After working as an illustrator of children's books for 11 years, Gemma Denham decided to write and illustrate her own work, publishing five titles - and her son Joshua, 7, can take more than a bit of credit for his mum’s success.
The idea for her first book, Joshua's Rabbit, came from a crack in a skirting board in their home. Gemma and Joshua crouched down to examine it and speculated about who might live there. Joshua said that a rabbit lived behind the crack and so the story of Joshua's Rabbit was born and published. It’s a heartwarming tale of a little boy, his imaginary friend and the antics they get up to from Monday to Sunday. It is also a fun way for children to learn the days of the week.
Huggle, Gemma’s second book, is an enchanting story of how of different animals hug, again inspired by Joshua.
“Huggle is a word Joshua uses when he wants a hug,” says Gemma.
In August last year, Gemma published As I Was Walking, a rhyming tale about animals that gets children involved in activities, and its companion As I Was Walking Activity Book, that involves colouringin, dot-to-dot, spot the difference, word puzzles and mazes.
In a departure from fiction, she published Children's Party Planning in October last year, which has ideas for 14 themed parties for children aged 1 to 10, including invitations, decorations, games, food, cakes and party bags for each. Themes include Teddy Bears Picnic, Fairy, Dinosaur, Dance, Monster, Chocolate, Funfair and Pyjamas. In this book too, she has drawn on her experiences of creating fun and decorative parties for Joshua.
Born and raised in Barrow, Gemma now lives in Sileby, but her parents Carol and Steve Page live in Barrow.
Gemma says that from a young age, she knew she wanted “to draw”.
“I went to school and worked hard, went to college and worked harder and in the summer of 2001, I became a children's book illustrator.”
Eleven years later, having read and illustrated other authors’ stories, and with many ideas in her head, she decided to publish her own work and is now on a path she loves.
She likes to interact with her readership and has visited most nurseries in Leicestershire, to share her stories with the children. She takes along a story sack of characters for interactive fun. In June, she was asked to open East Goscote’s community library.
“I am a huge supporter of community libraries and have donated a copy of each of my titles to Barrow Upon Soar and Sileby libraries for readers to enjoy,” she says. She has also partnered with local charity Evans Trust, donating 25p from each copy sold through direct sale. Evans Trust raises money for Leicester Neonatal units. Gemma is a strong advocate of the value of books in a young child’s life, saying it promotes a love of reading and strengthens the bond between mother and child.
Her mind is constantly tuned to sourcing new ideas for stories and she has some creative ideas in the pipeline. Her illustrations are hand-sketched and coloured on computer, displaying beautiful shading and vibrancy. In a future book, she plans to hand-paint illustrations, giving the artist in her free rein - and Joshua is always on hand to give them the nod of approval.
Books are priced from £4.99 and can be ordered from Amazon or directly from Gemma at firstname.lastname@example.org You can see more at www.gemmadenham.com