In the lead up to World Book Day, on March 7, a search has been launched to find the UK's Storytelling Superstar. One of the judges is none other than Lauren Child, author of the hugely popular Charlie and Lola and Clarice Bean series, as well as Ruby Redfort, her new series of books for tweenies.
We chatted to Lauren about books, reading, her little girl Tuesday, and what she thinks makes a brilliant storyteller...
Do you have any memorable books from your childhood, or any vivid memories of being read to?
I've got lots of memories of being read to as a child. My parents used to read to my sisters and me all the time. When we went on holiday, my father would pick a book and read it to us in instalments. We would go for a drive and find somewhere to stop, like at the top of a hill where there was a good view, and he would read. The books I remember him reading especially are Dog So Small, The Moonstone, The Hobbit and Mrs Pepperpot.
And what was the first book you read by yourself?
I can't really remember that but I do remember the first book I bought for myself. It was The Eighteenth Emergency by Betsy Byers. It's still one of my favourites.
You must be many people's hero author, but who is your favourite author or author/illustrator these days?
I don't really have one, because there are lots. Someone I really admire is Ian Falconer, who writes and illustrates the Olivia books. I love Sara Fanelli too. These are two very different approaches to writing and illustrating, but they are both wonderful.
You have adopted a little girl, Tuesday – how lovely! How are you enjoying motherhood?
I'm loving it. There are lots of things that I expected, but there are so many surprising and inspiring sides to it. Although I imagined what it would be like, now she's here, there are so many things and happenings that I never envisaged.
Tuesday's almost three years old – is she showing a strong interest in books?
She really loves books. I've always been convinced that children really need physical books, but I've been astonished at just how important they are to her. We always read a book to her every night.
Do you get to meet many of your avid readers out and about? What sort of feedback do you get from the children you meet?
Yes, I do meet my readers quite regularly. What's nice is that they talk about very particular things – things they have enjoyed or not enjoyed and things that they'd like me to write in to a book. They tend to have more personal and particular things to say than adult fans!
So what's the funniest thing a child has said to you?
Quite recently, at a school visit, a little girl came up to me after a talk and whispered really quietly in my ear: "I hope you're really rich"!
I'd like to personally thank you (and Charlie and Lola) for bringing cloud fluff to my table (I had a toddler who one day decided she did not like mashed potato!). Your stories are so imaginative, where do you find your inspiration?
Thank you for saying so. Inspiration comes from everywhere: from something out of my window, from my own memory, from other books, from films.
And your new series – about Ruby Redfort, a genius code-cracking secret agent – is for older readers. What's next for Ruby? And do you enjoy writing her?
I'm working on book three at the moment. Ruby's in training, learning another agent skill and it will involve another code based on a different sense. I love writing Ruby, mostly because it's fantasy and very different from Charlie and Lola, and Clarice Bean. It's set in a world that doesn't exist, and couldn't exist, and that gives me complete freedom.
Now you're on a mission to find the UK's Storytelling Superstar! What are you hoping to see from the entries?
It would be great to see some genuine personalities coming through, rather than people reading how they think they should read. I'd like to see someone who can bring the characters and the world of the story to life, and is also very aware of the listener. A really good storyteller is always aware of their audience.
If you or someone you know is a storytelling supremo, then you have until Monday, February 11th to enter the World Book Day Storytelling Superstar competition.