Bookbug Author Spotlight: Carol Thompson
Bookbug's Author Spotlight gives you the chance to learn more about the work of authors, illustrators and publishers connected to the Bookbug programme. This month we shine the spotlight on Carol Thompson, author of One, two, three...Run! which is currently included in our Bookbug Baby Bag.
What was the inspiration behind One, two, three...Run!?
One, two, three...Run! is one of four board book titles celebrating movement. It's just great to see the sheer pleasure, openness and curiosity of small children moving and running around – how it feels, the sounds, the smells. I wanted to bring the struggles, fun, and shared delight of these two children running through ten small pages!
It always feels harder to work on a small picture book. Every word, every line has to count. Beginning with lots of sometimes random ideas and words then slowly having to pare them down, re-write, re-write again and reluctantly losing favourite bits (which is tough!) until the book becomes a distillation of running. At the same time as I'm writing, I'm seeing pictures in my head – which I jot down as thumbnail (tiny) sketches – and it all has to fit into ten pages.
What's your top tip for sharing One, two, three...Run! with little ones?
Try following the two children running through the pages, tracing their RUN with a finger or using two fingers as legs: 'up ', 'down', 'round and round' and through the 'swishy grass' - 'splash!' all the way back to 'home!' Reverse the story and run through the book backwards to the beginning!
Make the sounds to go with the pictures, e.g. running up the hill ('puff pant') and on the way down ('wheee'). Build a 'hill' from cushions and get children to run 'up' and 'down' the hill, 'round and round' the cushions and jump onto a cushion 'splish-splash!'.
Have a fun run race. Line up – one, two, three, GO!....RUN!...'up' ...'down' ... 'through the grass', 'through the water' ... and 'home!' You can do the same pushing a buggy or with a wheelchair user.
A book will 'run' as fast or slow as the child dictates – there are fast and still moments, not just a stream of constant images. This makes for a creative, fun, shared experience. A book's strength is its simplicity and there's no right or wrong way to use it – it's whatever is fun for the child and carer (and it doesn't need to be plugged in!).
What do you hope children will take away from One, two, three...Run!?
That this book (or any book) opens up a little world that a child can get lost in and experience how good it feels to look at a book, share a book, sing, smell, or act out the book. A child can open it at any page, carry it around and own their book– a bit like a favourite teddy. And wants to go back to it 'Again!'
A book's strength is its simplicity and there's no right or wrong way to use it – whatever is fun for the child and carer
What's your favourite memory from childhood?
I grew up in a Fenland village in Lincolnshire, a good bus ride away from the nearest town. I can't remember not having wheels, fistly a trike, then a bike to get around on. The landscape is very flat with big skies and long straight roads – some leading me to remote houses of far-flung friends. Everyone cycled. The freedom of being on my trusty bike pedalling off with friends to secret places to build tree dens, rope swings or river paddle out of sight of grown ups is something I cherish. And I still love to cycle – bicycles pop up in my illustrations wherever I can fit one in! (see below, left)
Are there any lessons that your parents taught you that will always stick in your head?
DON'T drop your litter - take it home! Did you say thank you?! Don't chew your nails (ha-ha, that one didn't work).
What do you think is the secret to a successful picture book?
A child saying 'Again!' has to be one of the best measures of a good picture book.
Is there a book or author or any individual who inspired your love of books?
Story afternoons at my Junior school with our class teacher Mrs. Smith. I was about 8 or 9 years old and we were read to for what seemed like whole afternoons. We sat at our desks in rows, lying our heads on our arms, and some dozed while Mrs. Smith read out loud: The Water Babies, Wind in the Willows, Tom Sawyer. The pleasure of being read to stayed with me and I was lucky to have had her.
Tell us about the view from your office/studio?
I live in a small town and my house is on a corner with roads and pavements on two sides. For a long time I worked in our front bedroom – looking down over a busy road – with my three sons thundering up and down the stairs to the attic bedrooms above. me. I always knew what time of the day it was by the passers by, dog walkers, adults going backwards and forward to the school, the crossing warden and the 3.15 shrieks and shouts of the schoolkids heading home. Then we built a small studio in the corner of the garden – something I'd dreamed of! Just a few steps from the back of the house to my own space. And here I am. It felt strange at first, cocooned from the road noise. I'm looking out through a large window into the pale green winter space of our untidy back garden.
It's taken a while to get used to the quiet stillness but there's a robin, swooping backwards and forwards, beak overfull of useful nesting stuff, building in a corner just within my view. Birds squabble and squalk fighting for territorial rights. I can spot marauding cats, sneaking around, hiding, and shoo them off. I can just see over the hedge into my neighbour's house, and though I no longer look down onto a bustling road, a second street runs close to the back of my studio. I overhear snatches of conversations, squabbling schoolchildren, car doors opening and radios playing. It's interesting, sometimes funny, and a bit wierd as no one knows I'm here!
What do you enjoy doing other than writing/illustrating children's books?
I still love to cycle, walk, think about my work, sketch, watch the birdlife – surrounded by the biggest forest in England. I love to trawl the Charity shops looking for more books and that elusive bargain - perfect procrastination!
Where do the next generation go to learn outside formal education if not a Library?
What's your favourite thing about your local Library?
My local Library is housed in an old red brick Victorian school building. It's the centre of our community, circled by a leisure centre, a Lido (open air pool), school and park. One of the best things about it has to be the Librarians (or Media specialists?!). They are awesome and I'm in awe of the work they do – sessions for the under fives, wriggly readers, school homework. Librarians really know books - they know their community and go all out to meet the needs of their users like people with mental health issues or marginalised teens. They offer free BookStart Treasure bags for babies, help families who don't read, know how to work with schools. And then there's the mobile library van that goes out into the villages. The list goes on.
A while ago I was visiting a big old city library where strategically placed buckets caught the rain from leaky roofs. The librarians' outreach work was formidable. One of them told me about their library users - refugee children of indeterminate age found in and under the backs of trucks – their ' looked after' children. They were working on a shoestring to meet the needs of so many users, in countless languages, with special needs, cultural and racial diversity, and not least knowing where to find just the right information and book for that child.
Where do the next generation go to learn outside formal education (you don't learn everything in school ) if not a Library?
One, two, three...Run! is published by Child's Play.