Those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while will know that as a former rugby player myself, I’m passionate about encouraging girls into sports. Last year, I featured a book about Gaelic football (“Izzy’s Magical Football Adventure”) and that author is working on one about Camogie which I’m really looking forward to, so when I heard of a new picture book about Lily Parr, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Lily Parr made women’s football possible. I still struggle to believe that women’s football was banned when I was born (Ok that rather gives away my age)!
I do want to add that although the book is about women’s football, this should be read by all young football fans, regardless of gender. There is nothing pink or fluffy about it. Pure grit and determination.
1.Trailblazer is about real events and real people. What research did you do to ensure that you illustrated them correctly?
I didn’t start from zero. Elizabeth Dale, the author, and Kim from Maverick Books sent me an amazing compilation of info: websites with history, photos, names, events, etc. They were very careful with who was who, especially the Dick Kerr Ladies team and Alfred. There are plenty of websites that tell us events and stories of women in football since the beginning of 1900s in Europe, Americas, Africa, etc, so I started my research to find out more about women’s football worldwide and why UK and French female teams were so famous at the time. Then I focused on the girls of Dick Kerr Ladies. As they use uniforms most of the time, I needed to find physical and personal characteristics to distinguish them from each other. When you “know” someone it gets easier to draw, so the more I learned from them, the more their personalities would appear in the pages. As they didn’t have many pictures in 1900s, it’s even more impossible to find about a specific person, so I tried to find as many as I could to refine expressions. I was always thinking if they could ever imagine one day someone was going to research their lives and draw about it. I feel very honoured to do so.
2.You include a wide variety of clothes worn at that time. Were there any problems depicting them?
I have a degree in fashion, and I was always very curious about fashion history in Europe. I already knew the consequences of World War I in the wardrobe of people. It was nice to revisit some books and see those nice hats, silk dresses, pearls, and tuxedos. I also use Pinterest for research faster. The challenge was the colors. As the photos from those decades are all black and white, I had to keep an eye on the croquis and old fashion magazines to draw.
3. Were the headlines you include in the illustration of the US newspapers, real headlines from the time?
They’re part of Elizabeth and Kim’s research. Lily was a star; my impression is that every newspaper wanted to highlight her at some point. I received the headlines with the briefing, and I had to research images so both could work together.
4.The final double page spread – showing that female footballers today are playing due to the struggle of the ones who went before – is very moving. Was that scene your idea and was it difficult to get just right?
The scene was part of the briefing too, I also found it very moving to imagine that girls who play now have the support from those ladies.
5.You portray the football action scenes very well. Are you a football fan? Were you aware of the fascinating story of Lily and her team-mates struggle before you read this book?
Thank you! I played football after school for some months when I was 15, as left-wing, though I was a terrible player. In Brazil, we have a very strong soccer/football culture, especially at school. Even if you don’t like it you always end up learning something or you have a friend that is “sick” about it, as we say there. My husband and my brother-in-law helped me with some scenes by playing FIFA. We paused some moves so I could sketch. Marta, for example, is a very famous player worldwide today and she’s left-footed as Lily was, I studied her playing a little bit to improve the sketches. I also took care of the book “flow” to make sure Lily was well placed as left-footed. I remember seeing something about Lily’s statue being revealed last year during the Women’s World Cup in France, but I didn’t know much before the book.
6. Do you and the author have plans for more books e.g. to make this into a series?
That would be great to have more of Lily and her team-mates! Florrie Redford, Alice Kell, and Alice Woods, for example, have nice stories to tell too. If Elizabeth and Maverick decide to make this into a series, I’m super available to work on it and, of course, learn more and improve scenes and characters.