Meet the Author: Joshua George

Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.

April 2021 | Authors, Books

Everyone wants to feel special, right?  Gerald is a little, orange fish that wants to be noticed in a school of lots of little orange fish.  He is so fed up that one day he decides to set out all by himself across the perilous ocean.  Find out what happens when he meets a colony of blue fish that have never seen anything like Gerald before!

Joshua George’s wonderful and beautifully illustrated picture book, Tiny Whale: A Fishy Tale tackles some complex ideas like individuality, perseverance, leadership and respect at a level children can understand.  It’s a book meant to be read and discussed together.
 
We hope you enjoy the interview!

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Elephant Books chose Tiny Whale: A Fishy Tale as one of our April selections because it’s a rather unique children’s read and we quite liked how fresh the story was.  Tell us a little about your background and how you decided to become a children’s author.  What made you decide to write your first book?

I grew up in the countryside in Suffolk, UK, way back when Netflix and Youtube didn’t exist and we only had four tv channels (not that I was allowed to watch them much anyway!). These were perfect conditions for inspiring a lifelong love of reading, as frankly there wasn’t much else to do. It’s probably the reason why I am still interested in books today and why I really wanted to write my own.

While not a graphic novel, Tiny Whale: A Fishy Tale has some elements that remind us of such without being a true graphic novel.  Kids love this and parents love that the book is still a story that can be read.  Was this part of the plan from the beginning or did it develop as you wrote the book?

I liked the idea that there is a lot going on in the pictures, and I think speech bubbles add a second layer of depth to the story. I hope that the book can be read multiple times and kids can find new things to look at, and parents even be brave enough to use different voices for the speech bubbles.

Was there a real-life inspiration for Gerald, the bold, tall-tale telling fish? 

Not really, although I do have some friends that are quite liberal with the facts. Those kind of people are the most fun to listen to. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story!

Parents and children alike can relate to Gerald. A little special attention is nice even if it’s somewhat manufactured. It’s very clever how you were able to point this flaw out without actually calling Gerald out. Was this intentional? 

I’m pleased you noticed this. Everyone needs some special attention, like you say. Kids like to be noticed … and fish do, too!

The colorful and bright illustrations add so much to the story and all of the fish are uniquely expressive. Did you know the illustrator, Puy Pinillos, before working on the book together? How much input did you have into the drawings?

I have never met Puy Pinillos. A very talented designer at Imagine worked closely with Puy to achieve the fantastic illustrations. I got to see all the pencil sketches and the illustrations as they came in. I count myself really lucky to have had a book illustrated by Puy. I love everything about her illustrations, especially the expressive colours and the bright, colourful illustrations. They are so fun!

We see Tiny Whale: A Fishy Tale as a book about courage and finding your own way in life. Is this something you hope your young readers will take away from your story? Anything else?

One of the ideas in the book is that even if you’re little you can do big and important things. I think it’s a good message to give to kids, to let them know you can make a positive change in your own world.

What is the best part about being a children’s author? Who were your favorite authors as a child?

I really enjoy working with words and coming up with stories. The best thing about picture books is seeing them finished and illustrated. Picture books are nothing without illustrations. Kids are lucky nowadays as there are so many amazing illustrators working in children’s publishing.

When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges for parents or opportunities to address? 

I think it comes back to that idea of turning the tablet, tv or phone off. There is a special kind of benefit from immersing yourself in reading that screen technologies can’t compete with, but sadly they are more addictive in the short term. We need to both help kids build their attention spans and teach them that’s it’s ok to be bored. If you’re never bored you can’t daydream.

Are you working on anything at the moment, we can look forward to reading?

I’m not actively working on any new picture books, but I’ve got a few ideas! Thanks for all your questions!

Thank you, Joshua, for taking the time to answer our questions and to share your thoughts on your career and children’s reading in general. We will keep a lookout for your next work and are excited about sharing “Tiny Whale: A Fishy Tale” with our readers this month.

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