When I was little someone told me (I can’t remember who) that when there was a thunderstorm, the noise of the thunder was caused by a giant rearranging his furniture. That simple idea planted in my head, stayed there and every time I was unnerved by a storm I would say this out loud to myself or anyone else who would listen and it always made me less fearful. Simple, yet incredibly clever. You’re Safe with Me, written by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Poonam Mistry and published by Lantana Publishing is a gorgeously stunning book which does just this.
We are transported to an Indian forest on a dark and stormy night. As the wind picks up and the thunder starts, the baby animals feel frightened. But Mama Elephant comes along, cradles them in her trunk and explains away all the things that the babies are scared of. She reassure the babies that the wind is friendly and bringing good seeds from faraway lands, that the lightning is just sparkle created by colliding clouds. On it goes in this way, and every couple of pages the gentle giant elephant says “You’re safe with me”.
Oh this book is just truly gorgeous. With the feel of a traditional tale, Chitra’s writing here is incredibly poetic, it’s such a pleasure to read, with just the right level of repetition to imprint the reassuring message of love and support, including clever ideas to explain the fears children have. It is inventive and sweet and most of all a fantastic way to help worrisome children deal with their fears and not only feel like they can talk about them, but also get the reassurance they need that everything is okay. This doesn’t have to apply specifically to thunderstorms either, it would work well in supporting any insecure or fearful child, to show that we will be there for them and that they will be safe. Such an important message to get across to children. In life, when children feel safe, they then have the confidence to fly.
You’re Safe with Me is so wonderfully written, but sharing, equally, the glory are Poonam’s stunningly beautiful and unusual illustrations. I can’t tell you how blown away I was by these when I first received this book. The illustrations are made up of small intricate shapes, tiny dots and lines that come together with the clever use of colour to bring the animals and forest to live in the most glorious way. The use of colour is fabulous, from rich browns and greens to softer pastel shades, every page stands out, whilst also having a cohesive feel across the story. The representation of the night sky with the stars and lightning is something quite magical to behold! It all is really.
You’re Safe with Me is one of those examples of children’s books where an amazing team team have come together to create something extraordinarily special. This diverse picture book serves multiple purposes, reads with poetic perfection and looks as beautiful as any book possibly can. Top marks to Lantana, Chitra and Poonam on this remarkable picture book.
And now I pass over to Chitra and Poonam to answer my top three Book Monster questions. Thank you so much to both of them for their wonderful and fascinating answers:
Q&A with Chitra Soundar
1. You’re Safe With Me is a wonderful idea for a book, centred around reassuring fearful children. What inspired you to write this book?
As always, the story comes first and then I discover themes. My inspiration for the story was my experience as an oral storyteller. I wanted to tell a story where a wise counsel like the matriarch of a family (Mama Elephant) tell a story about something familiar yet scary.
I wanted the individual explanations to be mini stories themselves. From that idea grew the story of You’re Safe With Me where I chose the topic of the thunderstorms because as a child, I was both fascinated with it and fearful of it.
2. Your writing is so lovely and poetic, it must have taken a lot of time to write. How long did it take and what was your process?
This story took over 9 months in actual time to write – but 2 years to become a book. It had a different title and the mini stories evolved. The refrain did not come until later when I realised, I wanted Mama Elephant to reassure the little animals and accept their fears as much as she wanted to make them less afraid. Of course when Alice Curry from Lantana Publishing chose it for publication, we worked on it for another month before we showed it to Poonam.
3. And finally, what three things inspire you the most?
Myths, legends, folklore from around the world
A visit to all sorts of museums and historical places
Reading stories and non-fiction across topics, genres, cultures and forms.
Q&A with Poonam Mistry
1. The illustrations in You’re Safe With Me really stand out as they are
exceptionally beautiful and unusual for a children’s picture book. What
methods and mediums did you use to create them?
Thank you so much! The art was such a pleasure to create. My art
process is split into two parts: the drawing stage and the computer stage.
Once I had completed the rough designs for the spreads I drew them neatly
onto thick cartridge paper. I drew in all the fine details and lines within
the animals and the scenery using black ink pens and fine liners. As the
story is set in India it was easy for me to draw the patterns I was already
familiar with. Once this was completed, I scanned these in onto the
computer and added colour and some final touches on PhotoShop. The colour
palette was already picked at the beginning of the project. I had pictured
this as soon as I had read the manuscript and knew using bright and dark
colours would really suit the story. All I had to do was decide where to
place them and which ones to pick for each spread.
2. Is this detailed dot- work a style you’ve always done, or has your
illustration style developed over your career?
At the beginning of my career much of my style was influenced by
Indian folk art and textiles. It was only afterwards that other art
celebrated around the world was woven into my work. I had a commission a
few years ago where I was asked to create a piece that was based on
Australia. The client wanted it to be influenced by Aboriginal art. After I
had researched it, I fell in love and it was incorporated into my style and
has been used ever since. It’s always exciting stumbling across
something beautiful and trying to find a way of introducing it into your
3. I always like to pick out my favourite illustrations in picture books,
but I genuinely struggled choosing from You’re Safe With Me as all the
pages are so incredibly stunning. Is there an illustration that you
particularly enjoyed creating and why?
Wow, thank you! That’s a really tricky question. I enjoyed creating
all the art but in different ways. If I had to pick one page it would have
to be the star page with the tiger cub. It was one of the earlier pages
that I had created and I only used a limited number of colours for this
spread. It very much sums up my style and once I had created this the rest
of the book just flowed. I really like the shapes and patterns in the stars
and tiger cub trying to paw at them.
Huge thanks again to Chitra and Poonam for taking the time to give us an insight into the processes and thoughts behind You’re Safe With Me.
You’re Safe with Me is now available from all good bookshops and libraries!
To find out more about author Chitra Soundar please visit her website:
Information about Poonam Mistry can be found on her website here:
And Lantana Publishing are right here:
Thank you for reading this Book Monster Review.