A TEENAGE artist has made his professional debut as a children’s book illustrator after overcoming childhood difficulties resulting from his autism.

Jonathan Raiseborough, 18, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, has now been made an ambassador of the North East Autism Society (NEAS) after illustrating a children’s novel called Snowdrop The Spikeshuffler.

The book, written by children’s author and former newspaper editor Peter Barron, is about a little albino hedgehog who overcomes prejudice in the animal kingdom to emerge as a hero after being befriended by an eagle called Godric.

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It has been published nationally with the support of NEAS to underline the message about how the talents of autistic people should not be overlooked.

Six countryside lodges at the charity’s New Warlands Farm at Edmondsley, near Durham City, are being named after characters in the book, and will be used to give breaks to families affected by autism. In addition, the Snowdrop character is to be adopted as the charity’s new mascot.

Jonathan, from Darlington, said: “I can’t believe all this has happened and that there is now a real book with my pictures in it. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

As a little boy, Jonathan was bullied and found it hard to forge friendships due to his autism. In the book, Snowdrop is picked on by other animals because of his colour. The underlying message in the story is: “Don’t judge someone just because they’re different.”

Author Peter Barron discovered Jonathan’s amazing talent when he compered an awards event for young people in Darlington two years ago. Jonathan was one of the winners of a “Vibe Award” for his art at school and said it was his ambition to be an illustrator.

Peter, who has seven children’s books already published, said: “I sent Jonathan the manuscript for Snowdrop The Spikeshuffler and I was astonished when he sent back the most beautiful illustrations. I knew immediately I’d found the perfect illustrator for the book.”

John Phillipson, chief executive of NEAS, said: “We are overjoyed to have supported this beautiful book because it is a great example of how we must all look beyond the label of autism. Jonathan’s talent shines through and we hope it is the beginning of a career that inspires others.”

  • Snowdrop The Spikeshuffler is published by Pro-actif and will be launched at the North East Autism Society’s Christmas Market at New Warlands Farm, Edmondsley, between 10am and 3.30pm on Saturday, November 25, when Jonathan and Peter will be signing the first copies. There will be another book-signing in Waterstones in Darlington’s Cornmill Centre between 11am and 3pm on Saturday, December 2.