The Olive Kingdom by A.B. Neilly
Illustrated by Marina Pinto Miller
Hover over the illustrations below for a description
Meet the characters!
Falls for the cutest little olive there ever was, and finds his courage along the way.
Dedicated to a career of daring rescues, she also harbours a secret identity!
Candy never eaten. Will he ever find a way to fill the hollow left inside?
I was drawn to illustrate the Olive Kingdom by the fantastical scenes described in the story and the prospect of giving life to things that we don't associate with having inner lives of their own, whether animal or vegetable in origin.
The story, in all its imaginative glory, raises questions. What if we did look at all of Nature, not just as a resource that we require, including food, but as a living being, emergent from life itself, with emotions just like ours? What if the food we did not eat, did become the architecture of public life or transformed into a magical landscape filled with every kind of sweet candy possible?
It's clear from the get-go that we humans are unaware of the cycles we create. That much is clear with the little girl who unknowingly launches the ham into the kitchen sink!
The Olive Kingdom begs a hopeful what if. If we can empathise with the rejected: whether it’s called leftovers, garbage inedible, not fit for consumption, unworthy of regard; that acceptance signals a new possibility and way of relating to life. How magical how wonderful, how life-affirming it is to take this perspective!
We need to find ways to share what we have: to rescue the food that remains on our plates and tables and give it a second life. To protect and nurture the plants and animals that are considered food and allow them to flourish and to be. Only then will we all have what we need. Only then can we truly fulfil our evolutionary promise and restore ourselves within nature's equilibrium.
My creative process
I loved illustrating The Olive Kingdom – it gave me an opportunity to create whole and diverse scenes, a step beyond my work for Jonathan's Number Party. I developed each character based on the descriptions and roles in the story. I created 10 drawings in succession, and then outlined all of the illustrations in black. I painted each of the characters in watercolour, and in the final step, I went back and painted all of the backgrounds, again in watercolour. It was great fun!