Meet the Author:
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We’re wrapping up our 2022 Author of the Month series with our December author, Huw Lewis-Jones. Not only is Huw a talented children’s author and writer, but he’s also a teacher, historian, and an Arctic expedition leader! You can find Huw’s book, Blue Badger and the Big Breakfast, in Elephant Books subscriptions this month. Keep reading to learn more about Huw’s approach to the creative process, his motto for young readers today, and next year’s projects, including penguins and plenty more blueberries.
Blue Badger and the Big Breakfast is the story of a curious badger with a a big appetite, embarking on the most important meal of the day. But what happens when Badger’s friend Dog begins to feel blue, too? Badger learns a great lesson about happiness, love, and friendship.
Your book Blue Badger and the Big Breakfast is the second installment in your series about a curious (and hungry!) badger in search of some answers. We love that this book makes big ideas accessible for young readers. Can you describe your creative process when developing this narrative?
Creative chaos. And tea. Lots of tea. But, every book is a little different. Ideas come from all directions. Blue Badger began life when I was walking in the woods near where I live here in Cornwall, but other books have been born when swimming in the sea, or just shopping for food, or standing freezing cold on an iceberg, or more recently in the classroom teaching, or out walking the dog, or taking a bath. It’s hard to predict. I’m always trying to write things down when they come, and keep lots of journals and piles of paper all about the house. Once the beginnings of a story takes shape in my head I type things up and spend a few weeks sitting with it and turning it over, and then I start working directly with my friend Ben Sanders, the illustrator of the series…moving things around and the world expands as we go.
This particular story has a gentle theme, of helping others, whilst also trying to be attentive to their needs as well as your own. Badger is on a journey really, the ongoing journey we are all on, trying to find happiness and meaning in our lives. But, its a very simple idea.
Blue Badger and the Big Breakfast is a clever story featuring a fun cast of characters who lead Badger to an important lesson of discovery and friendship. What inspired you to share this message with kids?
I think it’s a message that good for everyone. Certainly there should always be more curiosity and kindness in the world.
And, breakfast. That’s most important…
Both the black-and-white animals and the blueberries—which play a big role in this story—stand out on the pages of this book. Full of fun texture and sweet expression, the illustrations complement the book’s witty text perfectly. What was it like collaborating with Ben Sanders on this project?
Ben and I have made a number of books together now. We started with a very naughty apple, which has grown into four books so far in the Bad Apple series. We made a story about a rather greedy croc, and have more with other ideas and characters in the works. We share the same sense of humour, and also the same desire for simple storytelling and artful illustrations. Less is more, we hope. The stories are almost acoustic: we try to strip words and image back as much as possible. Ben’s a great guy to work with. I’m based here in England, he is in Australia, so working late at night or very early in the morning across timezones, we make it happen…
Aside from writing picture books, you have many exciting other titles, including historian, teacher, photographer, and expedition leader! How did you first decide to become a children’s author?
I’ve lived a few lives so far, yes, it’s true. I’m also still happy bouncing between these things. I’m a teacher by day, writer by night, and go to the North Pole in my holidays. It’s a good combination. I’d always wanted to write stories for children and a few years ago finally decided to get the ideas down that I’d been carrying about in my head for years. During lockdown many of my voyages and expeditions were cancelled, so for the first time in years I was at home during that summer and not out amongst the ice…so I saw that as a good chance to work up many of my stories. Fast forward a few years, and my tenth book for kids comes out in February. That’s the last in the Badger trilogy in fact, it’s a kind of love story. Plenty of blueberries too, naturally.
How have your travels, artistic endeavors, and background in exploration influenced your creative work as a children’s author?
Well, I certainly can’t say that leading expeditions to the Arctic, or Antarctica, has helped me create stories about talking apples and hungry crocs…but absolutely being a teacher encourages me daily to think in new ways. As a field naturalist and passionate about the environment, I’m also pleased to be starting to write non-fiction for children too…nature guides essentially. The first is all about bears and the next, out next year, covers penguins…
What is the best thing about being a children’s author? Who were your favorite authors as a child?
It’s a dream to be able to make stories that other people enjoy. I read all kinds of stuff growing up, picture books, comics, chapter books. Roald Dahl was an absolute favorite but also any kind of animal book really, lots of adventure stuff too. And maps. I was, and still am, a huge map nerd. I love creating books. I just hope people like reading them as much as we like making them.
When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges for parents or opportunities to address?
Kids are reading and enjoying books as they have always done, it’s just that they’re reading in lots of different ways too. As a father, like everyone else, I’m worried and a bit saddened to hear when kids don’t have access to books, or a school library. Also the rise of social media and all the other digital distractions that draw kids away from books and make their lives more difficult and anxious. But there are opportunities there too. Good stories are needed now more than ever. And time spent in nature, away from screens. Outside and offline, that’s got to be a life motto.
And blueberries. Any day that starts with blueberries is surely heading in the right direction.
Can you clue us in on any upcoming books or projects we can look forward to reading?
Can’t give too much away at this stage. A few really fun projects coming up yes. Bookwise, sure, there will be a final badger, and another crocodile. And an annoying apple just in time for Christmas. And PENGUINS. Not all in the same story, but definitely next year is all about penguins for me. And I can’t wait.
We can’t wait either! Thank you to Huw Lewis-Jones for sharing a bit about the inspiration behind Blue Badger and the Big Breakfast and his life as a teacher, writer, and adventurer. Be sure to check out the latest installment in the ‘Badger’ series and look for Blue Badger in your Elephant Books subscription this month!
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