Tamsyn Murray writes mostly funny books for children of all ages and even some adults. She lives in Hertfordshire with an assortment of children, pets and husbands.
Q. What books did you read when you were a child?
A. I was lucky enough to live near a fabulous library, which meant I could try anything from Enid Blyton to Roald Dahl to the Nancy Drew mysteries. I longed to be Nancy.
Q. If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A. I'd love to be Rémy Brunel from The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling – she's an acrobat and a top notch jewel thief. Or Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell because I really want a Toothless.
Q. What is the best thing about reading?
A. The amazing way a story whisks you through time and place – I could be transported to Elizabethan England or the Great Hall at Hogwarts or even into space just by opening up a book. Thankfully there are so many books that I'll never run out of places to go!
Q. What is your all time favourite book?
A. There's a book called Beauty by Robin McKinley (an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast) that I've read many times. But my favourite book is Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Wickedly funny!
Q. Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A. Explain things without talking down to them. Both my daughter and my son have been 'Why?' children and I have never flinched away from answering as fully as I can, using simplified language and concepts where needed. If I don't know the answer I say that and then go away and find out, or we find out together. Although I was a victim of my own success when this approach led to my then three year old daughter explaining to her grandmother exactly how she got out of her mummy's tummy, while they were in the middle of a packed bus. I believe there may have been accompanying gestures too!
Q. How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A. On the surface, it doesn't seem like they did, much. But they did give me books from an early age – I clearly remember sitting outside our house when I must have been four, reading a Ladybird Read It Yourself story (Snow White and Rose Red if you're interested) on my own. And I think that my love of books grew and grew from there until I realised I could write my stories of my own. It would have been much harder to write if I hadn't absorbed so much knowledge from reading. So it was more about influence than encouragement.
Q. How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A. I try to lead by example – our house is full of books. The picture books are strewn everywhere (I am not joking here) and I make sure my son knows I am never too busy to look at one with him. Often, I'll bring a story to life with special voices – he's been looking at picture books since he was five months old (as the condition of some of our books will testify) and there are lots we've read over and over, so he knows them off-by-heart and expects the same voices everytime. My daughter actually learned to read in this way, long before she went to school – we read Dear Zoo so many times that she learned to recognise shape of the words.
We look at books on the iPad as well and even catch a few YouTube videos of people reading stories – Michael Rosen read We're Going on a Bear Hunt for the 30th anniversary last year and his use of rhythm is brilliant. I sometimes copy him when I read Bear Hunt myself. And we're trying to introduce more non-fiction, because my natural inclination is for stories and there are plenty of awesome fact-filled books out there too. I hope we never stop reading together.
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