Well. Those few words put together and read out loud are among one of the most emotive passages in my memory. The story of The Little Mole is famous in my family, and was always told to us at bedtime by our Nan whenever we used to go and stay.
“Don’t bother me!” the white rabbit said
Several years ago we also recited it out loud at her 80th birthday party to a room full of bemused faces and giggles. Now, 9 months after we said goodbye to her, I am still transported to a little bedroom in her old bungalow in Bettisfield, Shropshire, listening to Nan’s soft voice telling us about that lovely little mole and why he was so upset.
I promised several times that one day I would illustrate this story, and now, finally I am. It is a gorgeous poem about a little mole, and a fairy who gets stuck in his mole-hole. There’s a white rabbit, and a brown rabbit, and a happy ending. Perfect!
A little brown rabbit popped up from the gorse,
“I’m not very big but I’ll try of course!”
I have often thought about how I would illustrate this story, and I have mostly only fretted about how I could possibly ever do it. It is so embedded in my mind, I have always worried that if I ever tried to draw it, I wouldn’t be able to bring the characters to life in the way they are stored in my memory.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I have nearly finished creating all the roughs for this new book, and actually, the characters in their simple line form, have mostly flowed out. I haven’t had to spend hours researching what they should all look like, and what kind of characters their faces have, or how big they are. I just know. What a joy.
But he caught the fairy tight by the hand
And he helped her get back to fairy land
The poem itself however, is something with a bit more mystery. Very little is known about the origins of The Little Mole, also known as Grey and White, and it is thought to be written by a poet named Charlotte Druitt Cole, who’s work was published in several children’s poetry anthologies in the 1920s and 30s. Whenever I research this poem, I see that others are looking for it too, knowing it as I do, simply from hearing it being recited over and over. How wonderful, the power of rhythm and rhyme – that a story so simple can transcend time this way. Also, in case you were wondering, I don’t think there will be any copyright issues with this poem – Charlotte Druitt Cole died in 1943. Also, I will in no way be claiming that I wrote the poem – instead I see myself as bringing this perfect poem to a host of new bedtimes.
I don’t have a full timeline of when I hope to publish this book yet. It will take a while I think. I have quite a few other book projects that I am working on at the moment, and will probably be pretty busy with them until December. But that is ok! I always promised that I would do it, and Nana Eileen, do it I am.