One of the things I most enjoy about being an author is writing picture books and working with the illustrators. I’ve always been passionate about picture books, and when I did an MA in the History and development of Children’s Literature I chose to do my dissertation on the depiction on mothering in the books of Shirley Hughes. That was back in 1993-95, so there would be even more books by Shirley Hughes to write about if I were to do it now!
You can tell how much I still love Shirley Hughes by the Mothering Sunday present I was given this year by my children - (aged 17, 19 and 20!) The card has an illustration by Anita Jeram, the pencil case has Helen Oxenbury's illustrations to Michael Rosen's 'We're going on a Bear Hunt'! And then there is the chocolate...it may be argued somewhat essential for illustrators and writers alike.
Anyway, it is a dream come true to actually have written some picture books myself, and so much fun to share them with children in schools - but when I do share my picture books I always give the children lots of love from the illustrators and make sure we always look carefully at, and talk about, how wonderful the pictures are.
I absolutely love how Rosalind Beardshaw imagined Betty, ‘The Fairest Fairy’, for example.
I was delighted when a mum sent me a picture of her little girl, pointing out how much she looked like Rosalind’s depiction of Clara, The Christmas Fairy.
Sam Usher did such a lovely job of illustrating ‘Refuge’ - so much so that the illustrations for ‘Refuge’ earned him a nomination for the prestigious Greenaway award.
My most recent book is ‘I want a Friend’ , illustrated by Amy Proud. We are working together on a series of three books for Lion Publishing. They are each set in the same nursery, and everyone working on it wanted, and was delighted with, the diversity in her illustrations. You can tell Amy has been a teaching assistant and she really captures nursery school life.
I will also have a Christmas book out in 2018, illustrated by Ruth Hearson. It’s about a shy angel called Jenny, and the illustrations I have seen so far are adorable.
And I have just signed up for two illustration courses myself - a day at the House of Illustration in June - and a week in July. I think ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ and even if I turn out not to be good enough to be an illustrator myself, (I would so love if I were!) I will have lots of fun and end up knowing that much more about how illustrators work and that can only help my writing.