Andy Seed and Adam Frost
What do you think makes a good non-fiction book?
Andy: There’s a great word, pizazz, which sums up for me what a good fact book should have. It means energy, style, zing – things that give you a thrill. So I’m expecting lively pictures, snappy facts, amazing information, interesting details and writing which has wit and zip. The book should have an eye-catching design and be fun to read.
Adam: Firstly, really fascinating facts – as random and bizarre as possible. Secondly, pictures that make those facts come to life. I find it hard to ‘see’ facts without illustrations.
What is your favourite fact?
Andy: In 2013 nine babies born in the UK were named Cheese.
Adam: There are too many to list! But I’m quite fond of Monsieur Mange Tout – a French entertainer who was famous for eating ANYTHING. Over the course of his life, he ate 15 shopping trolleys, 18 bikes, 8 chandeliers, an entire light aircraft – and MORE. He’d break the metal into tiny bits and use mineral oil to help him swallow the pieces. Doing this would KILL anyone else of course, but he never got a stomach ache, nor (apparently) did it hurt when the metal came out the other end!
What is the best thing about reading non-fiction?
Andy: There are lots of great things about non-fiction books: you can easily dip into them, you can pick up incredible facts, you can feed your interests, you can sometimes find jokes and you can learn loads of weird stuff too. But maybe the best thing about reading them is the incredible head-bending range of different kinds of books – there’s something for EVERYONE.
Adam: Realising that facts can be as strange and as incredible as fiction.
What is your all-time favourite non-fiction book?
Andy: YIKES! So hard to choose… I used to Love Guinness World Records and books that showed you how to draw cartoons and make things. But best of all I loved books with silly pictures that made me laugh so it would have to be The Old Joke Book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.
Adam: When I was very young, the Richard Scarry books. When I was a bit older, I loved the Little Red Record Book by Bronnie Cunningham.
Why do you think it is important for children to read non-fiction as well as fiction?
Andy: I think reading non-fiction is one of the very best (and most enjoyable) way to learn things and to find out how amazing our world is and the galaxy and universe around it. I also think it helps develop your thinking and imagination: non-fiction is often very visually exciting and its special combinations of photos, drawings, words, numbers, diagrams, lists and things like flashes of humour can help to give you ideas and understanding. In a word they can INSPIRE you.
Adam: I think it’s important for children to experience stories of ALL kinds. Fact books, novels, comics, films, TV shows, computer games – they can all tell amazing stories. Non-fiction has to be part of that mix. It’s the source material for all of the others!
Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Andy: Encouraging different kinds of talk is a good one. Here are some examples: reading aloud, saying poems and rhymes or tongue-twisters or jokes, playing word games and having pun exchanges, explaining how to do something, puppet shows and chatting through fun imaginary scenes.
Adam: Work out the stories they enjoy reading or watching most. Then encourage them to write or make those stories themselves. If they love films, encourage them to make short movies. If they love computer games, encourage them to code. If they love drawing, then suggest they make a comic book – or even better, an illustrated factbook!
How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
Andy: A big part because they took me every week to our local library and I was able to choose three or four books and partly through that I developed a love of reading. If you read a lot of books then that helps you hugely with your writing because it helps you to understand how language works and what words mean. So, if you want to be a good writer, read as much as possible!
Adam: My parents were great. I spent most of my childhood reading and making comics – and they left me to it! They didn’t try to get me to read more ‘serious’ books – they trusted that I’d start reading more widely in time. I had a couple of inspirational teachers too - Andrew Kinder at primary school and David Pattrick at secondary school.
How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, and what books do you enjoy reading with them?
Andy: The first thing is to read to them every day. A bedtime story is a wonderful thing but you can read aloud at any time. I also buy children books, take them to the library, talk about books and share favourite bits from books. It’s important to let children choose the books they want to read and to encourage them. I especially love sharing jokes and facts and funny poems with children. One last thing: it’s important to find somewhere quiet to read where there is no TV, phone or video game to distract from the pages.
Adam: Fortunately my children like books – and have their own views about which they like best! Sometimes these overlap with my favourites (e.g. Harry Potter, Varjak Paw, The Hobbit), sometimes they don’t (The My Little Pony Annual 2016). But whatever the book, I always enjoy reading with them – the books you love as a child stay with you for life. For non-fiction, both my kids have recently enjoyed SuperNature – a huge Dorling Kindersley compendium about the natural world.
Andy Seed is a children’s author who specialises in funny non-fiction. His 2015 Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff won the Blue Peter Book Award (Best Book with Facts). His newest title is The Anti-Boredom Christmas Book and his Anti-Boredom Book of Brilliant Outdoor Things To Do will be published in 2017.
Adam Frost was born in Epping, UK in 1972. He writes children's books for six-to-nine-year olds, full of jokes, songs and amazing adventures. His first book, Ralph the Magic Rabbit, was shortlisted for the 2006 Ottakar's Children's Book Prize. In 2016 his factbook, The Epic Book of Epicness, was awarded the Blue Peter Book Award. His new factbook, The Book of Me! will be published in April 2017.
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