Lauren Child at Ilkley Literature Festival: Review

A quick glance round the audience of Lauren Child’s recent Ilkley Lit Fest event would have seen ‘middle children’ throughout the audience nodding in confident agreement as Ms Child shared her own trials of life as the second of three daughters. Her own problems of being neither the ‘trusted oldest child’ or the ‘indulged youngest one’ resonated with certain members of the audience and the theme of sibling discontentment was discussed by the author as she introduced her newest picture book, The New Small Person. The picture book explores how routine-loving Elmore reacts to the arrival of his little brother.

Following a very low-key introduction, Lauren shared the process of creating her new picture book, from the initial nugget of an idea to creating the text and her unique illustrations. The young audience enjoyed the fact that only the lower half of the adults’ bodies feature in The New Small Person illustrations, showing how peripheral adults are to the story; the focus of the book is Elmore’s relationship with this little brother.  Indeed as Charlie and Lola fans will know, adults never even appear in that series of books.

It was heartening that Ms Child was happy to discuss all her books and characters (not just her new releases), as well as explaining how her own upbringing has inspired her work. As the daughter of two teachers, she was frequently taken to art exhibitions as well as being a regular visitor to the library. Her advice to budding author/illustrators was to write from the heart with passion and follow your own style of writing. She discussed her own pre-publication struggles with editors reluctant to take on her style, preferring instead a way of writing and illustrating more reminiscent of past best-sellers. It’s a credit to her determination that she stood her ground, remaining true to her characters.

Interestingly, when discussing the characters and plot of the latest Ruby Redfort book, Lauren explained that there will be six books in the series which will all inter-connect but that she herself does not know yet how the plot will unfold or the identity of the ultimate villain. Whilst I wouldn’t like to be in Ms Child’s shoes as she thrashes out the intricacies of the plot with the pressure of a publication deadline, I have no doubt though, that the result will live up to the high expectations of her young army of readers.

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