Interview: Lynne Rickards

Lynne Rickards is a Canadian born children’s writer, now living in Scotland. Her books include Jack’s Bed, I Win! and the forthcoming Clementine’s Smile.

You grew up in Canada before moving to Scotland. Do you have any favourite Canadian children’s authors?

When I was little I loved Doctor Seuss and the poetry of AA Milne (neither one Canadian), but when I moved on to chapter books there was a writer I admired who actually came from my home town of Guelph! Her name was Jean Little and she wrote a story called Mine for Keeps about a little girl with cerebral palsy who gets a lovely terrier puppy. I was so jealous!

What led you into becoming a writer?

In school I was great at words and hopeless at numbers, so by the end of secondary I had dropped maths and sciences and was concentrating on languages, art and history. I remember one ancient history course in which we were expected to research and write an essay on a new subject every week! I also had an excellent English class, in which we wrote sonnets, metaphysical poems and comparative essays on Shakespeare’s plays. All this gave me a very good grounding in writing, and I have worked with words ever since. Before becoming a children’s writer I worked as a translator, proof-reader and editor.

Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?

I have a soft spot for independent children’s bookshops, and try to visit those wherever I am. Last year I went to Books of Wonder in New York, and I hope to pop into Victoria Park Books next time I’m in London. I have also visited Seven Stories in Newcastle, which is a fantastic children’s literature centre, and I recently discovered that the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh is very similar. There are so many amazing places to enjoy children’s books!

Your book Pink! tackles the themes of acceptance and diversity.  I understand that this led to you being aware of the Day of Pink anti-bullying campaign in North America and setting up the Pink Project. Could you tell us a little more about this?

In the autumn of 2007, a teenage boy in Nova Scotia went to his first day of high school wearing a pink polo shirt. He was teased and taunted by some bullies, and when two older boys heard what had happened, they decided to take action. They bought 50 pink T-shirts and went online to ask all their friends to wear pink in solidarity. The next day, the whole school was a sea of pink! News of the event travelled around the world, and the two boys were held up as heroes. Since then, Pink Shirt Day and the Day of Pink have become annual events, and on 11 April over 8 million people wore pink to stand up against bullying and discrimination.

My book Pink! was published in 2008, purely by coincidence as I had not yet heard of the pink shirt event. It was soon drawn to my attention, and I am delighted to be able to join forces with this brilliant anti-bullying movement!  When I learned that a school in Vancouver was using my book to talk with children about diversity and tolerance, I decided to create a classroom resource for schools here in the UK. The Pink Project book bag was launched in 2009 and is now used in hundreds of primary schools and nurseries across the UK.

 

I’m sure many parents can relate to I Do Not Eat The Colour Green. Was this book inspired by any real life fussy eaters that you know?!

Just like me, my daughter was a fussy eater when she was young. She is much better now, and so am I, although we’re still a bit squeamish about certain foods. I have trouble with sea creatures like lobsters and crayfish because they look like giant insects with their claws and antennae! My daughter is not fond of fizzy drinks, which is actually a good thing. We are both much better about eating our greens now that we are grown up.

What’s been the strangest thing a child has said to you at one of your events for children?

When I read Jacob O’Reilly Wants a Pet in schools, I always ask what pets the children have at home. One boy told me he had a python! I have also been surprised (and very pleased) on several occasions when I’ve read Pink! to a group of parents and children. After the question-and-answer session, as everyone is gathering their things to go home, a parent will sidle up to me and say, “My son has always loved the colour pink. Thank-you for writing this book for him!”

I understand that you’ll be appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August? Could you tell us a little more about what you’ll be doing there?

This summer at the Edinburgh Book Festival I’ll be reading my new book, Lewis Clowns Around. This is the story of a misfit puffin who longs to be something else. He hates eating fish and the waves make him seasick, so he decides he’d be much happier as a clown in the circus! The illustrator Gabby Grant has captured Lewis the puffin beautifully, and she is equally good at drawing balancing pandas, a highwire cat and flying monkeys! My event on 12 August will be my third appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival, and I feel very honoured to have been invited again. Hope you’ll come along!

Are you working on a new book at the moment? When can we expect to see it on the shelves of our local bookshop?

I have several books in the pipeline. In September 2012, HarperCollins will publish Clementine’s Smile, a rhyming story about a crocodile who has a sore tooth and has to visit the dentist. There is also a sequel to Lewis Clowns Around in the works, due to be published by Floris Books in the spring of 2013. This one is all about Lewis’s brother Harris, a puffin who is very happy living by the sea but who is a bit lonely now that Lewis has gone off to the circus. I am delighted that Gabby Grant will be illustrating this one as well. She will no doubt do a fantastic job with all the puffins, guillemots, eider ducks, dolphins, otters and grey seals!

 

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