Adam says he wasn’t given a particular reason why Waterstones picked Boy Underwater for their Children’s Book of the Month, but believes it’s the combination of the central character’s massive journey, the serious themes in the book but the humour of the delivery that have made it stand out.”It’s a really emotional story and it takes the character on a massive journey from being a normal little boy to uncovering his family secret but I think I’ve managed to make it funny as well.”If you were to say ‘what is the book about?’ it doesn’t really sound like a children’s novel – there’s quite serious themes. But I’ve tried to make the book a very safe place for children to go to those difficult issues knowing I will look after them as a narrator and writer but combined with that are the humorous element of Cymbeline’s voice.”The swimming is very important. And what he has to uncover about swimming, particularly why his mum has never taken him swimming, is the tip of the iceberg of all the secrets that his family has.”I think the central theme of the book is that if you bury secrets they will always, always, always come back to you. You can’t keep the past down and really neither should you.”
When I suggest the bow tie is good branding, he demurs. “I don’t believe in branding, I believe in hallmarking,” he says. “To me, the etymology of a brand is ownership: singeing a mark on a cow. When, say, a goldsmith hallmarks something, they are saying: ‘I made this at this particular time and it is a thing of quality and it works.’ That’s what I think we do with everything we publish.”
Full piece >>> https://www.thebookseller.com/insight/tied-752126
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.
Petr Horáček Q&A
The book that my parents read to me
When I was a child my father used to read to me ‘Rumcajs’ by Václav Čtvrtek, illustrated by Radek Pilař. The stories were about a shoemaker, who lived in the little Czech town of Jičín. Rumcajs fell out with the local count and went to live in the woods.
Rumcajs was strong, he wore a hat made from oak bark and he shot acorns from his ancient pistol.
The stories were fun and I liked the illustrations too.
Like many of my generation I grow up on truly amazing pop-up books designed by Vojtěch Kubašta.
Apart from books we also had lots of very good quality animated films. Here I must mention Jiří Trnka who was one of the most prolific and incredibly talented artists who worked as a puppet maker, animator, illustrator and writer.
During Communism many talented writers and artists were unable to publish and exhibit their work. Working on books and animated films for children was often the only way these artists could fulfill themselves and earn some money. Writing for children wasn’t as carefully censored, as it wasn’t considered to be important or dangerous by the ruling communistic government. The artists often wrote and illustrated under different names.
Now read the other sections in this excellent feature:
- The book that first got me excited about reading
- The book that I most wanted to make
- The children’s book I read and re-read the most
- The book I read as a teenager that blew my mind
- A children’s book I discovered later in life and which had a profound effect
- My latest book
I’ve only just come across this feature from last weekend’s Sunday Times Magazine.
It’s a well-constructed piece by Matt Rudd about Terry Deary and his Horrible Histories colleague Martin Brown, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the series, “aimed at 8-to-12ers, that wonderful age when your children read autonomously and you can, finally, have some you-time.”
Today, when I meet him and Brown at their publisher, the irascible 72-year-old is quoting Primo Levi within five minutes. “It’s the duty of righteous men to make war against all undeserved privilege,” he says. “And that’s what we do. We make war against the undeserved privilege. I want children to understand that people in alleged power are not necessarily entitled to it. That’s why it’s odd having Horrible Histories adopted by schools. Don’t these teachers understand that we’re training kids to question authority? And they use them in schools. Bizarre. Occasionally somebody picks it up and understands, then sends me offensive emails.”
He is amused when I tell him my eldest son has become something of a flag-burning socialist since reading his books. “Don’t worry,” he says. “He’ll get balance. The schools will teach the conventional stuff. We are the counterbalance.”
Recommend reading the whole piece, if you have a means of getting past the paywall:
Despite being married for more than 50 years, [Burningham & Oxenbury] have collaborated on only one book – 2010’s There’s Going to Be a Baby. “It’s much easier if we don’t really,” said Burningham, who works on the ground floor of their home, while Oxenbury has an outside studio. They do show each other drawings that they aren’t quite happy with. “I’ll say to John, ‘What do you think of this?’ And it’ll be something that has proved to be very difficult and I’ve spent a long time over it, and all he says is, ‘Absolutely no good.’ It’s terribly depressing and you have to start again. And I do the same for him.”
“Absolutely, yes,” said Burningham. “We can take it in small doses, but if we worked in the same studio it would be dreadful.” “Feathers would fly,” said Oxenbury.
Alex O’Connel visits John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury..
Burningham explains that they are their own best critics. “We depress each other more than we uplift. You work all week on something and it’s, ‘Oh my God, that foot is all wrong, it lacks colour!’ ” says Burningham. “I only bring work back [here] if there is a problem,” says Oxenbury. “I ask him, ‘What do you think is wrong?’ ”There is a pause. “You have a terrible problem with pretty ladies, don’t you?” says Oxenbury to her husband, a twinkle in her eye.“Do I?” says Burningham, archly.“They are dreadful. If he has a fairy to draw . . . they’re awful!”It’s hard to draw the beautiful, I offer, like a human Switzerland.
Jenny Lee chats to award-winning Dublin-born children’s picture book author Chris Haughton about his eclectic career, the secret of writing for young readers and seeing his work transformed into a stage production…
“In all my books, I use colour to tell the story, highlight the most important aspect and heighten the drama,” he explains.
His readers may be under five, but Haughton believes the secret of his success is that he makes them page turners.
“When planning my books, what I love thinking about is the before and after page turn. There has to be that anticipation and drama as you turn the page. With Shh! We Have a Plan, they are lining up to catch the bird and are poised with the net and looks like they are going to catch him this time, and you turn the page and you see the bird is flying off as they miss again,” he laughs.
An entertaining tale of three hapless hunters being bamboozled by birds, this funny, engaging and poignant tale won the Assocation of Illustrators award for best Children’s Book in 2014 and has been translated to the stage by Northern Ireland children’s theatre company Cahoots NI.
I don’t post all links I find in local and county presses because they are often insubstantial. But this ‘Big Interview’ with Cressida Cowell is certainly worthy of attention and contains a good helping of photographs too…
“As a parent you should read to children as long as you can and well beyond a period when your child can read for themselves.
“Reading to children is part of what I grew up with and the stories my parents read to me when I was a child are the stories I remember the most.
“In my books I like them to read about a dad who cries or a mum who laughs. It is a way for children and parents enjoying books together.
“It was while reading aloud I first realised I wanted to write books as the effect they can have on you is special.”
As an exhibition is about to open at the V&A, Lorien Kite (books editor at the Financial Times) explores the significance of AA Milne’s most famous creation.
It’s a good piece. Following the link recommended…
‘Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic’ runs at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, from December 9 to April 8 2018
Milne was 41 when he began work on When We Were Very Young; a successful playwright and a humorist who had made his name with the magazine Punch. As a model for the idealised childhood, his own was hard to better. Growing up above the north London school run by his father, a headmaster with progressive views on education, he and his two brothers had been encouraged to roam as they pleased from an early age and follow their intellectual passions where they led. This propelled Alan, the youngest and most precocious, first to Westminster School on a scholarship and then to Cambridge, where his editorship of the university journal Granta gave him a platform to pursue a career in journalism. Milne’s contradictions were becoming apparent in this period. Specialising as a satirist in vignettes of middle-class life, he moved freely in clubland and made a fashionable marriage in 1913 to Daphne de Sélincourt, goddaughter of the then Punch editor Owen Seaman. In his will he split the rights to Pooh between his family, the Royal Literary Fund, Westminster and the Garrick Club.