Monday, 22 August 2016

Interview with Sophy Henn

Sophy Henn lives and works in Sussex, England. She writes and illustrates children's books in her studio, with a large cup of tea by her side, and can't quite believe her luck. Where Bear?, her first book, was nominated for both the Kate Greenaway Medal and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize in 2015. Pom Pom Gets the Grumps won Junior Design Awards Best Book of the Year 2015, and Sophy won Best Emerging Talent (Children's Author). She was also the World Book Day Illustrator for 2015 and 2016.

BWB: This is your third Pom Pom picture book. Out of the three which one is your favourite?

SH: Oh heavens, that's like asking someone to chose between their children! Hmmm. I have a huge soft spot for Grumps as it was the original Pom Pom. I didn't know he would have a series at that point and it was written as a stand alone book. The story is based on the real life events that inspired Pom Pom. A lovely little girl having a bit of a moment and telling everyone to "GO AWAY" over and over until everyone did. Then she got a bit worried and we heard her calling out for everyone in a very little, worried voice. Being a toddler is so tricky, all these new situations, emotions and hormones, you are constantly having to work out the 'right' response to things and trying to remember to keep things in check. The idea behind Grumps was to reassure the reader that everyone has bad days, but it's not the end of the world, you just have to own your mistakes and say sorry. Oh, and to make the reader laugh, obviously! But getting to create Champion and Super as well was amazing. Showing the different aspects of Pom Pom has been lovely, I think Super in particular shows another side of Pom Pom, a little more introspective and unsure of himself. So basically I love them all equally (but maybe one a little bit more for sentimental reasons)! 

BWB: I think Pom Pom would make a great preschool tv show. Would you ever consider going that direction with him?

SH: Thank you! It's funny, but a few people have said that since Pom Pom is Super has come out and having thought about it I could imagine Pom Pom tearing it up on the TV! I love a lot of Pre School TV and I have done my fair share of viewing ( I was in the original Balamory and Bob the Builder era!), I might even be known to watch the occasional episode of Hey Duggee!, which is amazing. The spirit of the Pom Pom books is a positive one, celebrating different characters and the joy, excitement and occasional upset that comes with being so little and discovering new things all the time.  I think so long as the programme stayed true to that, the illustration style and characters, then I would definitely consider a Pom Pom TV show. I am now imagining the theme tune!

BWB: Are pandas your favourite type of bear? If so, why?

SH: I love all bears! But Pom Pom had to be a panda, even before he got his name! As I mentioned before the inspiration came from a momentarily furious little girl but I knew I didn't want the character to be a little girl or boy as that seemed too gender specific so I started thinking about animals. I love the You Tube clip Pandas on a Slide, the Pandas are just so happy and laid back, rolling into on another and lolling about at the bottom of the slide, in no hurry to move on or get out of the way of the next sliding Panda. There are no sudden movements, they all just seem very happy. The idea of combining a furious little person with a chilled out, cute and cuddly Panda made me laugh and Pom Pom was born!

BWB: Can we expect more adventures with Pom Pom soon?

SH: Oh I hope so! Pom Pom is always in my mind, I am always jotting down things I have seen or overheard that seem Pom Pom-ish to me! My next book is about a human girl though...

BWB: Who is your favourite fictional bear and why?

SH: Oh heavens, that's like the first question...almost impossible to answer, there are lots of excellent bears about, Balloo, Paddington, Mr.Panda (I'm a stickler for manners!), Jon Klasson's bear with the missing hat, Fred the Bear and of course David Litchfield's piano playing bear. But if I am only allowed one then I think I am going to have to go for the classic....Winnie the Pooh. AA Milne's stories and the themes within them are timeless, endearing, joyous and occasionally heartbreaking, I have learnt many a life lesson from Winnie the Pooh. And EH Shepard's beautiful and seemingly effortless illustrations give such heart to the characters. Winnie's top spot was cemented by my daughter loving him too, though she called him Winnie-a-pooh. Bless!

Thank you to Sophy for once again letting me pick her brains! If you would like to see more of her wonderful work check out her website here. Pom Pom is Super is available to buy now at all good bookshops.

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