Posts Tagged ‘Jez Alborough’

Picture Books- Where Inspiration Meets Craft

To say that we are excited to host Jez Alborough on todays blog would be an understatement. Jez’s humorous, rhyming tales with their colourful, expressive and engaging illustrations have delighted and entertained during many a Big Book Little Book bedtime routine. His fabulous picture books, Some Dogs Do (read Jane’s review here) and Where’s My Teddy, are among our little ones favourites. We can’t wait to explore his latest offering, Nat The Cat’s Sunny Smile.

Nat the catNat the Cat jumps out of bed with a smile spread halfway round his head.
He’s packed a delicious picnic to share with his friends, Billy Goat and Hugo Hare.
But Billy and Hugo are both feeling down. They are just not in a picnicky mood.
Nat carries on alone, but he soon finds that his smile is gone. Luckily, he’s passed on his smile to his friends and they soon come along to cheer him right back up again!
Another gorgeous rhyming treat from the glorious Jez Alborough

It’s easy to write for children, anyone could do it! Some people actually believe this, I suppose their reasoning is that you’re writing for undeveloped minds, there aren’t many pages and you don’t even have to use many words. Anyone who loves children’s books or indeed who has tried to write one knows that this is simply not true. ‘Less’ is certainly ‘more’ but how to write ‘less’ and make it ‘more’ is not an easy thing to achieve. So what actually goes into the making of a picture book? Put simply my aim is to capture some aspect of life within 32 pages of words and pictures and make it relevant, engaging and fun for children. If I manage to say something true about my chosen subject then there’s every possibility that the parent reading the book will enjoy it as well as the child. In my latest book Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile I explore the subject of feelings. In particular what happens when Nat, who is happy, meets with his friends, one of whom is grumpy while the other is sad. You can see how, even though it is a children’s story I have entered into the world of psychology and for the book to be ‘true’ then the psychology has to be authentic. What effect does a negative feeling have on a positive one? If I sugar coat this or make it unrealistic then the story won’t work; however I also have to convey the information about feelings in a way that is understandable to a child. There is a knack to this and for me it involves being in touch with a childlike place of innocence within myself; this affords me the ability to communicate with children on their terms. Without this knack it is possible to fall into the trap of ‘writing down’ to children and portraying what an adult mind thinks that their world is like. This is not the same thing at all. When I write a children’s book part of me is tuned into what the five year old me would enjoy in a story while the other adult part is providing the craft which tells me how best to tell the story. The process then is a mixture of the innocence of the child’s perspective and the experience of the adults.

Craft in storytelling is every bit as important as inspiration. If you described a day in your life in which extraordinary events took place it wouldn’t necessarily make a great story. The storyteller pulls events together in a structure which sets off the emotional journey of the story to its best advantage. In basic terms storytelling is all about the releasing of information; this has to be done at exactly the right time and in the most appropriate and entertaining way. Nat the Cat’s story is quite simple: she wakes up with a smile, loses it, then finds it again. The interest comes from the craft of telling how and why she loses it and how and why she finds it again. The heart of the story is how her smile gets passed on to her less than happy friends.

One of the best things about picture books is that they are created to be read out loud, to be shared. This means that they are very much an interactive art form, they require someone to read them out to bring them to life. The reader of the book is the last link in the chain which began with me having the original inspiration for the story. When I write a story I have quite a strong idea of how I feel my story should be read. I have a theory that if the book is written with this mind then it directs the reader in their performance of the story. The rhythm and rhyme along with the punctuation all act as signposts as to how to deliver the words. This is important because however well a story is written a poor delivery can always sabotage it’s chances of engaging with an audience. The more the reader puts into a performance the more the book can come alive. The book is like a sleeping beauty, the story is all there but it needs the reader to kiss it into life.

I have been creating picture books since 1984 and although I have developed my craft over the years each time I start a new book I feel like a beginner all over again. For this reason I have a great respect for picture books and I never take for granted the process that goes into making them. I recently received my first finished copy of Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile in the post and I was humbled to feel that my one tiny idea had turned into this physical book which parents, teachers and librarians will be sharing with the children in their lives. I hope you will become one of those readers and Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile is passed on to you. If that happens, if my story and pictures makes you smile, you will have tasted the magic of picture books.

Guest post by Jez Alborough

Jez Alborough is the author-illustrator of the picture-book charmer HUG, his first book about Bobo. He has also created many other celebrated books for children, including SOME DOGS DO — a story about a dog who can fly — and the best-selling Eddie and the Bear books: WHERE’S MY TEDDY?, IT’S THE BEAR!, and MY FRIEND BEAR. Of TALL, he says, “Bobo experiences feeling small as well as feeling tall, but in the end he learns that whatever size you are is the size you’re meant to be.” Jez Alborough lives with his wife in London. ( Biography via Netgalley’s).
To learn more about Jez’s work visit him (here) on Facebook and follow him on Twitter

Nat the Cat is published on March 7th.

Find out how the book was created from idea to publication visit Nat The Cat’s Blog (here).

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Hide and Seek

Jez Alborough‏

Young readers will delight in searching for Hippo, Snake, Tortoise, Toucan, and the other animal friends concealed on each colorful flip-the-flap page. Color illustrations.

My newly started pre-schooler chose this book from the pre-school library. Joshua is enjoying learning about different animals at the moment and naming them all, the minute he saw the frog on the front cover and was able to articulate ‘It’s a frog on a beach!’ the decision was made.

This is a very simple and enjoyable read. ‘Frog’ introduces himself and explains he is playing hide and seek but can’t see his friends. On each page there is a smaller page (flap) to turn and the hidden animal with whom he is playing is revealed.

My pre-schooler studied each page intently looking for the hidden animals and loved turning the flap with a loud ‘Boo!’ as the animal’s hiding place was revealed. Each page and hiding spot is in a different part of the jungle – the forest, the beach, by the waterfall and Joshua and I ended up having a great conversation about where different animals live. It’s a short read, but a fun one and Joshua has ‘read’ it several times during the week or so that we’ve been borrowing it. The text is repetitive but that’s great for little ones who love to repeat and anticipate what’s coming next.

Verdict: A simply written and fun book which has been thoroughly enjoyed by Joshua and I. I have a feeling that this won’t be the last time this book will be borrowed!

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Candlewick
Publication Date: May 1999
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Picture Book
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: N/A
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Some Dogs Do

Some Dogs Do

Jez Alborough

All dogs walk and jump and run, but dogs don’t fly – it can’t be done … or can it?’

This is a heart-warming story of a little dog named Sid who from sheer happiness manages to fly to school one day. Once there no-one will believe him and his happiness quickly disappears. Back at home his Dad shows a loving concern for his sons’ unhappiness, which is quickly dispersed when a secret is revealed!

The story is very entertaining, with a fun bouncy rhyme and repetition to enthrall and engage the participation of your audience.

My son always follows the story, repeating crucial points throughout. We especially enjoy Sid’s ‘long and lonely walk home’ as we talk about his walk through fields and over hills! I could easily recite it by heart now and having read it so often (usually 4 times every night), my son nearly does too– which only adds to the amusement and enjoyment we both get from our nightly rendition of ‘Sid’!

The fantastic colourful illustrations delight with their emotionally expressive characters– we witness Sid’s elated happiness at flying, his disbelief at the response of his classmates and teacher and the loving concern of his Dad and family.

This book is about believing in yourself and shows that anything is possible if you believe in it enough, despite what others around you may think! In addition to studying the actions and adventures of Sid through the story, his emotions provide excellent opportunity to explore feelings and the reasons for them.

Verdict: I think I love this book almost as much as my 3 year old son and it’s certainly a firm favourite in our house! I would strongly recommend this delightful book to anyone looking for a book for a child.

Reviewed by Jane

Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: August 2004
Format: Paperback
Pages: 38
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Picture Books, Early Readers
Reviewer: Jane
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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