DROP EVERYTHING!!! We interviewed the book legend that is Trish Cooke! Trish Cooke’s heart-warming book celebrates family. The baby realises that all his family members want a squeeze because they all love him so much. Helen Oxenbury (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt) gives delightful illustrations to this rhythmic text. We chatted to Trish Cooke.
Why did you start writing/illustrating books for children?
I started writing books for children because I love stories – listening to them, reading, watching them and telling them. My mum and dad were great storytellers and I liked to listen to them share stories about Dominica in the Caribbean, where they grew up and when I was small I had never visited so their stories and that world, always fascinated me. I liked how it made me feel when I was listening to them and I discovered when I told stories to my nephews and nieces they enjoyed my stories as much as I had, listening to my parents’ stories.
I like to write books for children but I also like to write scripts for the theatre, radio and TV both for children and adults too. When I started writing books for children it was initially because I wanted to create stories for my nephews and nieces, then my own children.
How did you get your book out into the world?
To begin with, it was difficult to get published . I started sending my work to publishers in 1987. I had a lot of rejections – mainly because the work was very different to what some publishers had published before and they were not sure if they would sell. Thankfully I was introduced to a great agent in 1988, Gina Pollinger. She was able to get my work read by more publishers and my first book MAMMY, SUGAR FALLING DOWN , was published by Century Hutchinson in 1989. Gina sent my work to Walker Books who gave me a 4 book contract then increased it to an 8 book contract. I was so happy. Sounds easy and straight forward but it was a long slog. I have broad shoulders so I did not allow the rejections to get me down, I just kept trying.
Why did you write this book? Why did you want to illustrate this story?
I wrote SO MUCH just after I had my first child as I was so overwhelmed with having a baby. I could not stop making up stories for him because I loved him SO MUCH – hence the title of the book. He’s all grown up now with children of his own but the book is still going strong. It’s great that my grandchildren have had the chance to enjoy it too. I often wonder where the years have gone.
Do you relate to any characters in your stories – which ones and in what way?
I do relate to the characters in my stories, yes. When I write, I usually start with people I know so I can keep the stories authentic. It helps me to find the truth in whatever I am working on. Often the characters I create are an amalgamation of people I know and then I add my imagination. The characters look very different by the time I have finished the work. In SO MUCH, the family is very much close to my own family. I have even used nick names that are close to the original names and the fabulous Helen Oxenbury captured my family in her illustrations (even though she never met them or saw photos.) Sharon Wilson, the illustrator of my book, THE GRANDAD TREE is another amazing illustrator. Sharon captured the image of my father in this book magnificently without ever seeing him or even a photo.
What’s your favourite book and why?
I have several books that I love but the one that has inspired me the most is The Color Purple by Alice Walker. It made me aware of how important it is to have black narrators in literature.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to write and perform but I was told they weren’t proper jobs so I thought I might become a teacher. I am glad I was able to follow my dream.
What do you want children to get from your books?
I hope children have fun when they read my books.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
My Dad said to me that I can be anything I want to be, if I put my mind to it… And that was the best advice ever, knowing there was nothing stopping me from going for what I want.
Finish this sentence for us…Reading from diverse bookshelves….
will hopefully stop being a ‘thing’ when all bookshelves are diverse.
A message to readers of your book?
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