Neal Layton’s best-selling The Story of Things is set to reach a whole new audience as it hits the bookshelves once again but now in a brand-new paperback version.

Our brains are boggling and almost fit to burst as we have been investigating The Story of Things by award-winning author/illustrator Neal Layton. Originally published as an extravagant pop-up, this book has now been made into an accessible paperback edition, still packed with all of Neal's fabulous illustrations and trademark humour perfect for information hungry readers.

Double page spread illustration from inside the picture book - The Story of Things by Neal Layton

Each spread bursts with nuggets of information about; inventions, creations, gizmos and gadgets. All illustrated in Neal’s unmistakable scratchy comic style with a cast of eclectic characters who deliver information in an approachable and engaging way. Neal's passion for the different subjects ooze from each spread.


Double page spread illustration from inside the picture book - The Story of Things by Neal Layton

Neal took a small break from doodling to have a chat with us about this project and some of the things he has coming up soon.

Which were the most fascinating facts you discovered whilst researching this book?  
There were lots of enjoyable random silly facts; like the Egyptians inventing marshmallows, and the ancient greeks inventing socks, but I think my favourite was learning about the Persian polymath Al-Khwarizmi. He wrote a book called ‘The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing’. Its alternative title is Al-Jabr, which most of us call algebra. 

Which is your favourite spread?  
So difficult to choose, but possibly the Middle Ages, if only because one of the characters says “Whither is thee privy’. I really enjoy putting in details like that!  On the same page there is ’The House of Wisdom’  established in Baghdad in the 9th Century– a huge public library, possibly the biggest in the world at the time, with a brilliant name… who wouldn’t want to visit 'The House of Wisdom!'
But I also especially enjoyed creating the steam spread, where people go STEAM CRAZY… there were so many bizarre inventions from that era.



If you could go to the most remote jungle, the bottom of the sea or to space, which would you choose and why?  
I think it would have to be space, as long as I could be safely beamed there, and returned comfortably to earth without having to go into a rocket. I find the idea of blasting into space pretty scary.


Did you keep a sketch book for this project? Could we look inside?  
I had lots of sketchbooks on the go for this project, because I had lots of ideas…  way too many in fact! The main difficulty in writing the book deciding what to leave out. 


Do you find social media a good platform for keeping in touch with the publishing industry?  
I do, though I’ve been so busy this year, especially with this ’Story of Series’ I haven’t done much. There are 4 books in the series, covering a huge array of topics, three published last year, with The Story of Things being the final instalment this year. I’ve also finished illustrating another book with the poet James Carter, and written another more serious info-book. I’m not sure if I can mention that yet, I think it’s still top secret!


Tell us a bit about your research process? And how historically accurate do your illustrations have to be?  
This book took a long time to make, I think years? Most of that time was spent researching. I read a lot of books, spent time in museums, and on the internet. History doesn’t progress in a neat chronological way, different things happen across the world at the same time. Some things were easier to draw because we know how they looked, for example Guttenberg’s press. But going back through history it becomes more difficult.



This series covers a huge gambit of subjects, how do you decide and prioritise what to fit in to so few spreads?  
I wanted the book to sit on the line between factual accuracy, and inventive silliness. My editors helped hugely with this, I made them work hard with this book! It had to be fun, with a strong narrative drive, but completely accurate, and never misleading. It was a constant process of judicious editing, and then gradually adding sillier peripheral elements back in. 

With HUGE thanks to Neal so spending time with us. 

Grab a copy of The Story of Things  HERE – We also recommend having a look at this video which shows the original pop-up edition in all it’s glory!

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