Children's Laureate Anthony Browne answers your questions

(66 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 26-Jul-10 18:20:33

Children's Laureate, author and illustrator Anthony Browne is joining us on Mumsnet this week for a Q and A session. We're inviting you and your children to send in questions to Anthony over the coming week. He'll be bobbing in each day to answer as many of your questions as poss.

With almost 40 titles to his name, including classics such as My Dad and My Mum, Willy the Wimp and Gorilla Anthony has just launched a new book Play The Shape Game in aid of the children's Charity Rainbow Trust. The book is based on the game where you transform a random shape into something recognisable and includes illustrations from over 45 artists, illustrators and celebrities, including Quentin Blake, Harry Hill, Ian McEwan and Shirley Hughes. The original artwork is currently being auctioned with all proceeds also going to Rainbow Trust. So if you fancy a bit of original artwork, check the online auction.

Send in your question - or your child's question to Anthony before next Sunday (1st August) and you'll be entered into a draw to win a copy of 'The Shape Game' duly signed by Anthony.

boogiewoogie Mon 02-Aug-10 21:12:02

Thank you so much! I'm absolutely delighted!

rebeccamumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 02-Aug-10 20:32:24

And the winner is ...... boogiewoogie Congratulations!

I will be sending you an email very soon please check your spam folder.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:33:12

ponceydog Well it varies a lot with each book. A story like Into the Forest was about 15 years in gestation, while Willy the Wimp arrived very quickly.

When I'm working on a picture book the words change as I paint the pictures, so it's a fluid process, constantly changing.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:31:54

scottywooh I've always liked drawing and making up stories ever since I was a little boy, so for me, writing and illustrating picture books is the best job in the world. I was quite a long time in finding this out. After studying graphic design (quite badly) I tried my hand at medical illustration, advertising and greetings cards before discovering the wonderful world of picture books.
My advice to an aspiring illustrator is fairly obvious - draw and look and draw.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:30:45

Hassled People tell me brilliant things about Patrick Ness, and I intend to start reading his work. I'm not the best person to recommend teenage fiction I'm afraid.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:30:07

jellyhead Hi Jellyhead, I'm very glad you love my books. I think you mean Willy the Wizard, and, as I think you suspect, I like to leave it to the reader to decide . . . . . .

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:29:13

Vikkile: I love to read classic novels: Vanity Fair, Madame Bovary, Dracula, and modern novels byJohn Updike and the short stories of Raymond Carver.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:28:37

teafortwo That is a lovely idea. My favourite stories carry on in my mind long after I've read them and often connect with other stories I've read.

If (as some people claim) there are only seven basic stories in the whole of world literature it's perhaps not surprising that they are in dialogue with one another. I believe every story comes originally from somewhere else - a memory, a film, an article in a newspaper, a dream …..

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:27:22

seashore I've got very mixed feelings about gorillas (or indeed any animals) being kept in zoos. There is a strong argument to be made that they are protecting endangered species, and some enlightened zoos, such as Howletts and Port Lympne in Kent, are able to return gorillas successfully back into the wild. But I still find it uncomfortable to see them locked in cages, no matter how big they are.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:26:25

yellowkiwi The best way at the moment is to get your son's teacher to write a very enthusiastic letter to Booktrust, Book House, 45 East Hill, London SW18 2QZ. They handle all my school visits.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:25:14

boogiewoogie Thank you for your lovely comments - I'm really delighted that you like my books. Yours is a difficult question, but a good one.

I think perhaps an illustration I made for my version of Hansel and Gretel is an important one for me. It's a picture of the stepmother/mother waking Hansel and Gretel up very early in the morning. We see this scene in the reflection of a mirror on the wardrobe. Normally we would see ourselves reflected there, but if you look at the picture closely you'll see that I'm perhaps suggesting the mother figure resembles another character in the story . . . .

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:23:10

teafortwo I think my role is primarily to entertain, but following close after are all those very important qualities you mention.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:21:46

Attilathehan Well I haven’t written My Sister yet, probably because I’ve never had a sister. My Dad, My Mum and My Brother were relatively easy because they were all based on my family. Perhaps one day I’ll use my imagination and write My Sister . . . .

DidEinsteinsMum Mon 02-Aug-10 13:21:33

Sorry HQ didnt see your message when i read through first time.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:20:55

Bamboo Well it’s not really based on my family, but there are similarities (as I think there are with many other families).

My brother and I did argue a lot, but we loved each other and still do. My dad was funny, but he didn’t really tell jokes. He was also loving and kind towards all his family – he didn’t struggle with the role of father like Harry and George’s dad. He also loved Art and spent hours drawing with us.

My mum had some similarities to the mother, I suppose – she was kind, sensitive and quiet. Actually I don’t think we ever visited an art museum together when we were young.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:19:29

Solidgoldbrass I’m very glad that he liked the Tunnel and Into the Forest – two of my favourites.
I totally agree that there is a lot of bland, condescending stuff around (there probably always was), but you obviously realize that children are capable of appreciating and enjoying much more challenging, interesting stories.

DidEinsteinsMum Mon 02-Aug-10 13:18:41

Is there away to encourage imaginative writing in children who struggle with imagination? factual descriptions are no problem but ds struggles with communicating imaginative stuff.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:18:26

Alana39 Of course, I don't really know, but it seems that scientists are constantly discovering that all species are far more developed (and more like us) than we realized.

They communicate to a far more sophisticated degree than was thought and I expect it will be discovered that their dreams are also more sophisticated. So, although they won’t dream in exactly the same way that we do, I suspect it’s more similar than we imagine.

On a simple level we’ve all seen dogs dreaming and I’d guess they often dream that they’re running after something – but who knows what else?

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:16:49

AlaskaNebraska I found my late father’s dressing gown in an old suitcase that belonged to my mother and it immediately transported me back to the age of about five when I really thought my dad could do anything. It’s exactly like the dressing gown in the book.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:14:31

Whosestandards I think that there are many brilliant new picture book illustrators in Britain at the moment, many of whom write their own stories too – Emily Gravett, Alexis Deacon, Mini Grey, Oliver Jeffers, Lauren Child, Polly Dunbar and Joel Stewart etc.

The negative side is that picture books at the moment are too often thought of as only for very young children. Some parents are dragging their children away from picture books and straight into novels at an earlier and earlier age, with the mistaken belief that this will inevitably improve their children's education.

AnthonyBrowne Mon 02-Aug-10 13:12:42

woowoo I think it’s important to have darkness and lightness in books (and all shades in-between).

rebeccamumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 01-Aug-10 20:13:34

Thank you for all of your questions, This Q & A is now closed.

The remaining answers will be posted this week and the winner will be selected on Monday.

Good Luck!

ponceydog Sat 31-Jul-10 18:22:57

Does it take you longer to think of a plot and write a new story or longer to draw teh illustrations?

scottywooh Sat 31-Jul-10 18:14:46

It was great to hear that you, an illustrator/writer was the latest Laureate. My q: what background led you to become an illustrator, and what advice would you give to an aspiring one? Thanks (dd, 11)

Hassled Fri 30-Jul-10 20:04:32

Anthony - are you a Patrick Ness fan? I have a 12 year old who is obsessed with him. What other good teenage fiction can you recommend?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now