David O’Connell

What books did you read when you were a child?
There were a lot of Enid Blyton books around then – everyone in school was reading them. My particular favorite was The Magic Faraway Tree series, because it was so weird! I liked The Chronicles of Narnia books too, and the Willard Price adventure stories.

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
I think I’d quite like to be Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. He has a humdrum life before being whisked away on a madcap adventure with elves, goblins, dragons and treasure. But he manages to get safely home too, which is nicely reassuring.

What is the best thing about reading?
Spending time with a good book is like spending time with a good friend, one that shares their adventures and experiences and best jokes with you, and can comfort you if you’re sad or in trouble.

What is your all time favourite book?
I change my mind about this, but at the moment it’s The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Written in 1868, it’s thought to be the first detective story. It’s very atmospheric and exciting, and has a decent twist!

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 parent but I know, for me, that communication only develops through practice. Take your children where they’ll be in the company of the others outside their normal sphere and be patient, as too much pressure can make a shy child more self-conscious.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My parents aren’t creative people but they gave me the space and time to do the things I loved such as drawing and writing, even if they didn’t necessarily understand them. They understood how important they were to me.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
Humour can bring people together. Try funny books like Gary Northfield’s Julius Zebra series or Alex Milway’s Pigsticks and Harold books for younger ones. Also Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre’s books are great for reading aloud.

David O’Connell is a writer and illustrator living in London. He works mostly in children’s books, particularly funny picture books and young fiction, but he also loves comics. He’s also been a biochemist in a hospital laboratory and a computer techie guy - sometimes weird and gross things from those jobs find their way into his stories! His latest book is The Chocolate Factory Ghost, a tale of spooky mystery, illustrated by Claire Powell.

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