Describe your latest project.
My latest picture book is The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon, and tells of the exploits of the escaped tableware-pair; how they cross the Atlantic and wind up in New York, and become an overnight success as a Vaudeville act. But they get into money troubles, borrowing from the shady Carving-Knife Gang. The hapless pair resort to bank robbery but in the getaway Dish gets broken and everything goes wrong. Spoon is jailed. They are both deported. But reunited in a junk shop twenty-five years later, they discover the old showbiz skills are still there.
What is your favorite family story?
One of my favourite books is Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson. Moomintroll discovers the Hobgoblin's hat, which changes anything that is put into it. The story unfolds through the summer, and there are bizarre magical transformations (I love the escaped Outlandish Words, the Jungle that grows in Moominhouse, the terror of the transformed muskrat's teeth) and wonderful summer adventures involving finding treasures left by the sea and a scary brush with the Hattifatteners. It is adventurous and crammed with extraordinary things and creatures and also very funny.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
The first book I ever bought for myself was One Fish Two Fish by Dr. Seuss. My favourite page shows two children carrying an enormous glass jar up some stairs in the dark. In the jar is a tusked beflippered creature floating in brine. The words go:
Look what we found
in the park
in the dark.
We will take him home.
We will call him Clark.
He will live at our house.
He will grow and grow.
Will our mother like this?
We don't know.
Here's the page. I liked the mystery of finding a bottled monster in the park, and the big question mark about how large Clark might become in the future. Will they be able to get a bigger jar? How will they keep it upright? It's a worry.
What was your favorite story as a child?
Some of my favourite stories when I was about nine years old were: the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis, anything by E. Nesbit, the Just So stories by Rudyard Kipling, the Pooh books by A. A. Milne, and Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl.
What do you do for relaxation?
I am learning to play the classical guitar, so doing a bit of practice on a summer evening in the garden does the trick.
What is your idea of bliss?
A boat, warm clear water, a pair of flippers, mask and a snorkel. And a friend to snorkel with.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I thought I'd like to draw the cartoons for Mr. Walt Disney.
Why do you write books for kids?
I love picture books with picture books you can use words and pictures as a double act, even tell two different versions of a story at the same time. Because even very young people are expert readers of pictures, you can convey very complex and subtle messages through pictures that you'd need loads of words to explain. Making a picture book is also a bit like making your own film and you can make anything you want happen, however impossible!
Tell us about your pets.
I used to have two brown-coloured cats who were brother and sister, called Bonzo and Bonzetta. A few weeks after we moved house Bonzo disappeared. We were very upset, and put up posters everywhere, and asked everyone in the street to look out for him. But no sign. Then 2 years later, Bonzo turned up! He'd been found living in a hedge, but he was very healthy. He stayed with us for a few months, then he was off again. I think he likes the travelling life. Bonzetta prefers home comforts, and she still lives with us.