What Wesley Wore – picture book review and meet the author

June 10, 2019



“For everyone who dares to be different.”


As a parent, I love picture books that carry a positive message. They can help to gently soothe worries and reinforce all sorts of behaviours and ways of thinking. There’s definitely something appealing about remembering ‘not to chatter in class’ through the eyes of a ladybird, or feeling that ‘we’re all beautiful in our own way’ through the ugly five.


Well. You won’t want to miss this one.


What Wesley Wore, written by Sam Langley-Swain and illustrated by Ryan Sonderegger is a fantastic new picture book which boldly looks at BOTH sides of bullying, with acceptance at its heart.




What Wesley Wore – picture book review


As soon as ‘What Wesley Wore’ popped through our letterbox and we peeped inside, I knew it was going to be a winner.  

‘I’m that one!’ Little Button shouted, pointing to Wesley when she first saw the book cover. I couldn’t help but smile because clothes are super important to her, just like they are to the lead character.



What Wesley Wore



Another glance at the cover and she’d quickly picked up on ‘the funny looks’ the weasels were ALL giving Wesley. She then became unsure in her choice. Be yourself and stand out, or blend in and be like everyone else? Now that’s a question!  I think the clever illustrations really help to set the tone of this book, well before you turn onto the first page.



What Wesley Wore is a beautifully crafted rhyming story about Wesley, who loves to dress up and express himself through dazzling colours and wacky combinations. He feels good and is happy to let the world see him for who is is.


Little Button was very impressed by his fashioneasta style!


What Wesley Wore



The trouble is, Wesley doesn’t fit in with the other weasels of Westburrow wood. He doesn’t follow their rules about fitting in, and this throws a huge spanner in the works.  


What Wesley Wore


Little Button connected to the storyline right from the word go, and I could see how troubled she was when the bullies start to gang up on poor Wesley, all because of the clothes he was wearing. We don’t often stop and talk until the end of a picture book. But ‘What Wesley Wore’ had her full of questions at every page. It’s a real conversation starter, and I like that.


What Wesley Wore


What Wesley Wore


We see Wesley’s world get turned upside down by the bullies. But, with the support of his dad and a whole heap of determination, Wesley finds the courage to stand up to them. Hooray!


What Wesley Wore


I don’t want to ruin the ending, but there’s a gorgeous moment where Wesley forgives the bullies, and the bullies finally realise what they have done wrong.        




We love What Wesley Wore!


Little Button adores Wesley! I don’t think I’ve seen her so emotionally invested in a character in quite a while. After reading it almost every night she still cringes when the bullies make an appearance, but she’s come to the firm conclusion that we should all ‘be ourselves and stand out!’ *Cue proud mummy moment.


What Wesley Wore


What Wesley Wore


From the clever storytelling to the stunning illustrations, What Wesley Wore is definitely a picture book that we’d recommend. Apart from the obvious heart warming storyline, I love how it opens up discussions about bullying on many different levels, and from different viewpoints too.


I think this is definitely one every parent should have in their little ones book collection.



Now… here’s a very special treat!




An interview with author Sam Langley-Swain


It’s not every day that you get to interview an inspiring picture book author. So, I think it’s fair to say that I was slightly (very!) giddy when Sam happily agreed to answer a few of my questions. Here’s what Sam said…. enjoy!



What Wesley Wore



Quick-fire questions – because who can pick between unicorns and mermaids!


Tea or Coffee? Both!

Cake or Biscuits? I’d rather cut off a limb than choose!

Cats or Dogs? I have both, but dogs

Lefty or Righty? Righty

Early bird or Night owl? Early Bird

Pencil or Pen? Pen

Notebook or screen? Notebook

Beach hut or lake house? Lakehouse

Unicorns or Mermaids? Mermaids




How did you first get into writing and have you always wanted to be an author?

Ironically i’d never set out to be a writer. I enjoyed writing poetry as a child but that’s as far as it goes. I started to jot down a few parts of ‘What Wesley Wore’ on a business flight, five years ago when the idea crept into my wandering mind and thought nothing more about it. Then, after becoming a parent through adoption to two amazing children, my viewpoint changed and I wrote my first story ‘Santa’s Wish’ as a bit of fun in 2016, for an Amazon competition to re-write ‘The Night Before Christmas’. My kids inspired me to write a story that would encourage others to help vulnerable families at Christmas. Everyone who read the story told me to publish it, so I did in December 2017; then after selling 7500 that Christmas, people began to ask when the next book was coming out and the rest is history really.




‘What Wesley Wore’ has such a beautifully threaded message of acceptance flowing through it. We know that the prejudices you came across as a child have influenced your writing. What was the driving force that inspired this story and did you always have the theme of acceptance in mind when writing it?

Having launched 5 books into the market, I felt I knew enough to finally dig Wesley out of the archives and present him to the world. The story was originally about individuality and not listening to bullies, however I noticed there weren’t any books in the market which allowed an equal focus on the bullies, their reasons to behave in certain ways and their emotional journey. At the time when we were close to publication and the book was fully edited and illustrated, there was a lot of media attention on the No Outsiders programme and this seemed to align to exactly what was happening in the story (there are even images of the weasels protesting) so it felt right that the overarching theme should be ‘acceptance’.



Ryan Sonderegger has seamlessly brought Wesley to life through his illustrations. When you started writing, did you already have a feel for what Wesley would look like? And, how long did it take to go from manuscript to fully fledged picture book?

Well, my first title took 18 months to transform from manuscript to finished picture book, but that involved a lot of ‘learning the ropes’, now I’d say about 6-8 months really. I definitely had a mental image of Wesley and I actually briefed a few illustrators before Ryan to draw Wesley as a test see if they could take on the book. As soon as Ryan sent back his image of Wesley (which was the one you could see on the cover) that was it. He just got it from the word go.



As a parent, I prefer picture books that finish with a positive message, such as showing kindness or trying your best. -One of the reasons why I love ‘What Wesley Wore’ so much. How important do you think it is for children’s books to take on important social themes, such as acceptance?

For me it is the MOST important thing. That’s what Owlet Press stands for. Our tagline is ‘Growing Into Wisdom’ which means that every one of our books has to teach a child something whether that be in a literal, emotional or academic sense. There are so many challenging things (particularly in today’s society) that as a parent we want to talk about with our children and often a story is the best tool.



What Wesley Wore



Do you have any new stories in the pipeline that you are currently working on (because we can’t wait to see what you’ve got coming out next!)?

For sure! This year we have an exciting picture book about (everyone’s favourite) Unicorns, but with a twist that helps us appreciate the amazing wildlife we can see around us. We also have a picture book for young children about adoption (have tissues ready for that one) that will be released during National Adoption Week in October and finally you’ll see ‘Mr Grit’ closer to Christmas, who has his own slightly longer (but still illustrated) story which is a bit of a ‘Black Mirror for kids’ approach, in a futuristic re-write of ‘The Pied Piper of Hamlin’.  



What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a Children’s author?

Consider your decision carefully, being an author (or a publisher) is about more than just being able to write a good story! You need also to be a good editor, salesman and marketing guru regardless of whether you are trying to get signed by a publisher or self-publishing.

One of the things that I find really interesting (as a picture book publisher) is the many submissions you see or posts on social media where people have used friends or even clip-art to illustrate their book and expect publishers to be excited by this. Go into any book store and the standard of illustration is higher and more stylised then ever before! So, take the time to study your market.

Finally, keep going! The most successful authors aren’t necessarily the best, they’re just the good writers that never gave up!



What Wesley Wore is available from Waterstones for £7.99. You can catch up with Sam over on Owlet Press by visiting the website and following them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.



Pin me for later 😉


What Wesley Wore




Disclosure: Little Button was sent a copy of What Wesley Wore. All views are my own, and Little Buttons! #ADGifted


27 responses to “What Wesley Wore – picture book review and meet the author”

  1. Lydia C. Lee says:

    Sounds a gorgeous book. My youngest seems to be getting very focused on clothes…which is not a good thing in my opinion but I guess it’s coming…#Dreamteam

  2. This sounds a lovely book. Poppy has very firm ideas on what she likes to wear too and what is and isn’t nursery clothing. This can make mornings challenging at times!!

  3. Heather Keet says:

    This book looks amazing and I am getting two copies for my nieces and nephew.

  4. Claire says:

    What a great opportunity to interview an author and you did a really great job.

    I will share this with my colleagues, we work in pastoral care in a school and I think this would be really valuable to our collection x

  5. Aww it’s so lovely to find out more about the author behind What Wesley Wore! I absolutely love the message and illustrations 🙂

  6. As the parent of a girl who likes to wear boy clothes i’m Definitely going to get hold of a copy of this! #dreamteam

  7. What a brilliant sounding – and looking — book … and very interesting author! #DreamTeam

  8. Sarah-Marie says:

    The book looks really good and how fabulous to get to meet the author too! Its always great to find books which address bullying and help to start those important conversations. #DreamTeam

  9. Sabina Green says:

    What a wonderful picture book for kids. My daughter has a friend, a boy, who loves to wear glitter and leggings and thankfully all of the other kids have accepted this. I think it’s great.

  10. I really love the positive message here. It looks like Little Button really did enjoy the story too.

  11. Denise says:

    This sounds fab – what a great message and in such cute illistrations! Lovely that you got to interview the author too. He sounds like a really nice guy #DreamTeam

  12. aww this sounds like an amazing books and I love the illustrations too – great background info also with the interviews 🙂 #dreamteam

  13. Aww that sounds like a seriously lovely story. A really great idea to include both sides, that of the bullies and the victim. I agree that it’s a great book to have in any child’s bookcase because it’s highly likely that they will all experience some sort of bullying. #DreamTeam

  14. Aww that sounds like a seriously lovely story. A really great idea to include both sides, that of the bullies and the victim. I agree that it’s a great book to have in any child’s bookcase because it’s highly likely that they will all experience some sort of bullying. #DreamTeam

  15. Laura says:

    This book looks amazing! I’ve added it to my ever growing list of books to buy. Emily is a little young at the minute for this particular book but I’m tempted to get it anyway and save it for her. I love the illustrations and the message behind the story – brilliant!

  16. The illustrations are lovely – and it is a brilliant message

  17. Clare Minall says:

    I’m always on the lookout for book recommendations for my kids. This one sounds like an interesting premise. I’ll have to add it to my list!

  18. Alexandra Cook says:

    This sounds like a book that could hook my girls in with just the first page! thanks for the great review and recommendation

  19. Sam says:

    A brilliant message and done well weaved into the story X #dreanteam

  20. This book would be perfect for my 5 year old Teddy. He struggles with dressing up days and non school uniforms as he loves to be the same as everyone. It’s certainly tested me a few days already at school so far. Great to incorporate meet the author with the review #dreamteam

  21. Anne says:

    I love it when you find a book that captures your child in this way, not just by involvement in the story but a discussion about the issues brought up. Children’s picture books may be more simple to read but they still have great value in teaching our children, and learning to read is made all the more fun when you have captivating images.

  22. Stephanie says:

    What a lovely book, and with so much meaning and education too. I love it! It’s lovely for children to learn about the rights and wrongs of life through books. If only ever child could read this book then we would have so many less bullies

  23. This sounds like such a great book with a moral. Pinning to my book ideas for when E gets to this stage. #DreamTeam

  24. my daughter is a bit old for this book but I love the idea. She has her own very unique sense of “style” that I just let her go with #dreamteam

  25. This looks like a beautiful book and with a great message too. I loved your interview as well. #dreamteam

  26. Kirsty says:

    This book sounds fabulous. I have just been having a conversation with my eldest about a comment someone made about an outfit his friend was wearing which was a bit different so this book is very timely for us. I will be checking it out. #DreamTeam

  27. Crummy Mummy says:

    They do look like lovely pictures, and a great message too #DreamTeam

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