Bookbug Author Spotlight: Jessica Spanyol

Bookbug's Author Spotlight gives you the chance to learn more about the work of children's authors and illustrators. This month we shine the spotlight on Jessica Spanyol, whose book Clive and his Babies, was chosen as Bookbug Book of the Month earlier this year.   


What inspired you to start writing and illustrating for children?

I wrote my first book, Carlo the Giraffe who Could Not Read, when I was 6 and a half. I found learning to read very difficult and my Mum encouraged me to make books in order to help give me confidence. Many years later, I rewrote this, and my first picture book, Carlo Likes Reading was published.


What is your favourite memory from childhood?

Making my childhood books such as Crackers the Mad Cat while sitting in the garden is one of my favourite memories. I love looking back at my hand-drawn childhood books as they give me inspiration and remind me of happy times.

All too often toys and books are marketed for boys or girls and this can have big implications on a child’s sense of self 


What was the inspiration behind Clive and his Babies?

Clive and his Babies came about as I wanted to show a little boy character involved in gentle, nurturing play. As a mum of three children, including girl/boy twins I have become increasingly interested in making books that question and challenge gender stereotypes. All too often toys and books are marketed for boys or girls and this can have big implications on a child’s sense of self. The first four board books in the All About Clive series are out now and I am busy working on the next ones.


What do you hope children will take away from Clive and his Babies?

I hope that my book will show children that they are free to play with any toys they wish and that their gender should not limit their choices.


What’s your top tip for sharing Clive and his Babies with little ones?

When I read Clive and his Babies in schools, I like to play pretend to be in the picture. 'Can you tuck your babies into a box just like Clive?'


Clive in bed with his babies

Which books did you love as a child?

My favourite book was Cannonball Simp By John Burningham. I borrowed it over and over again from my local library.


Is there a picture book you wish you’d written or illustrated?

There are so many great picture books I wish I had written or illustrated, including pretty much anything by John Burningham. But also I wish I could write something like I did when I was 6!


What’s your top tip for budding authors or illustrators?

Even if you struggle with spelling, this should not be a barrier to becoming an author or illustrator. When I run workshops, I always start with making a picture and then let the story evolve from the image.


What’s your favourite thing about your local library?

Living in East London, I have had the pleasure of visiting many local libraries. My book, Carlo and the Really Nice Librarian, was based on Hackney Central Library. My favourite thing about visiting any library is the focussed time, away from other distractions, to share pictures and stories with my children.


Tell us about the view from the office or studio where you work.

I live and work in a wooden house, which we built a few years ago. My studio on the top floor looks out onto a green roof and I can see flowers and hear birds singing even though I am in the middle of London. My cat, Moshi (who is also a character in Clive and his Babies), likes to lie on my light box and she gets very cross if I try and move her to do my drawing!