Creating an empowering female childrens book character

Raya Rahman and Kashfia Kayes 

March 8, 2020

Inshra Sakhawat Russell is a multi-platform storyteller who uses film, photography, illustrations and thoughtful design to create extraordinary worlds.

inshra russell

Inshra S. Russell - Visual Storyteller

In 2017, she wrote and illustrated her first children’s picture book called Tiny Jumps In, featuring a little girl with a big sense of adventure. Tiny, the child protagonist in Inshra’s book, is a dreamer. She’s very curious about the lake next to her house and has been dying to explore it for a while. But there are obstacles she must overcome - practical ones like learning to swim, and psychological ones like the fear of doing something new for the first time. With vibrant hand-drawn illustrations, Inshra takes the reader and listener on an underwater-adventure with Tiny that children of all genders can relate to.

inshra reading tiny jumps in book to kids

Guba Publishing published Tiny Jumps In in 2017.

Today, on International Women’s Day 2020, we interviewed Inshra about what inspired her to create this empowering character.

Kasfia Kayes (KK): What gave you the idea to create Tiny Jumps In?

Inshra S. Russell (ISR): Tiny Jumps In is a story that came out all in one go, one night. It happened straight after I read David Lynch’s book ‘Catching The Big Fish.’ It’s a book about using transcendental meditation to dig deeper to find more creative ideas. In the book he uses fish as a metaphor for ideas. I started and finished the book all at once and in a big burst of inspiration, created most of the book over night. Of course it was just the starting point, and I went back to it many times and re-did a lot of pages later.

fish and lightbulb drawing

Tiny Jumps In was inspired by the book “Catching the Big Fish” by David Lynch where fish is a metaphor for creative ideas. Illustration by Inshra S. Russell.

KK: Who inspired the character?

ISR: Ever since I can remember, I’ve been drawing this little girl with dark hair, dark skin and big eyes. She would keep appearing in my pictures, though never consciously. Perhaps she is my spirit in child form. Eventually she made her way into the book as the main character. That’s when I realized I needed to give her a name…and Tiny was born.

Inshra and Tiny illustration

Inshra and Tiny

KK: What does the concept really want to portray?

ISR: The intention behind Tiny Jumps In is to inspire action. If you’re curious, dig deeper and you’ll find amazing things you don’t expect. It also takes the observant reader through the 3 color stages: primary, secondary and tertiary colors through the beginning, middle and end of the story.

inshra in kids classroom

Inspired by color theory to make the book, Inshra encourages kids to experiment with colors at her readings.

KK: Tell us about the artwork inspiration.

ISR: When I was making the book, I just wanted to complete it so I didn’t spend a lot of time on researching styles. I was trying to do it in whatever style I was comfortable with. The artwork turned out to be a combination of pencil drawings, scans of textured paper and rough photoshop work. This was my first picture book and I experimented a lot with layers, both real layers (of tracing paper) and photoshop layers.

childrens artwork wall

Children’s artwork inspired by the imaginative characters in Tiny Jumps In.

KK: What kind of impact do you want to create on your young readers through this book?

ISR: I would love this book to inspire young readers to do anything that they dream of. Especially the curious ones who want to try new things.

Inshra reading tiny jumps in to kids

The book explores the rewards of preparation and perseverance when trying something new.

KK: I understand you work in partnership with Guba Publishing to create meaningful children’s content. What is Guba Publishing’s commitment to Generation Equality? 

ISR: The fact that so many boys love Tiny Jumps In, a story about a little girl going on an underwater adventure, is proof that it doesn’t matter what gender your character is, as long as your story is meaningful. Having said that, it’s also important for us that children’s content represents the world and people from across all walks of life. For us, kids are kids and it’s not about consciously pushing one gender over another, but rather contributing towards a future with universal values and equality in all respects. We create according to themes that are close to our heart: imagination, emotional intelligence, social responsibility, environment, culture and travel.