New children’s book celebrating the Queen illustrated by KU graduate

Former KU student Kate Slater has illustrated a newly published children’s book called The Birthday Crown to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday.

The book, which the Queen is aware of, was published on April 12 by the Royal Collection and is written by Italian author Davide Cali.

Slater, who graduated from KU in 2008 after finishing a BA in Illustration and Animation, said that the opportunity of illustrating a book that celebrates the Queen was a huge honour.

She said: “I can’t quite believe it really. When I was working on the book, I was completely focused on just meeting my deadline and doing a good job, but now it’s actually been published it’s starting to sink in!”

The Birthday Crown is a story about the Queen’s search for the perfect crown to wear on her birthday. The royal jewellers, gardeners and others make suggestions. In the end it is the Queen’s grandson who finally offers the ideal solution.

Slater was contacted by the Royal Collection Trust, a department of the Royal Household and a registered charity, to illustrate the book.

“I think they thought my collage style would be a good fit because at the end of the story, the Queen’s grandchildren make her a paper crown,” she said.

When illustrating the book, Slater used a three-dimensional collage technique, but she said it was challenging because the story is set almost entirely in one room of the Queen’s palace, which is unusual for a children’s book.

“I realised this would be an exciting opportunity to use a slightly different way of working and made the palace room as a complete set, like a room in a doll’s house. It was a challenge, and I was lucky to work with a fantastic designer who gave me lots of help, especially with the lighting and photography! The finished photographs are very much a team effort and I learned a huge amount over the course of the project,” she said.

 The 29-year old started working as a freelance illustrator as soon as she graduated from KU.

Former student at KU Kate Slater
Illustrator Kate Slater, former student at KU Credit: Holly Booth

Slater said: “I was lucky in that my first published book, Magpie’s Treasure, was actually my final major project at university, so it gave me the confidence to leap in and be self-employed almost from the beginning.”

Most of her work is in children’s books and magazines but she has also been designing and selling her own products online including cards, wrapping paper and homeware.

“It’s a really good sideline and I like the contrast with my freelance work,” she said.

Slater, who grew up in Staffordshire, said she had a great time at Kingston where she met a lot of great people and had fantastic tutors.

“It felt like a big leap, moving from a farm in the middle of the countryside to Kingston, but I knew the course had a really good reputation and I loved it.

“We were expected to work really hard and be in the studio most of the time, which was a good thing. I didn’t start working in the collage technique I use now until about half way through my final year. I’ve always loved making things in 3D and so the slightly haphazard collage technique is a happy combination of my favourite things,” she said.

Jacky Colliss Harvey, a publisher at the Royal Collection Trust, said: “The Birthday Crown is meant to be fun for children to read, or to read with an adult. I suppose if it has a lesson to teach it’s that children often have the best ideas.”

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