We know that bedtime stories are the key to health, happiness and literacy for children. So when we learned that Waterstones’ Book of the Year 2015 was a hand-illustrated children’s book with a fox as the main character, we had to find out more.
With a successful career as a book illustrator under her belt, Coralie Bickford-Smith is now also a bestselling children’s author and the creative talent behind the stunning The Fox and the Star. With those credentials, we decided to pick her brains about inspiration, creativity and the importance of bedtime stories.
Why did you decide to make the move from illustrating to writing for The Fox and the Star?
It felt like a natural progression rather than a conscious change in direction. I work as a cover designer for Penguin Books which I love and have been doing for the past 14 years. I arrived at this job through my passion for the printed book.
I’ve always admired William Blake and William Morris who mastered numerous skills that enabled them to create beautiful, varied bodies of work. I love the diversity, and not being defined by a single area of expertise; I think everything you do creatively feeds into everything else. If you are open to opportunities and learning new things, then life takes on its own momentum. I had always had a dream to create an entire book and the time just felt right.
You’ve said you wanted to write since you were young – were you always creative as a child?
When I wasn’t climbing trees I could always be found with a pen or a paintbrush in my hand. I loved books and I started creating my own stories at a young age. Writing and illustrating my own book was always a dream of mine, but I never thought I would actually succeed in doing so. I am very lucky as I’ve managed to fulfil this ambition. It took hard work and determination but creating the book was a trip back to my childhood. It brought back many memories and it was incredible to re-engage with pen and paper so fully again.
What was your inspiration for the story of The Fox and the Star?
I knew that I had to take inspiration from my own life to write the book. It had to be an idea that was close to my heart if it was to resonate with other people. I wrote about friendship, love, loss and learning to accept change. Life is amazing but it can also be confusing and difficult. I embodied those experience in a simple tale that conveys a basic truth. I love the idea of friendship but also learning to stand alone. Life is such a fine balance and I think that Fox embodies this. The story is relevant to adults as well as children, and I hope that everyone takes what they need from it.
Do you think it’s important that children today read traditional, physical books?
When I was growing up, books presented a unique opportunity to disappear into another world, whereas children growing up today are overwhelmed by distractions. Books offer a singular, meditative experience, and that’s something worth cherishing.
“When I was growing up, books presented a unique opportunity to disappear into another world, whereas children growing up today are overwhelmed by distractions.”
What was your favourite book as a child?
Am I allowed a whole series? The Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton. I just discovered she grew up down the road from where I live now.
Do you think bedtime stories with parents are an important part of childhood?
I can only speak from personal experience but for me it was a very important part of my childhood. It fuelled my imagination and took me to beautiful, unique places and helped me forget the world and prepare my mind for sleep.
“Bedtime stories fuelled my imagination and took me to beautiful, unique places and helped me forget the world and prepare my mind for sleep.”
As an author, if you could give one piece of advice to parents about how to make reading with their children more important and enjoyable, what would it be?
The most important thing is to engage with the story yourself. Find stories that you can relate to and children will feed off your enthusiasm.
You can read more about Coralie’s work over on the Penguin Blog, or watch the video on the left.
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