Hello Lucy and Paula! Thank you so much for chatting to me about your new book ‘Wanda’s Words Got Stuck’.
Could you give us a quick overview of what the book is about?
Lucy Rowland: Wanda the Witch is so shy she can’t talk and no matter how hard she tries, the words just won’t come out. But when another nervous little witch called Flo joins her class, Wanda realises that perhaps talking isn’t the only way to make friends. Then disaster strikes at the school magic contest…will Wanda have the courage to shout out the magic words and save Flo from the fire-breathing dragon?
What inspired you to write this story?
Lucy Rowland: My job as a Speech and Language Therapist means I work with lots of children who have significant difficulties with their speech, language and/or communication skills. When children are experiencing particular difficulties or going through new experiences or challenges, we often use picture books to guide, educate and support them. As I started writing and reading more picture books, I realised that children or characters with SLCN (Speech, Language and Communication Needs) are quite under-represented within picture books. I wanted to write a story which might speak to some of those children who, for whatever reason, are struggling to find their voice.
Paula – my daughter adores the illustrations in this book and as a parent I love how clearly you can read the character’s emotions through their facialexpressions. Did you have a clear vision for Wanda and Flo from the start?
Paula Bowles: Thanks! I love drawing different emotions, and that was present from the start. She went through a few different ‘looks’ (she had straight hair at first, and then black plaits, before having ginger plaits in the final book).
Here are a few early development pieces:
Lucy – By day you are a Children’s Speech and Language Therapist. What made you take the leap in to writing picture books?
Lucy Rowland: I’ve always loved reading poetry and used to enjoy writing it when I was much younger. Then, about 7 years ago, I decided to pick up my pen again. I wanted to write a story that included lots of English sayings and idioms (‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’, ‘under the thumb’ ‘the bees knees’ etc), I thought that, with a sort of glossary at the back, this book could be a good tool for EFL learners or for children/adults who have difficulties with figurative language. I wrote a rhyming story which contained 50 sayings and idioms and happily sent it off to a publisher. Unfortunately, I didn’t do my research very well! The response from this well-known children’s publisher was ‘This is far too long and far too educational. We would never publish anything like this! But it’s rare to find something that rhymes so well. Try writing picture books.’ … So I did!
Paula – how did you get started as a children’s book illustrator?
Paula Bowles: I studied illustration at Falmouth College of Arts (now University college Falmouth) which gave me a good foundation in illustration. But it was only after I graduated that I realised my heart was in children’s book illustration though. So I followed my heart and developed a new portfolio for children’s publishing after graduating, which earned me an agent and then work started to come in after that.
What do you think makes a good picture book?
Lucy Rowland: I know that great picture books don’t have to rhyme but, personally, I love a good, clever rhythm that bounces along and takes me with it. Great picture books can be funny, silly, serious or sad but if they are on the serious/sad side then I think they do always need to include a bit of hope. Good picture books are a perfect partnership between words and illustrations. I feel very lucky to have been able to work with Paula Bowles twice!-for ‘Wanda’s Words Got Stuck’ and also for our Christmas picture book ‘Sammy Claws the Christmas Cat’. Some of my favourite picture books take an idea I think I’ve seen many times before but then twist it in a really original way. I also really appreciate a clever ending -see ‘Oi Frog!’ by Kes Gray and Jim Field or ‘The Pirates Are Coming’ by John Condon and Matt Hunt for great examples!
Paula Bowles: I love picture books which have details and little ‘extras’ to spot in the backgrounds, or a little sub-plot running throughout the book. These things make sure that when the book is read again and again, it doesn’t get boring! Stories with good pacing, funny moments, and a surprise, which makes you want to go back and read it again. And a well written rhyming text is always a winner, and Lucy Rowland always gets that just right!
Do you recall your favourite picture books from when you were a child?
Lucy Rowland: I loved Janet and Allan Ahlberg books so ‘Peepo’ and ‘The Jolly Postman’ were firm favourites. I also liked a book called ‘The Hungry Cat’ by Phyllis King. I used to love that book but I’ve not really come across it for years. My grandparents also used to read a lot of poetry to me, in particular, A.A.Milne’s collections ‘When We Were Very Young’ and ‘Now We Are Six’. I still read and re-read these all the time!
Paula Bowles: I loved Shirley Hughes’ books (Dogger, Alfie and My Naughty Little Sister), Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pieńkowski, Each Peach Pear Plum by Allan and Janet Ahlberg, and the Dr Seuss books!
Lastly – Wanda and Flo make quite an impression at their school magic contest. If you had the ability to cast one magic spell this Halloween, what would it be?
Lucy Rowland: Given all the sad and terrible things that have happened this year because of the pandemic, it would be nice to be able to wave a magic wand and make it disappear completely. I’m looking forward to a time where things feel a bit more normal again. Plus, I can’t wait to get back to school and author events.
Paula Bowles: I would wave my wand and get rid of the pandemic!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! If any of our readers want to find out more then where can they find you?
A huge thank you to Lucy and Paula. You can read our review of the fabulous ‘Wanda’s Words Got Stuck’ here: https://ivyslibrary.com/indexphp/2020/10/26/wandas-words-got-stuck-by-lucy-rowland-paula-bowles/