What books did you read when you were a child?
My mum read the Mr. Men books to me at bed time as well as all the Ladybird books like Little Red Riding Hood and The Gingerbread Man. She also read the Paddington books and some hilariously surreal stories by Quentin Blake about a character called Lester and his unusual friends.
If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
My mum always said I was like Mr. Chatterbox, but I’d like to be the boy who finds a real, live miniature person in The Indian in my Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks.
What is the best thing about reading?
Reading opens your mind to other worlds and possibilities. It can be a rewarding experience and an opportunity for learning alone or as a bonding experience with others.
What is your all time favourite book?
As an adult it’s Wuthering Heights, but the first book I fell in love with as an eleven-year-old girl was The Secret Garden, for how its sour main character Mary Lennox softens and blooms with her appreciation of spring unfurling in the garden, it’s beautifully written.
Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
I’m not a perfect parent, but I left lots of pens and paper around and they do communicate lots through drawing and writing. We sit around a table to eat to allow time to talk and I limit screen time.
How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My Mum read to me as a child and she praised my constant drawing, which later lead to me writing picture books. I had undiagnosed dyslexia, so I didn’t excel at school but Mum encouraged me to go to art college. She let me be myself and I love her for that!
How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
When my children were very young I showed them books constantly. They’d have a book in their hands in their buggies, on a rug on the floor and I’d read three books to them every night.
The books I shared and we loved are: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, a playful animal naming book with interactive flaps. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, a soothingly paced bedtime book with a little mouse to spot on most pages. Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins because of the slapstick humour and the contradictions between the images and text. There are Cats in this Book by Viviane Schwarz a joyfully clever interactive book. Happy Pig Day by Mo Willems with witty, simple, endearing mini dramas about Elephant and Piggy’s relationship problems. I’m a Girl by Yasmine Ismail because its positively defies gender stereotyping with the message of ‘be yourself’ in a fun, celebratory way.
Claire Alexander is an author illustrator based in London. Her most recent title A Little Bit Different came out in September this year. She previously completed two book collaborations with writer Sean Taylor, illustrating Humperdink Our Elephant Friend and The Snowbear. Other titles include The Best Bit of Daddy’s Day, Millie Shares and Monkey and the Little One. The latter was shortlisted for the 2015 Junior Design Awards and listed as one of the top ten best new picture books of the year by the Independent Book Sellers Association. An earlier book Back to Front and Upside Down, dealing with the subject of dyslexia, won an American Library Association award in 2013. Other titles include Small Florence, Lost in the Snow, That’s When I Knew and Lucy & the Bully, which also won an award in the US. Claire studied Fine Art at the Kent Institute of Art and Design and has a BA honors degree in Painting. She studied Illustration at Putney School of Art and has been teaching her own picture book courses for adults (now at the House of Illustration) for twelve years.