I’ve just finished writing my second children’s book. I was driven to it after reading my six-year old a bedtime story, supposedly for his age group, in which Beyonce featured. Is that really necessary? Talented and beautiful as she is, does she have to be in his frame of reference? Can’t it wait until he’s nine?
I wanted to write a book that was modern and traditional - about children having an adventure. I also wanted it to be fun for parents to read. I always get a little anxious when I’m reading a story to my kids and the mother in it is perfect. There was one instance, where a little bear and his brother ruined a jumper and by the following morning, Mummy Bear had knitted them new ones. Now that just isn’t right.
The parents in The Baddie and The Horrible Princess – both to be published in the UK in 2010 – are happily flawed. They are loving but also tired, overworked, and irritable. They shout a lot and can’t always control their kids. Their children are kindly tolerant of their parents’ imperfection. I do hope this resonates with other mothers and fathers or I am going to feel terrible. Although I shall claim otherwise and say loftily, ‘Would you want to always control your kids?’
One highlight of writing The Baddie was seeing it illustrated. The artist is Alex T Smith – and he is enormously clever. If I draw a house, it’s a triangle on top of a square. His gorgeous, hilarious illustrations have brought the book to life. The boys (now five and seven) jumped up and down when they saw his drawing of one of the characters – and now I know what Bin Man School looks like.
I read the chapters to the boys as the story progressed – and they were stern critics. The hero’s magic powers were, initially, too understated for the seven-year old who required a little more pizzazz. It was duly administered. The final test was reading the book to the 7-year olds’ class. What didn’t help was that I’d taken along the younger child as a treat – and in the story, his alter-ego wears underpants and green swimming goggles. Of course he thought that everyone was laughing at him and had a fit. I tell you, there’s no dignity...