At the end of February we visited author and illustrator Helen Craig at her home in Cambridge. Most of you will know Helen as the illustrator of the world famous Angelina Ballerina books (written by Katharine Holabird). We were visiting Helen to pick up artwork for the two latest books in the series: Angelina's Cinderella (published last year) and Angelina's Big City Ballet (which is due to be released in November this year).

It was in the early 1980s that Katharine Holabird first came up with the idea of a story (based on her two daughters) about a ballet loving little girl called Primrose. When Katharine showed the story to her friend and collaborator Helen Craig, Helen drew Primrose as a white mouse. The character's name was later changed to Angelina, due to the fact - as Helen points out - that there was already a little mouse called Primrose in Jill Barklem's popular Brambly Hedge series of books. Angelina's debut story book Angelina Ballerina was published in 1983. The little dancing mouse has since appeared in over 20 books, two animated series, and even on stage with the English National Ballet.

We are delighted that Helen has chosen Seven Stories as the home for her Angelina artwork - over the last few months Helen has donated the artwork for every one of the Angelina titles she has illustrated. Helen's collection includes everything from intricately detailed storyboards and dummy books, right through to her wonderful finished artwork. Seven Stories already holds Katharine Holabird's archive, which she very kindly donated to us in 2012. Katharine's fantastic collection includes, amongst a variety of other things, her drafts for the books, a selection of Angelina merchandise, and papers relating to the Angelina animations. The two collections side by side make for a truly wonderful resource for researchers and Angelina fans alike!

Helen looking through some of her rough artwork

On our visit to Cambridge, Helen was kind enough to show us around her studio. As you might expect in Helen's studio, Angelina pops up everywhere you turn. Helen showed us the very first Angelina doll she made by hand back in 1986 after the publication of the fifth book in the series.

This is Helen holding the very first Angelina doll she made by hand in 1986

Helen also talked us through her creative process and the materials she uses in her work. Most striking was her three layered box of watercolour pencils.

Helen's very neat pencil box

If you'd like to know more about the Helen Craig and Katharine Holabird collections you can email Both collections are available to view at the Seven Stories Collections department in Felling, Gateshead (Helen's collection will be searchable on our online catalogue soon). Some of Helen's artwork is currently on display in our Picturebook in Progress exhibition at the Seven Stories visitor centre in Newcastle upon Tyne. Angelina Ballerina will be featuring in other Seven Stories exhibitions and events soon!