Book Island launches picture book with acclaimed Bristol-based illustrator Owen Gent
A beautiful story about the importance of looking up, paying attention and sharing adventures
When ordering two giclée prints from illustrator Owen Gent’s website in full lockdown, Book Island publisher Greet Pauwelijn couldn’t have imagined her purchase would lead to the publication of ‘That’s Nice, Love’, a new beautiful and meaningful picture book for their front list.
Owen Gent’s illustrations are admired by tens of thousands of followers around the world. His artwork appears on the covers of books by internationally-acclaimed authors such as Bill Bryson, Thomas Hardy, Ernest Hemingway, while he also does editorial work for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vogue, TED, Al Jazeera and many more.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Owen’s work for many years. When he dropped off my prints and told me he'd always wanted to create a picture book, I commissioned him on the spot to write and illustrate a story for Book Island,” says the publisher.
It didn’t take Owen long to come up with an idea for the book. He says, “I'd been thinking a lot about phone and social media addiction and was noticing more and more people’s (adults and children alike) inability to be still and absorb the world around them without filling each available moment with checking, posting or simply aimlessly scrolling through their phones.
From a personal perspective I’d noticed a substantial change in my mind’s ability to be still, to be bored and to give myself the space to be imaginative without reaching for my phone, and, despite this awareness I found I needed to constantly be vigilant.
I wanted to explore the need for consideration of how we engage with the world, and communicate that by being constantly 'connected', we can end up missing so much beauty that's right in front of us.”
Despite the potential weight of the topic, ‘That’s Nice, Love’ is playful and visually rich with limited textual content and will resonate with all readers, young and old.
Local readers will immediately spot the Bristol landmarks, which the illustrator has cleverly woven into his artwork. Together with his partner, he also makes a cameo in the endpapers.
Many months before its official release date in the UK, ‘That’s Nice, Love’ started receiving interest from foreign publishers. So far Book Island have already sold the rights to China and Iran and they’re talking to many more publishers about releases in other languages.
‘That’s Nice, Love’ is now available from most indie bookshops in Bristol. If you’re quick, you might be able to grab one of the signed copies that Owen has dropped off at the following independents: BAM (Easton), Gloucester Road Books (Bishopston), Playfull Toyshop (Bishopston), Stanfords (Corn Street) and Storysmith (Southville).
‘That’s Nice, Love’ is not Book Island’s first picture book with a local illustrator. In 2019, they published ‘Mum’s Jumper, a heartfelt story about grief written and illustrated by Jayde Perkin. It sold more than 10,000 copies in the UK only. Thanks to The Reading Agency and Empathy Lab copies of Jayde’s book are available from any public library in the UK. ‘Mum’s Jumper’ has been translated and published in ten different languages, including Welsh, Basque, Italian and Taiwanese.