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Henry is a perfectly happy dog, until a little bunny named Boo shows up while he is drinking tea and doesn’t leave. While he is annoying, having Boo around might end up being a very good thing for Henry.
The child-like illustrations in Henry and Boo bring a funny story to life with a great message about friendship. We hope you enjoy learning more about the author, Megan Brewis, in our interview this month. Henry and Boo is her debut picture book.
Megan, you were involved in a number of creative activities before deciding to enroll in a MA program in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art in the UK. What made you decide to pursue this degree?
Picture books had become an everyday part of my life – my children were young at the time, and we would spend hours reading and drawing. There are so many wonderful books available; many beautifully illustrated, and very inspiring. The MA course in Children’s Book Illustration was practically on my doorstep, and so I enrolled on a Summer school week, loved it so much, and then signed up for the MA!
How did you decide to write your first children’s book?
Henry and Boo, my first published picture book, was one of my student projects. Sometimes a lot of ideas come all at the same time, and it can be tricky deciding which story will translate well into pictures. I liked Henry and Boo because it was fairly uncomplicated and easy to pace.
Henry is a pear-shaped dog that suddenly has an uninvited bunny, named Boo, show up on his table while he is drinking tea. He is not pleased that Boo decides to stay. Are there any real life inspirations behind the characters that make up this odd couple?
I have a curvaceous cat. He does sleep a large portion of his life away, but in his waking moments, he is fairly persistent in reminding me of his need to maintain his ample figure. Sometimes this happens at 4:30am. I ask him to leave, but he says… “Meow!” So, although my cat doesn’t look a thing like a small blue bunny, and hopefully my resemblance to a pear-shaped dog is not too obvious…I think you get the idea.
You clearly understand ways to engage children while reading. Boo’s catchy refrain will have them joining in throughout the read. They will also enjoy spotting the “danger” before Henry does. Was this intentional?
Children do love to be in on a joke or ahead of the game, so this was a fun device to work with. And it is such an easy book to join in with, because of the repetition. Although it’s not in rhyme, the rhythm and refrain make it quite easy for children to quickly know all the words off by heart, or certainly recognise and “read” BOO in all the appropriate places.
The illustrations are very soft to match the tone of the story. Did the drawings come first or was it the text?
I think Boo started life as a small, but very noisy bird, actually. And there may have been a dragon involved! But stories and characters evolve as you start laying things out. Generally, words come to me first, and then I’ll sit down to draw.
The story is very cute and engaging, but there’s a bigger message about friendship, tolerance, and patience. Was it difficult to come up with a way to present these positive messages so that any preschooler can understand?
I think the messages in the book materialised naturally. I certainly didn’t intend to present any message, at least not consciously. I simply wanted to create something a child and parent or carer may enjoy together. That these messages did emerge was a pleasant surprise. I suppose any story will have a message, intentional or not, and that’s a good thing. Books can be a very helpful tool in broaching certain subjects, or simply reinforcing those values that are important within a family or setting.
What is the best part about being a children’s author? Who were your favorite authors as a child?
Seeing a child or parent enjoying something you’ve worked on is very rewarding. As a child I loved trips to the library, though I don’t remember too many specific favourite books or authors. (It was a long time ago!) What I did love the most, were the homemade stories my father told.
When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges for parents or opportunities to address?
Parents making a regular time to spend with their children, every single day – be it for reading, making up stories, drawing, or just chatting about the day, is, I believe, one of the best things we can do for our children, and for ourselves.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
New ideas are always circulating in the story-making department of my brain. We will see what comes next!
Many thanks to Megan Brewis for spending time with us. It’s alway great to learn more about our new authors and how they approach their work! We look forward to sharing “Henry and Boo” with many of our readers this month and to future titles from her! You can find out more about Megan by visiting her website here.
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