Ros Asquith is an author and illustrator of children’s books and also a cartoonist for The Guardian. The first book in her Letters from an Alien Schoolboy series was shortlisted for The Roald Dahl Funny Prize and she is the illustrator of The Great Big Book of Families, which won the School Libraries Association Award.
You’ve written and illustrated over 60 books for young people. Would you describe yourself as a writer foremost, or an illustrator?
An illustrator, as my other job is as a cartoonist, mainly for the Guardian, so I draw more often than I write. I also, find drawing easier… and more fun. But if I spend a whole week drawing, I get the urge to write.
I know people say it’s like choosing a favourite child, but could you pick one of your books which has a special place in your heart and tell us why?
And authors always reply:’My most recent book is my favourite!’ But I am extremely fond of ‘Letters from an Alien Schoolboy’ which shows how very peculiar we Earthlings are and ‘The It’s Not Fairy’ about a Fairy who thinks children are sweet enough -to EAT.
What inspired you to write The Teenage Worrier series?
My own teenage years, full of worries about hair, spots, boys… I could go on.
What kind of feedback has this series received from your teenage readers?
I’ve had thousands of letters from all over the world, even from Chinese teenagers- and new Italian editions have been published only this month. This proves to me that although the books are 20 years old teenagers havenot changed much since my own youth, and they’re very similar all over the world.
I think the reason the books are so popular is that although they address serious worries, they are full of jokes and cartoons.
I believe you worked on the Fun Art Bus in the 1970s, which sounds like an amazing project. Can you tell us a little bit about the experience?
The Fun Art bus was a normal looking red London double decker EXCEPT that it had a theatre upstairs and a cinema downstairs. The driver played a piano on the bonnet (only at bus stops, naturally) and instead of tickets or oyster cards, passengers were issued with a poem. Rides were free and my cartoons were pasted inside instead of advertisements. People waiting at what they thought was an ordinary bus stop in Kentish Town got on to find themselves in a wonderland… Yes, it was amazing. I was also a memeber of the Father Xmas Union (FXU) at the same time. Our slogan was ‘The FXU affects YOU’ and we demonstrated outside Selfridges toy department to stop them displaying army tanks at Christmas. Helping to bring Peas on Earth.
What would you say has been your career highlight? And any low points?!
Highlights of last year were winning the School Library Association Award for the Great Big Book of Families, and being shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize for ‘Letters from an Alien Schoolboy’. It’s great that there’s now a prize for funny books, as they tend to get overlooked by parents and teachers -though not by children, who love them. Low points? Too many to fit on this page…
Where’s your favourite place to write or illustrate your books?
In my dreams, it’s a forest. In reality, my bedroom.