Taking Time by Jo Loring-Fisher from Lantana Publishing is an absolutely stunning book focusing on taking time to enjoy our world and the wonder of it all around us. ‘Time’ is something that perhaps we are all having to reevaluate at present and how we spend it is markedly different from even just a month ago. Whilst the UK publication of this book has been postponed until September (the US release goes ahead on 7th April), so relevant is this book right now I am very pleased to share my review and bookchat with author-illustrator Jo Loring-Fisher today.
Taking Time is a beautiful poem set against the backdrop of stunning illustrations capturing just how much wonder there is in the world and encouraging us to notice it. From listening to birdsong, to watching a spider build it’s web; from staring into the eyes of someone you love to enjoying the love of your cat or dog – wonder can be found everywhere. Each spread is set in a different part of the world because no matter who or where you are, you can marvel at your surroundings, inspired by principles of mindfulness. It is a simple, calming read, evoking an idea I think we can all embrace at this difficult time. Taking Time is a book to cherish and one that inspires the reader to embrace life in all its beauty and simplicity.
The good news is that Taking Time is available to buy direct from the publisher. I am so glad to have read it and I am equally glad to welcome Jo Loring-Fisher to the blog for a bookchat today. Welcome to the blog jo!
What was the inspiration behind writing Taking Time? I wrote Taking Time when I was out walking the dog in my old home of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. I often write when I am walking, jotting ideas down on the Notes app on my phone, which I later email to myself. I was specifically writing a piece with Lantana Publishing in mind. I had just completed illustrating Maisie’s Scrapbook by Samuel Narh, for them and very much enjoyed working with them and I love their ethos. I was looking up at the trees watching birds and looking for inspiration, when the concept came to me. I knew I wanted the work to be multi-cultural and about the things that connect us as humans. We always hear about our cultural differences, but I feel there are so many more similarities than differences, between us. I like that a child in the UK could be as fascinated by a spider spinning its web, as a child in Nepal, or anywhere else, could. I didn’t start out with the intention of writing about mindfulness, it was my publisher Alice Curry, that saw this. I love that another person can see something in my work, and she was right!
How do you think it can be interpreted for everyday life, especially in the current circumstances? Although mindfulness is an innate skill in many ways, I think it has been lost because we are all under so much pressure and this, unfortunately, applies to children. Consciously bringing mindfulness to our attention in a simple way and accessible way, is important and this is my intention with Taking Time.
The circumstances in which we find ourselves right now, are quite frightening and uncertain. I like the idea that parents and carers can sit quietly with a child, look at each spread and pause to discuss the words and images and perhaps chat about how this relates to the child and children of the world. For example, what does it feel like when you bury your hand in your dog’s fur? I hope that it will do the same for the adults sharing the book as well. We all need a bit of that!
I think the skills of mindfulness are so lost to us that they can be hard to relearn, but they really are a life skill and I hope that the book will prove to be a gentle way to encourage this. When it gets a bit frenetic at home, and in the current circumstances this is going to be an issue, hopefully Taking Time will act as a guide and bring some peace. I think that there is plenty to discuss and relate to in each spread and this can spark conversations about different peoples and cultures across our wonderful world. I would love the book to be the basis of activities in the home or garden. A child could be asked to shut their eyes and try to remember their journey to school, for example. It could then be extended to an imagined place that can be described using all the senses. What does the place, real or imagined, smell like? What sounds can the child hear? What does it feel like under foot? It could be used as a springboard for art and crafts activities or an exploration in the garden or around the house. What object would the child bring with them, for example?
Do you practice mindfulness yourself and if so, how has it helped you and how do you believe it can help others? Those moments that make us stop and notice something outside of ourselves are so important. As a child, I was always the one to point out the spider spinning a web on the way to school, or a fern leaf unfurling and I am unchanged in that way. When I feel stressed or my mood is a bit low, taking a walk outside with my Spaniel, Flossie, always helps. I’m also interested in the idea of forest bathing. Immersing myself in the countryside, particularly the forest, can really help to give me clarity. Being still and becoming more and more aware of those gentle sounds around you, the wind in the tree, birds singing, the feel of a leaf as it brushes past your ear falling to the ground, are wonderful things to connect with. It isn’t quite so easy in the city, but any green space can be beneficial.
The poem encourages the reader to take in the wonder of the world and reminds us how precious life is – even in the small things – how do you think life will change following this period? I really hope that the world as a whole can learn from this experience. My hope is that we will rediscover a more contented and grounded way of life and one which doesn’t exploit the riches of the natural world, or the most vulnerable. I feel that things have been spinning out of control and that this could be a wake-up call, we need to slow down and live more lightly on this planet. I truly hope and pray that we learn from it and a change is brought about in individuals and communities.
Can you tell us a bit about your illustration process? Do the words or pictures come first? Sometimes an idea comes to me as words first and other times it’s images that take the lead. When I’m working the images out, I might jot down a very rough sketch. These are then turned into thumbnails-tiny illustrations that allow you to put together your ideas and help you to see how the spreads will work as a whole. Some images come to me very easily and remain pretty much unchanged, and other times I am unsure of how they will be until I work on them. It was like this with the Ecuador image, where I had a rough idea, but the finished image came to me as I was putting it together. I draw my characters and scan them in to the computer. I’ve made lots of textures using paint and printmaking, and I use them to collage over the drawings using Photoshop.
What new projects are you working on and how will you be spending your time whilst required to stay at home? In the next few months I have two more books being published, one with Otter-Barry Books and another with Frances Lincoln, so I have been working very hard on them. I’d like to say I’m going to take it a bit easier, but I have new projects that I’m working on and that’s exciting. We have moved fairly recently, so I plan to tackle the garden over the coming months and create some beds to grow vegetables. We had a ready-made veg plot in our previous garden, so I’ve got used to the cycle of planting, picking and cooking the food I’ve grown, and I love it!
What would your top suggestions be to help parents and carers encourage their child’s creativity at home? I have four children, three of whom are adults now, and two pursuing careers in the creative industries. Books played a big role in their upbringing and I know they have been very inspired by this. I have taught art to children and adults, and what I have discovered time and time again, is the notion that each and every mark must be just right and just so and recognisable. I’ve overheard parents correcting their children while they’re drawing something and even take over from them. This creates fear and acts as a barrier to the creative process and really puts children off even trying to draw and very often this lasts into adulthood. I’d say leave children alone to experiment and have fun. Don’t worry if they make a mess (make sure there is lots of newspaper down) and don’t expect the drawing to look like an actual, real thing! Encourage and praise. Tissue paper ‘painting’ is fun, this involves laying pieces of tissue paper down on paper and painting water onto it. Once the paper has dried it can be removed and leaves beautiful, brightly coloured prints. Coloured pencils are also a less messy way for a child to enjoy image making. More than anything, praise children and don’t criticise what they have produced.
With thanks to Jo Loring-Fisher for participating in this bookchat! Find out more at www.joloringfisher.com and follow on Twitter: @JoLoringFisher
As a child Jo’s favourite pastime was drawing and writing stories. She grew up in Sussex, close to Ashdown Forest where Winnie-the-pooh was written and felt that forest’s magic! Jo now lives in the beautiful city of Bath with my husband, and two younger daughters. The natural world inspires her greatly, but she also loves to people watch and living in a city gives her lots of opportunities to do just that! Jo says: “Being passionate about art and children’s books, it is wonderful to be able to spend my time combining the two. As a mum of four, I have spent many an hour sharing my love of books with my children and have witnessed the impact this has had on them.”
With thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to read and review.