The surface felt like rock, but it was warm somehow and not entirely hard.
She was almost near the top when the wall started to shake. Oh no! Had she caused an avalanche? Suddenly a booming voice called out from her right. “Who’s tickling me?! stop it!” And then laughter, deep and loud, as if from a giant. Two eyes, unbelievably large, appeared in the darkness.
The fairy was afraid. This was no wall, no great rock, this was a monster of some kind!
“h-hello?” The fairy stammered out.
More deep laughter echoed in the night. “don’t be afraid! I’m Lala, the dragon. who are you, little creature?”
“I’m the sugar Plum fairy! I’ve come to find the moon.”
“The moon?” asked the dragon in surprise. “Why it’s just there!” She said, suddenly lifting her big long neck from the ground and gesturing with it over her shoulder, in the opposite direction of the clearing. “I’ve been sleeping here for three nights and the moon has been here all along!”
So the fairy told the dragon about the mushroom people and explained that for the last three nights the dragon must have been blocking the light of the moon from entering into the clearing just down the hill where the mushroom people lived.
“Oh no!” said Lala, “I never realised! from now on, I’ll sleep somewhere else, and I’ll be sure to ask if there are any mushroom people nearby!”
The fairy thanked the kind hearted dragon and watched as the massive form of her new friend rose up and up until she was on her feet and walking off into the deeper woods, each footfall shaking the ground. The moon, now clear of obstacles, shone brightly on her surroundings and illuminated the path down the hill and into the opening of the clearing.
When she got back to the mushroom people they were all humming and had delighted little smiles of pleasure on their faces. They were drinking up the moon beams! “thank you sugar plum fairy!” they called. “However did you find the moon?”
The fairy was very happy she could help, she said, and began to tell them the whole tale.
That night she played in the moonlight with the sweet little mushroom people until it was almost dawn and she was very tired. Then she climbed back up the tree to find the owl that had brought her there and to ask him if he would mind taking her back.
When she was safely home and finally in her own familiar, comfortable bed, the sugar plum fairy fell into a deep sleep and dreamed of all the creatures she had met during her great adventure.