P is for Picture book
Something to mull over
P is for picture book- for everyone! Picture books are not just for young children. Nor are picture books appreciated only by children on the cusp of school, or a bridge to reading ‘real books’. They are real books.
Picture books are not the domain of a few very well known illustrators either. We are proud of the variety of picture books aboard the wagon. P is for Picture book… Jane Porter, Rikin Parekh and Emma Perry.
Bookwagon is committed to supporting the hard work of families and schools in building readers for life. That’s why we seek out such a wide variety of books. Therefore, we believe we’ve a need to share such treasures as these books by outstanding writers and illustrators, when we discover them. After all, don’t readers deserve the widest repertoire, the best experience?
Like the majority of children’s writers and illustrators, Rikin Parekh works another job. It seems that writing and drawing is not valued as highly as it should be in our society. However the joy and wonder in Rikin’s illustrations and stories are exhilarating. Furthermore, they need to be shared and celebrated. I was fortunate enough to ask Rik some questions recently. They begin in response to Fly Tiger Fly which cannot help make you smile and cheer!
1. What was your childhood desire to be SPECIAL?
I always dreamt of becoming a scientist or an archaeologist, finding dinosaurs. Then I wanted to become a comic book artist.
2. Who would be some of your real- life people to be included in a hall of fame?
Tricky! I think I would like to have The Dalai Lama, Richard Wilson and Jane Goodall.
What about inspiration?
3. Whose pictures, illustrations, art inspire you? Do you collect art? If so, what?
I am inspired by so many wonderful Illustrators and artists! Wassily Kandinsky, Colin West, the late great Judith Kerr, Dr Seuss and to Richard Scarry. I do collect art, I try to collect original comic book artwork, mainly Spider-Man and (if I can afford them!) original children’s book illustrations.
Then there are alpacas, alongside tigers!
4. Did you have to get close and personal to any alpacas and tigers in the making of your books? Where? What did you learn?
YES! My old drawing tutor at Camberwell College of Arts (Now part of the University of Arts), Mike Priddle made it clear that if we were ever to be commissioned to draw a tiger, we MUST go to the zoo and study and draw a tiger to understand it fully. For Fly, Tiger, Fly! I went to London Zoo and spent lots of time drawing tigers and observing them I learnt they like to hide and sleep. Often!
For This Book Has Alpacas and Bears, I went to London Zoo and drew alpacas, but they didn’t have many, only one I remember. I also tried to draw some bears there. I learnt that alpacas are extremely loveable and fun and bears are HUGE!
5. Who is your Jim in your life? Who inspires you?
My Jim in my life is my mum, she inspires me:) She has been through a lot but keeps on fighting and going on.
A little something about Rik’s drawing style…
6. I LOVE your characters’ expressive faces, particularly their eyes…. please can you explain them?
Thank you! I really don’t know where it comes from, but think, am I hope many other Illustrators can agree with me too, that when you draw a character, you have to put yourself into their shoes, just like how an animator acts out actions in front of a mirror. The eyes, they just come!
Emma Perry’s collaboration with Sharon Davey is I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End. It makes me laugh and reminds me of my time teaching Infant readers. Furthermore, Mabel reminds me of my enormous excitement at expecting to read ‘real’ books, immediately, upon making it to school at last.
The humour in Emma Perry’s work tickles readers, yet there is such empathy too. It seems as though Emma Perry understands how it feels to be slightly on the outside, anticipating, hoping, rather like Alfonso, her wonderful creation with Rikin Parekh in This Book Has Alpacas and Bears
Some questions for Emma Perry…
1. Why do you think bears feature so regularly in books?
Now, according to Colin, bears are cute, charming and clever. EVERYone loves them. To be fair, I think he’s right. Bears are pretty fab. I can see the appeal!
With crossed fingers for a sequel…
2. Can you think of other underrepresented or misrepresented creatures who might plead their cause to Colin? Would he be up for a sequel?
Alfonso has pushed open the door nice and wide for all sorts of creatures to pop in, and do what they do best. How about some super unusual creatures like the Glowing sea turtle or even the Leaf-horned frog?!
Colin and Alfonso are definitely up for a sequel – they’ve been plotting and planning. Next time, I think it might be Colin who needs help, and a confidence boost, from Alfonso!
The magic of picture book writers…
3. I LOVE the expressiveness in your writing; I can ‘hear’ Alfonso. What is the inspiration? Did you visit any alpacas? If so, what did you learn?
I did visit some alpacas! Quite accidentally too, in that I wasn’t looking for alpacas. But. I was looking for inspiration… and I found it when I spied an amazing group of alpacas during a half term trip with my children. At that moment, I just knew I had to try writing a book featuring an alpaca. I mean, they are amazing animals.
Creating the character’s voice is one of my favourite parts of the writing process. It can also be one of the most frustrating when I’m still trying to nail it! Once the voice is in my head, and Alfonso’s voice was very loud (!)… the story unfolds quite nicely.
A future for Alfonso?
4. What would feature in an Alfonso (TM) range?
There are NO limits, hahaha!! Rikin Parekh has quite a few great ideas for this and has snuck them into that glorious final spread. I mean, we’re talking mugs, lunchboxes, drink bottles, CDs, cuddly toys, sunglasses, pyjamas… Rik, I reckon you need to design them ALL!
5. Did you ‘see’ Alfonso as Rik created him? Do you draw your characters as you build your stories, independently of the illustrators?
I had super vague sense of Alfonso in my mind, it was super blurry and very tricky to ‘see’! I’ve never attempt to draw my characters – I always knew, that if I were lucky enough for this script to be picked up by a publisher, then the most exciting part EVER was going to be when I first saw an illustrator’s creation of Alfonso. Rik has brought so much energy and genius to this book – I mean, there’s a FULL page spread of Alfonso doing the four-legged splits in mid-air. Genius! During the illustration process, Rik would send me super-secret snippets (and I’m talking little teasing snippets!).
6. If you were caught in a hullabaloo of books like Mabel is (I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End.), where would you want to fall first? Which genre? Thereafter, in which genre would you be most likely to feature?
Ah, that double page spread of Sharon Davey’s where Mabel falls into books is my absolute favourite one! You can almost FEEL it happening, can’t you! There are plenty of books I’d love to fall into – hmmm let’s think. There’s Wiskling Wood from Victoria Stitch Bad and Glittering by Harriet Muncaster – a great place to start. The beautiful swamp from Catherine Emmett and Ben Mantle’s King of the Swamp would be a lovely place to relax. Then when I’m ready for a bit of adventure I’d love to pop into The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L D Lapinski.
7. Which is your favourite reading genre?
I’m not very loyal to just one genre, I like to mix it up a bit. Having said that, verse novels have been a top favourite of mine for a long time. Years in fact. I’m really enjoying the surge in these at the moment – thank you, super talented poets Dean Atta, Joseph Coelho, Louisa Reid, Manjeet Mann, Sarah Crossan, Elizabeth Acevedo & Kwame Alexander I’m looking at you!
I read a LOT of children’s literature – middle grade and picture books mainly. Lockdown saw me diving into Maya Angelou’s poetry and her autobiographies, and I’ve just picked up Ali Smith’s Autumn.
The inspiration behind every writer and illustrator…
8. Are you an avid reader? Why? Why not?
I am ALWAYS reading. ALWAYS. Why? I love the escape, I love learning, I love being whisked off into new adventures with a cup of tea by my side.
Bookwagon is proud of our growing repertoire of picture books aboard the wagon which meet the reading needs and interests of every reader, whatever their age. Therefore, we invite you to take a wander, jump aboard, peruse, enquire and read…