New Zealand Authors Give Tips on Creativity to Children at SCRF 2019
Award-winning picture book writers at Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival
Sharjah, 19 April 2019:Where do picture book writers get their fantastic ideas from? For Ruth Paul, award-winning author and illustrator of picture books for children, it could come from an encounter, real or imagined, on her farm in New Zealand. She describes how a huge queen wasp once invaded her writing room, and the adventure that followed in getting her out unharmed.
Now, that wasp could find its way into a future book, much like the jellyfish she once spotted on an outing with her sons became the star of I am a Jellyfish (which won Best Picture Book at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults) that she enacts for the schoolchildren who are a part of the audience at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival.
While the imagined story of a wandering wasp may not find its way into her next picture book, it is all material for the author. For 18 years, Paul has been writing and illustrating children’s books, drawing on whatever takes her fancy, and which she believes will also tickle children.
“It is about taking a big idea and distilling it. If it is accessible, then generally kids can understand it. And the minute you put some pictures with it they understand even more,” she says.
She and fellow Kiwi author Juliette MacIver are giving the audience tips on how to ‘invent their own fantastical beasts’. MacIver is also an award-winning picture book writer and she gives tips on how to craft a story from vague ideas.
“Take for instance my book ‘I am a Hippopotamus’,” she says. “It all began when I started rhyming words together. I had ‘yak’ and ‘gnu’ as a starting point. So, I played around with them. ‘Yak’ went with ‘kayak’ and ‘gnu’ with ‘canoe’. So, I had a yak kayaking down a river, with the gnu canoeing alongside. Then I thought of the colours that rhyme with the words yak with black and gnu with blue. Expand them further into, yak in a blackberry black kayak and the gnu in a blueberry blue canoe.”
The story develops into how both the animals think they are the only ones sailing down the river till they meet a goat in a boat. And so on, till they realise that they are not alone and are not really different from the others.
Visitors to SCRF 2019, which runs until April 27 at Expo Centre Sharjah under the theme ‘Discover Knowledge’, were treated to such educational and fun insights into the working of the creative mind as part of the cultural activities at the festival.
SCRF is one of the most important cultural events dedicated to children in the UAE and greater Arab region. It has gone beyond being a book exhibition and developed into an integrated event that contributes to enriching the knowledge of visitors with science and literature.