Emma O’Donovan speaks to children’s author and illustrator Emma Dodd to discuss her new book and what makes her happy
What’s the inspiration behind your book Happy…?
The inspiration for my new book was my two children, Conrad, 12, and Imogen, nine. All my favourite books are inspired by them. I think what parents want most in the world is for their children to be happy. It was so important to me that there should be reference to the fact that it’s not possible to be happy all the time. As a parent though, it is our job to facilitate happiness and always be there to support our children. This is reflected in the lines of my book: “And when you are not happy and the sky seems rather grey I’ll do my very best to chase the gloomy clouds away”. But most of the book is about the joyfulness of being a child, when each thing you encounter is new and exciting.
Do you have family pets and have they ever had cameo roles in any of your books?
I have a 14-month-old Jack Russell Terrier called Buzz. At least that was what we were told when we got him – as he grew he became longer and longer, so I rather suspect that he has a close relative who is a Dachshund. He is utterly delightful, and his adventures with his best friend, Ruby, a naughty Cockapoo, are an endless source of inspiration and amusement. Keep an eye out for Buzz and Ruby in the future. I suspect they will make an appearance in a book of their own one day.
You live in Surrey. Does the surrounding countryside influence your work?
Living in a semi-rural environment influences my work. I am so aware of nature: the colours, the changing of the seasons. I walk Buzz every morning after I’ve dropped my children at school and before I sit down to work. I never tire of the countryside, and every day I take time to notice the changing skies, or the colour of an autumn leaf against the grass. I use these observations in my work. I am also lucky enough to live within walking distance of a Space NK Apothecary – essential when you have a lipstick habit like mine.
Tell us about your experience of reading with your own children.
I read so many picture books to my children when they were little. Two favourites were Cockatoos by the brilliant Quentin Blake and That Rabbit Belongs To Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell and Neil Layton. Both books are great fun to read out loud. I still read to my children now. At the moment we are reading Roof Toppers by Katherine Rundell, which we are all rather enjoying.