University of South Wales (USW) student Chiara Manship has illustrated a children’s book about a boy with cerebral palsy, and his spectacular flying wheelchair.
Published today (13 October) by Cardiff’s Candy Jar Books, the book – entitled Cameron Tiberius McPherson and his Magic Chair – was written by new children’s author Tug J. Wilson, and developed and script-edited by production company Hoho Entertainment.
Chiara, a 20-year-old Illustration student from Newport, was chosen for the unique project after the drawings she submitted as part of her pitch to the publishers were shortlisted from the whole class.
“I was really surprised when I was chosen and really excited to experience an actual illustration job for the first time!” said Chiara, who has always wanted to work as an artist.
“We were all given the opportunity to design different characters and scenes for the book. I really enjoyed coming up with ideas. The author (known as John), really helped me through the whole process and we working together to make each drawing perfect.
“I did the cover drawing after all the others, which definitely helped me to figure out what I wanted it to look like. I think it turned out really well, and definitely captures the magic of the book. I had so much fun, and I’d like to thank everyone involved for making it possible.”
The story follows the adventures of Cameron, a young boy who uses a wheelchair, and is based on the real life of a boy who used to stay with Wilson regularly throughout his childhood.
Cameron lives with his eccentric mother, Lulu, in a tall apartment block in the town of Pimple. When a huge tornado hits, the town is turned upside down. With the apartment lift broken, Cameron finds things particularly difficult, until a mysterious mechanic remodels his chair into a golden wheelchair filled with magic jelly.
Suddenly Cameron finds he can achieve things he never thought possible. His chair can transform to climb to the top of tall buildings, soar through the air, or scour the bottom of a lake to rescue stolen jewels. His story shows what is possible when, for the very first time, you can be the hero you’ve always wanted to be.
Author Tug J. Wilson said the inspiration for the book came from a day out with Cameron, and the struggles he watched him face in everyday life: “Cameron uses a wheelchair which was always in the hallway waiting for a trip to the park, a restaurant or some outing – that always turned into a bonkers affair. One day I remember taking Cameron to a toilet cubicle while we were at a rather posh restaurant. I managed to get him in but the wheelchair got stuck and the cubicle collapsed around us as I forced it out. I was trying to re-assemble the cubicle when Cameron announced that he wished the chair had wings, so that he could fly away.”
Helen Howells, joint managing director of Hoho Entertainment, said: “We are really excited about this project which puts a young, dynamic character with a disability right at the centre of the action. Tug J. Wilson is an established writer for film and TV, but this is his first children’s book and he has a really fresh voice. At Hoho we’re passionate about nurturing new talent across all our projects, so we’re delighted to have teamed up with John and Chiara to make Cameron’s adventures really fly!”
Matt Morgan, Illustration course leader at USW, added: “I am so pleased for Chiara. Her illustrations are bold, fun and full of character – a perfect fit for the book!
“We are always proud when our students’ commitment and dedication is recognised. On the Illustration course, we aim to train real illustrators for the real world and one way we do this is by engaging our students with live briefs. It has been such a pleasure working on this project and it’s always appreciated when organisations come to us to help nurture new illustration talent.”
Chiara, who is in her second year at USW, said: “I chose to study here after coming for an interview for the course and falling in love with the place. I knew it was the perfect place for me as I felt the course would give me enough freedom with my art to find who I was and what I wanted to be as an artist.
“My family are all very supportive of me and my love for art, especially my grandad (who I called Gaggie), who sadly passed away in March 2020. Me and my family all talk about how proud and excited he would have been for me to have the opportunity to do something like this. The Illustration course is really helping me prepare for my future career with opportunities such as this children’s book. Thanks to this project, I was able to experience first-hand what it’s like to be an illustrator and what my future may look like.”
Cameron Tiberius McPherson and his Magic Chair is suitable for children aged 7-9. It is published by Candy Jar Books and distributed by the Books Council of Wales, and is available as a paperback from selected booksellers and on Amazon.co.uk.