My new picture book took 7 years to make

My new picture book Stellarphant is out in November this year. I’ve been working on it since 2014, so it’s been 7 years in the making.

That might not seem like much compared to Jurassic Park‘s ’65 million years in the making’. But it’s still a lot … but I digress.

Stellarphant 3D 500px square

I drew the first sketch for what would become Stellarphant on a whim in June 2014. I was sitting with my illustrator buddies in a cottage on Rottnest Island for our annual SCBWI WA Retreat, when I started sketching an elephant and a penguin in spacesuits. No reason why – it just came out on the page. I added some colour and there was the beginnings of a story. The image stayed with me, and I started trying to write something to go with it.

I submitted an early version of the text to a publisher back in 2015; it didn’t go anywhere at the time as that version of the text was a bit rubbish, to be honest! But the germ of the idea was there, and I kept coming back to it to add more notes and research, and to play with the text.

I’ve got pages and pages of aborted attempts at this story, and sketchbooks full of drawings and notes showing the development over the last 7 years. Lots of my colleagues in the industry have heard about this book going back a while now, including those friends who were sitting with me when I first made this sketch back in 2014; they’ve borne witness to this, and encouraged me along the way, and it’s so great to finally have it ready to share with readers in November.

Here are some of my earliest sketches for this project, all from 2014 and 2015, with the final art to compare.

The very first sketch for what would become Stellarphant; you can see the little ‘2014’ in the signature on the right-hand side. My art has come along since then.

For those of you wondering, yes, that penguin made it into the final book as well!
Another early sketch from June 2014.

There’s that penguin again. My early idea was that while Stella was doing scuba training so she could prepare for weightlessness, she met this penguin and they eventually went to space together.

It didn’t work exactly like that in the final book, but that’s the nature of stories – they grow and develop over time.
This one’s from 2015. ⁠

It’s based on the iconic, heroic slow walk from ‘The Right Stuff’ – now a common visual trope in pop culture, seen in everything from Apollo 13 and Monsters Inc to The Simpsons and the Guardians of the Galaxy films. ⁠

You’ll note too that this was back when the elephant’s name was Matilda. But I nixed that somewhere along the way – I think it was when I finally figured out the title – and she became Stella (‘star’). ⁠⁠
This sketch from October 2015 seemed very silly and flippant at the time.

I would never have guessed it would become the opening scene of the book.

Stellarphant lifts off in November 2021, but you can pre-order it now:

Stellarphant 3D 500px square

Author: James Foley

James Foley makes children’s books for children who read books. If you’re a child and you’re eating his books, you’re doing it wrong. His books include Brobot, Dungzilla, Gastronauts, Chickensaurus, Toffle Towers, My Dead Bunny and There's Something Weird About Lena. James lives in Perth with his wife, 2 kids, and a labrador. He is a massive Marvel movie nerd and comes from a long line of queuing enthusiasts. Follow him on FB/twitter/insta/youtube @jamesfoleybooks, or at www.jamesfoley.com.au .