The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Anthony Browne

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Anthony Browne


Summary: Bookbag has long loved Anthony Browne's work - particularly Little Beauty. After being enthralled by the Children's Laureate's latest offering, Me and You, we jumped at the chance to ask him some questions.
Date: 7 June 2010
Interviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath

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Bookbag has long loved Anthony Browne's work - particularly Little Beauty. After being enthralled by the Children's Laureate's latest offering, Me and You, we jumped at the chance to ask him some questions.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Anthony Browne: That's very difficult to answer. I'd like to think my books can be appreciated by any age and any nationality. I suppose the nearest I can say is a child of about 4-9, maybe sitting with an adult – parent, carer, teacher or librarian.

  • BB: Fairy tales often feature in your work, particularly in Into The Forest. What is it about them that keeps drawing you back?

AB: Having fairy tales read to me by my parents is a very strong memory from my own childhood. I found them exciting, frightening and mysterious – I still do!

  • BB: We're suckers for a good retelling or reimagining of a classic tale. What's your favourite and why?

AB: Hansel and Gretel is my favourite. Perhaps because I had a very warm, loving and secure childhood, I found it fascinating to hear about two children who didn't enjoy that privilege.

  • BB: We're also suckers for the underdog. Was there anything in particular that led you to dedicate Me and You to all the underdogs?

AB: I've always had a sympathy for the underdogs of the world and been aware that the general opinion of Goldilocks is that she's a greedy, selfish child. I felt that perhaps there was a reason for her to go into the bear's house – maybe she was lost, cold, hungry and frightened. I painted her with reddish gold hair, wearing glasses and from a poor background. I also deliberately didn't give her a voice – we only hear from Baby Bear. I also wanted to contrast their different lives by the use of colour and painting techniques.

  • BB: This is your first new picture book since becoming Children's Laureate. Does the title bring with it any greater expectations, pressures or challenges? How are you finding the role so far?

AB: I was aware of being the Children's Laureate from time to time but I began Me and You before I was awarded the position, so I don't really think it affected how I made the book. The role is certainly demanding as I now spend much of my time talking to people rather than quietly working in my studio, but it is enjoyable and satisfying (most of the time!)

  • BB: If you could click your fingers and change one thing about children's literature, what would it be?

AB: I'd change people's attitude to picture books so that they really valued them as an important part of childhood - and beyond.

  • BB: Ok, the really important question now: how do you like your porridge? Thick or thin? Honey, syrup, milk, cream, or dried fruit and nuts?

AB: Ok, thickish and creamy, with a little honey and dried fruit and nuts.

  • BB: Which three books should every child read?

AB: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Grimm's Fairy Tales and Just William.

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment?

AB: Therese Raquin by Zola.

  • BB: What's next for Anthony Browne?

AB: Play The Shape Game – a book and auction for charity in which over 40 writers, artists, illustrators and celebrities have transformed a shape I drew for the project. To be published by Walker Books in July 2010.

Bear and the Magic Pencil – a collaboration with the winners of a picture book competition in the Sun newspaper to be published by Harper Collins.

A memoir, Playing the Shape Game, written by me and my son Joe to be published by Random House in March, and a retrospective exhibition of my work at Seven Stories Museum also in March.

A new picture book about feelings called How Do You Feel? To be published by Walker Books next year.

  • BB: Blimey! You are busy! We can't wait to read them all. Thanks very much, Anthony!

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