Book Review: Arabella and the Magic Pencil by Stephanie Ward & Shaney Hyde

This is such a lovely picture book and one which I’m sure all children would love! – The Strawberry Post

And that’s just one line from this thoughtful, insightful and wonderful review on The Strawberry Post! The full review can be found via the link below. I highly recommend following reviewer Cat as she does a fabulous job of sharing her thoughts on culture, lifestyle, writing, wellbeing and more. Enjoy!

Book review: Arabella and the Magic Pencil by Stephanie Ward & Shaney Hyde

Taking a Moment

In the midst of book launches, school visits, library readings and marketing, I forgot what it was that brought me here in the first place.

It’s been a whirlwind six months of promoting my picture book Arabella and the Magic Pencil that was released in September 2019. I’ve been thinking about, talking about and obsessing about it for what seems like an eternity. From drafting a marketing plan to visiting bookstores and shipping review copies, I lost touch with how I ended up here in the first place. I actually got a bit sick of seeing my own face and the book I was so proud of splashed across social media. But in the quiet days after the holidays, in a fog of jet lag, I took a moment to sit down with the book I’d been shamelessly promoting to simply read it for myself.

First, I gazed at the cover and end pages. I traced Arabella’s steps as she waltzes in her whimsical world and noticed how Wish, a sweet little bird that was an invention of the illustrator, hops along the inside cover beckoning readers to follow.

Flipping through the pages, I giggled at the hidden details — Stephanie’s Story Tent, Arabella reading her own book and a banner advertising “Magic Happens” that I hadn’t actually noticed until now. And I couldn’t help but laugh at the flashy flamingoes who flamencoed as Word still insists that it’s not a word!

I remembered how feedback from my critique group changed a boring page turn to a dramatic moment with a well-placed ellipsis. Then I quietly observed Arabella as she stands with her back to me drawing with her magic pencil.

I marveled at my physical reaction to the change in color palette when Arabella realizes what she has done. I flipped back to the bright pages that conveyed her happy life and found myself searching for colors on the muted pages that follow.

Finally, I stared wide-eyed at Avery’s dinosaur — not the one that I imagined when I wrote the story, but the one the illustrator painted that just happens to be my favorite.

I find that I’ve been smiling the entire time I’ve been reading. Am I fan-girling myself? No, not really. This isn’t my book. It may be my story, but this thing in my hands has been created by many. People around the world now experience my words together with expressive artwork all wrapped up in a perfect package.

What once was just an foggy idea is now an actual book that will live on bookshelves and archives long after the marketing fervor has died down. It was nice to remember that I still love the story that I originally wrote so many years ago, even after reading it for the gazillionth time. And that seems like a pretty good reason to savor the moment.

New Baby in the House

“I’ve been the oldest child since before you were born” 

— E.L. Konigsburg (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)

Arabella and the Magic Pencil is, really, a story about me. I was the “delightful daughter” that my parents doted on….until my siblings arrived. I experienced firsthand how jarring a new baby can be to a young one’s life. I also know how rewarding and special those relationships are. And that’s what the book is all about — recognizing the full range of the feelings that come with giving up the reign of only child and adjusting to new family members — whether through birth, adoption or blended families.

So, I was excited to see this perfectly on point post on Motherhood, The Real Deal, a top UK family blog (#11 if you’re curious), highlighting tips for introducing a child to a new baby. With advice from Dr Sarah Hughes, a clinical psychologist, PhD in child and adolescent anxiety disorders, the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists, AND the author of forthcoming book Parenting Made Simple published by Exisle Books, it’s an absolute MUST READ for families with a new child on the way. Oh, and it may just mention Arabella and the Magic Pencil too!

Click below to read the full blog post.

Event: Reading + Art at Keats Library

Bring the kids for a reading of the newly released picture book, Arabella and the Magic Pencil. Then, stay for an arts and crafts activity. We’ll be making magic pencils and designing paper dolls of Arabella and Avery. The event is free and will be held at Keats Community Library on the 28th of September from 1:30-2:15PM. See you there!

Interview with Shaney Hyde, Illustrator of Arabella and the Magic Pencil

Shaney Hyde is the talented Australian artist behind the charming illustrations in Arabella and the Magic Pencil. She brought Arabella and her magical world to whimsical life. Shaney agreed to give us a behind-the-scenes look at how she created the illustrations and what lead her to illustrate.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in a lovely coastal town on the Mornington Peninsula. I have three gorgeous boys, Liam, Josh and Ben. They are my inspiration and often my best critiques. My working place is in a section of our family room which I wish I could say has a sea view but I only have to walk up the road to see one! When I was a little girl, I was always drawing and creating things, reusing odds and ends from around the house and garden to make imaginative small worlds. 

I always knew I wanted to work with children and have been an Early Childhood Educator since forever. I share my love of nature & the outdoors, literacy and art with the young children that I teach. I continue to learn from them each day with their curious minds and fresh outlook on life. Since emerging into book illustration, I feel so lucky to share my process with the children and realise that illustrators and artists are privileged to share different emotions with them through beautiful books. Illustrating children’s books has been a long held dream so I’m thrilled to have illustrated such a magical story for my first one!

2) How did you create the illustrations for the book?

The illustrations in Arabella and Magic Pencil are hand painted with watercolours and grey lead pencil. Stephanie’s imaginative and elaborate story line allowed me to play with different ideas to visually express the story line with added layers; like a story within a story. For example, I came up with the little crowned bird character to illustrate Arabella’s one wish that she receives each year by Royal decree. I named him ‘wish’ in my mind and he appears in each page as Arabella’s companion as if to provide a mutual level of friendship and emotional support. I fell in love with Arabella early on and even made a cloth doll version of her as part of my creative process. She sat on my desk as I developed the illustrations for the book. I love how Stephanie has invented a confident character that independently solves her own problems using her creativity driven by her underlying feelings of sibling love.

3) Who are your favourite artists or illustrators and the inspirations for your artwork?

My favourite artists are the masters, Klimt, Monet, Van Gogh, Degas. Modern day; Mirka Mora and of course, my mum. She is a painter and pastelist and my greatest mentor. Her words of wisdom to me are; to work hard, keep sketching, imagining, creating, keep learning my craft and to stay true to myself with no pressure to perform

Illustrators: I love so many… (a wide range; accomplished and emerging ) Freya Blackwood, Alison Lester, Anna Walker, Maurice Sendak, Helene Maggison, Beatrix Potter, Lynley Dodd, Caterina Metti, Oliver Jeffers, Jon Klassen., Tull Suwannakit, Catherine Rayner, my list could go on… 

My inspirations are from nature, cute animals, and seeing the joy in the little things each day. I create illustrations in a whimsical style to make people smile.

4) What is next for you and where can we see more of your work?

Currently, the original paintings I created for Arabella and the Magic Pencil are being displayed in an exhibition at Antipodes Bookshop in Sorrento, Victoria in Australia. To promote the book, I’m doing primary school visits, story and activity times in the school holidays at local Bookshop’s. It was fun creating paper dolls of Arabella and Avery which are available for download on the EK books website. My illustrations are also published on greeting cards for boutique gift shops. (my current range is ‘Yoga for Wombats ’ & ‘ Echidna and bird series). My dream is to keep illustrating picture books whilst teaching wonderful young children, hopefully, inspiring them to read, draw and create. 

See more of Shaney’s artwork on her website:

Her portfolio can be found on the ASA Style File website: