Sarah-Leigh Wills, owner of the Ross-on-Wye-based Happydesigner studio, has crafted a new children's book centred around the life of a tree named 'Sally Sapling'. The book, aimed at 5 to 8-year-olds, will kickstart a series that explores different trees set against various historical backdrops.
The book, illustrated and written by Sarah-Leigh, tracks Sally Sapling's growth from the 1920s to the 2020s. With a focus on 'the little tree with the big history,' Sally encounters a myriad of societal changes, from the suffragette movement to the arrival of the new millennium. The story also features a special visit from the late Queen Elizabeth II on Sally's hundredth birthday.
Sarah-Leigh said, "The story is very subtle so people can look at the illustrations and words and interpret them in their own way. It isn’t always about happy times, for example it includes people’s sadness during the war years of the ’30s and ’40s, and shows children that people do go through difficult times too."
The upcoming series will highlight lesser-known tree varieties and will be set in different historical times, featuring characters like Walter Walnut, Hetty Hornbeam, and Percy Pine. According to Sarah-Leigh, her inspiration partially stemmed from the tree-like Ents in Lord of the Rings. "They made me more aware that plants and trees do have life and are very spiritual. Do they have feelings? Do they feel happy or sad? I wanted to use this to help guide Sally Sapling."
This isn't Sarah-Leigh's first foray into children's literature. She has another series, 'Gillie Can', and is working on her own brand, 'Oh Erik!', inspired by Erik, her studio cat. Happydesigner, also known for its logo design and branding services, has been awarded Illustration Studio of the Year in the Prestige Awards for two consecutive years, 2022 and 2023.
'Sally Sapling' is available for purchase through Sarah-Leigh's Etsy shop. For further details about her other projects and books, interested readers can visit her websites.