Who is the real Lauren Child?
- Mums Tips
- Mumpreneurs & Mums at work
- Published on Thursday, 01 February 2018 11:03
- Last Updated on 31 January 2018
- Monica Costa
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I am honoured to have interviewed new Children’s Laureate Lauren Child recently for the Winter edition cover of the London Mums magazine. Find out what she thinks of motherhood, Charlie & Lola and doggies. Over the past 10 years I have chatted to hundreds of writers and film stars, but yet I still could not pin down one of my favourite artists. It was worth the wait as not only I have managed to have a long face-to-face chat with new Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, but that happened at her home studio. I felt honoured to be invited to her North London house that is currently being completely refurbished.
Personally this was one of my favourite interviews throughout my career (yes, much better than Johnny Depp) because Lauren is genuine and truly inspirational. She is a busy mumpreneur but we still managed to talk a lot including her latest Charlie & Lola book, A DOG with NICE ears.
Charlie and Lola books are hugely-loved by children, parents and grandparents the world over. This new Charlie and Lola picture book features dogs of all shapes and sizes, but while Charlie and Lola mull over, dream and imagine various options, it becomes clear that the qualities of Lola’s ideal pooch seem oddly like those of a…rabbit!
A Dog With Nice Ears follows on from the huge worldwide sales (more than 3 million copies worldwide in 19 languages) and success of Lauren Child’s original Charlie and Lola picture books. The first book, I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato was published in 2000, and was?listed as one of the top 10 Kate Greenaway Medal winners of all time.
She might have won numerous awards but she has remained grounded and lovely. Enjoy this heart-warming interview and discover who the real Lauren Child is.
Q: A DOG with NICE ears is a lovely book about every child’s dream of having a dog. I still remember when I was asking a dog to my parents… And now it’s my son’s turn. Is this somehow autobiographical?
LC: I do remember wanting a dog, in fact I think it was the cat even more. But my father was allergic to animals. So we had guinea pigs, a rabbit and hamsters. My father loves animals but he can’t touch them without having a reaction. He actually loves dogs and my sister has a dog. It has changed her life. There was a time when, with her previous boyfriend, we used to go to pet shops and look at cats. ‘Should we get one? Maybe we can get one.’ And then we named a cat and we thought what cat we wanted but we always chickened out because we both travelled quite a lot and we felt we could not have one. Years later I thought now I draw a lot, I could have a dog now but there was always an excuse. It is such a commitment because if I travel…
I now have a daughter and she talks about wanting a dog all the time. It’s become this thing between us where we both desperately want a dog. We have even figured out exactly what type of dog breed we want. I have done all the research so I know what’s the best kind of dog for me. We have named the dog. We talk about the walks we go on but we still haven’t got one. She keeps asking me all the time.
A year and half ago we borrowed a dog which was up for sale for a day and we fell in love with it but then we made our move to get it, it was already gone to another owner.
We have decided that the perfect dog for me would be a whippet because they sleep a lot, and are happy to just be with you. I draw and write a lot so I need a quite dog versus an action dog. Whippets are dogs of artists as they are happy for you to just be there.
Also my daughter doesn’t like sleeping on her own and the whippet folds up quite small and could sleep on her bed.
Q: What’s your experience with pets?
LC: I had lots of pets, two cats, hamsters, stick insects, tortoise, rabbits but I think a dog would be the perfect pet now because you get a lot back from. I want more someone who is pleased to see me.
Q: Is the publishing world tougher now than when you started? If yes, why? And how do you keep innovating?
LC: I think it comes natural. I have a low boredom threshold. I was working hard as writer and associate producer on three 26-episode series of Charlie and Lola. If I had been really sensible I would have done a lot more Charlie & Lola on TV. But that was the last thing I wanted to do at the time. I needed a break as they were taking over my world. I felt claustrophobic. Now that I de-touched myself from Charlie & Lola I feel I can get back to them.
After Charlie & Lola I wrote Ruby Redfort (a spoof series on detective novels about a 13-year-old detective for pre-teenagers). She came out of my love for thrillers and films. I watch a lot of Hitchcock films, which is really what Ruby is based on. So I guess I am trying to write Hitchcock for kids. It took me 7 years to do.
I am now working on something which is very illustrated with lots of black and white drawings. I would love to talk about it but the publisher hasn’t announced it yet.
It’s a young picture novel with lots of pictures. I had so much fun working on it. I am now starting another project with different things. Watch this space!
Q: You are very passionate about promoting reading for pleasure. What else can be done to encourage that?
LC: I remember Jaqueline Wilson talking a lot about reading out loud with children. It is one very small thing that most people can do. It only takes 10 minutes. If you can read aloud to your child, that’s such a brilliant thing. Reading aloud with your child at any age is a wonderful way of connecting because you see what excites them and interests them, and it’s also a way of understanding what’s going inside their head. And it’s letting them know by example that books are a good thing, creating a habit of reading and a special bond. It’s also a lovely way of winding down at the end of a day for both parent and child.
If you hear an adult reading, it becomes part of your life. Even listening to audiobooks is a great habit. My father carried on reading with myself and my sister even when we were grown up. There’s something really lovely about being read to you.
Q: My 11 year old son Diego is a big fan of your books and TV series and would like to know what would be the first thing you would do if you were the British Queen …
LC: If I could wave a wand, I would make people collect litter. It sounds trivial but it would make a massive difference. I remember walking in Prague and appreciating the beauty, how clean the city was and how beautiful the landmarks were so tidy. Instead of focusing on little bit of trash you can focus on the big things. A kind act. Now I do try to collect trash to contribute towards it.
Q: What is the book mentioned the most by kids who write to you?
LC: It’s two books. Firstly the Ruby Redfort series – I love getting lots of really interesting letters from children about Ruby. And secondly Clarice Bean. The Clarice Bean series is aimed at children who have just started to read books by themselves: they are about family and school, and friends, and social issues and ethical dilemmas, but they are funny too, and pleasingly odd. Clarice has three siblings, including an irritating little brother called Minal Cricket. She can’t spell, she makes up words, and worries about infinity and spiders.
There’s something about Clarice Bean as a character that is of interest to pre-teens. Clarice Bean books are about issues that all children relate to.
She represents a real child, whether you are boy or girl. Readers put themselves in Clarice’s shoes. And think about their own lives.
Q: Why did you want to become a children’s author?
LC: I didn’t want to become a children’s author. I did not know what I wanted to be. I loved illustrating but never thought I wanted to be an illustrator. It was not so simple to work as an illustrator so I started to write my own stories.
Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your books particularly Charlie & Lola?
LC: The inspiration comes mainly from my memories of growing up with my sister in the Seventies. I started thinking of the time we used to spend with other children. Then I started thinking of conversations children have. They talk to each other a lot but then as adults we forget how to do things so simply. Sometimes children can solve things so easily and in a very direct way. They can be sparking off with anger but then they are getting on again.
Q: Five years ago, you adopted a two-year-old girl, Tuesday, after travelling to Mongolia as a Unesco “artist for peace”. How has her arrival changed your life and your writing?
LC: I always wanted to adopt but thought I’d have a biological child as well. It just didn’t happen like that. I’ve always been very interested in the way that children see things, and I love Tuesday’s perspective. But people are always asking me if I test my books out on children, and the point is that every child is different. We need to look on children’s books as a gateway to learning, and to happiness as well.
I don’t think it has changed my writing very much. I spend a lot of time in terms of writing she is another inspiration, possibly not more than any other child or person that is inspiring. She is part of my world of influence. She has really impacted on my life is how I see other people through her eyes. And that is really interesting because she sees things in books that I did not see before. She is drawn to things in books or television programmes not necessarily what I expect. She loves anything with families in it. She likes things with babies in it. This is fascinating. Books that she really likes have almost no words in it but lots of illustrations like Earnest and Celestine about loosing a favourite toy. It is very moving particularly for a child who has experienced loss.
Q: In a future story, will you introduce a character based on Tuesday? Why did you choose this name for her?
LC: I have been thinking about a whole new character for another book. When she was 4 she had this fascinating imaginary world.
Q: What is your parenting style?
LC: As an adopting mother, I had to learn a lot very quickly how to be a parent. I feel guilty like many parents to find it hard to understand things I had not experienced before. It was such a massive shock to have a toddler straight in. I feel a deep regret that I have missed these years with her and I had to really work hard not to spend time regretting. We have lot of catch up to do now. I am learning how to get to know her every day, how she can be stubborn and how much time she wants to spend time outdoor together. It was a big learning experience for me.
Q: When you received your MBE for services to literature in 2010 what did the Queen say to you?
LC: (She giggles) I was so nervous on that day. I had so many things to rehearse before meeting the Queen, remember precisely what to do, when to do the courtesy and everything and then eventually I did it all wrong. And now I cannot even remember what she said to me.
A Dog With Nice Ears is published by Hachette Children’s Group in Hardback (£12.99).
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Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums