By Roy Browning with illustrations by Mike Raxworthy

reviewed by Pete Donohue

When Phil and Ann Gill turned up with a typewritten poem at local illustrator Mike Raxworthy’s studio he didn’t realise he was about to agree to do a marathon amount of illustrations and turn it into a children’s book. Ann told him that her 94-year old father had written it some years back for his grandchildren, and, as Christmas was coming up, she thought it would be a good idea if it could get made into a little book as a present for him.

“She asked me how much I would charge to do some illustrations,” says Mike today. “I liked the poem and thought I could do about 6 illustrations in black and white quite quickly. After all it was just a one-off for her Dad!” A couple of good bottles of red wine were agreed as a fee.

But when Mike got down to dividing up each verse he found himself producing 14 drawings – one opposite each verse. Phil and Ann loved the black and white drawings and asked for colour versions. Mike did one a day until the job was complete.

“I made it into an A5 size book, producing it in spreads,” Mike told HIP, “and by the time I’d put it together with a cover and inside title page it had become a 36-page book.”

Phil immediately delivered a box of red wine to Mike and announced he was going to self-publish it and print a few hundred copies. Within the next week he’d bought a barcode, and Mike and Ann’s dad, Roy Browning, formed a small publishing company.

The Christmas Tree is available at Bookbuster, in Queens Road; Hare and Hawthorn, in West Street, Hastings Old Town; and Hastings Tourist Information Centre, on the seafront for £4.99.