Category Archives: Project – Working for children

Exercise: Educational Strip

What’s happening to my body? It’s all going mad!

Produce an educational strip of up to 5 frames for use in schools explaining to young teenagers how to cope with the onset of puberty.


  • Delicate subject so use metaphor and humour
  • Don’t trivialise this serious subject

Also provide a character illustration for use on the front cover.

OK. This is a confusingly worded exercise – it asks for a ‘strip’, something for the ‘cover’ and refers to it as a ‘leaflet’. Presumably it’s part of a wider campaign and my ‘strip’ and ‘cover’ are for specific bits of it.


These other books that deal with similar issues are all illustration in a was that is removed from a ‘naturalistic’ representation – the characters are stylised in some way or another.

It’s interesting to note that without these books I would have no idea what there is to cover… I simply don’t remember what my own pre-puberty questions were!

I’ve only got up to 5 frames to produce so that’s not a lot of information. I’ll need to pick something quite specific, and the choices are:

  • Body hair (ie: in funny places)
  • Body shape
  • Genital development
  • Breast development
  • Menarche
  • Hormones
  • Pregnancy and Sex
  • Contraception
  • Masturbation
  • Anatomy
  • Sanitary ‘products’ and practices
  • Mood changes
  • Fancying people
  • Spots
  • Smells and deodorant
  • General hygiene
  • General diet
  • Voice breaking
  • Shaving
  • STI’s
  • Babies

Key phrase: “How to cope” with the “onset of puberty”.

This suggests instruction: what to do. Perhaps it also suggests “what to expect”. I have an idea for fancying people… to show two characters (a boy and girl) who become teenagers over the 5 frames and change their behaviour towards each other and their appearance as time passes.


  1. indifference… they are alike and do not look at each other as being different (8 years old).
  2. Arguing… (9 years old) competing for resources
  3. Hiding (10 years old) they are undergoing puberty and are both hiding from everyone
  4. Strutting (13 years old) they have found new confidence and are happy individuals and surprised at each other’s appearance
  5. Flirting (15 years old) one of them makes a ‘pass’ at the other

Ages are nominal as “your experience may vary”.


Rough sketch of the idea. Does this work? I might need captions for the cells…

  1. When you are a kid… life is simple
  2. Later people begin to annoy you – you annoy them too. This can be part of puberty and being nice to people and tolerant of others is still important
  3. Puberty also tends to give you spots. Men get facial hair and you tend to feel like you don’t want to be seen.
  4. All these things pass and you feel better about yourself.
  5. At this point you may start to fancy people – and it feels very nice.

These are a bit rough too… I think I need to find the right form of words for this kind of thing. At the moment I’m trying to avoid telling young insecure people that they are going to be “beautiful” once the “ugly spots” have gone – this is not good self-worth material!

I’m wondering about my characters – their visual appearance. I’ve simply sketched in a tending-to-be-realistic-looking way but they could be more abstract. I need to…

  • Convey their emotions on their faces (Needs a mouth and eyes, maybe eyebrows)
  • Indicate their sex (to avoid showing girls with beards and boys with boobs)
  • allow the reader to identify with them (they must be humans)
  • Have a full character(s) for the cover


I was trying here to remove as much unnecessary detail as possible to find a character who is fun and useful for the purpose at hand – I feel I have to represent a change in age from ‘pre-teen’ to ‘teen’. It looks like the shape of the face (round to more elongated) helps make this happen, and the nose becomes more of a feature for the older ones.

Drawing them in fat charcoal reduces the functional marks even more. The eyes are suggested and the direction of gaze indicated by the hint of an eyebrow or the top of the eye socket which provides a mark to steer by.

So having established which parts of the face make the expressions and reduced the outline to the barest minimum that I can work with to indicate age I need something to make the characters appealing and interesting.

I will also need to keep clothes in keeping with the age.


Re-working the words:

Young boys and girls…???

As I try to write this I keep becoming aware that all of the previously-held absolutes are gone… being attracted to the same sex is completely legitimate… non-binary designations (or non-designations?) allow children to grow up to become neither men nor women. Any pre-teen reading about what is happening to them or what is about to happen may find that they are to have a non-hetero non-binary sexual orientation/designation (what are the right words here?) so do I need at every stage to enumerate the possibilities and account for them?

I don’t know. I’m going to write this at first as if only Hetero/Gender-specific options exist and see how I might widen the options from there:

Young girls and boys do not experience sexual attraction because their bodies and minds have not made the hormones yet that makes that happen.

Puberty is when they start to change – very slowly – into adults and when the hormones make extra feelings.

Bodies and faces change shape along with the feelings and can become spotty and smelly requiring more washing and attention.

Fancying someone else and wanting their attention and to be close to them is generally what happens as puberty happens and is when you have to learn a new set of ways to be nice and respectful to others.

That’s not so bad – there are few references to either gender or sexual preference. The illustrations may look more specific. Perhaps I can condense these sentences into something that is more of a prompt/note than an entire explanation… the point of using a ‘comic strip’ style is not to simply illustrate a lot of text – the picture should do a lot of work. I could also use speech bubbles.

Best Friends Forever? Of course. For ever and ever.
Young children have straight forward friendships.

My top’s too small! Spots?
Bodies change during puberty

THINKS I’d like to do X but I just want to stay here too!
You get new feelings for some people

Would you like to go out with me? <SPEECHLESS> Yes!
Spending time with special individuals might become more important to you.

Red is character A (a girls called Alice)
Green is character B (a boy called Brendan)
Blue is the caption

So now there is a primary character, Alice, and a secondary boy to be the object of her (new) affection.

I need to represent in the imagery… Children friends, growing out of a top, getting spots, activity indecision, asking him out.

Reflecting on this – the image with the too-small top and the spots seems out of place as this is to deal with the feelings. I had originally thought that body image and fancying someone might have a strong connection… but now I think it interferes – it’s like a side-plot. Re-writing other words to I get…

I like strawberries. I like chocolate and apples.
Young children have simple friendships.

Do you like reading? Yes, and cycling.
Our feelings change during puberty

THINKS I want to ride my bike but I’d rather stay here!
You get new feelings for some people

Will you to go out with me? <SPEECHLESS> Yes!
Those people might become more important to you.

I’ve re-worked this so that the emphasis is about thinking about other people and how puberty causes this to increase in some ways. Perhaps we take up hobbies because someone we like is interested.

Client Visual


I drew this as my client visual – when it was just in my sketchbook it looked OK… now I’m wondering if I should’ve made the text in Illustrator for readability… and should it be in colour?

Cover Character

I have two characters because I’m dealing with an interaction… so I’ve always drawn a pair here.

these are the children:


Using the Disney method and then cleaning it up in Photoshop:


The big heads and ‘stunted’ bodies work at making them appear as children rather than adults (which is the thing I feel less capable of controlling, but is slowly becomming clearer as a function of body part proportions).

These are the (pre-)Teens:


Even cleaned up:


There’s no getting away from the fact that this pair look like grandparents! The reason I thought was that she is a bit ‘frumpy’ but I was trying for a bit ‘gangly’ – just had a growth spurt – but the necks look like they’re on the way to a dowager’s hunch. So I drew them again:


…and I  deliberately use more rough red pencil to guage the result… which is much better:


Making the necks upright gives them more youth. I also gave them more hair… we’re heading towards the 1980s here in fact… Olivia-Newton John and Duran Duran? Not quite that far gone.

Having drawn these I feel like I could do a better job of the client visual… refining these characters for the cover has sorted out some details that I hadn’t properly defined before. There might be more things I could make more specific and I think it could get to the point where there are defined lines for these characters.




Exercise: Working for Children



maisie-1 maisie-2

Maisie Mouse


Each Peach Pear Plumb

Pre-School (3 to 5)


Dear Zoo

Early Reader (5 to 7)


Charlie and Lola

Established Reader (7 to 9)


“Diary of a Wimpy Kid”

Older Age Groups


“Artemis Fowl”


“The Witches”

Pick Two Age Groups…

Pre-Reader – “Growing”


Early Reader – “Family”


What makes an animal ‘appropriate’ for an age group?

Giraffe – I can’t think of an inappropriate age for a giraffe, or an elephant, or a crocodile, or a mouse, or a…

…why would an animal be age-appropriate?

Spiders: no often found for younger kids. Maisie encounters Bees, snails, butterflies, rabbits (as animals not as characters).

Bunnies: Are these too silly and cute for older kids? Do they need Dogs and ponies? Teltubbies have bunny rabbits – has is this the result of them being appropriate or part of the way in which bunnies have become only for younger kids?

Bees: Are interesting as they have always (since my own early-reader days) been for younger kids. “Ant and Bee go Shopping” – Angela Banner. Also black and yellow stripes are notoriously hi-vis for young children’s eyes.

It looks like the association of animal with age is to do with how the child wishes to interact with the world. Dogs are excellent mediators between people – I can hardly remember an established or older age group story that precluded a dog: Enid Blyton (Secret 7, Famous 5) had them, Snoopy was one, Rupert the bear didn’t have one,  Swallows and Amazons included the dog as part of the gang I think.

Giraffes are a bit of a mystery… is it just the unique shape that makes them suitable from birth? A strongly identifiable shape for babies to learn about the basics.

Early Reader – “Dog”


Pre-Reader – “Bee”