Luna and the Moon Rabbit, an interview with Camille Whitcher

My class was lucky to get a Q&A with Camille.  Read on to find out what my seven year olds wanted to know…

Where did you get the idea for the story from?

It’s based on the myth of the Rabbit in the Moon. Some people can see a man in the moon, others can see a rabbit.

Why is the story set in Japan?

Japan is one of the countries where the Rabbit in the Moon myth exists.  My mum is Japanese too so I thought it’d be nice to set it there.

Why did you choose a rabbit as the animal in the story?

Rabbits are awesome! They’re very interesting animals. They’re cute and seem vulnerable but they can also be strong and sometimes aggressive.

Which came first, the story or the pictures?

Definitely the pictures. I naturally think in pictures rather than words. I usually think of a nice picture I want to draw and then more picture ideas come from there, which then become a story.

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Have you always been fascinated by the moon?

Not particularly, but when I was a child some of my favourite TV programmes were based on the moon. Ask your teacher or another adult about “Button Moon” or the “Clangers” who lived on a planet that was just like our moon.

Have you ever looked through a telescope at the moon? If so, how did it make you feel?

What went through your head at the time?Yes, I have. It made me feel very small. I wondered whether one day it’ll be normal for humans to go and visit the moon, for a holiday or to live. I have also seen Jupiter through a telescope which is very impressive. I wouldn’t want to live there though – ask your teacher why!

Is this the first book you have published?

Yes, it is, and I hope to publish more one day.

Were you good at writing stories and drawing as a child?

I was pretty good at drawing as a child. I used to make up stories but I never really wrote them down. I much preferred drawing them. I don’t think it matters whether anyone is “good” at drawing or writing. If you enjoy it, you should do it. The more you do it, the better you’ll become.

What do you like about writing stories?

I have a lot of stories and other things in my head. If I write them down, it gives me room to think about even more!

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction books?

That’s a difficult question. I like non-fiction because I like learning about new things, but sometimes the things I learn about are scary because they’re real.

I like fiction because there are no rules, anything can happen. If you want to read about a boy whose feet are made of cheese, or a girl who has six tails, then you can go and find that book. If it doesn’t exist (I don’t think cheesy feet boy or six tail girl books exist!), then you can write it for others to read. If you can imagine it, it can be a story.

Did you study to become an artist? If so where did you study?

Yes, I did. I went to Cambridge School of Art and did a master’s degree that specialised in children’s book illustration.

How did you make the pictures -did you use paint, pencils or a computer?

I used Quink ink, which is supposed to really be just for writing, and I used watercolour paints, coloured pencils and some acrylic ink.

Do you have a pet?

Just imaginary ones at the moment! I’ve actually never had a pet before – not even a goldfish! I’d love to have a cat but I seem to be allergic to a lot of them. I also would like to have a rabbit or two, and maybe a dog. I also like guinea pigs!

If you weren’t working as an author/ illustrator, what would you do instead?

Hmmm, maybe I’d like to be a dressmaker. I like sewing, but I’m not very quick at making things.

Could we please get a picture of Camille’s workspace and some jottings?

You can have a picture of my workspace but please bear in mind Albert Einstein’s quote…“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”;-)

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Shahad: ” Miss, Camille’s desk is just as cluttered as yours!”

Gotta love the honesty and observation skills of children!

We would like to thank Camille for answering our questions and wish her good luck for her first book.

Luna and the Moon Rabbit written and illustrated by the wonderful Camille Whitcher and published by Scribblers, winner of the Stratford- Salariya Picture Book Prize, definitely worth a read.

 

What Do Animals Do All Day? by Wendy Hunt

We loved the first book ‘What Do Grown Ups Do All Day’ so it was no surprise that we love the animal version of the book just as much.

Embark on a journey through 14 different habitats and meet over a hundred different animals. On each page, we meet different animals, learn what they do all day and how they fit into the environment they live in. Beavers are described as architects, clownfish  as security guards and elephants as landscape gardeners- a great way to explain to children what animals do in the wild.

We especially enjoyed the ‘Tropical Island’ habitat and spotting the animals that live there.

If your littleone is interested in wildlife, they’ll love this book.

What Do Animals Do All Day, written by Wendy Hunt, illustrated by Muti and published by Wide Eyed Editions.

Look out, It’s a Dragon by Jonny Lambert

We love this book! The illustrations are fun and Saffi is simply the most lovable dragon in the world!

Saffi isn’t like other dragons. She is sweet and caring and doesn’t enjoy capturing princesses and crushing castles. So she decides to move to a more ‘suited’ neighbourhood. The only problem is, her new neighbours don’t quite believe that she is different to all the other fire-breathing, home squashing, lumbering beasts.

This heart-warming, funny story with its bold and beautiful illustrations is our new favourite bedtime story! A must read for young book worms.

Look Out, It’s a Dragon!, written and illustrated by Jonny Lambert and published by Little Tiger Group.

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Wild World by Angela McAllister

I rarely come across non-fiction poetry picture books especially ones that are so stunning! Hvass and Hannibal, the illustrators, capture the beautiful wilderness in all its diversity brilliantly.

Angela McAllister uses her powerful and moving poetry to describe the animals and plants of the various habitats, raising awareness of the dangers they face and our connections to them. Simply gorgeous!

We had fun playing ‘spot the animal’ on each double page spread and then learned about the specific problem threatening each habitat. We particularly liked the ‘Woodlands’ page because we have seen these animals in the wild around where we live. There are also very useful tips on what we can do to save the different ecosystems.

A real gem of a book and definitely worth a read.

Wild World, written by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Hvass & Hannibal and published by Wide Eyed Editions.

In the Woods by Thereza Rowe

Red, the fox, is getting married and everyone in the woods is excited and getting ready for the big event. Well… not everybody.

Olly, the horse, isn’t feeling too happy because he is the only one not to have turned into a unicorn. Lionel, the lion, has lost his pride and then the wedding cake gets stolen. The illustrations are fun, bold and colourful and really add to the happy storyline of this book.

A lovely tale highlighting the importance of friendship, helping each other and cheering each other up.

Be Happy Now! That’s certainly the feeling we were left with after we finished reading the book.

In The Woods, written and illustrated by Thereza Rowe, published by Thames & Hudson.

 

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A masterclass with Duncan Beedie

How can children be motivated to put down their tablet,  pick up a book and read?

A question many parents and teachers have often asked themselves. In our case the answer was simple – enter Duncan Beedie.

We were very lucky when Duncan agreed to visit our school to celebrate the launch of his latest book, The Last Chip. I am not sure who was more excited to meet a real life author and illustrator, the children or myself.

 

Duncan’s day started off in Key Stage 1, where around 150 5 -7 year olds hung on his every word.  I have rarely seen that many  children so engaged and listening so carefully  to a book; in this case, The Lumberjack’s Beard. The questions afterwards really showed that the children had been paying attention and were interested. They loved the story and have been looking for more Duncan Beedie books in the library ever  since.

Next stop, and a slightly more daunting task: motivate Key Stage 2 to read more. Much easier with a world premiere! The gasps of excitement echoing through the hall were clearly audible when Duncan explained that they were the first children to read the book ahead of the official book launch. One could have heard a pin drop while Duncan was reading The Last Chip. The children enjoyed spotting famous Bristolian landmarks and when Duncan showed everyone how to illustrate Percy, the pigeon, the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and ‘so cools’ were unstoppable. Later on in class, everyone had the chance to illustrate Percy. The results were amazing.

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From Key Stage 2 we headed over to reception and around 80 4-5 year olds. We were all very impressed with their listening and the children clearly enjoyed The Last Chip. They too had a go at illustrating and making up their own Percy stories.

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In the afternoon, Year 3 took part in an illustration masterclass. A step-by-step guide on how to draw Percy. Easy once you know who the inspiration for Percy was- Star Wars enthusiasts might have spotted a slight similarity with R2D2? Well, once the children knew that Duncan enjoyed Star Wars….

 

Duncan very kindly donated copies of his books to our school library, needless to say that since his visit, these books are the clear favourites. There is such a buzz in the library and not just about Duncan’s books but generally about books where children are comparing and talking about the books they have read.

It is thanks to people like Duncan, who give up their time and introduce children to new experiences and possibilities, that learning comes to life.  Meeting people with real jobs who are successful in what they do raises aspirations and opens possibilities; and meeting authors helps foster and develop a love of reading and this in turn gives children a firm foundation for success in life. Half my class have now decided they want to become illustrators and authors when they grow up (a profession that had never been mentioned prior to Duncan’s visit).

A huge THANK YOU to Duncan Beedie and everyone at Templar for making this all possible.

 

 

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Interview with Karl James Mountford

I have recently had the opportunity to interview one of my favourite illustrators, Karl James Mountford. Karl has featured regularly on the blog with his illustrations for ‘The Last Stop on the Reindeer Express’ and ‘Maurice the Unbeastly’ to name but a few.

I was particularly interested in his work around Maurice the Unbeastly, a book with a very important message of staying true to oneself even if one feels not to fit in. I have read this book to my year 3 class and it has become one of our favourites, mainly because of the brilliantly funny illustrations which beautifully support the storyline.

 

How do you go about illustrating a book like Maurice the Unbeastly? Where does the inspiration come from?

The publisher in this case asked for character designs first. So I did a bit of research into ‘beasts’- a lot of them (beasts) are mixtures of two or three different kinds of animals in myths, so I started there. Making weird hybrid beasts and after chatting with the lovely art director Ryan, we agreed that Maurice should be big and masculine looking, to try and break the idea that kind creatures were small or timid. I’m a massive fan of illustrator Maurice Sendak, I think there is definitely an echo of my love for his books in the visual of Maurice.

Maurice sketches

where the wild things are illustrationsWhere The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

 

What are your influences when illustrating books?

Colour palettes, especially limited ones. I’ve always been fascinated by how much you can do with just a few colours and mixing them with textures and shape. Also the tone of the text, too.

Mountford studio

 

What was your favourite children’s book when you were seven years old? A question my class was particularly keen to ask.

I reckon ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ was and still is.

where the wild things are cover

 

Which is your favourite book you’ve illustrated?

Maurice, naturally, but I’ve just finished a middle grade cover called ‘The Peculiars’ which I’m a bit proud of, as everything you see on it is my idea. The publishers really trusted me with it and the job was just seamless and fun.

Is there anyone you would like to illustrate for?

 

I’d love to illustrate something for Philip Pullman, but I’m not sure my work would reflect his AMAZING stories well enough.

For aspiring illustrators, what top tips would you give them to get into the profession? I have some amazing artists in my class who were curious.

Start with making things you love, paint, draw whatever interests you, because it’s there that everyone else will see what you might be about.

 

What was the first book you illustrated? What did you wish you’d known back then that you know now?

The first proper paid book with a publisher I illustrated was by Jennifer Bell, ‘The Uncommoners’. I wish I’d trusted myself a little more when developing the artwork.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would your profession be instead? Again, my 7 year olds were keen to find out.

I’ve often thought of this. I’d be a vet, hands down. I love animals, especially dogs!

What is the last book you bought and why did you choose that book?

I bought a book by Pam Smy, called Thornhill – it’s really creepy but so brilliantly done.

 Thornhill

 

Is there a book you think all children should read?

‘The Journey’ by Francessa Sanna or ‘The Memory Tree’ by Britta Teckentrupp or Shaun Tan’s ‘The Arrival’ (sorry, I couldn’t choose just one). All of these books deal with subject matters that adults might think twice before reading it to a child, but I’m a firm believer that kids are the most welcoming and understanding sort of humans towards new ideas, situations and people. They handle the truth a lot better than most adults. I don’t think we need to talk down to them about the world they are a part of. Plus, these books are illustrated in such a beautiful way.

the arrival 

What’s the last gallery you visited and what did you enjoy the most about it?

I visited the gallery Oriel Myrddin in Carmarthen, a local artist made screen prints and wooden bird sculptures that hung from the ceiling in a mass of colour. I’ve forgotten the artist’s name, but it was beautiful.

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Thanks very much to Karl for taking the time to answer our questions. It’s very interesting to get an insight into other people’s work and my Year 3s now have a few more book recommendations to read. When I first showed ‘Maurice the Unbeastly’ to my mother, she immediately commented on the Sendak like style. I grew up with ‘Where the Wild Things Are ‘ and mum had to read the book to me until the pages started falling apart. When I told her that Karl is a ‘massive fan’ of Maurice Sendak she could hardly contain her excitement for having spotted the similarities.

Maurice the Unbeastly, definitely worth a read. Written by Amy Dixon, illustrated by the brilliant Karl James Mountford and published by Sterling Children’s Books.

 

 

Interested in reading more? Here are the links to the reviews:

https://magpiethat.com/2017/09/24/maurice-the-unbeastly-by-amy-dixon/

https://magpiethat.com/2017/10/15/last-stop-on-the-reindeer-express-by-maudie-powell-tuck/