From the Illustrator
After nearly 20 years in Kenya, I’m convinced I will never run out of subject matter for my illustrations. Whether it’s the vast and beautiful landscapes, the rolling skies, or sweeping plains dotted with wondrous animals – here, like much of Africa, inspiration lies around every corner.
For The Small Five, I’ve used some of the most evocative landscapes in Kenya – places where both the Small and Big Five live, and which visitors (and David Attenborough fans) may recognise. The backdrop I’ve drawn on, with some artistic license, is the Maasai Mara’s open plains and long escarpment, made famous by the annual migration of wildebeest from Tanzania’s Serengeti. The Serengeti has a similar terrain to the Mara, but is dotted with rocky outcrops called kopjes – one of which features in the opening scene of our story.
Some of the characters have a bit of background that I’d like to mention:
- The class teacher in the opening pages is a wise Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. Its pink eyelids are a feature that no other owl has.
- I have loosely based Clive the elephant on one of Kenya’s largest ‘tuskers’, Satao, who was tragically killed by poachers around the time I began work on The Small Five. Satao’s tusks were so long (at over 2 metres) they almost touched the ground, and he was estimated to have been one of the world’s largest elephants at the time of his death.
- Leaf Cutter Ants have busily chewed their way through some leaves to help me out with the contest title, ‘The Battle of the Bush’.
- Dog-faced Olive Baboons, both intelligent and crafty, help with introducing each test as the story unfolds.
- Doc the Croc is a Nile Crocodile. Fortunately for our contestants, Doc is completely the opposite of his more usual fearsome character. (On days outside our tale, he can attack almost anything that gets in his way – including humans venturing down to the riverside!)
- And then there’s the Ranger Man, who, although I haven’t based him on anyone I know (honestly!), is loosely inspired by the safari-guiding ‘Kenya cowboys’, who add a dash of the wild west to Nairobi’s cultural melting pot.