The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Alison Murray

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Alison Murray

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Summary: One Two That's My Shoe by Alison Murray is a wonderful counting book, continuing the adventures of Grace and her scampish dog Georgie. One Two That's My Shoe tweaks the familiar rhyme and tells a fresh story through its outstanding illustrations. We were delighted to interview Alison Murray.
Date: 9 June 2011
Interviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath

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One Two That's My Shoe by Alison Murray is a wonderful counting book, continuing the adventures of Grace and her scampish dog Georgie. One Two That's My Shoe tweaks the familiar rhyme and tells a fresh story through its outstanding illustrations. We were delighted to interview Alison Murray.

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

Alison Murray: I imagine a similar scene to what I remember when reading with my daughter when she was little - snuggled up for a bedtime read, studying the pages and making up games from the pictures. I remember teaching my daughter about colour mixing from looking at Eric Carle's overlapping tissue paper endpapers. I try to leave space for readers to do the same in mine.

  • BB: Georgie and Grace are such warm-hearted and playful characters. Are they based on a specific dog and person?

AM: Yes, of course. Grace is based on my daughter when she was little and although Georgie doesn't really look like any of the dogs I've had, he is definitely inspired by all of them - the noses that go round corners when there's food on the table, the comical looks, the cheeky tricks, but mostly the unconditional love they have given. My current dog Polly likes to sit with her head under the curtain and looks just like Georgie in the W page of Apple Pie ABC.

  • BB: The text in One Two That's My Shoe is (appropriately) sparse. Were you concerned about telling so much of the story through the illustrations?

AM: Maurice Sendak once said that his job as an illustrator was to find another story within a text and to tell that story in pictures. I think that when the text is so sparse it almost makes that job easier. The more difficult thing was having the confidence to leave the text so sparse.

  • BB: On the dedication page, you've drawn a book called Sheds by GCGR. Who is GCGR?

AM: GCGR is my husband (Gavin Charles George Robertson), who likes to collect sheds. :)

  • BB: Which illustrators and artists particularly inspire you?

AM: I like old style illustrations - Martin and Alice Provensen, Alain Grée, Miroslav Sasek, Tomi Ungerer, Tove Jansson, William Wondriska and Maurice Sendak of course.

I think my fascination with vintage books is to do the way the printing process was quite restrictive and therefore illustrators had to be quite clever in their use of colour and placement of image and text.

But I also really admire the work of Emily Gravett, Suzy Lee, Marc Boutavant, Rilla Alexander, Harriet Russell... the list is endless.

  • BB: You're Scottish Booktrust's first ever Early Years Writer In Residence. What does your work involve and how are you finding it?

AM: I'm just coming to the end of my residency which has been a life-changing experience.

My job was to collaborate with a group of parents from a Home Start family group to create a text for a picture book which I would then illustrate. I'm now just finishing off the illustrations for the book, which is called Little Mouse and will go in Scottish Booktrust's book gifting bag, to be distributed to approximately 60,000 young families throughout Scotland.

The aim of the project was to inspire a love of book sharing in parents and children and to give parents confidence in reading to their children. My approach was to try to share the whole creative process of book making with the parents and in doing so give them an insight that most people don't have. As a result I think the parents now feel more empowered to read and are getting much more out of books, which is great. For me it was an opportunity to get back in touch with parents and young children (after all, my daughter is now at high school) and to learn from them. I think my experience will continue to feed into my work from now on.

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

AM: I think that perhaps that it wouldn't be so driven by the market and that there was a bit more risk taking. I'm not sure a book like In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak would be made now and I think that's a shame.

  • BB: What were your three favourite books as a child?

AM: Where The Wild Things Are, The Hungry Caterpillar and I remember having a book of Grimm's Fairy Tales which I loved - apart from one page which had a really horrible illustration on it which gave me nightmares. I can still visualise that image, I hope I don't have nightmares tonight! When I was a bit older I loved Nancy Drew stories.

  • BB: What are you reading now and how are you finding it?

AM: I've just read The Sword in the Stone by T H White and really enjoyed it. I loved the idea of Merlin living backwards through time. I have just discovered there are a few books in this series and now want to find the others.

  • BB: Ooh, that's one of our favourites too. The whole series is fantastic! What's next for Alison Murray?

AM: I have several ideas. After Little Mouse, there will be more from Georgie and Grace. Then after that I think there will be a story about a little boy called Zak and his pet kitten.

  • BB: Wonderful! We can't wait to see them all! Thanks so much for the interview, Alison.

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