Nick Butterworth is the multi-million selling, award-winning author and illustrator of Q Pootle 5, Percy The Park Keeper, Tiger, Albert Le Blanc and The Whisperer. He has sold over 15 million books worldwide and his books have been published in more than 30 languages. Nick is also executive producer, production designer and writer of hit CBeebies animated series Q Pootle 5. Two new books based on the series, Q Pootle 5: The Great Space Race and Q Pootle 5: Groobie’s Spacewash, are now available.
Q: What books did you read when you were a child?
A: Enid Blyton got me reading. Famous Five books and especially her ‘Adventure’ series, which included The Island, Valley, Castle of Adventure etc. But it was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson that really got me hooked.
Q: If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A: Jim Hawkins (from Treasure Island) or Winnie The Pooh.
Q: What is the best thing about reading?
A: The way it transports you to another time, or another place – or into another person’s shoes! Reading, fact or fiction, can fire the imagination and that in turn, opens up possibilities. What if…?
Q: What is your all time favourite book?
A: An impossible question! Because I’d be picking one from so many books that I love for different reasons, my choice would be likely to change every day. OK, since you press me, today, it’s The Lord of the Rings.
Q: Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A: Apart from loving them to bits and making lots of time for them? Talk to them all the time, right from the start. It doesn’t matter whether they understand the meaning of everything that’s said. If we talk to babies as if they understand, they pick up an enormous amount from our tone of voice. They very quickly start to ‘talk’ back to us and these early exchanges are the wonderful beginnings of the fuller, more developed communication that will surely follow. Good communication, of course, involves listening as well as speaking. To paraphrase Bruce Forsyth, ‘Keeeeeeeeeep talking!’
Q: How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A: I owe a great deal to my mum. She used to read endlessly to me when I was a boy and I especially enjoyed stories that were beyond my ability to read for myself. At a time when I was struggling to get to grips with Dick and Dora (unfortunately similar to Janet and John!) she would read books like Moby Dick and Alice in Wonderland and Kipling’s Just So Stories. I think it was listening to those stories that fostered a love of words and language in me. I can hear her voice in my head right now . . . ‘The great grey-green greasy Limpopo river, all set about with fever trees . . .’ (From ‘The Elephant’s Child.) As for influencing my writing, I think I can now say, without getting into serious trouble, the best essay I ever produced at school was actually written by my mum! I’d got terribly behind with homework and I was in a bit of a ‘state’. There was no Internet from which to crib! Instead, my lovely mum took pity on me and, with a few of my ideas lobbed into the pot, wrote an essay for me. I was impressed! As well as getting me off the hook, her writing showed me how words could convey mood and atmosphere as well as describe action. My first foray into writing professionally was to produce copy for ads when I worked as a graphic designer. Even though there were tight restraints on the number of words and the subject matter could be mundane, I found it rather enjoyable. I liked the discipline of having to be punchy and concise. That experience has probably stood me in good stead for writing economically for picture books.
Q: How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A: My own grown up children have always loved stories. I used to read a story or three every night with them before carting them off to bed with a double piggyback! They took turns in choosing what we read. Sometimes the reading would have to take second place to a song or a game or an account of something that happened at school. (Stories are important but children are more important!) Apart from a couple of bumpy patches when confronted with the dullness of reading scheme books, they never had much trouble with reading. They are both avid readers today. Happily, the same is true for my grandchildren. They love stories and are taking to reading very naturally. (I half suspect one is going to be a lexicographer!) I put it down to their parents talking to them about everything under the sun and making the time to share books with them.
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