Emma O’Donovan catches up with world famous author and illustrator of How to Catch a Star, Oliver Jeffers…
One of your first picture books, Lost and Found tells the magical tale of a friendship between a small boy and a penguin. Was there a particular event which inspired this story?
It’s actually based on a true story! There’s a zoo in Belfast with a huge penguin enclosure. On a school trip, a boy got into the enclosure unnoticed and rounded up a baby penguin, then got back on the school bus. It wasn’t until he got home that his parents realised he had a penguin! They had to keep it overnight in the bath tub until they could take it back to the zoo the next day. I always thought about what this relationship was like, what did they talk about? Did they watch TV together?
What did you most enjoy drawing as a child?
Large waves, whales, boats, things sinking, things being destroyed, giants stomping on houses. I bumped into an old primary school teacher at a signing a few years back. She had kept my story book jotter as an example to other pupils for about 20 years, but 10 years ago she lost it when they moved school – a real shame as I would have loved to have seen it.
Whose sketchbook would you most like to peek inside?
Quite possibly Tim Burton, Wes Anderson, Julian Opie, Gerhard Richter or Jean-Jacques Sempé.
Which of your books are you most proud of?
I’m proud of them all but the one which has particular meaning is The Incredible Book Eating Boy as that was the book which my publishers didn’t want to publish. In the end we came up with a deal where I would get to publish it and they could get the book they wanted afterwards.
In The Incredible Book Eating Boy, Henry satisfies his love of books by eating them, becoming smarter the more he eats. If you had to eat a book which one would you choose and why?
The dictionary, it’s got all the words!
Which children’s book would you most like to illustrate?
A Roald Dahl story, but the Quentin Blake illustrations are just so integral to Roald Dahl, I don’t know if I’d see myself fit to re-visualise that.
Your book Stuck tries to solve a problem by throwing things at it. Which three items would you want thrown at you if you were stuck up a tree?
Something to eat, read and to watch football highlights on.