Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Why do you make books for children?"

Some years ago I gave a talk at the annual Illustration Forum in Falmouth. I have no memory of what I said because i was so nervous that I instantly abandoned all my notes and plans and just started talking, and all I remember is that my mouth was moving, there were slides, people laughed a lot and in the end I got applause (and a job as associate lecturer).

Now Steve Braund, the course leader of the Authorial Illustration MA in Falmouth and the organiser of the forum, sent me part of a transcript.
It's a complete surprise, and I really don't remember saying any of these things, but they are all true, so here you go.

‘The reason I do children's books - write and illustrate them - is that I really needed books when I was a child.
That was the time in my life when I really, really, REALLY needed books because I grew up in this little German town. There wasn't a whole lot to do there. There were trees, and aluminium and stuff so I really needed to read books then...reading them and tearing out the pages I didn't like and colouring in the pages I did like. I especially liked books that were telling me how the world is actually a very exciting place, because I thought it should be, and books about how to make things and do things. I worked out that people actually make books at some point, and I was like, ''Oh wow, I want to make books.'' I thought, ''But I'm too small, I don't know how to.'' But I started imagining what kind of books I wanted to make and I made this list which I still have. I'll read you out the list of books I though should exist which I've since been working on:

A book that is a pet to play with, and more exciting than gerbils.
A book that is guide to the adventurer's world, which is much in the same place as the non-adventurer's world but you need maps and explanations
to make it work.
A book to keep me safe.
A book that's actually tasty.
A book that explains how there's a city of pigeons above a human city.
A book that is an adventure.

‘And then all these books would be my friends. They would give me stuff and play with me, and if a burglar comes I would hit him over the head with
a book, and if I got lost I would have a book which folded out to be a house. Basically, brilliant books. I've been working my way through that list ever since I started working. Whenever I start work on a book, I think, which one is it? I hope it's on the list.’

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