Image of Eileen Finch and Chrissy standing side by side and holding up a copy of Up and Down written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, and a funding application Chrissy is about to send out.

30 Books to Give Away in Birmingham

Access2books, Children's Books, Picture Books

I have been granted funding from the Birmingham Bodenham Trust to distribute 30 books in Birmingham.

Picture of the front cover of Lost and Found written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. The picture shows a boy and a penguin on a small boat. The boy is wearing a striped top and hat, and holding a staff in his right hand and a suitcase in his left.

The funding is to benefit children who need accessible stories.

The books are beautiful popular children’s stories in dual format in 75 point print with Braille and improved illustrations.

Interior pages of A Squash and Squeeze. The page on the left hand has text which reads, "And flapped round the room knocking over the jug". In the footer is a Braille text of that sentence. On the opposite page is a picture of a white hen flying over the shelf and a spotted jug falling over the edge. In the footer of the text is Braille picture description of the picture.

An example of the interior pages of A Squash and a Squeeze written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The pages illustrate the formatting: text appears on the left hand page and Braille in the footer; specially enhanced pictures are located on the right hand side with picture descriptions in Braille in the footer to make the books accessible to as many people as possible.

We work to distribute these books as far as possible to children and adults who need these formats to read or share with their disabled or non-disabled friends and families.

In return for some books, I need feedback on the benefits they bring to you or how we might improve them.

We would also ask you to show them to your local libraries and children’s settings as we want to influence mainstream provision so you can get more titles free of charge.

Image of a book cover showing a white cat sitting in a box. Only the head and the tail are visible. The box has the text my cat likes to hide in boxes written on its side. Underneath the the box is green rectangle which reads Eve Sutton and Lynley Dodd. There is another blue rectangle below it with the words Giant Print and Braille written in white.

If you live in Birmingham, and would like to have the books in your home library, and talk to me about the experience of their use, please email me at efinch@access2books.org.

Best wishes,

Eileen

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Picture of the front cover of Lost and Found written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. The picture shows a boy and a penguin on a small boat. The boy is wearing a striped top and hat, and holding a staff in his right hand and a suitcase in his left.

Access2books first audio-visual book promo

Book Promo

Access2books has just completed its first ever audio-visual promo. It is exciting times for us here and an opportunity to do something we have never done before.

However, we have been looking at taking this direction for quite a while. So now, it is done.

In the future, look out for slicker productions. Although we are happy with this promo, we are aware that it is very visual and not accessible to people who happen to be blind or have a sight impairment because there is no narration.

That means our promo is not accessible to a huge proportion of our friends, followers and others who happen to be blind or visually impaired.

We are limited because we don’t have the facilities to record narration. Probably, when we have some software better than Microsoft Live Movie Maker, we can add narration to our videos.

However, for a first attempt on very basic editing software, we are pleased with the results. Our apologies to those who can’t access this promo because of a lack of narration.

Check out our first audio-visual attempt and enjoy it. Share it with your family, friends, followers and so on and let them know about our books. Thanks in advance for your support.

We look forward to your feedback, negative or positive. If you know better software which is relatively cheap or free which can help us make better promos, please let us know.

Have a lovely day.

A Picture of the front cover of the book Croc and Bird written and illustrated by Alexis Deacon

Access2books publishing Braille and giant print formats of Croc and Bird by Alexis Deacon

Children's Books, Publishing

Springtime is a great time for Access2booksRandom House Children’s Books granted them permission to publish Croc and Bird written and illustrated by Alexis Deacon.

Access2book’s will publish this popular children’s book as an accessible book in giant print [75 point] with Braille and specially adapted pictures for people who happen to be either blind or visually impaired.

Croc and Bird explores several themes: the first is differences; second, friendship, and third is the meaning of true family.

A Picture of the front cover of the book Croc and Bird written and illustrated by Alexis Deacon

These are all issues, not in the particular order above, that confront us all at some point in our lives.

The kernel of the story is captured in the opening lines:

Two eggs lie side-by-side on a sandy beach: one hatches to reveal a crocodile and the other a bird. The two creatures grow up together as brothers – Crocodile learns to sing and tries to fly, while his brother, Bird, learns to float in the sea and bask in the sun.

It is from this paradox at birth that the two animals’ lives become entangled and from where they must each understand more about themselves and appreciate the special bond they share or severe their ties.

The narrative is relatively simple but the underlying subtext and themes make it even more complex than it appears on face value.

This is what Deacon does best. He is a great storyteller with a great ear for rhythm and narrative development.

Deacon’s illustrations, one of the Booktrust’s 2008 Best New Illustrators, are visually sumptuous and sophisticated.

They compliment the written word. He is equally adept at using pictures or words to tell the story.

Who is Alexis Deacon?

Deacon is a graduate of the University of Brighton. He earned a first class honours degree in Illustration. As mentioned above, he was named as one of Booktrust‘s Ten Best New Illustrators.

A picture of Alexis Deacon sitting on a chair in a room with papers stuck on the wall. he is wearing a multicoloured striped jumper and is sporting a close cropped shave and a a goattee.

Photograph by Luke Tchalenko. Source: http://alexisdeacon.blogspot.co.uk/p/biography.html

Another book he wrote but he didn’t do the illustrations, Beegu – the story of an alien lost on earth, was named as the New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year.

It also earned the shortlist for the Kate Greenway Medal. A book on which he illustrated, Jim’s Lion, is also on the shortlist for this year’s Kate Greenaway Medal [2015]: it was written by Russell Hoban.

The fron't cover of Jim's Lion which was written by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Alexis Deacon. Picture Source: http://www.walker.co.uk/Jim-s-Lion-9781406346022.aspx

The front cover of Jim’s Lion which was written by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Alexis Deacon.
Picture Source: http://www.walker.co.uk/Jim-s-Lion-9781406346022.aspx

Alexis Deacon: man of many talents

When he is not writing his own books, he is experimenting with other projects in the pipeline such as comics. He is also in demand as an illustrator of the books of other authors.

In October 2014, his comic, The River, won the Observer/ Jonathan Cape/ Comica Graphic Short Story Prize.

It is no wonder why his talent and skills are in high demand. The Financial Times endorsed him as, “Alexis Deacon is a young author-illustrator of quite impressive originality and depth“. Consequently, such high profile acclaim has made him a much sought out figure in the industry.

Deacon is a busy man. When he is away from the bright spotlights of the industry, he shares interesting insights and expertise on his blog which you can access on the aforementioned link.

Works of Alexis Deacon

It is a wonder how he gets anything done because he seems to have his hands in a lot of pies. He has worked on no less than ten books either as an author, or illustrator or both.

Some of these titles include Slow Loris, Jitterbug Jam, While You Are Sleeping, Soonchild, A Place to Call Home and Henry Finch to name a few. That is not the conclusive list. There are probably many more to his name.

Picture of the front cover of the book Jitterbug Jam written by Barbara jean Hicks and illustrated by Alexis Deacon.

This is the front cover of the book Jitterbug Jam written by Barbara Jean Hicks and illustrated by Alexis Deacon. This is one of many of Alexis Deacon’s many collaborations with other writers.
Picture source: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/barbara-jean-hicks/jitterbug-jam.htm

He wrote his first book when he was around the age of five. However, it was not published. The first book he wrote and published was Slow Loris.

He has written about seven books but illustrated a lot of others for many different authors.

What does this mean for Access2books?

It is great news to publish a book by an illustrious author and illustrator who is making waves in the publishing industry.

His books are highly recommended by many libraries and they allow Access2books to continue publishing the most popular children’s books in the UK.

The greatest benefit of publishing children’s books like these is that the themes Alexis Deacon’s books tackle such as family, identity and friendship are issues Access2books are passionate about.

Going forward, Access2books is looking to publish children’s books that are more diverse and deal with different family setups or structures. Their Festival Time Series books illustrate this direction.

Picture of the front cover of Four Special Questions: A Passover Story Written by Jonny Zucker and illusrtated by Jan Barger Cohen.

One of the books, Four Special Questions, that forms a series of eight books collectively known as the Festival Time Series. The series tackles different religious festivals and describes what they about, what happens and how they came to be.

Therefore, Alexis Deacon’s children’s books fit in perfectly with the future plans of Access2books which makes publishing Croc and Bird so exciting.

Watch this space for more updates.

P.S. Lost and Found written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers is now out and ready to be ordered here. Up and Down also by the same author and illustrator is now in the final stages of production and should be ready within a week or two. We will keep you updated.

Picture of the front cover of Lost and Found written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. The picture shows a boy and a penguin on a small boat. The boy is wearing a striped top and hat, and holding a staff in his right hand and a suitcase in his left.

Access2books Behind the Scenes in Pictures: Book transcription and Development

bookmaking, Children's Books

As promised last week, here is the first instalment of the behind the scenes, shots illustrating what happens in the book transcription and development department of Access2books.

This is where all the magic occurs and accessible books come together.

This is not a snapshot of the entire production process but a slice of one of the first stages of the development of our books, taking a mainstream book and transforming it into an alternative format that can be accessed by people who happen to be blind or have a visual impairment.

As you can see in the photo below, Elvira Naidoo, our illustrator extraordinaire is working on the front pages, or inner pages of the books and starting to transcribe the book, typing in the text of the narrative in 75 point print, what we normally refer to as giant print.

Picture of an over the shoulder shot of Elvira Naidoo designing the inner pages of the book Up and Down Written by Oliver Jeffers.

A photo of Elvira typing text onto the right hand side of the page of the document on screen leaving the left free for the adapted images from the book Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

In the shot above, Elvira breaks the book down and the formatting begins. Here, she enters text on the left hand side of the document and leaves the right hand side blank because this is where the pictures and Braille picture descriptions will go at a later stage.

Picture of Elvira Naidoo studting a scanned page from the book up and down by Oliver Jeffers on screen.

Moment of contemplation and creative conceptualisation. What next? Elvira thinks, pondering how she should execute the next step in formatting this accessible book.

The picture above captures Elvira lost deep in thought thinking about how she is going to break down the scanned page on screen and adapt it to fit into our format.

There are no hard and fast rules in making accessible books. There are big and small challenges from start to beginning but this is what makes Elvira tick as her creative juices kick in and she always finds a way around every challenge she encounters.

Elvira peering into the screen lost in thought.

The toughest challenge is breaking the mainstream book down into an alternative book: it involves reformatting the book, breaking down the text and adapting the pictures to make them more accessible but remaining true to the spirit of the narrative in the process.

Only a storyteller like Elvira can explain how she does that.

Over the shadow shot of Elvira studying some scanned pages on the computer screen.

Above, Elvira looks at more scanned pages before she begins work on them to make them more accessible to readers who happen to have a visual impairment.

An overshot of Elvira working on making the penguin more visible on screen. She uses the magic wand in her hand to enhance the image.

Elvira using the magic wand in her hands to conjure up the magic that transforms an image and enhances it to make it more visible to someone who happens to be visually impaired and would have problems accessing the image in a normal book.

Picture of Elvira enhancing the image of the penguin on the computer screen using her magic wand.

Elvira has been making accessible books for about and a year and a half now. She has made a lot of books. She believes that she has made about twenty plus books but that is a conservative approximation.

Shot of Elvira distracted and looking away from the screen.

While she is working, Elvira enjoys copious cups of coffee and chatting to keep her creative juices flowing. Here she is reminiscing about the good old times and trying to remember how many books she has made but they all seem to be a blur in her mind’s eye because she has made so many she has lost count.

The truth is that she has truly lost count of the number of books of she has made. Chances are, if you are reading an Access2books giant print and Braille children’s book, it was Elvira who put that together.

One of the first book’s she worked on when she started was Norman the Slug With The Silly Shell by Sue Hendra. She has since worked on Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, Giraffes Can’t Dance, the entire Festival Time Series, Each Peach Pear Plum and many others on our website.

A close up shot of Elvira smiling with satisfaction at the screen.

Smile of satisfaction. We can tell who is winning here. She is in full flow and enjoying what she does best.

The smile above says it all. All’s well that ends well.