Seven questions for... Catrin Wyn Lewis, Rily Publications

Seven questions for... Catrin Wyn Lewis, Rily Publications

Wales on the Map, a hardback picture atlas and encyclopedia, from Children’s publisher Rily, was the bestselling children’s book in Wales in 2018—and the numbers continue to grow...

How did you come up with the idea for the project?
Rily director Lynda Tunnicliffe felt that there was a massive need for this kind of resource for the children of Wales, a one-stop visual and literary feast full of the country’s famous people, landmarks, quirky places, history, tourist hotspots, facts, tradition and folklore—and with an eco section. The author and publisher’s vision was to create a never-been-done-before, iconic hardback atlas presenting a fresh take on Wales. The concept was this: an alien child lands in Wales. Our book needed to convey what is important and relevant about living here. Readers are taken through the past, present and future of Wales; historical people, places and buildings, statistics and culture. Also highlighted is the importance of sustainability and being custodians of our natural resources for future generations.

What do you hope the legacy of the book will be?
Welsh history is still something that needs to be better addressed within Welsh education, and this book will hopefully help a generation to really engage with our heritage, traditions and inspire a feeling of pride for all that we have and hold as a country. For children outside Wales, we envisage that this book is somewhat of an ambassador, and will encourage everyone to come and sample a taste of the warm Welsh "croeso" (welcome). We also hope it will give others a greater understanding of, and sympathy with, the importance and place of the Welsh language within the culture of Wales.

We feel we have captured the diversity of Wales in this book; of its geography, but also of its people and social landscape. We were determined to shine a light on many prominent female Welsh figures and inspirational role models that the younger generation may not be familiar with.

Of course, Wales has also performed incredibly well in the sporting arena: our football team reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016; Geraint Thomas won the 2018 Tour de France; and our rugby team won the 2019 Grand Slam. For a small country, we "punch above our weight" and we want to tell everyone how proud we are of our achievements. The legacy of this book is to share and celebrate all of Wales.

Why do you think it has sold so well?
We feel it has captured the essence of Wales. There was a real need for an accessible, easy to follow illustrated atlas/encyclopedia. It’s a sturdy large-format hardback, with beautiful illustrations and real coffee-table appeal. It’s suitable for all ages, drawing the attention of young children through the artistry, and older children and adults with the informative and engaging text. The content can help older children with school projects, and it also gives hints and ideas on possible places to visit, making it a go-to book for many reasons.

The accompanying quiz and activity books make it not only a lovely treat to have at home, but a valuable resource for use in schools and within the community. The publication really has captured the imagination of both the young and old.

What are your plans for the rest of the series?
The plan is to further enhance the series with a range of posters and boxed card quiz games, with other branded merchandise still being developed. We would also love to extend the book range, perhaps with a book for language learners, too.

How did you choose the author and illustrator?
Elin Meek was one of the first translators we worked with when we set up our publishing company. We adapted Roald Dahl’s books into Welsh and have been working together ever since. We knew Elin would have a vast knowledge of all of the key components vital for such a book: Welsh geography, history, folklore, places, culture, modern facts, statistics of the country and inspirational people. Elin was our number one choice for author.

Valériane [Leblond] is a hugely talented artist; we first worked with her on Four Branches of the Mabinogi, and the Welsh edition went on to win a Tir na nÓg award in 2016. Her illustration watercolour style has wide appeal, and Valériane can paint any genre: building, landscape, nature, people, animal, intricate designs and so on! We were extremely fortunate to work with her.

Has the book experienced any awards success?
Both of our book editions have been shortlisted for the Tir na nÓg 2019 awards: Wales on the Map has been shortlisted for the English-language category, and the winner will be announced on Thursday (16th May) at the CILIP annual conference in Cardiff. Cymru ar y Map (our Welsh-language edition) has been shortlisted for the Welsh-language primary school age category, and the winner will be announced on 30th May at the Urdd Eisteddfod ceremony in Cardiff Bay.

L-R Rily staff Llinos Dafydd, Richard and Lynda Tunnicliffe, Catrin Wyn Lewis and Ryan Head

This piece is part of The Bookseller's country focus on Wales. For more in the series, click here.