Candy Gourlay

What books did you read when you were a child?
There weren’t many bookstores in Manila when I was a child but there were door to door salesmen selling encyclopaedias and Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. I loved the Collier’s Junior Classics which featured popular authors and illustrators of the 1960s. How I pored over the stories, not realising that some were just excerpts. Thus did I discover nursery rhymes (Winken Blynken and Nod), legends (Pecos Bill), and popular chapter books of the day (The 21 Balloons by William Pene Du Bois).

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
In Philippine folklore, there’s a story similar to the Tortoise and the Hare except it’s a Carabao (our version of the Water Buffalo) racing a Turtle. Turtle wins because he’s got many identical brothers and sisters who pop up along the route of the race, fooling the Carabao into thinking that the Turtle was always ahead. I would love to be one of the turtles on that race!

What is the best thing about reading?
The best thing about reading is the moment when the rest of the world falls away, the clock stops ticking, and it’s only you and the words on the page and the adventure about to happen.

What is your all time favourite book?
This is the toughest question to ask an author because I have so many all time favorite books that I read over and over again. I have two I constantly return to: Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce – about a boy who finds a million pounds in a bag – and The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean – about a teenager who gets trapped in the icy wastes of the Antarctic with only her imaginary friend, Titus Oates for company.

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Listen.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My writing skills came after a childhood spent sitting around the table with my five siblings, all of us drawing the stories in our heads on the cheap brown paper supplied by my mum. She has kept all our drawings in box after dusty box in her bodega.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I love reading aloud and made a considerable investment in picture books and library trips to offer my children a varied bedtime story diet! Picture books are the BEST!

Growing up in the Philippines, Candy Gourlay wondered why all the books she ever loved only featured pink-skinned children who lived in snow-covered worlds that didn’t resemble her steamy, tropical home in Manila. Today Candy writes stories that fill that gap, hoping that children like her will see themselves in her books and like what they see. Her acclaimed previous novels for children Tall Story and Shine, were listed for many prizes such as the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Book Prize. Her third novel Bone Talk, set in the forgotten US invasion of the Philippines will be published by David Fickling Books in August. Her dream though has always been to write picture books – a dream coming true this April when Is it a Mermaid is published by Otter-Barry Books. It is about a sea cow who thinks she’s a mermaid.

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