• Picture Book Snob

Emily Ann Davison & Deborah Allwright take us behind the scenes of Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny

Published by Nosy Crow, March 2022

Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny by Emily Ann Davison and Deborah Allwright, Nosy Crow, March 2022

Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny has had us hopping with joy - as well as growing more zen - since it arrived here last month (reviewed here). It was wonderful to speak to the author and illustrator all about this gorgeous book and to hear about some of the work behind the scenes. Learn about Emily Ann Davison's relationship with yoga, the special person who inspired this story and how she discovered her passion for children's books. Find out why Deborah Allwright was destined to be an illustrator and why drawing yoga bunnies can be difficult, and see some of her early sketches for the book!

Author Emily Ann Davison

What inspired this story? Are you a yoga enthusiast and if so, how has this positively impacted you?

The inspiration behind Yo-Yo comes from working with wiggly and jiggly children and being a mother to an energetic, wriggly child. My interest in yoga comes from seeing the positive impact that yoga has on my daughter. I wrote Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny at a time when she was finding it tricky to feel calm at bedtime. We started trying different relaxation techniques to help, and one thing that really helped was yoga. My daughter is quite similar to Yo-Yo, she is full of energy and has the wiggliest legs! Sometimes, she asks to do yoga, and we roll out her yoga mat, and suddenly she is transformed! Her favourite pose is Shavasana Pose, which is a simple, resting position on your back. She becomes so still and calm in this pose.


Have you always wanted to be an author and how has your experience as an early year’s teacher shaped the way you write books?

As a child, I loved all types of books and enjoyed writing stories, poems and songs. I loved the idea of being a writer, but I didn’t know that being an author was something you could actually do! It wasn’t really a huge surprise that as a grown-up I returned to my love of writing.


I worked with children in the early years, and this is where I discovered my passion for children’s books. One day, a picture book idea popped into my head and now the ideas won’t stop popping! In pre-school and school settings, I have seen the way that children’s books can connect to so many topics and areas of the curriculum. I think this is often in the back of my mind when I’m writing stories, however; I do tend to write whatever idea comes to me next, without thinking too analytically about it.

Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny by Emily Ann Davison and Deborah Allwright, Nosy Crow, March 2022
Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny by Emily Ann Davison and Deborah Allwright

How did it feel to see Deborah’s illustrations for the first time?

I can’t put into words just how excited and overwhelmed I felt to see Deborah’s illustrations. I’m not a very visual person, so I don’t picture anything in my head when I’m writing. It was amazing to see the characters and story brought to life by Deborah’s beautiful artwork. I can’t imagine the book ever looking another way!


Do you have a favourite spread and if so, which is it?

On the very first spread, Deborah has absolutely captured the essence of Yo-Yo, and I love these illustrations of her. However, I could never choose a spread as a favourite, because they are all so beautiful. The scenery that Deborah has included, and all of the hidden minibeasts on the spreads, are wonderful and I’m still spotting new things every time I read it!


As this is your first book, seeing the finished book for the first time must have been a proud moment! How did it feel?

If felt, and still feels, as though I am living in a dream. I’m waiting for someone to pinch me and then I’ll wake up. It all feels very surreal.

Emily spots her book in Tales on Market Street in Kent

What were your favourite books when you were a child?

I loved books as a child – all types of books! I especially loved joke books, riddle books, poetry books and activity books. I have a strong memory of bringing home book club catalogues from school. Sometimes, I was lucky enough to be able to buy a book from them. I often chose a poetry book, and when the book was delivered, my teacher would choose a poem from it and read it to the class.


My favourite book as a very young child was a book called Up Along, Down along, Under and Over by Diane Wilmer and Iris Schweitzer. When I was little, I was in and out of hospital quite a lot because I had Retinoblastoma, a type of eye cancer. I had many overnight stays and my Mum used to spend the days reading to me to keep me entertained. She often tells me the story of how she found Up Along, Down along, Under and Over in the hospital library. Apparently, I asked for it to be read over and over and over again. My Mum ended up finding me my very own copy because I loved it so much.


What are your favourite stories to read with your daughter?

I can’t possibly answer this question because our house is busting at the seams with books! I love those moments when we snuggle up to share a book together and we have so many favourites. My daughter really loves the silliest books, and those are my favourite ones to read to her because we sit together giggling away! Thanks so much to Emily for taking the time to answer all of our questions. Now it's over to Deborah...


Illustrator Deborah Allwright

What did you enjoy most about this project?

I practise yoga and I am passionate about nature so this was a perfect project for me! Emily’s clever idea had both a story to illustrate and a practical yoga guide to follow.

I enjoyed researching the habitats to set the scenes for Yo-Yo' s adventure. I hope readers who follow Yo-Yo's yoga might also spot the different groups of plants and insects in each spread from woodland, wetland and meadows.


What did you find the most challenging?

I found that although I am familiar with yoga poses, drawing them is another matter, especially when drawing a bunny doing yoga! Yo-Yo's wriggly arms and legs needed to be in exactly the right positions for each pose to be recognised as the Frog or Mountain Pose, otherwise she would look like she was simply standing or sitting casually. Luckily, one of my publisher’s team at Nosy Crow is also a qualified yogi, so I was able to consult and correctly make those small adjustments or ‘tweaks’ as we call them in illustration.

Illustration of Grandpa Bunny by Deborah Allwright

Do you have a favourite spread and if so, which is it?

I like the scene for Bridge Pose with all the bunnies apart from Yo-Yo doing their little bridges. Firstly I was pleased that the bunnies looked convincing in their poses! Grandpa Bunny is wearing his scarf, which amuses me and whilst everyone embodies stillness and calm, Yo-Yo hasn’t a hope of stopping her legs or arms from jiggling about. This spread includes a stream which I loved creating. It is flowing gently and busy with aquatic detail of bulrushes and damselflies. Streams were where I would spend my hours as a child given the chance. Peering in at all the tiny creatures such as stickleback fish and the scary-looking dragonfly nymph.


Are bunnies hard to draw and/or do you have a favourite animal?

Bunnies are not too difficult with their distinctive long ears and fluffy pom-pom tails.

I love drawing most animals, though my favourite is the horse. I have loved horses since childhood but drawing them can be tricky. I so wanted a pony of my own that I must have drawn my ideal horse a thousand times. This obsession probably helped me to observe a horse’s anatomy with greater concentration.

Deborah's favourite spread from Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny

Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? Do you create illustrations in chronological order? What media do you use? Do you have a favourite time of day to work?

I work from my shared studio next to large bright windows, and with a stack of A4 paper at the ready I begin by sketching the main characters in pencil. I think the first impressions are often the ones with the most vitality when the line is free and scribbly. Some characters arrive fully realised as if they have just been waiting for their book debut! Other times I keep experimenting until their personality pops up and stays true no matter what pose I sketch. In Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny, I actually started with Grandpa Bunny first rather than the cute young bunnies, as I thought he would be quite challenging to get right. He needed to be mature and yoga flexible!

I worked quite closely with the great creative team at Nosy Crow as this book was slightly different to my other picture books. The scenes are quite naturalistic as this ties in with the National Trust and we can identify spring flowers, birds and insects.

I use Photoshop for my colour art and scan in painted textures such as scratchy or splattered brush strokes or found scraps of paper with graphic dots, for example. I use my original pencil line sketches as a guide to my composition but draw the characters on my graphic tablet so there isn’t any line in the finished art. The textures are layered to give more depth and colour. It is quite an instinctive process where I bring elements in as it develops. The trick is to keep the same balance throughout the entire book. It can be quite work-intensive, but I am happy when working in the flow into the late hours.

Some of Deborah's early bunny sketches for this book

Have you always wanted to illustrate children’s books?

Oh, I probably couldn’t have been that marine biologist or firework designer!

Aged 8 I was creating my own comics complete with puzzles and wonky advertisements which I made my family read. I was definitely already on the path of storytelling.


Are there any artists/children’s book illustrators who have influenced the way you work?

So many! That’s difficult to narrow down … I’d say Brian Wildsmith whose animal world is a joy of colour. Rodger Duvoisin’s animals have incredible humour and his visual perspective is genius, see The Frog in the Well. Gerald Rose, Miroslav Sasek. These are all quite classic. Of current illustrators, I love David Roberts’ style, especially his black and white art. I quite like darker works such as those by Shaun Tan and the shadowy inky woods of Lorenzo Mattotti’s Oltremai.


What were your favourite books when you were a child?

Above all, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. It is all about a horse of course! Thanks so much, Deborah - I loved learning more about how you work although I think you would probably have made an excellent firework designer too! Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny is available everywhere books are sold - read our review

Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny was published by Nosy Crow, in partnership with the National Trust, in March 2022 - see this book on the publisher's website