Follow the Yellow

Elisabeth and the Box of Colours


My latest book Elisabeth and the Box of Colours is out now!

Illustrated by the amazing Rebecca Cobb, it was published earlier this month, as part of Barrington Stoke’s Little Gems series.

The story is inspired by the childhood of French portait artist Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.

Here’s a bit more about the book:

Elisabeth loves to paint, just like her papa. She spends hours making her own pictures of everything she sees – and the more colourful, the better! But when she goes away to school, she finds herself in a world of grey: grey buildings, grey uniforms, grey rooms. She misses Papa and all the colours of home. And one winter morning, she gets some terrible news that makes her days darker than ever before. Will Elisabeth be able to find the colour and joy in her life again?

I’d been interested in writing about the young Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun for a while, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I understood what this story should really be about – how art helps us deal with sadness and loss.

It was such a delight to collaborate with Rebecca for this book. I’ve known Rebecca for a number of years, and we share an agent – and I’m a huge fan of her work and love sharing her wonderful books with my daughter, all of which made the chance to collaborate particularly special. Her beautiful illustrations have transformed the story and perfectly convey the idea at its heart – the power of creativity to uplift us, even in the darkest times.

Together, we dedicated this book to ‘all the young artists and storytellers’ — and to celebrate it, we shared some of our own own childhood artistic creations, which helped set us on the path to our future careers. (You can see them on Twitter or Instagram – just have a look for the hashtag #ElisabethandtheBoxofColours)


One of Rebecca’s gorgeous illustrations for the book!

We were delighted that the book was chosen as the Times Children’s Book of the Week, and got a great write-up from Alex O’Connell who described it as ‘a small, elegant triumph’.

Last weekend it was also included in the Guardian’s February children’s book round-up: ‘Beautifully told in spare, resonant words… full of Cobb’s delightful images… A transporting little tale.’

If you’d like to buy a copy of Elisabeth and the Box of Colours, you can get it from Waterstones, or of course, your favourite local independent bookshop.

You can find out more about the artist who inspired the book here.

And if you’ve been inspired to have a go at creating a portrait yourself, this new activity sheet will get you started.

You might also like to check out my list of more brilliant children’s books about art and artists

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