Blog Tour, Book Review, Picture Books

The Tale of the Whale by Karen Swann & illustrated by Padmacandra (Blog Tour)

I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for The Tale of the Whale and host a guest post by illustrator Padmacandra!

“I am trying to keep the whale’s eye out of the gutter and the tail out of the trim. I have had to crop the octopus off“ – these words from Ness Wood, the lovely book designer I worked with for “The Tale of the Whale” arrived in my inbox in the middle of the final artwork being created for this book.  At the time I had the 14 and a half roughs for the book printed out large and pinned to a piece of cloth covering the whole back wall of my studio. As I completed the artwork for each one, I replaced the rough with the finished piece (printed out) – a very satisfying process, following many stages of roughs and feedback from the fabulous Scallywag team.

How I came to picture book illustration:

When I was about 9 years old, my family didn’t have very much money, so as a present my mum decorated my bedroom (which I’d just stopped sharing with my younger brother) for my birthday. As part of this she made a little desk area inside a tall cupboard, complete with pens (and a beautiful painted box with my name on it which I still have) and I remember sitting at the desk and thinking I wanted to do something with my life that involved having my own space and drawing or writing at a desk like that.

When I was at school I did well at art and English, but I had very little self-confidence, and tended to undervalue or overlook my own skills.

In the end, I was offered places both at art school and studying social work, and I decided to go for the social work, as I thought it would help me to get to know myself and others better (it did!)

But since then, I continued to doodle in the corners of notebooks. It was like a little voice saying “Hello! Pay attention to me”. Sometimes if you meditate (as I do) you suddenly find yourself hearing things like birdsong, or silence, that you didn’t pay attention to before. In the same way in 2016 I began to listen to this little doodling voice, and eventually found I had the confidence to apply for an MA in Children’s Book Illustration at The Cambridge School of Art, under Martin Salisbury. In my life I had always loved children’s literature and picture books, in fact my great grandmother Mabel Chadburn was a children’s illustrator in the art and crafts style. I have also always written poetry.

I was so delighted and chuffed when Sarah of Scallywag Press asked me whether I would be interested in illustrating The Tale of the Whale. I found the text very moving, as well as being told in an engaging, non-preachy way, as an invitation.

My illustration processes and routines:

I’m afraid I am not a very disciplined person, so I can’t say I have a routine every day.  An ideal day for me is to wake early (around 6 or 6.30am) with a strong mug of tea in bed (it takes a while for my brain to wake up) and then get up and meditate for 45 minutes first thing (around 7.30am).  After breakfast I deal with any urgent admin and check social media, then go to my studio and work until around 3.30pm. Then out for a longish walk, in which I often engage in a bit of active reflection. And perhaps another hour or so in the studio in the evening.  In reality, this routine is often quite changeable, depending on what is going on.

I live on my own as I’ve discovered I love solitude. However, I do feel connected with good friends, including my partner who lives with a bunch of others in a Buddhist Community. Because I live on my own (in a small-terraced cottage in a country village) I am lucky enough to be able to use my whole front room as a studio.

So now I am realising my childhood dream of having space to create and making books at a desk.


by Karen Swann, illustrated by Padmacandra, out now in hardback

£12.99, Scallywag Press
Find out more at

My review of this wonderful book:

A fantastical, rhyming tale of friendship, which highlights the distress caused to sea creatures by plastic

The Tale of the Whale is a beautiful book that celebrates the sea and empowers readers to take action to protect it.

A child on a lighthouse meets a whale. With its sweet-sounding song, it invites the child to climb aboard. Together, they embark on an wonderful adventure down to the depths of the sea. Happy and free, they meet turtles, rays, dolphins and seagulls. The incredible world under the sea is revealed layer by layer –  water mountains, valleys and treasure They leap over ice-caps and waves on the most amazing journey.

Padmacandra’s vibrant illustrations fill the pages with colour and movement. The richness of the sea, the majesty of the whale and the strength of the relationship draw the reader in and reinforce the power of the message.

The joy of the story changes when the whale opens its mouth to eat. All sorts of rubbish and plastic floats through the water and into the great whale’s stomach. The reality of the state of the sea is shocking and readers immediately see that so many animals are in trouble.

When the world hurts, we hurt. Saddened, the child promises to tell the whole world what needs to be done to save the whale and the sea.  We must make a change. We must work together to change the whale’s tale.

Thank you to Scallywag Press & Laura Smythe PR for this important book!

Karen Swann grew up in the UK and trained as a physiotherapist. She now lives with her family in Nottingham and is a keen rock climber. Karen won the Writing Magazine Picture Book Prize in 2018. 

Padmacandra grew up in Scotland, lives in Norfolk and graduated from the Cambridge School of Art. She is a buddhist, poet and artist.

Click on the cover below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon.

Click on the cover below to find out more or purchase on-line from Waterstones.

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