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06.08.09 | Caroline Horn
The cover of Yummy, Lucy Cousin's new book of nursery stories, shows a wolf hungrily eyeing up Little Red Riding Hood. As an adult, it is easy to forget how many nursery characters end up getting eaten, generally by wolves.
Cousins is more usually associated with the soft and gentle Maisy books but she has taken an edgy, Dahl-esque approach to this collection and seems to have done so with relish. She says: "I was very pleased to have been asked do these stories, they are so wonderful and such a part of our psyche, but when I began to reread them I realised that they are quite violent. If I'd come up with the idea of a book for young children that involved wolves having their head chopped off, I would have thought, ‘no'.
"I decided that I wanted to keep an edge to these stories but to also make them joyful, happy and funny so I made the book really simple and young with no long descriptions. I didn't want to hide away from what happens but to say: ‘Look, the wolf's just eaten up grandmother and had his head chopped off!' and to laugh about it and move on to the next story.
"I wanted to give it a different look from Maisy, which is much softer. This needed to be more energetic and looser. I've used black outlines for the images because it gives a very bold look and means I can make the illustrations look almost like a sketch with a paintbrush. When I'm working on a book I often start with images in a sketch pad and those initial drawings always looks very spontaneous. I've tried to capture that in this book because the stories are very gutsy.
"Nursery stories are important for children because they explore basic human characteristics. You have good characters and bad characters, and everyone helping together to make something work. They touch on a whole range of experiences and emotions.
"I remember when I was a child I loved the story of Goldilocks, I loved the idea of such cheekiness and her naughtiness in going into the bears' house and eating their porridge. Goldilocks was the first picture I drew for the book and when I showed it to my dad, he said it looked like me. I suppose I identified with that rebelliousness.
"I was also having quite a difficult time that year and it was good to be able to hide myself away in my studio and make pictures of ugly trolls and to chop off wolves' heads! It was quite therapeutic. I still enjoy going back to Maisy, though, she's like an old friend to me now."