Rab is booked in for success

UPPERMILL will soon be trail-ing – but there will be no crabbing sideways.

For stores and coffee shops around the village will lead the way in helping a new book spread the word about LGBTQ and disability issues.

Rab the Rainbow Crab is the brainchild of Andrea Bowker, who has written and illustrated it herself.

And as part of the launch of Rab and His Lucky Shell on February 15, several characters will be seen in shop windows, alongside copies if the book.

With its bright colours and joyful layout, it goes alongside any other children’s title.

But as Andrea pointed out, there is far more to Rab, who is aimed at three to seven-year-olds, than meets the eye.

She said: “Obviously there’s the rainbow, which was associated with the Pride movement before it was the NHS, so that was a no brainer.

“The disability angle came about when I saw a picture of one of the inspirations behind it. I emailed different things to families with kids and said, ‘Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.’

“I had children’s feedback, as well as some from a consultant, Suzy Emsden, who dresses her dog Alfie up and has him as a child’s therapy dog in hospitals.

“And I’m going to do a Rab the Crab trail with painted pebbles which will all be going in shop windows.

“Weaver and Wilde, Authentic and Pizza Love are already on board. I hope to get some of the kids’ clothes shops too.

“The idea is to photograph each of the five characters then upload them to Rab the Rainbow Crab’s Twitter, Instagram or Facebook pages.

“Copies of the books will also be at some of the participating shops too. It will also go on Amazon and Etsy, which will feature personalised illustrations and signed copies.”

“It will also go in Acorn and Pip in Slaithwaite. I’m also in the process of submitting to Waterstone’s.

“There may even be a link up in the future with Stonewall because of the educational aspect of the book.”

Rab is a lot more than just a book, this labour of love, which started as a gift idea for a friend, has a big online presence and there are plans for endorsements and even a sea shanty video, which will be coming soon.

If anything, it is going back in time for Andrea, who worked as graphic designer before she went into work for the North West and North Wales Paediatric Transport Service, based in Warrington.

That entails organising emergency vehicles so children deemed critically ill and having to go on a life support machine can get to hospital, from anywhere around the area right over to Aberystwyth in Wales.

An initial print run of 2,000 copies will already be added to – there are plans for a separate crab trail in and around Andrea’s home town of Mossley.

There will be a total of six books, the 51-year-old is already well on the way with her second and all will focus on different issues.

And she has already held an online session of ‘Bedtime Stories with Rab the Crab’ featuring her in rainbow pyjamas!

Andrea, who says her other hobby of wild swimming takes her mind off her crucial and stressful job, added: “I hadn’t picked up a pen or a piece of paper for six years after being a graphic designer for most of my life. I’d had no creative urge whatsoever.

“I only did the book in Christmas week, originally as a present. My friend had found a rainbow crab toy called Colin, lost it, then bought Colette, whose mouth had been sewn wrong, which is where the disability angle came in.

“I did it all myself with felt tips. People at work didn’t even know I could draw!

“I drew roughly and one of the consultants went, ‘You’ve drawn that?’ I was like, ‘This is rough,’ but he said, ‘I’d buy a print of that.’

“On the back of that, I took it on board and I redid all the illustrations to the best of my ability and Rab the Crab was born.

“There was originally a Colin the Crab book and Colette but there already was one called Colin, then it was Cliff and Clemmie, then Clemmie was Clara.

“Now everything is copyrighted and this is all those years of doing my former day job, only doing it too enjoy myself.

“And I’m doing six because I get bored. I’ve put it in black and white now so I can’t get out of it. The second will be about loss.”

*RAB and His Lucky Shell is released on February 15 and will cost £6.99.

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