Monday, June 02, 2008

Every Picture tells a Story

The picture book writer and illustrator, Babette Cole, talks about her writing

Books written by Babette Cole

Babette wrote from an early age and lived on the Channel Islands where she rode ponies. She went to Canterbury Art College in the UK and then went on to work for the BBC in her third year. She worked on Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine and Jackanory. Her first book was published in 1976 and it was about her pony.

She made pop-up books for a while. She was asked to write a feminist fairy story so wrote Princess Smartypants.

Then she wrote Mummy laid an Egg, which was nearly banned.

She decided to write a medical journal so wrote Dr Dog. You can see him every day on Sky TV.

There are several titles in the Dr Dog series, including A Dose of Dr Dog and Dr Dog Goes Green, which features the aerobic digester to help save the planet.

She keeps sketch books. Music inspires her. She tries to create the same musical movement and rhythm in her illustrations. Every picture you look at makes other pictures in your mind. This is the same with words.

In the UK, it is the National Year of Reading. We’ve got to get the books to the people who need them. There is still a problem getting boys to read. 41% of girls read compared to 22% of boys. Need a dad reading hero role model. Everything starts with reading.

Her website helps her to communicate with her readers. Babette will answer emails and mails sent to the website. She loves to communicate with her readers and thinks all writers should learn to speak to children in their own language. She has produced a DVD on how to make picture books, which is available on her website.

Babette explained she is making ¼ of what she earned 10 years ago. It was discussed whether this was because picture books have moved on, or is there a slump in the market. Babette said, “If you don’t talk to kids you will get left behind.” She believes in sitting on the doorstep until you get heard.

At the moment, Babette is writing four pony books for Bloomsbury. It takes her ½ an hour to write a story and six months to illustrate it.

Babette supports an organisation called Big Picture, which held an exhibition in the UK in April with a prize for illustration run by the National Book League. The final ten Best New Illustrators were selected from a longlist of 27 names, all published in the UK since 2000. At the launch party on April 22, best-selling picture book author and Best New Illustrators judge, Anthony Browne, presented each of the ten winning illustrators with an award, in front of a packed audience from the world of children’s publishing.

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