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Q&A With Author / Illustrator Chris Marsh

by BB

British Author/Illustrator Chris Marsh is launching his first picture book. Here's an interview that gives us some insight on his inspirations

1. Tell us about yourself.
I currently live in London, England and have done so for the last 7 years which is very different from where I grew up in the heart of the English countryside. Growing up in a rural village surrounded by farms, fields and forests gave me the opportunities to go on an endless number of adventures with my friends which allowed for my creative side to flourish. I'm a keen painter and pianist and love spending my spare time either drawing, writing or playing or listening to music. I have five nieces and nephews who also keep me very busy so I often rely on my creative streak to find exciting things for them to do and I hope that this will rub off on them.

2. Give a brief description of your book, Zips Goes Wandering.
Zips is about a young zebra who loves an adventure but doesn't realise the dangers involved with wandering off without telling his mum. After she warns him not to wander off, he does just that and soon finds himself in a spot of bother with a hungry lion and crocodile. Fortunately, he manages to get himself out of trouble but only finds himself lost and miles from home. By asking his various friends for help he darts backwards and forwards across the savannah and before nightfall, he finds his family.

3. Why did you write Zips Goes Wandering?
My five very active nieces and nephews are pretty fearless when it comes to going on adventures, often without telling a grown up where they're off to. Knowing their love for stories and indifference to obeying rules I decided to create a story that they would pay attention to, enjoy and therefore remember. Zips Goes Wandering engaged them to ask questions about getting lost and since first hearing the story they haven't gone wandering off, unless it's to the kitchen to raid the sweet and cake cupboard.

4. Zips Goes Wandering has lots of animal characters. Which ones are your favorites?
I've always thought that zebras are pretty cool and interesting animals which is why I chose a zebra for the main character. But I also really like Alex Antelope, not only because I like his massive antlers but also because he's named after one of my nephews.

5. Is this book part of a series?
Zips Goes Wandering aims at teaching children not to wander off and to spark up a conversation between children and their parents or guardians. It had such a great impact on my nieces and nephews that I thought about covering a variety of issues that children will come across through life. The next book covers an issue that is a worry for all parents - bullying - but I wanted to make it slightly different to other bullying stories and that's to focus the book from the bully's point of view. So keep an eye out for that one!

6. Your illustrations in Zips Goes Wandering are so expressive. Can you tell us about your illustration methods?
I actually first created the characters when I was about 13 in a Home Economics class at school - we were making aprons and I decorated mine with Zips and his friends (although they didn't have names back then). When I first started writing the story of Zips onto paper I remembered the apron, dug it out and thought, here's a style of drawing I've never seen before and that would be recognisable. I really think that the characters are quite cute which will hopefully appeal to adults as well.

7. The page design of Zips Goes Wandering is vibrant. Can you tell us about why you chose to place the text inside the clouds?
The words on the page are separated from the actual pictures themselves so I wanted to connect the two somehow. As the words seemed to float about on the page I thought, why not have them float about in a cloud above the savannah?

8. Why did you choose to set this book in the African savannah?
I've always had a fascination with African savannah animals. I've never been to Africa but I've been to so many zoos and even from a little boy I remember being mesmerized by the giraffes, elephants, rhinos, zebras and lions more than the other animals. One day I'll get to Africa so I can see a real life Zips in the wild.

9. What kinds of children’s books have inspired you?
I'm so pleased that my nieces and nephews are great lovers of books because it gives me an excuse to read picture books to them. My favourite has to be Julia Donaldson. Her books are so much fun and the stories and rhyming draw the reader into the story every time.

10. What artists have inspired you?
Axel Scheffler is brilliant. He's so talented and has worked with Julia Donaldson on a number of books including The Highway Rat and The Gruffalo. I think I enjoy the pictures more than my nieces and nephews! As a child I was a huge fan of the Roald Dahl books and a large part of that was because of the illustrations drawn by Quentin Blake. They're quite simple but have a real impact on the reader because they're so unique, fun and match the character of the story they're in perfectly. "

Posted by BB on March 4, 2014 in School and Library tips