It’s my stop on the blog tour for Brave Dave and I am beyond excited to be sharing an interview with the one-and-only Giles Andreae, author Giraffes Can’t Dance. He will be talking about his latest picture Brave Dave, also illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees.
Dave, the grizzly bear, is in awe of his big brother Clarence – he’s big, brave and strong, all the things that Dave thinks a grizzly bear should be. How Dave wishes he could be more like Clarence until, one day, Dave discovers that bravery comes in different guises and that this grizzly bear doesn’t need to be more Clarence, he needs to be more Dave!
Giraffes Can’t Dance is one of family favourite picture books so I couldn’t wait to read Brave Dave with my daughters. It has the same lovely rhyming and comforting illustration style. In this new picture book, children celebrate the importance of finding your inner brave and standing up for your individuality. It is a beautiful picture book reminding children the importance of being your authentic self, as message that is close to my heart.
So now it’s time to hand over to Giles to find out more AND get some writing advice!
Hi Giles, thank you so much for talking with me – it is an absolute honour! Giraffe’s can’t Dance is one of my daughters’ favourite picture books of all time, and Brave Dave is soon to be joining it! Can you tell us a little bit about the book and the inspiration behind it?
Thank you, Rachael. As a child, I was rather a weedy, creative little boy and never really conformed to, or admired, the macho, sporty, laddish idea of masculinity. I wanted to write a book that subverted this gendered behaviour and that celebrated tenderness and vulnerability in boys. Courage comes in many forms, and sometimes being brave enough to embrace what makes you different can be the very bravest thing of all.
Did you always want to be a children’s writer?
Well, yes and no. I did submit my first picture book text to a publisher at age 18, so there was a clue there! I got distracted after that, though, because a comedy poetry act that I did at university turned into a popular character on greetings cards, books and merchandise (Purple Ronnie), so that became my full-time career shortly afterwards for several years. My first children’s book, Rumble in the Jungle, was eventually published when I was 29.
Your books always feel so light and fun, but also have really important messages woven within them. How do you know when you’ve got the balance just right?
I suppose I write from my own character, in my own voice, and I am naturally quite playful and light-hearted. I think writing in verse helps too, as it adds bounce and a certain joie-de-vivre. It’s more fun to read aloud too.
What were your favourite picture books from childhood and in recent years?
I was never a fan of Green Eggs and Ham or The Cat in the Hat, but I absolutely loved Dr Seuss’s fables. My favourites were Yertle the Turtle and The Sneetches. More recently, I have been consumed by all things Winnie-the-Pooh, not least because I was lucky enough to write a new story about him to celebrate his 90th anniversary. I also adore the translations of the Nicholas books by Rene Goscinny (who also created Asterix), about a little French boy and his escapades. They are both so light-hearted and yet so moving.
What has been the best and worst thing in your author career so far?
I wrote a series of 13 books some time ago, all published at once, under the title World of Happy. I was certain that they were going to be a huge hit but they sank pretty much without a trace. That was a shock and very upsetting at the time. I had put so much into them. The best thing is probably the ongoing success of Giraffes Can’t Dance. That book seems to have a momentum of its own now, even though I wrote it 25 years ago!
Can you tell us about any upcoming picture books we should look out for?
The paperback of Brave Dave is out this week. I have a real soft spot for the main character – an unusual little grizzly bear, who is very much like I was as a child. It’s illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, who also did Giraffes Can’t Dance. We have another super-exciting collaboration coming up next year as well, but I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about that one quite yet. Keep your eyes peeled!
What advice would you give to someone trying to write a rhyming picture book?
The difficulty with rhyme as well as rhythm, is that you have to get it absolutely spot on. If it feels forced, it sounds terrible. The great thing about the English language, though, is that we have so many words! If you get stuck with one rhyme, or the way the rhythm is falling, try re-writing the same thing but with synonyms. Eventually, you’ll get a good solution. Don’t be frightened of it though – it’s just like writing a song. Imagine singing what you’re writing – or even sing it out loud. If it flows well and sounds good, then you’re there!
Thank you so much Giles – my neighbours won’t thank you though, when they hear me singing! I can’t wait to see what you and Guy publish next!
Brave Dave was published by Hachette, Orchard Books, 4 August 2022
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!
About the author
Giles Andreae is the author of many top-selling, award-winning picture books. These include Elephant Me, Rumble in the Jungle, Commotion in the Ocean and I Love My Mummy. However, it is for the international bestseller Giraffes Can’t Dance that he is best known. Giles is also the creator of Purple Ronnie, Britain’s favourite stickman, and of the artist/philosopher, Edward Monkton. These two ranges of greetings cards, books and merchandise have made Giles the country’s top-selling living poet. Giles lives with his wife, Victoria, a children’s clothes designer, and their four children by the river in Oxfordshire.
About the illustrator
Guy Parker-Rees’ exuberant and energetic illustrations have made him a household name and one of today’s bestselling children’s illustrators. Notable successes include picture book classic Giraffes Can’t Dance, a worldwide bestseller; Spookyrumpus, winner of the Sheffield, Dundee and Portsmouth book awards, and most recently, Elephant Me. Guy lives in Brighton with his wife and three sons.
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary feature contains my honest opinion.