Behind the Book: Raise Your Hand

last updated 15 August 2019

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Grab your backpacks and sharpen those pencils because it’s that time again…back to school! This month, we went behind the scenes of New York Times bestselling picture book, Raise Your Hand, published by Penguin Workshop and illustrated by our talented artist, Marta Kissi.

When real life 11-year-old Alice Paul Tapper realized the girls in her class were participating less than the boys, she worked with her parents and Girl Scout troop to create a patch that girls could earn if they pledged to be more confident in school. The result was this inspiring story, encouraging girls around the world to be brave, find their voice, and refuse to accept the status quo!

We caught up with Marta about how she created the beautiful artwork for this unique book, her process for bringing characters to life, and what she loves most about being an illustrator.

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Raise Your Hand patch created by author and Girl Scout, Alice Paul Tapper


What is your creative process when working on a book like Raise Your Hand?

When working on a book, I always start by simply reading the manuscript. It’s a very pleasant part of the job and also one of the most important ones, as I believe there is no better way to get the full feel for the characters and their journeys than by reading about them. I then begin to design the characters. It’s not always easy, but I really enjoy seeing them taking shape and reveal themselves to me.

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Character development from sketch to final spread

Once I know my characters, I either focus on working on the front cover or on the interiors of the book. I tend to play around with the spreads and placements of the text, but at the same time I also do my best to follow and respect the art direction given to me by the publisher. That said, I never shy away from suggesting some alternative solutions if I have them. Once I get the feedback on the rough sketches, I start working on the finals by finessing details and fine-tuning everything else so everything is ready to go to print.

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How did you go about creating the characters?

Raise Your Hand is based on the true story of 11-year-old Alice Paul Tapper, who wrote the book. When I was designing her as a character, I had to make sure that she was closely linked to how Alice actually looks in real life. Luckily, I was sent a selection of reference photos and videos from the publisher, which really helped me with the task. When I’m not working on a real-life character, I simply start to draw and see when it takes me.

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Final interior artwork


Where do you do your best creative work?

I think my best work happens simply at my desk, where I always work. Also, as mornings are not really my cup of tea, I tend to work best when the sun goes down.

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Marta in her home studio


What aspect of being an illustrator do you most enjoy?

My favorite part about being an illustrator is simply designing the characters. I think there’s something quite magical in seeing them taking shape as a result of the author’s words and a sprinkling of my own imagination. Interestingly, villains have always been my favorite characters to design. Also, as I work digitally, the cherry on top of the whole process of making a book is being able to actually hold it my hands.

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Why is being part of an agency important to you?

Being part of an agency is important because it helps me get involved in better and more prestigious projects, which otherwise might not have been available to me. Bright always makes sure that my contracts are on point and my fees are negotiated to my benefit. As a result, my career is moving in the right direction and I feel it is largely due to the very good working relationship I have with my agents.

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A selection of titles illustrated by Marta


What are you currently working on? Can you tell us what to expect next?

The project I’m most excited about at the moment is a picture book I’m working on with my husband, James Lancett, who is also an artist. The funny thing is that although we’ve worked next to each other for years, this is going to be our first project together, and I’m really looking forward to it!

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Click here to view Marta’s full portfolio.

To work with Marta, please contact her agent, Arabella Stein.

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