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More reassuring magic from Sam McBratney, creator of the acclaimed GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU.
Little Goosey and Big Gander Goose are out walking by the river. When a storm approaches, they must find a warm, dry place to shelter them. But another small animal has claimed each of the nooks and crannies they try, and Little Goosey doesn't want to hide with anyone but Big Gander Goose. Small children will know just how Little Goosey feels, and will...
More reassuring magic from Sam McBratney, creator of the acclaimed GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU.
Little Goosey and Big Gander Goose are out walking by the river. When a storm approaches, they must find a warm, dry place to shelter them. But another small animal has claimed each of the nooks and crannies they try, and Little Goosey doesn't want to hide with anyone but Big Gander Goose. Small children will know just how Little Goosey feels, and will be comforted by Big Gander Goose's understanding approach.
As a storm approaches, Little Goosey and Big Gander Goose join other animals in searching for a place to hide.
On Tuesday, March 17, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Sam McBratney, author of JUST YOU AND ME.
Sam McBratney: Well, things are fine. It's pitch-black outside, and the wind is getting up, and I think we're in for some pretty nasty typical Northern Ireland weather! If you ever come over here, bring your coat!
Sam McBratney: Well, I tell you, I have always been interested in the written word -- my parents tell me I was able to read the Belfast Telegraph when I was five! And mind you, I wouldn't vouch for that, but that's how the story goes, you know. When I went to school, however, at no stage in my school career would my teachers have said, "Oh, McBratney's going to be a writer" -- my teachers would not have picked me out, say, when I was 11. if you had asked my teachers, "Which one will be a writer when they grow up," I wouldn't have picked me, and they wouldn't have picked me either, so it wasn't a long-held ambition that I would be a writer when I grew up. And as a matter of fact, the first thing I really became interested in was history. And so I went to Dublin University and I read history and political science, and indeed, at one time I even contemplated studying history at a postgraduate level, but that ambition didn't actually materialize. As a matter of fact, the first thing I ever had published was a series of articles on local history in our local weekly paper. That was the history of Lisburn, and it dealt with the establishment of the local Irish linen industry. But then when I began to teach, I think that's when my interests turned to writing fiction. At that stage I was writing short stories; I began to write radio plays for the BBC, and I wrote my first children's book around the early 1970s. So let me tell you, I was well grown-up, then -- I was over 30 -- so the decision to write books for children was comparatively late.I think as to the why part of that question -- why did I take to writing books? I think probably the answer is that at that stage, I was teaching children who had difficulty with reading, and there weren't many books on the market for them, so I decided that I would have a go at writing the kind of books that the children I was teaching could read. The answer to why I write now, however, is slightly changed. There's a lot of fancy answers to the question, but the answer I like best is very simple Simply, the act of imagining makes me feel good. One example is, I remember when I was a teacher, standing in the room, and the class would have been busy writing something for me, and I remember looking out the window, and there must have been some early stars in the sky, and I remember thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice to take this class on a school trip to the stars, way out there, you know?" And of course, you can't do that sort of thing -- you can't load up a class of schoolchildren onto a starship and head off to Alpha Centauri or deep space, but inside your head you can! There's no spaceship like your imagination. So I went home after work and I started a story called "Schooltrip to the Stars." I think that would probably be how I would answer that question.
Sam McBratney: Corrine, what a lovely question. I prepare to be corrected about this, now, but I think there is a nut-brown hare, in the same way that there might be a spotted deer, or a red fox, in that sense. I think there is a nut-brown hare, but I'm not sure about that. Funnily enough, I had a letter from a lady in America who said her surname was Nutbrown, and she asked me if I knew anyone else who had this same name, and I had to write back and tell her, I'm sorry, no.... I love the name as well, the sound of "little nut-brown hare" conjures up a sense of warmth for me, and you can ask Corrine what she thinks, but I think the sound of "little nut-brown hare, big nut-brown hare" sounds so much better to me than just "little hare, big hare."
Sam McBratney: That is a fascinating question too, and before I started writing picture books that is exactly the kind of thing that I wondered about. I didn't know how to set about this business of writing picture books. Did you have to know how to draw? Did you have to know an illustrator and work with an illustrator? These are questions I didn't know either. But what actually happened, and what actually happens with picture books is, I simply send in the words, and my publisher then says, "Oh, yes, Sam, we like that one," and we find an illustrator who can draw geese or hares or people, and in fact, when I sent in GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU to the publisher, keep in mind I had been writing children's novels -- 60,000 or 70,000 words! And so here you are sending in something 400 words long, and I thought, How can I ask somebody to publish this! You see, the point is, it's my job to get the words right, and it's the publisher's job to get the artist, and to get the pictures right, but actually, in practice, the thing about a picture book is, it's a team effort! Now, the reason is, although the words come first, the publisher will send me in the drawings for comments, and then the essential point to make about a picture book is that it is a team effort You have the words, you have the drawings, you have the editor, and most important, you have the design people in the background, designing the book, the colors, the size, where the words go in relation to the pictures, so a picture book is very much the result of a collaboration. But to go back to Tim's question, essentially, in the beginning, I just send about three pages of text. And the editors are able to judge from the words whether it is the text they want. And I've been very lucky -- I 've had some wonderful editors.I live just overlooking Lough Neagh, and when I sent in my text for GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU, Walker Books, who published the book in the UK first, could have fixed me up with any of their artists, London, Birmingham, anywhere like that, but by sheer coincidence, the artist they fixed me up with lived 20 minutes away from me, and of course, that was Anita Jeram. She drew those lovely hares. In fact, I only saw Anita yesterday, because I'm just back from a trip to London; while I was in London, Anita took care of my tortoise for four days. Now, the illustrator of JUST YOU AND ME, who is another wonderful artist, I think, is Ivan Bates. He lives in England, and I think I've just met Ivan once. So to get back to Tim's question, it actually isn't necessary for you to know an illustrator, or for you to be able to draw, in order to write a picture book.
Sam McBratney: The answer to that question is that my youngest child is 27; my first grandchild is four months old -- he's a wee dote. So it's a long time since I've told my own children stories, although it's something I used to do. I used to have this character called Wise Eyes, and there was a character called Coby the Wolf; and there was this cow, and the cow's name was Aurora Borealis, and all the cow used to say was, "My name is Aurora Borealis." There was a rat called Rigor Mortis, and he never shut up, he just never shut up; and there was a gorilla named Gormless it's a word over here meaning utterly daft. The children would lie down and hear Wise Eyes up the stairs, because I used to whistle, and so they would know that I was coming to tell them a story. But in a sense, Christopher might like to know that I do use stories from real life, from my own experience, and indeed, my wife taught infant classes for a long time, children of four and five, and sometimes I will even use the little stories that she would tell me about what had happened during the school day.
Sam McBratney: Well, Erin, I wish I could tell you. I just have so many that I'm dying about.... I obviously like GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU; I also like a book that was published in the UK by Puffin, a science fiction story called JEALOUS JOOLS AND DOMINIQUE it didn't do very well. HarperCollins, the publishers over here, do a detective series about Francis Fry, Private Eye, and I also love a long novel for older children called THE CHIEFTAIN'S DAUGHTER. It was published in Ireland, and it's a book I love because I feel that I have captured the very essence of the time that I was writing about. It was set in the time of St. Patrick. I like it very much because it was an experiment for me, and I think it came off. The problem is that I have written maybe 70 or 80 books, and I like them all!
Sam McBratney: That's a good question, because when I was growing up I did read an awful lot of stuff, and most of it I have forgotten. There was a book which I have never seen since -- I haven't seen it for over 40 years -- called MORGAN THE MIGHTY, and I tortured my father until he bought it for me. Probably, actually, that's what I remember, torturing my father, rather than the story. I also read a lot of adventure stories about Biggles, who was a pilot in the war. I have always been fascinated by time, and hence, I suppose, my interest in science fiction. I can remember reading two stories before I was 12 which really impressed me. One was RIP VAN WINKLE. Now, I think that probably it was a simplified version, because the Washington Irving story was quite a complicated thing. But it was the whole idea of the lost 20 years, and it was that story, I think, which first indicated to me that you could do tricks with time using your imagination. Another story -- and you'll see the similarity here if you know the story -- is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's THE LOST WORLD. It's about this plateau that they discover which is a kind of a time warp; on this plateau there are reptiles from the time of the dinosaurs. So I remember those two stories about distortions of time. I think theyperhaps have had an influence on me. Or maybe it's the other way around -- maybe my imagination was already looking for ways to play tricks with time, I don't know. But I do love stories involving the idea of time.And H. G. Wells, of course, THE TIME MACHINE. And when I was very young I remember reading a story, "In the Country of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man Is King." So there's plenty there for Graeme to get his teeth into!
Sam McBratney: Oh, what a fascinating question! I am going to give an answer that you might not be happy with -- you might think it's a great answer and agree with it completely, but you might not. And this is how I'll answer it. You'll be familiar with our troubles over here in Northern Ireland, okay? Now, we have the aspirations of two communities, if you like , toward seemingly irreconcilable political goals, and because of that we have the terror of the bullet and the bomb. It's never far away -- the threat of it is never far away, you know.The troubles have never been as bad as they are portrayed, but it can be nasty at times. Now, to get to Penelope's point, many writers have written children's books out of issues arising out all this, but I avoid it. Now, you might say, why would you avoid writing about what's happening in your own country? But writers have to be careful about tackling the raw aspects of life on the streets in Ulster, because we are writing for children, that's the point, and therefore, by definition, we cannot call upon the complete range of adult concepts which help us to make sense of what's happening. Maybe I can put it this way Themes involving violence and bigotry and sex, religion, and death -- this is tricky territory for writers of children's books! Now, I'm not saying that children aren't interested in these things, because of course they are. I'm not saying that writing for children can't be done or shouldn't be done. But I'm just trying to point out how difficult it is to get the language right. One of my favorite books is John Updike's COUPLES. Now, you can't write COUPLES for 12-year-olds, because they won't understand it! And understanding what is happening in Northern Ireland, in my view, requires all the concepts we can muster with our adult minds, and even then, I couldn't claim, myself, to fully understand what's happening over here. So, to Penelope in Dayton, Ohio, it may be simply that I belong to an older generation, and I believe that writers should be more restrained; but when I grew up, they weren't selling drugs at the gates of my school. So I'm prepared to accept that things have moved on. But there will always be room for a story like GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU or JUST YOU AND ME.
Sam McBratney: No, just keep buying! That's the message!
Posted June 17, 2012
A charming read; with soft subtle illustrations. A simple story which shows the care of the gander and the gosling for each other and the kindness shown by the other woodland animals they meet on their journey.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.