Friday, 10 January 2014

A Family Affair by Coral Rumble

In October 2013, I had the great pleasure of seeing my picture book, The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat, published by Parragon. What made it even more exciting, was the fact that it wasn’t just my book, but a collaboration with my illustrator daughter, Charlotte Cooke. When she was still at uni, her tutors strongly encouraged her to submit an entry for the Macmillan Prize. Although she felt reluctant, because of other work pressures, she decided to play with an idea she’d had. At this point, Charlotte commented to me, ‘It says in the rules you can work with an author’, and so the die was cast! (She was, incidentally, awarded Highly Commended by Macmillan, and was exhibited with the other successful illustrators. Very handy for promoting a new girl on the block!)

As you might have gathered, our book is loosely based on the well-known, classic Lear poem. In fact ‘based’ is probably too strong a word as, although we use the titular characters in the story, they are, in fact, two children playing dress-up as an owl and pussycat. The text touches base with the original poem at the beginning and end. I wanted to echo some of the lines, and use the original iambic pentameter, to ease in and out of the adventure, and to suggest to parents the inspiration for the children’s role play. The rest of the poem takes the reader or listener on a quirky adventure, over and under the sea. The metre changes to a quicker pace, as we dance from one scenario to the next, with lines containing caesuras to create a seesaw effect. I thought the rocking effect might help a stressed parent at bedtime!

The most satisfying thing for us both, is that the book seems to have really caught the imagination of children, in just the way we had hoped. We wanted it to be a springboard for imaginative play. Charlotte’s beautiful illustrations are both detailed and humorous, and enlarge the possibilities for story development. We’ve been excited to hear of children dressing up for their own sea adventures:

 Writing is often a solitary act, so working alongside someone else is a treat. When the ‘someone else’ is your daughter, it’s a double blessing of delight! In fact, The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat, is a real family affair. I have dedicated the book to my parents, and Charlotte has dedicated it to her husband and children – although her son, Jasper, could only be referred to as ‘bump’ at the time it went to press! Her daughter, Amelia Belle, is named in the book on a passport, belonging to a globe-trotting puffin. In fact, all of the passport stamp dates on that page, are significant to someone in the family, or to Charlotte’s friends.

So, what started off as a vague idea in Charlotte’s head, and my desire to give her some text to illustrate for a competition, developed into a labour of love for us both. I’ve worked for many years as a poet, and never expected to work with my daughter. I think we’ve both learnt much in the process, as her career is just blossoming, and this is my first picture book. It has truly been an unexpected adventure! 

Coral Rumble has had 3 poetry collections published, and has contributed to 100+ anthologies. She often writes for Cbeebies TV and radio, and is featured in Favourite Poets (Hodder Children's Books). Michael Rosen has commented, "Rumble has a dash and delight about her work."


  1. That looks like a fun book. I must track it down and have a look. (if my kids weren't 18 and 20 I would buy it. . .) I remember a cardboard box being a play boat when I was a kid.
    I have to say, and I hope you don't think I'm being rude, that, being a lover of resonant names, I think Coral Rumble is a cracking one! ;-) I wish I had a name that conjures up an altercation on the Great Barrier Reef ;-) . My name is so boring.

    1. Ha ha, many people ask if it's my pen name! I was an English teacher, when I got married, and went from being plain Miss Woodwards to Mrs Rumble. The kids loved the new potential for word play.!

  2. Sounds like a lovely book, Coral. I love the combination of introducing children to the Owl and the Pussycat at the same time encouraging them to go off on their own adventure game.
    Lovely illustrations, too and it must have been great to work with your very talented daughter!

  3. I clicked on the link and the book looks gorgeous! I really like books that encourage imaginative play and I wish you all the best with it :)

  4. So exciting - it must be such a wonderful feeling to share the creative process with your daughter. Congratulations.

  5. Lovely-looking book, Coral. I envy you, working with your daughter - it's something I'd love to do myself.

  6. Thank you, Coral. How lovely to be able to work with your daughter (it's like Wendy Meddour and Mina May! -Wendy has written for this blog in the past). I'm doing my first collaborative book now and it's really interesting (and different from normal ones where the author writes the text and then the editor chooses an illustrator and the illustrator illustrates and never the twain shall meet... Really good luck -and with future collaborations! All the best, Clare.

  7. Lovely blog. I'm wondering how writing a text for the picture book format differed from writing a poem that might appear on a single page? Did you find the pacing through pages a help of a hindrance, Coral?

  8. Thanks Pippa, it was different, in that the poem and illustrations were interdependent. It was helpful in a restrictive kind of way!
    Thanks everyone else, too, for your kind words.

  9. It looks like a lovely book! My son who is nearly five often uses storybooks as a springboard for dressing up and the most imaginative craft activities so it sounds perfect. Good luck with it! Are you dreaming up new collaborations?