Emma Perry wowed us all with her debut picture book, I Don't like Books. Never. Ever. The End. and her follow-up This Books Has Alpacas has been equally popular with our readers. We wanted to find out a bit more about the story behind these stories...
Your debut book picture book, I Don't Like Books. Never. Ever. The End is a wonderful celebration of reading and a great way to encourage young children to pick up a book. Was it inspired by your years as a teacher?
Yes! I love those moments when children get hooked on a book and a whole new world opens up for them. It’s like a piece of magic. When I began I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End I absolutely wanted to write about books. I started thinking along the lines of ‘what if…’ the books came to life. What would they do? What would happen? The idea of a cheeky child who mistreats their books started to come to life, and that’s when Mabel emerged. Then I started wondering how those books could show Mabel what she was missing. My solution… by showing her the wonderful stories lurking inside, all she has to do is open the pages and take a peek. I’m a little bit obsessed about books, they even feature heavily in This Book Has Alpacas and Bears. See. I told you. Obsessed!
What are your top tips to get a reluctant reader to try a book?
Much like Mabel’s journey, it’s about stumbling across the right book that ignites intrigue and curiosity. As soon as they are open again, take your reluctant reader on a trip to the library. Get them their own card (that’s always VERY exciting!), then let them loose amongst the bookshelves. Let them pick and choose bundles of books – anything they want. That sense of ownership over choices, having their own card, and then the freedom to flick through the pages at their own pace at home - perfect. Embrace the library. Always.
As a teacher you must have had a challenging few months with the Covid-19 crisis. How has the experience affected you?
As a supply teacher at my local school I suddenly went from regularly seeing the kids, to not seeing them at all. I miss that. I miss them. I was asked to record a story time video for their Instagram account, which was lovely to be able to do. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll be needed for quite some time now and so I suddenly have heaps of time for reading and writing. No procrastination time. No time to spend crocheting alpacas, based on Rikin Parekh’s illustration of Alfonso. Nope. I definitely don’t do that…
You have your own book review website, My Book Corner, and regularly review children's books. How does it feel to have your own book reviewed?
Two words – mind blown!
I set up My Book Corner back in 2011 when I was living in Melbourne, Australia. At the time, I had absolutely no belief that actually writing books would be something that I would turn my hand to in the future. It didn’t even cross my mind. So, to now see the books I’ve created with Sharon Davey and Rikin Parekh popping up in places I’ve followed for years? Well, yep… mind blown!
What have you been reading in lockdown?
I may, or may not, have panic bought a book or two as the lockdown came into force. Please don’t judge, I was acting on instinct! I don’t tend to read a lot of books aimed at adults so I did a big focus on those – I’m currently meandering my way through (and absolutely loving), Maya Angelou’s autobiographical series. I started with the first volume in the series, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, and I’m now on the fourth.
I’ve also been enjoying the friendships in Asking for a Friend (Kate Mallinder), chuckling along with Freddie Yates (Jenny Pearson) and experiencing fabulous yearning for adventures with Sky Pirates (Alex English) and The Ship of Shadows (Maria Kuzniar)
Apart from your own!...what are your three favourite picture books?
Ok, this is only the HARDEST QUESTION EVER! So many beautiful books! So many choices! I’m going to have to narrow it down to, hmmm… the ones I always reach for when I go to school, (if they’re not already lurking in my bag).
First up would be, I Dare You Not To Yawn by Hélène Boudreau and Serge Bloch. This is great fun to read out loud, and becomes fabulous interactive fun.
Second is Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall which celebrates those big, brave moments in a little person’s life. I always pause at the page turn when Jabari is just about to jump, then glance around the room – everyone is waiting, anticipating. Genius!
My final choice? I Am Bat by Morag Hood. Deliciously fun and witty, with bundles of character.