Bookbug Author Spotlight: Britta Teckentrup
Bookbug's Author Spotlight gives you the chance to learn more about the work of picture book authors and illustrators. This month we shine the spotlight on Britta Teckentrup, author of over 70 children's books, including Big Smelly Bear, The Odd One Out, and Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book.
What inspired you to start writing/ illustrating for children?
Funnily enough, I hadn’t planned to write and illustrate children’s books when I was a student many, many years ago. But when a children’s book publisher saw my work at my final degree show she offered me a picture book deal and also encouraged me to write as well, which was quite unexpected and inspiring to me at the time. She had obviously seen something in my work I hadn’t back then - it took me quite a few more years to find out! That was 24 years ago and I have been writing and illustrating picture books ever since. After my BA in illustration I went on to study fine art printmaking at the Royal College of Art and I think that the combination of studying illustration and fine art makes me write and illustrate the children’s books I create today.
What is your favourite memory from childhood?
There are so many favourite memories, but one that comes to mind straight away are the visits to my late grandmother. She lived in a town quite far away and I used to visit her every summer. It was just me and her and I enjoyed living a completely different life for a few weeks each summer. I always arrived at a time when the cherries and berries in her garden were ripe and juicy, and I remember picking raspberries for her which she turned into the most delicious dishes I can still smell today! My book The Memory Tree was written in memory of her.
A good picture book touches something universal and opens up the world to the reader
What was the inspiration behind your latest book?
There were so many inspirations coming from so many different sources when I first received the text for BEE from Pat Hegarty at little Tiger Books. Who doesn’t love flowers, summer and bees?! Memories of childhood came flooding back like:
Running through fields and meadows
My holidays in the Austrian mountains
Picking wild flowers with my grandmother
Making daisy chains
And lying in the grass
Seeing the sunflower fields in Italy for the first time
And the endless rows of tulips in the Netherlands
And a lot later when I moved to England I was impressed by all the beautiful gardens, poppy fields, bluebells, magnolia and cherry blossoms. Illustrating the abundance of flowers in the book came easily and I could almost smell and feel the flowers whilst creating the artwork, which is always a good sign.
Which books did you love as a child?
No Kiss for Mother by Tomi Ungerer seems to have left a lasting impression. I also loved the books by Astrid Lindgren, and being German, I read lots of Grimm’s fairy tales.
If you could live in any book you’ve written or illustrated, which would it be and why?
I’d live in the dream world of the little girl in Before I Wake Up (see image, left). Maybe I already do? It seems to be such an exciting place full of wonder, overcoming fears and discovering new worlds. To me it is the place where all creativity comes from. And I would love to have that lion for my night-time companion, of course!
What do you think is the secret to a successful picture book?
Hmm… difficult. In my opinion a successful picture book manages to stir something in the adult and child alike. A good picture book touches something universal and opens up the world to the reader. I think that a deep honesty might be one of the secrets to write and illustrate a successful picture book?
Tell us about the view from the office/studio where you work?
I have the best view I could wish for, considering that I live right in the middle of a big city. There is a huge chestnut tree right outside my window and I can touch the enormous leaves when I stand on my balcony. It feels a bit like being in a jungle. There is almost as much life on my tree as there is on the street below - a perfect mix of sounds to my humble ears!
What’s your top tip for budding authors or illustrators?
Try to stay true to yourself and find your own unique voice. Write and create for yourself and not for others. Be patient and persistent. Don’t let a bad experience or rejection hold you back. Listen to advice along the way but be aware that not all advice is good advice so trust your instincts! Embrace mistakes. Be brave. Work hard and just get on with it. But most of all: Love what you do!
What do you enjoy doing other than writing/illustrating children’s books?
I am pretty obsessed with writing and illustrating, I have to admit, and never really stop. But I also love reading, music, art, dancing and spending time with family and friends.
What’s your favourite thing about your local library?
The amazing knowledge, passion, dedication and love of books of the librarians!
Find out how you can make a beautiful autumnal owl like the one pictured above from Britta's book, Tree.
Main image: from Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup, published by Little Tiger Press.