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Dapo Adeola on becoming an illustrator and his author-debut picture book, Hey You!

This summer is looking exciting here at Woke Babies HQ as we release our first ever special-edition box for this month, featuring Dapo Adeola’s heartwarming and empowering author-debut book, Hey You. An ode to black children everywhere, this gorgeous picture book hosts 18 incredible black illustrators from the UK, US and Africa. 

Dapo’s dedication to creating beautiful stories in black children’s books is inspiring and the Woke Babies team was delighted when he popped in to HQ for a chat with our incredible ambassador, Alannah!

Alannah: What inspired you to write Hey You?

Dapo: After the events of last year I felt like there was a certain amount of pain and trauma in the black community and I just wanted to write something to lift people up, to empower people and to make them feel a little bit better about themselves and who they are.


Alannah: Did you enjoy working with other illustrators?

Dapo: Yes I did, I really enjoyed it. It was a very integral part of the book having all the different styles come together and seeing how all these illustrators whose work I’ve been following for a while were able to bring my text to life was an absolute pleasure.


Alannah: Have you always wanted to be an illustrator?

Dapo: Yes, since I was seven that’s all I’ve wanted to do, I didn’t know that illustrator was the term for what I do now but I always knew I wanted to draw for a living.


Alannah: When was the first time you saw a character in a book that looked like you?

Dapo: I honestly couldn’t tell you, I do know that it wasn’t until I was in my late teens to early twenties. Having not seen that for such a long time I had adjusted to it and I didn’t realise there was a problem.


Alannah: How can I become an illustrator?

Dapo: It’s really quite straightforward. Just draw, lots and lots. I always say to people the best way to become an illustrator is to take drawings of everything that you see around you. Draw from life, draw your friends, your family. Just draw lots and lots, it’s really that easy.


Alannah: What is the hardest thing about being an illustrator?

Dapo: Professionally, the hardest thing about being an illustrator are deadlines. I would love to be able to take all the time in the world to bring you these wonderful pictures but unfortunately I have to meet deadlines, so my deadlines are the hardest thing I find about being an illustrator.


Alannah: What’s a deadline? 

Dapo: So think about when your teacher gives you homework and says you have to hand your homework in by a certain day for it to get marked, that’s a deadline.


Alannah: Are you going to write more children’s books?

Dapo: Yes, this is my first text as an author and I’m looking forward to bringing you guys many, many more stories over the coming years.


Alannah: Who do you want to work with next?

Dapo: That’s a really tough question. I’ve got another book coming out in September and I’m working with the wonderful Malorie Blackman on that book and it’s a really fun adventure [book]. As for after that, I’m really open. I don’t have any particular person I want to work with, I’m just looking forward to the surprises that my job throws my way.

Dapo’s dedication to authentic and engaging black children’s stories is inspiring. He gained traction after collaborating with Nathan Bryon illustrating Look Up! This adorable picture book tells the story of Rocket and her dreams of going into space. Her sunny outlook on life and ability to dream big is inspiring, making it no surprise that Look Up was named Waterstones children’s book of the year.

Following the success of Look Up, Nathan and Dapo teamed up to create the follow up, Clean Up! This time, Rocket is on her way to visit her grandparents in the Caribbean to see the turtles, dolphins and whales. Disappointed to see the beach deserted of animals but instead filled with rubbish, Rocket sets up the clean up crew to clear all the plastic off the beach. Showing all of us how we can all make a difference no matter how small you may feel.

Dapo Adeola’s continued work to creating inspiring black children’s books is inspiring. Whether it is through showing children to be more Rocket or encouraging the next generation to pick up a pen and paper and get drawing.

Hey You is in this month’s subscription box and Dapo’s next work will be illustrating Malorie Blackman’s debut picture book, We’re Going to Find the Monster.

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