Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Richard Trinder
4:45 AM 11th September 2021

Can A Brain Tumour Ever Have An Upside?

Emma Crabtree
Emma Crabtree
In 2009 Skipton-based writer and artist, Emma Crabtree, had her world turned upside down; she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and the word 'terminal' hovered ominously in front of the phrase. That was 12 years ago and now, after a lot of travelling with family and friends, Emma has merged her life-long love of doodling with her love of animals and produced her first illustrated book for children.

"The Adventures of Big Boy (and Friends)" is the tale of her neighbourhood's stray cat, Big Boy, who many years ago adopted Emma and her Mum. Lewis, Maisee, Tabitha, Willow, Ivor, Jessie and Tess are costars in Big Boy's adventures and are just as real as Big Boy himself. They are the neighbourhood dogs and cats - all befriended by Emma - and join Big Boy on his first adventure, which also happens to be his birthday.

In this first of a seres of books our eponymous protagonist Big Boy goes for a long walk to round up his friends, and invite them all home for a special tea - notably featuring lashings of cake (always a good start to a birthday party) and much camaraderie.

There is a type of illustration called faux-naïf - from the French and meaning false naivety - where paintings look simplistic, even childlike, but have a sophisticated underlying message. But Emma's style is not like that; it is straightforward, colourful, simple, and there is no underlying sophistication, no hidden messages for adults, no political nods and winks, just a highly accessible yarn that will suit younger reader's bedtime entertainment to perfection. It is a tender tale of love and friendship with a clear moral heart. In Emma's words the moral is that "good friends are never far away". And in an increasingly divided world this seems a splendid message to pass on to a new generation.

Despite the ever looming threat of the return of her tumour Emma is continuing her journey with Big Boy and has already started the next 'big' adventure. Whilst a brain tumour can never really be said to have an upside, nonetheless, Emma's achievement in producing this charming book surely stands as an example to us all of what can be achieved under difficult circumstances.

Emma's book is available from her website: The book costs £8.95 with a share of the cost being passed to the Yorkshire Brain Tumour Charity.