Anyone who does not have an infant or a class of infants, maybe unaware of this book. It’s not one of my favourites to be honest, but I find it close to my own life at the moment.
It tells the tale of a cat who has various people wrapped around his little finger (metaphorically, obviously). He charms them into believing he is their very own cat, convincing each in turn to feed him – six meals a day in total! Its a pretty book, that children enjoy as they can see direct comparisons to the characteristics of cats they come into contact with.
I am one of those children! We have our own Sid. And he’s actually called Sid! He is gorgeous! He is just as black as the fictional character, but with white on his face and paws. He spends all day curled up as close to me as possible and all night the same. Sid purrs and snuggles up to both me and Steve and is not content unless he is sat on you, or at the very least, touching you! He is brilliant fun too. When not snoozing, he bats pens around the floor, follows me from room to room – all the time – and tries to get into the TV when the Robinson’s birdy advert is on (soooooo cute!). But, he is a real Sid. He does not belong to us.
Real Sid is similar to the fictional Sid, in that he has us completely wrapped around his paw. We never feed him, he’s not ours, that wouldn’t be right, he already thinks he lives at our house! Some time ago, the neighbours went away for three months, leaving their cat to be fed by a neighbour (not us). The poor forlorn Sid spent several days in our back garden not moving but being soaked by the torrential summer rain. We allowed him to come into the kitchen to be somewhere warm and dry, and since then he has been a very welcome visitor! When his owners came home, we locked him out for about three weeks, but he still came back.
I do feel a little bit guilty because he does spend all his time in my house but will disappear a couple of times a day to go home for food. But he is just so loveable. We called him my ‘training’ cat as I had been quite frightened of them as a child. But this little one wants to be around me so much that he even runs up my back to sit on my shoulders while I do the washing up! I don’t know what I would do if I had to return him!!
So, even the simplest of books get us thinking about our own lives. The most effective in children’s fiction draw some connection to yourself, however tenuous or vague. This is my aim. The picture books I want to create, need to have this same draw, this same ability to create a connection and bond. It is with stories such as this that children learn to love books because they suddenly find themselves able to talk about the content. Spot the Dog is all well and good in learning words, letters and sounds, but it is these types of story that get them intrigued. The connections make them enjoy and remember, the memories make them interested, the interest makes them want to read more.
And as adults, we are actually no different. When we think about our favourite books as adults, I guarantee the reasons you enjoyed the book surround some kind of comparison or wish in our own lives; or a shock at how unlike our own life it can be. We inevitably put ourselves in the place of a much loved character, seeing things from our own point of view, transported entirely into the world the author has created.
This is my aspiration. I want to create children’s books that have this affect, that transport the reader into a place they can connect with. To write the books that affect the reader in such away that the pages are set free and imprinted into their memories forever.
Can I do it? Only time and hard work will tell!
And a dollop of luck!!