I am delighted to be sharing an interview with the one-and-only Lu Fraser about her latest picture book, One Camel Called Doug, illustrated by Sarah Warburton. My girls and I have HIGH expectations whenever we read a new book by Lu Fraser. We are huge fans of Gertie from The Littlest Yak, illustrated by Kate Hindley, as well as cupcake-loving Nut from The Viking Who Liked Icing, illustrated by Mark McKinley. But now, we have another favourite picture book character to add to this list: Doug, a camel with one hump who is about to have a whole heap of fun!
Doug is one camel after my own heart. Who doesn’t like a bit of alone time every now and then? But Doug begins to wonder if being alone is all it’s cracked up to be. Is one ever really enough? It makes playing hide and seek terribly tough.
But wait… Lu and Sarah have one big adventure in store for lonesome Doug. Because just over there is the bump of a hump of a camel called Brian. Now things seem much better as a two. But what’s that I hear you ask, is that the bump of a hump of another camel?
Oh, yes, it is and the fun doesn’t stop there. Suddenly this bouncy fun picture book turns into a camel-counting celebration. Lu’s rhymes are so ingenious that my four-year-old was joining in the words on the very first read. Sarah’s playful illustrations had us in stitches.
It’s no surprise that Doug finds himself ‘all camelled out’ from all the excitement. (By this point I really did feel like I’d bonded with Doug!).
Now the high-energy counting brilliance transitions into a beautiful bedtime book, as we slowly count down with sleepy Doug. Perhaps there are some benefits to be alone after all… One Camel Called Doug is one picture book you do not want to miss!
And now it’s time to hand over to the one-and-only Lu Fraser!
Hi Lu, thank you for chatting to me about your new picture book, One Camel Called Doug. My daughters love the counting element and even on the first reading, they were shouting out the next number! What was your inspiration for the book? Did you set out to write a picture book with a counting element?
It was Spring, 2019, when I wrote ‘One Camel Called Doug’ & I clearly remember thinking ‘I want to write something really joyful’ – fun to write, funny to read and, most of all, something that children would LOVE! I’d always wanted to do a counting book so I decided to indulge myself and have a go! It got me thinking back to my earliest days at school and the lyrical sing-song way we learned the alphabet and I wondered if I could manage to write something similar, but with numbers instead (and all wrapped up in a story, too – I love a challenge!).
There’s a bit of schoolroom nostalgia in this text for me so the picture books of the 60s and 70’s definitely had an impact, especially Dr Seuss.
How long did it take from idea to publication day?
Nothing about ‘One Camel called Doug’ happened the way it normally happens, for me!
I usually have an idea bubbling around in my head for months before I let myself pick up a pencil and start writing but Doug was in my head for about 48 hours! I started scribbling on a Monday afternoon and, five days later, I hit ‘send’ and pinged it to my agent. We had a chat about it, I edited it a bit more over the weekend and, by the following Monday morning, it was done. Shortly afterwards, Simon & Schuster opened their doors to Doug and his chums and we were off!
From the first lines to publication it’s been under 3 years.
Did you always want to be an author?
Yes… and no! I was very young indeed when I it dawned on me that I was going to be a writer so I thought it might be a good idea to try out a few other ideas first (just in case I’d made a mistake!). The initial ballerina and Indiana Jones plans were replaced in the teenage years with ‘vet’ then ‘lawyer’ but, by the time I’d hit 18, I gave in and resigned myself to being who I’d always known I was!
What were your favourite books growing up?
I was the reading equivalent of the hungry caterpillar as a child! I devoured books faster than I could borrow them or save up for them so my childhood reading list is long and occasionally odd, given that I’d have to make do with what I could lay my hands on (Jacques-Yves Cousteau diving manuals and The Dairy Book of Family Cookery for example!). Top of my list were The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (the first book to reduce me to tears) and ‘The Children of Green Knowe’ by Lucy M. Boston (my love for which knows no bounds!).
Are there any picture books coming out this year you are really excited to read?
I can’t wait for Olivia Hope’s debut ‘Be Wild, Little One’ with Daniel Egneus which looks gorgeous and also ‘Dadaji’s Paintbrush’ by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Ruchi Mhasane. I’ve also got my ‘pre-order eye’ on Helen Baugh, who’s launching a new partnership with Nick East in ‘Baby Bunny’s Easter Surprise’. There’s definitely space on my shelves for Emma Perry’s ‘Puddling’ with Claire Alexander & also Frances Stickley’s first Simon & Schuster book ‘Not a Cat in Sight’ with Eamonn O’Neill which looks absolutely brilliant! My picture book wish list is HUGE so I’d better stop there!
What’s next for you, in terms of writing?
Well…we’re pretty busy! Sarah Warburton and I are working on another book which, much like ‘One Camel called Doug’ fills me with utter joy! It was slightly bonkers to write and I loved every minute of it – I really hope Sarah has a blast illustrating it! Of course, the other big thing in my calendar this year is the return of Gertie, The Littlest Yak. To be given the opportunity to trek back up to the ‘tip of the top of the mountain’ with Kate Hindley and the rest of #team Gertie at Simon & Schuster is the most amazing thing – working on a second yak story and meeting all the familiar faces again feels like coming home! We’ve got some really exciting new projects underway, too, but I’m going to have to keep those under wraps for now and focus on the camel and the yak!
We absolutely love Gertie (The Littlest Yak), Nut (The Viking Who Liked Icing) and Doug. What advice would you give to a writer trying to create memorable picture book characters?
- Think BIG! For me, a memorable character is one where you get the sense of a back story – where you truly believe they have a life outside the pages of the book.
- Building a character is hugely personal – you have to fit each other! What works for one writer might not work for another. Yaks and camels feel right at home in my head but I don’t think a unicorn would want to live with me. Find your fit – don’t force your fit.
- Believe in your illustrator…without question the right illustrative partner takes your character and gives it real CHARACTER! Gertie and Doug are equally the product of Kate Hindley & Sarah Warburton, respectively, and I’m supremely grateful for them every time I look at our books!
What great advice! Thank you so much for chatting with me Lu. We can’t wait to see what fabulous character you introduce us to next.
One Camel Called Doug was published by Simon & Schuster, 17 February 2022
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary review contains my honest opinion.