Finishing the Ruby Redfort series has transformed my day. It was a six-book contract, one book of 100,000 words a year. I realise now how much I missed illustrating. It’s so much more sociable. On days when I give talks at schools or events I wear a suit — if I can find one the moths haven’t eaten. Children are brilliant natural artists. They love to draw, paint, make a mess and invent, but it all gets squashed out of them in the pursuit of exams and qualifications. Ideas come when you have space to stare out of the window and let your brain wander freely.
Becoming children’s laureate has given me a voice. I’m determined to change the snobby attitude around picture books. Children’s illustration is viewed as the poor relation to fine-art painting, yet it’s children’s first introduction to art and can have a profound effect on how they view the world. John Burningham’s Granpa, which deals with the loss of a loved one, explains grief to a child far better than anything else.