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Behind the Book: Silver Linings

last updated 06 June 2023

Fiona Woodcock shares her inspiration and creative process for her latest author-illustrated picture book Silver Linings – a beautiful story about perspective, hope, friendship and jumping in puddles. Out now in the US and the UK and available from all good bookshops.

Silver Linings

It’s always useful to try and remember how a book actually happened. I’ve learnt that each book I make has a unique process and I don’t really have a formula. I started thinking about Silver Linings in 2018 when my US publisher Greenwillow was keen to hear if I had another high concept book idea (having previously worked on Look and Hello with them).


The initial idea

I’ve always been fascinated by perspective. How many people, or in this case how two people can see the exact same situation differently. And how we can’t control things that don’t go to plan, but we can choose how we react to them. Of course, sometimes things feel so bad that you can’t find a silver lining, and that’s when a good friend comes in very handy.

Silver Linings was a long time coming. Greenwillow liked my initial idea, but encouraged me to develop it into a more conventional narrative with more text, rather than it being a high concept book. The characters and a lot of the scenarios were there right from the start and I slowly developed the story, working through it, carving out the time and attention it deserved.

title Final artwork from Silver Linings - Pip is upset that she accidentally dropped her strawberry in her drink, but Parker points out that they’ve got pink lemonade now!

I ended up with a story about two friends with different perspectives on life. Pip is easily discouraged when things upset her or go wrong and Parker always knows what to say and is able to quickly find the silver lining in the situation. But eventually something huge happens to Parker and for the first time in the story he doesn’t know what to say, so Pip has to raise to the occasion this time.

I had a lot of fun working out Parker’s playful responses to situations and finding a way of making things go full circle. I’m trying to write this without ruining the impact of the ending, but I like how Kirkus put it… “Can Pip discover the silver lining this time? The bright side is . . . she can and does—sweetly, ingeniously, and wordlessly. . . . A gentle lesson that being optimistic brings rewards, as does having a very good friend.”


Glass half empty or glass half full?

I think I’ve got a bit of Pip and Parker in me, so I relate to both of them. I have been known to worry about the worst case scenario, but I also really try and find the positives. I’ve noticed I’m much better at doing this if I’m helping someone else out of a negative situation rather than myself. Even though Parker’s glass is half full and he’s endlessly positive, it was important to show that he’s only human, and he eventually has a blip when he’s unable to find a silver lining.

I think a positive mindset can really help in life. Not ignoring and denying the existence of the difficult things, but experiencing them, processing how they make you feel and then reframing them so we can move on. The book explores how sometimes a negative situation or a mistake can be an invitation for something brilliant to happen (especially if we think creatively about it).

title Artwork from Silver Linings - I wonder what could possibly go wrong!?


Pip and Parker are neighbours which as kids almost makes their friendship inevitable. They’ve always been part of each others lives and they find themselves sharing moments of complete contentment where they’re comfortable to just be. The book starts with my favourite line “this is Pip. And this is Parker. You can tell they are best friends, because sometimes they don’t even need to speak”. This line gave me a lovely opportunity to exploit that idea with carefully placed wordless spreads.

title A wordless spread from Silver Linings

Making the book

Some of my previous books started with a concept and a fully formed illustration that begged to be turned into a story, but with this one I was keen to work really hard to get the text, structure, pacing and page turns as strong as possible before I allowed myself to get too involved with the images.

title Very first pitch image, which changed after I’d done lots more sketching and had really got to know Pip and Parker

When I’d got the structure more or less pinned down I started doing more scribbling. I had done the early version above of Parker and Pip for the initial pitch in 2018, but as time went on I wasn’t happy with it. Due to shifting pandemic schedules and changing ideas the autumn leaves turned into spring blossom in the final story. And it was through doing lots of loose quick sketches of the events of their day that I really got to know Pip and Parker (below).

title Loose rough sketches of Pip and Parker

title Final Pip and Parker character design

A friend commented after reading the book, that she can tell I love the characters and I have to admit it’s true. I really enjoyed working at conveying all aspects of their friendship, especially the moments of pure joy.

Final artwork from Silver Linings. It’s too windy to play with their paper boats, but as Parker points out “it’s perfect for… Kits!”

title Self initiated illustration - that inspired the colour palette and feel of Silver Linings.

I was fond of this little bird experiment I did in 2016 that ended up being adapted and included along with more bird friends in the wordless puddles spread mentioned earlier. This is a reminder to me that self initiated work is such an essential part of my book making process.

title A birdy illustration that inspired the birds inSilver Linings and also featured in our promo animation at the end of the post

I love working with the balance of the page and finding ways to let the images breathe with white space. (‘Simplify’ is my mantra I’ve got stuck to the top of my computer monitor). The idea of negative space also fits with the theme of negatives and positives.

title Sketches and notes to resolve the tree house, based on a sketchbook drawing I made at my allotment.

Due to the text repeatedly referring to them as Pip and Parker, I made the decision that they should always appear with Pip on the left and Parker on the right. (Bit like Ant and Dec - very British reference!) But this presented a few compositional challenges!

title Early rough that chenaged when I decided to do the ‘Ant and Dec’ arranging.

title Crop of final illustration from Silver Linings


My materials were a mix of hand cut rubber stamps and stencils, blow pens, mono printing, Gelli prints and painted textures. I also experimented with oil pastels to create transfer drawings, which was a new technique for me. And of course there’s a lot of graphite pencil drawing that holds everything together.

title Some of the stencils and artwork elements for Silver Linings

All the different elements were scanned into the computer and arranged and endlessly tweaked in Photoshop. And I did a few tiny fixes and extra details in Procreate at the end.

Final but important bits and bobs

There’s probably a lot more I could tell you about Silver Linings, like it’s my fifth author - illustrated book and also my eleventh picture book. It’s four years since I had an author - illustrated book out, so in a way it feels almost like having a debut again! I loved working on it and I really hope you enjoy reading it.

A huge thank you to my editor Virginia Duncan at Greenwillow for caring about every single word and to Paul Zakris for his brilliant design input. (And encouraging me to have fun with the title type, giving me two different colour endpapers and doing such a brilliant job on the case under the jacket! - see below).

And a huge thank you to my agents Bright for supporting and guiding this book.

Have you seen our Pip and Parker animation below? (Click through to see it) Brilliantly animated by Maki Yoshikura

Blog originally posted on The Woodcock Dispatch

To work with Fiona Woodcock, get in contact with Freddie Dawson here.

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