Q: How did you come up with the idea for Catch That Chicken?
A: I have a flock of big fluffy tame chickens that my nephew and niece love to pick up. Then I met a little girl called Imani in Nairobi, Kenya, who loved my No.1 Car Spotter books and had the idea of a No.1 Chicken Chaser. The story developed from there!
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: I hope that kids will see that if we can no longer do something we love to do then we can still find other ways to do that same thing, or maybe we can find other things that we love to do.
Developing this story was poignant for me as I was facing something similar at the time - for health reasons I can no longer do lots of things I love - but I’ve found so many other things to enjoy!
Q: How did you first get interested in creating children's picture books?
A: Children’s books are my favourite genre. I fell in love with picture books when I was at university and made some friends who had a huge collection.
I realised then that picture books can lift the heart, give courage and comfort, and do everything that any other book can - in a handful of words. It’s a real craft - and one that I love.
Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, "The story stars a strong girl of color and offers a look at life in a close-knit community, a setting in which every gift contributes to the whole." What do you think of that description?
A: Well….in close-knit communities every gift does contribute to the whole… and so do lots and lots of arguments!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Right now I am working on nonfiction - which is a real passion right now. My first nonfiction book, Africa, Amazing Africa, will be out in the US in 2021. (It’s already out here in the UK).
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’ve been nominated for the ALMA award. It’s one of the biggest for children’s literature and is given not just for one book but for an author’s complete works. It’s just an honour just to be on the list next to some of my heroes in children’s literature!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Atinuke.