Did you know there’s a new children’s book, Leo’s Ladder, which is based in Knutsford?! The book, which is aimed at 3-8 year olds, was written by Dee Griffiths and illustrated by Ali Holah, who both live in Knutsford. I was fortunate enough to meet up with them to find out more!
Tell me a little about the story, and where your inspiration came from
Dee: The story is about a boy, Leo, who likes ladders. One appears outside his home, which he secretly wants to keep, but he goes on an adventure with his parents to find its owner. It has a moral to the story but not in a forced way!
The idea came to me when my neighbour visited with her 3 year old grandson, George. I had all these toys out ready for him to play with but he was shy and wouldn’t come in, he just clung to his grandmother’s legs. So I picked up a little ladder and showed it to him and he was so excited, it turned out he loved ladders! The story just grew from there. I had done a lot of work in schools, with a particular emphasis on reading and literacy and had always thought I’d like to write a children’s book. Now was my time! [Dee won Teacher of the Year in 2013 for her outstanding contribution to literacy!]
How did you end up working together?
Dee: We met about 18 months ago at a cocktail making class in Manchester organised by mutual friends! I’d already written the story, and we got talking and it came up that she did art. She showed me some of her work on her phone and I loved it!!
Ali: I did a degree in Art and English but had ended up working with young people giving them careers advice. I was always telling the students to follow their dreams yet not following my own dream of being an artist! I was made redundant and began working part time, so finally decided to get back into art, entering art competitions and selling children’s giclee prints online. Then Dee and I met and we just clicked!
Tell me a bit about the illustrations
Ali: They were a similar style to my previous work, but did evolve along the way. We made the decision to base the scenes in Knutsford, it’s such a beautiful town! You’ll see various landmarks such as Belle Epoque, Lost and Found, the train station and other Knutsford references in the artwork. Leo is loosely based on a red headed boy I know!
What’s next for Leo? I hear there’s a series!
Dee: Yes there are two more books in the pipeline already. One will be about Leo and his new baby sister, and the next about Leo starting school and the things his little sister imagines him doing there. They’ll still be set in Knutsford…we’ve lots more Knutsford locations to work with!
So…what was Knutty Mum’s verdict on the book?! We loved it! The story was engaging and easy for a child to relate to and imagine what they would do if they were in Leo’s position. The illustrations were whimsical yet beautifully detailed, and my 3 year old loved picking out all the bits of Knutsford he recognised! In fact he enjoyed it so much he announced he was going to write about it on his website too! It would make a lovely Christmas gift for any child and would be particularly special for ones who have a connection with Knutsford!
Ali and Dee will be signing and selling copies of Leo’s Ladder (for £7.99) at the Knutsford Christmas Market on 1st December, from a stall inside the Knutsford Methodist Church, and at a pop up stall in the Knutsford Market Hall on 15th December. You can also order copies by getting in contact with Ali or Dee via their websites (www.aliholah.com and www.deegriffiths.com). Follow Leo’s Ladder on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest news!