Thursday 19 August 2021

Let’s Get Ready for School - Q&A with illustrator Carolina Rabei

Today we welcome Carolina Rabei onto Picture Book Party to talk about her new picture book, Let's Get Ready for School written by Jane Porter.

What will school be like? What will we do there? What if I miss Mummy? Do I have to go?

Jane Porter answers all of these questions and more in this warm, witty and reassuring book for young children that explores everything they'll need to know before starting school. Marley, Maya, Theo, Akiko, Ella and Zakir are all getting ready to start school. Why not come along with them and see what it’s like? Illustrated with charming characters by Carolina Rabei, this is the perfect introduction to joining a new class.

Q&A with Carolina Rabei

Can you tell us about your journey into illustration? 


At an early age I loved drawing. I was lucky to have an aunt and uncle who were artists. They were the ones to recognise my talent and encourage me to take this path. From age 11 I studied at a Fine Art School in my home town for about 8 years, then I decided to take a degree in Graphics and Graphic Design. My studies in Moldova gave me a great base - then in 2011 I came across Martin Salisbury’s book, Illustrating Children’s Books, which greatly inspired me and led me to Cambridge in 2012 to study on the MA Course in Children’s Book Illustration. After 6 months on the course, I received my first offer to illustrate Snow by Walter de la Mare, which kickstarted my illustrating career in the UK, which was a dream. I can’t believe that Let’s get ready for school is my thirteen illustrated picture book!

How did you begin illustrating Let’s Get Ready for School?

After reading the brief and the lovely text by Jane Porter I started to develop the characters of the book. From the start, we wanted to have a multicultural group of characters, that all readers could identify with. Also, as Jane suggested in the text, each child has a different personality, which I tried to portray in the illustrations.


Can you tell us a little bit more about your artistic process?

I work from home and always have. In the future, I hope to have a separate garden studio, but at the moment I just use the spare room, which I find a good environment for me to focus in. Even if I miss human interaction sometimes, I feel that I am most productive when I have my personal space. 


My workday starts just after breakfast and carries on until the evening with tea breaks in between or a walk if the weather is nice. I feel lucky to live in a town with a lovely country park, lakes and forest patches where I can stretch my legs or just take a break from the screen.


Most of my work is done digitally these days. I still like to use traditional media if drawing outdoors or experimenting. But I find it less time consuming to create my roughs in Photoshop and also colour them in there. It is much faster to make any changes, scale or tweak any elements I need to. I still like to add some natural textures to my work. 


What was your favourite spread to illustrate in Let’s Get Ready for School?

There were lots of fun moments to illustrate in this book. Probably my favourite is the classroom spread because I’ve added little fun details that are not mentioned in the text but indispensable to a classroom. One of my favourite things is to add childlike drawings and art to the interiors.


What are your favourite picture books, both older and more recent?

One of the first picture book I discovered when I came to England was the Snowman by Raymond Briggs - I’m still in love with it!

Also the books by John Burningham, Dahlov Ipcar, Květa Pacovská, are just beautiful and inspiring, 

I also love the work of the contemporary illustrators Jarvis, Isabelle Arsenault, Phoebe Wahl, Benji Davies, Kenard Park, Richard Jones and many more!


You can watch both Jane Porter and Carolina Rabei discuss their memories of starting school below!

A special thanks to our guest this week, Carolina Rabei!
Let's Get Ready for School is now available from all good booksellers.