The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Paul Howard

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Paul Howard


Summary: Bookbag really enjoyed Paul Howard's illustrations in The Penguin Who Wanted To Find Out and couldn't resist the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
Date: 18 November 2009
Interviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath

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Bookbag really enjoyed Paul Howard's illustrations in The Penguin Who Wanted To Find Out and couldn't resist the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

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

Paul Howard: I can see children who are cosy in bed, some whose noses are running and need a tissue and one or two who should've been asleep long ago.

  • BB: Was it difficult to strike the right balance between cute, accessible and realistic characters?

PH: I emphasised the penguins’ softness so the reader cared for them enough to appreciate how vulnerable penguins are living in such harsh conditions.

  • BB: Did you spend much time in zoos or watching nature documentaries to get the look of the penguins spot on?

PH: Our March of the Penguins DVD was on repeat and I picked up a couple of great books. I visited a few zoos with my sketchbook, though I had no luck finding any emperor penguins - plenty of amusing adelie, rockhoppers and humboldts though!

PH: My Aunt Ethel knits them special woolly socks to stop their feet freezing.

  • BB: Haha! Is it hard for illustrators to get the same recognition that authors do?

PH: Well probably yes. But, er, illustrators are cooler.

  • BB: Which three books should every child read?

PH: The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson (of course). Arabel's Raven by Joan Aitken and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Reassuring, funny and bonkers books.

  • BB: Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators as to how to get published?

PH: Be persistant, be polite and be yourself.

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment?

PH: Just finished Peter Kay's Saturday Night Peter - he's so funny. But literally just read Horrid Henry and the Dinner Guests to my children for bedtime. Want to read Mr Stink by David Walliams next, to see what it’s like.

  • BB: Which book has most influenced you, and do you still have a copy?

PH: Now that’s a tough question. Would have to be a Roald Dahl book, but hard to decide which one. He was always the best when I was growing up in the '70s - and still is, I think. Let's say Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for now. We have plenty of Roald Dahl books here, though all are recent editions. My childhood copies went in a jumble sale about twenty-eight years ago.

  • BB: What's next for Paul Howard?

PH: Having suggested illustrators are cooler than authors earlier (oh dear), I'm about to become an author/illustrator myself. Does that now make me less cooler than an illustrator, but more cooler than an author? Hmmm...

Well we'll have to see when I'm published in 2011... all I do know is that it's all very exciting (for me anyhow).

Thanks for all the great questions and for being interested. I'm going to check if Aunt Ethel needs any more wool for her endless supply of penguin socks. She may need a cup of tea... and a biscuit.

  • BB: Thanks Paul. We think it keeps you at the same level of coolness! Good luck with the new book and all the best to Aunt Ethel!

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