How did the new Hubert Horatio chapter book come about?
Hubert first appeared in a picture book way back in 2004 and the idea came from a drawing I did of a tiny boy in an enormous bed.
I thought it would be interesting to portray one of those children who always has to be in charge of the parents and gets quite anxious. My sister was like that. Years ago I thought I could do a novelisation of the picture book and was inspired in many ways by the Molesworth books [by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle], but have only just got around to doing it because of time issues.
What is the book called?
The book is called Hubert Horatio: How to Raise Your Grown-ups, and it is set prior to the picture book. It introduces his family, where they live and their eccentric millionaire lifestyle. The end of the book leaves an opening for the second in the series. We had agreed to do three in total, but it depends on how much life the story has. I really enjoyed doing a heavily illustrated chapter book.
How did you get involved with illustrating a gift edition of Mary Poppins, due out in November?
That was a project Ann-Janine Murtagh [executive publisher at HarperCollins Children’s Books] asked me about several years ago. Then we realised there was going to be a film, so it had to be now.
I only started in the spring, so I was working through the night to get it done. The book is heavily illustrated in colour and in a classic style that people perhaps aren’t familiar with, although I still used collage. I wanted some modernity to how it looked because P L Travers was ahead of her time— she’s a modern character.
How hard is it to balance working with being the children’s laureate?
It’s true that it is hard to balance everything. I have to work to pay bills but it’s very squishy in terms of time. The hardest thing is connecting people. For example, we joined with the Betjeman Poetry Prize and got illustration students to illustrate some of the poems. I’ve really enjoyed that.
When is the new Clarice Bean novel out?
That story is still inside my head. It will probably be published in 2020.
Hubert Horatio: How to Raise your Grown-ups (9780008264086) will be published by HarperCollins Children’s Books on 4th October, priced £12.99. Mary Poppins (9780008289362) will be released on 1st November (hardback, £20).