Curtis Jobling is the designer and creator of numerous animated shows, including Bob the Builder, Frankenstein's Cat and Raa Raa the Noisy Lion. He's also the author/illustrator of numerous picture books, as well as a novelist for older children and teens. His debut novel in the acclaimed Wereworld series, Rise of the Wolf, was shortlisted for the Waterstone's Book Prize, while his latest novel, Haunt: Dead Wrong, is a darkly humorous ghost story.
Q: What books did you read when you were a child?
A: The first picture book that really made an impression upon me was Where The Wild Things Are. I remember being transported away to the land of the Wild Things along with Max in his little boat. I think that's where I fell in love with books and fantasy as a genre. I was also a huge Moomins fan, fondly recalling reading them all in quick succession.
Q: If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A: Bilbo Baggins, every day of the live long week.
Q: What is the best thing about reading?
A: Escapism from the world we live in. Books can set prisoners free.
Q: What is your all time favourite book?
A: That would be The Hobbit. It had a profound impact on me as an 8 year old and I've enjoyed sharing it again with my own children in recent years.
Q: Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A: Talk to them for goodness sake! There are a shocking number of parents who think TV shows can help their children learn to speak. While many are well intentioned, they cannot possibly do this. Children learn to communicate through interaction with family, grandparents, siblings etc. Televisions don't talk back. Loved ones do.
I was lucky enough to broach this subject with my own preschool animated show on CBeebies, Raa Raa the Noisy Lion - we have qualified speech and language development therapists working alongside us on the show, ensuring it's bootstrapped with the 4 R's; Rhythm, Rhyme, Retelling and Repetition. TV will only ever be the dessert option for a child's development. At least in the case of Raa Raa one can be sure that dessert is the fruit salad option!
You may be able to tell, I'm passionate about child communication, literacy and reading for pleasure. I count myself very fortunate that my work as an author allows me to visit schools up and down the country, sharing this message with pupils, parents and teachers of all ages.
Q: How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A: My mother played a huge part in nurturing my love of reading and writing. It was she who regularly walked me up to the local library where I fell hard for moomins, hobbits, wild things and monsters. She also encouraged me to use my imagination, happy to let me play for hours with toys around the house or at the bottom of the garden. I was a 'dolly waggler', happiest mucking about with my Action Man or Star Wars toys. I'd build elaborate sets and have them play out fantastic stories around the garden. This was where I first began storytelling - admittedly, I wasn't writing it down, but I was indulging my imagination. (It's no surprise that my first career was in stop motion animation, designing shows like Bob the Builder and getting to work on Wallace & Gromit.)
As time went by and I arrived in high school my friends and I would get together once a week to play Dungeons & Dragons. It was often me who would run the games and that's where I learned to tell a tale to others. I loved it. Seeing my friends reactions to the situations I put them in - horror, happiness, love and loathing. I could play with all of those emotions and watch my pals squirm. Again, Mum supported this, never stopping that hobby. That hobby directly led to my ultimate career path, writing fiction for older audiences.
Q: How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A: I've a huge collection of picture books which I've gathered since I was a student at Art College. With that in mind, my children have never been short of reading material. I have four, aged four to fourteen, and they've all worked their way through my bookshelf. I'd be fibbing if I said they haven't read my own books - they have, and they're fans. They've no choice; they'd be put in the kennels if they didn't. My latest picture book, Old MacDonald Had A Zoo, raised big giggles, and is a firm favourite when I do my school talks with Key Stage One children. It's a real thrill to enjoy the picture books and novels that I read as a child with them - Where the Wild Things Are, The Hobbit - I've enjoyed them all over again!
My eldest has read all of my Wereworld series of fantasy horror novels, and took great delight in reading Haunt: Dead Scared, my first contemporary set novel. It's a ghost story, set in my home town of Warrington with many features my son has recognised. He's looking forward to the release of its sequel, Dead Wrong, which will be released in February of 2015. I'm really proud of the tale; it's semi-autobiographical in places, it's a comedy, it's a ghost story AND it's a murder mystery. I'd have struggled to squeeze another genre in there...
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