Drawn Onwards is a visually stimulating, beautifully crafted book that carries an important message about mental health and the ability to control our own narrative.

Drawn Onward marks the first collaboration between author Meg McKinlay and illustrator Andrew Frazer. For those who may not know, Meg is an award-winning children’s author, renowned for everything from young adult novels to chapter books for younger readers. Illustrator Andrew is best known for his hand-lettering, illustration and design, and he’s the artistic talent behind the intricate typography and delicate illustrations in this stunning new picture book.

The pair didn’t actually meet or collaborate together until the final stages of publication. Meg says, ‘I expect nothing and I just wait to see what the illustrator comes up with. That’s one of my favourite parts of the process of doing a picture book […] I think what Andrew has done here is simply amazing.’

Drawn Onward isn’t your typical children’s story; in fact, Meg says, ‘When Fremantle Press said yes to publishing it, I nearly fell over backwards because I thought that it was un-publishable and un-illustratable.’

The palindromic style of Drawn Onwards could, at first, be considered quite confronting for young readers. The first half of the book is bleak and gloomy – there are pessimistic statements and dark images to match. Halfway through the book the tone changes – the words and images become increasingly uplifting and the message is positive and motivational. It is a book about the importance of perspective and although it’s marketed as a book for older readers, Meg explains why she thinks it isn’t an age-restricted text.

‘It’s not for children in the way that most picture books are,’ Meg explains, ‘as the book’s concepts are really important for all ages – that simple notion of optimism and perception – so I don’t think it’s necessarily a book solely for older readers.’

While Drawn Onwards refrains from being an overly instructive text, it does carry an important message for children about having the authority to take charge of their own narrative and alter their perspective of the world. Meg explains how the fundamental concept of the book came about after conversations with her husband, a clinical psychologist, about how people understand the world around them. ‘Our brain starts to treat language about the world as if it is the world,’ Meg says, ‘it’s a thing called functional equivalence and a big part of what psychologists do is to give people strategies that help them understand that that’s just one interpretation. We should be teaching our kids these sorts of strategies from a very young age.’

Drawn Onward is published by Fremantle Press and is available in good bookshops now. 

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