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World Book Night Interview with Emma Perry

Posted By Jacob Hope, 23 April 2020

It's World Book Night and the Youth Libraries Group have a full day of celebrations planned.  How will you be celebrating and what will you be reading?  Dolet us know.  You can join in with our celebrations by checking out the hourly broadcasts for the #NationalShelfService on YouTube, ask or answer a question using #DrBook on Twitter and enjoy the virtual storytime and talk with award-winning poet and author Joseph Coelho broadcasting via the #NationalShelfService at 7pm.  As if all of that weren't enough, we've been talking with Founder of My Book Corner and picture-book author Emma Perry.  If you haven't read I Don't Like Books. Never. Ever. The End. we can definitely recommend it.  Thanks Emma for your time!


What are your first memories of books and reading?

Without a shadow of a doubt my first memory of books as child would have to be Where The Wild Things Are. I can still remember that being read to us at playgroup. That final line… sigh!

As a teenager I can remember cycling back and forth to our library during the long summer holidays, maxing out my library card each time! I liked nothing better than sinking into a good book, even then!


Are there any authors and illustrators that you particularly admire and who have influenced your work?

I spent five years in Australia immersed in picture books, during that time I fell head over heels in love with the illustrative styles of Anna Walker, Marc Martin, Dub Leffler and Gus Gordon in particular – go and have a look at their work, it’s heart thumpingly good.

A bit closer to home I adore the brilliantly bonkers humour of Michelle Robinson’s books (and her fab ability to rhyme), and I most definitely can NOT walk past a David Litchfield illustrated book without stopping to admire the contents. I’m on tenterhooks waiting for the next picture book from Jessica Love to emerge, she’s been putting sneak peeks on Instagram and it’s EVERYthing!

I also love having a chuckle with books that have that great tongue in cheek style humour. Jon Klassen and Morag Hood always hit the spot for me. I am full of admiration for their deliciously low word count, which in no way impedes their ability to tell a top-notch story. I have been finding that my own scripts have got shorter and shorter over the last 18 months or so, there is something deeply satisfying about creating a book with a low word count.


Do you have a favourite place to read?

My favourite place to read has got to be the sofa or my bed – squishy, cosy and space to streeeetch out my legs!


Can you tell us a bit about your debut picture book I Don't like Books. Never. Ever. The End?

I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End was the second picture book script that I ever began to write, back in 2015. I was just getting into writing, and everything I’d read said to ‘write what you know’. Well, with many years of running My Book Corner under my belt there could only be one answer to that question… books! Of course!

I wanted to write about books coming to life, I tried to imagine what they would do and say. Initial drafts of this script were… terrible!

The words did not behave, and they found themselves unceremoniously dumped in a dark and dusty drawer for a loooooong time. For over a year in the end. By the time I had the courage to take them out again I had learnt a lot more about writing picture books, had a lot more practise, and my first picture book had been sold to David Fickling Books. With newfound confidence I set about a complete overhaul – it’s barely recognisable from those first drafts. My agent liked the new draft, then David Fickling Books liked it, bought it, and found the superbly talented illustrator Sharon Davey… and here it is!


What’s next for you?

What’s next? Well remember I said about that first picture book script being sold to David Fickling Books? That very first script that I wrote, somehow had a lot of luck woven into it… it won the SCBWI Slushpile Competition and lead to an agent… and will be published on the 4th June this year! This Book Has Alpacas and Bears has had quite a journey, and it does feel like a weird time for Alfonso and Colin to be leaping onto the shelves, but, you know what? Rikin Parekh and I are hoping the pair of them will provide plenty of giggles for those who read their story. They may even inspire children to go out and create their very own book, just like Alfonso does!


Emma Perry is the founder of children’s book review website, My Book Corner. She was the winner of the SCBWI Slush Pile Challenge in April 2016 and is represented by Jodie Hodges, United Agents.  

Sharon Davey is an illustrator and designer, represented by Plum Pudding Illustration.

I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End. is published by David Fickling Books | Hardback | £11.99

Twitter: @_EmmaPerry; Sharon Davey @thecreativefox




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Tags:  Books  National Shelf Service  Reading  Reading for Pleasure  World Book Night 

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Interview with Jackie Morris - winner of the 2019 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal

Posted By Jacob Hope, 25 September 2019
Updated: 25 September 2019

With nominations currently still open for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals (nominate by clicking here), we talk with 2019 winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, Jackie Morris about her work, the impact winning has had upon her and the extraordinary book that she and Robert MacFarlane created.


Kate Greenaway winner, ‘The Lost Words’ initially began as a chat with Emily Drabble about producing  a web slideshow of images to highlight words that had been dropped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.  The words had fallen from common use and so were no included in the dictionary whose purpose OUP described as being ‘to reflect language as it is used, rather than seeking to prescribe certain words or word usages.’


Recognising the importance of the natural world, several authors, naturalists and broadcasters signed a letter composed by Laurence Rose, conservationist and editor of the Natural Light blog.  The letter cited the National Trust’s ‘Natural Childhood’ campaign stating


‘Every child should have the right to connect with nature.  To go exploring, sploshing, climbing, and rolling in the outdoors, creating memories that’ll last a lifetime.’


Among those who signed the letter were Margaret Atwood, Nicola Davies, Robert MacFarlane, Michael Morpurgo, Sir Andrew Motion and Jackie Morris.  Talking about the removal of the words, Jackie says ‘it highlighted the disconnect between language and nature and was a clear indication that something was wrong.’


Fearing that a slideshow of images would be there and then, like the words in the dictionary, disappear, Jackie began to think about a book and decided to write to co-signatory, Robert MacFarlane to see whether he might be willing to pen an introduction.  When the reply came back a couple of weeks later, the suggestion was to collaborate on something more than just an introduction.


We started knocking the idea back and forth between the two of us.’  Jackie was clear that she didn’t want children to be in it and wanted it to be wild.  ‘The idea of spells clicked in his mind.  The first one he wrote was the kingfisher and I painted it against a background of goldleaf’.  Taking it to the Hamish Hamilton offices, was the first  time Jackie met with Robert and she didn’t meet him again until the project was finished.  ‘Everything was done via e-mail, I’d send sketches, he would send spells to be spoken aloud.  It was the most collaborative piece of work of all of the things I’ve done.’


Jackie did not create roughs for any of the illustrations, submitting the artwork in batches.  Part of the collaborative process involved the work of designer Alison O’Toole.  Jackie describes finding ‘The Lost Words’ font as having been key, ‘I was conscious about legibility, but something about the space given to the words means that reluctant readers aren’t intimidated.  We’ve had feedback about how well reluctant readers have responded and how they love it and are not put off by the complexity of language because of the relationship with the pictures.’


Hamish Hamilton were extremely trusting and have supported the crowd-funding ideas where copies of the book have been gifted to local .  The book has caught the public imagination in an inspiring way.  The dynamism of the relationship between written and pictorial language has acted as a catalyst enabling creative responses that have crossed a variety of artistic boundaries with folk songs, exhibitions and even a performance at the 2019 proms.   


Talking about this year’s Kate Greenaway win, Jackie explains the impact it has had upon her career.  ‘After twenty-eight years working in children’s books, I have a big backlist.  For the first time ever there is a plan of my work being taken to Frankfurt Book Fair.’  Her Canadian publisher was also very excited on hearing the news.  ‘My work now has a connection with other books that have won and which I love.  It has given me a new confidence.’



Tags:  books  Kate Greenaway  libraries  nature  nominations  reading for pleasure 

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