Q: What inspired you to create Scribbly?
A: I’d seen a lot of stories where a child’s imaginary friend is a beautiful and magical creature. Like a cute monster or a ghostly animal.
I just thought what if the imaginary friend looks like the actual picture the kid draws? Little children are often very proud of their artwork and see their picture as absolutely representing the thing they’ve drawn.
I thought it would be nice to show Maude spending a lot of time and then being delighted with her finished thing even though, to an adult, it’s a very simple and slightly messy depiction of a dog.
Q: How did you combine the drawings of Scribbly into the rest of the book's art?
A: It wasn’t really a problem. The contrast between the illustrations themselves and Maude’s Scribbly had to be obvious. Especially as, later on, an actual real dog appears.
I couldn’t get too loose with the art, otherwise Scribbly wouldn’t stick out. But it was good fun to imagine how Maude would see Scribbly in any given situation. I always wanted him to be convincing as a kid’s drawing.
With the spread where we see Maude’s Scribbly picture, I loved doing the strip of blue at the top with the sun sticking out. I remember always being annoyed when the other kids in school drew a scene like this. I’d say, “That’s not what the sky looks like!” Ha ha.
Q: What do you think the book says about imaginary friends?
A: I think it shows that imaginary friends can also help children get through difficult periods, such as moving to a whole new environment where you don’t know anyone.
They’re not just there simply for fun or occasional company - even though of course they can be for that too. There’s certainly an important and interesting role that imaginary friends play. It seems to be a thing that children naturally do, unprompted. But parents are often troubled by it - as Maude’s mum is at moments in the story.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: I hope kids are reminded that imagination is a powerful tool and is really the best plaything you have. That applies to adults too. I’d like kids to think about how to see themselves in a way that can give them confidence and pride.
In the story, Maude’s mum shows her that Scribbly is fun and interesting because she is herself. Maude, like a lot of kids, is shy and has moments of self-doubt. When we’re children, we often don’t know our good points because it’s usually only our bad ones that get flagged up!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a few things at the moment. A new picture book by me called The Elephant Detectives for the wonderful publishers Nosy Crow.
I’ve just illustrated This Is Not A Unicorn! for them and I’ll be working on the follow up to that. Both by author Barry Timms.
I’m also working on a couple of new ideas that I think could be good - I can’t say much about them apart from one’s about a frog and the other is about a dog!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Check out these amazing illustrators and illustrator/authors
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Ged Adamson.