Ensuring inclusive images

Published on: 30 July 2014 Author: Margaret Chamberlain

Booktrust's Alexandra Strick asked Margaret Chamberlain, illustrator of Made by Raffi, to tell us how she set out to reflect the book's messages about inclusion and diversity in her artwork.

Made by Raffi


Whenever I am commissioned to illustrate a script in order to create a picture book, I look out for any clues that will help me communicate and reinforce the meaning of the written word into images that are original, lively and interesting. These images need to tell their own story and have their own character.

The story of Made by Raffi most definitely had a very strong message. It was very clear that the children in the story are all very different. Raffi, the boy in the title was most intrigued by the amazing mixture of children in his school.


His overall impression was that they were noisy and unruly and rather scary. There was more to it than that though, some looked different, some were big, some had ginger hair, some wore glasses. No mention is made in the text that any used wheelchairs, since in Raffi's head that would be irrelevant. In my own head I wanted to fill the picture with every type of child I could think of.

The child in the wheelchair is as loud and energetic as all the other children. As far as getting the wheelchair to look right, I just checked it out on the internet. The style of drawing I used for the book is supposed to look energetic and lively so I tried to give the wheelchair the same look.

Another arty device I tried was to the keep the colour palette of the clothes of the noisy children low key. I wanted Raffi to stand out as the visually dynamic component in every picture. I don't know if that worked at all, but it was interesting to do.

The merits of creativity

I hope that children who look at the book might be encouraged to identify characters that look like themselves in the pictures. I expect there are other quieter children in Raffi's class who don't get a story. Maybe the readers could make up a story about somebody else. Maybe the noisy children would also like a story written about them. The scope is endless, I hope the book will help to make children realise that being creative has as much merit as being sporty and loud. That is close to my heart as I was creative and quiet at school and I dreaded break times as much as Raffi did...

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