This month's guest on the Picture Book Den is Enid Richemont, who is perhaps best known for her Young Adult novels such as The Game and The Stone That Grew. However here she shares how she recently rediscovered picture books.
I have always loved picture books, and I can still remember being read to from one whose title and author have long since passed into (probably well-deserved) oblivion. It had a picture of a wasp circling around a plump, rosy-cheeked small boy who had just taken a bite out of the apple he was holding, and the text read: "Don't sting me," Fat Freddie said. "My apple you can have instead." Not the most impressive of verses (and these days, the word 'fat' as applied to a child would never pass), but my small, long-ago self was evidently grabbed by the rhyme and the rhythm.
By the time I had children of my own, we were feasting on books like Judith Kerr's THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA, Russell Hoban's unforgettable BEDTIME FOR FRANCES, Eric Hill's SPOT books, Maurice Sendak's WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, all the MIFFY books, and of course, Pat Hutchin's masterpiece of picture book writing, with its spare 35 (!!) words - ROSIE'S WALK.
Having always published much longer work, including Young Adult novels, in recent years I found myself falling in love yet again with picture books ( there are some splendid contemporary ones), but it was only when I picked up Debi Gliori's NO MATTER WHAT in my GP surgery waiting room that I realised just how much depth of feeling can be expressed in a few simple words and pictures aimed simultaneously at both the child and the adult reader. The theme of her book is simply of 'love, forever, up to and beyond death' (I believe the American version sanitised out the 'death' bit for commercial reasons, thus losing much of the story's depth). Little did I know that, within a month, her gentle and magical words would apply to my own situation.
I've been working on my own picture book texts for the past three years, and believe me, this form of literature is not easy. Like the best poetry, it's challenging and precise. But it's also fun. Two years ago, we were watching the royal wedding on TV, and, naughtily, among the frocks and the hats, I mentally inserted one mouse. This naughtiness was to grow into '...and NOBODY NOTICED the MOUSE', published this month by the lovely people at TopThat! It will be followed, next year, with 'QUICKER THAN A PRINCESS', a book with the theme of gestation and birth. Like I said - although fun, this stuff's serious.
To view more of Enid's work click here.
To visit Enid's website click here.