Sean Taylor and Hannah Shaw's latest collaboration, Who Ate Auntie Iris? (Frances Lincoln Children's Books, April) has echoes of "Little Red Riding Hood", but this picture book version is set in a modern high-rise estate. The book's release will be backed by author and illustrator appearances in schools and festivals, as well as online promotions and review mailings targeting Easter holiday round-ups.
When a young chinchilla goes to stay with her Auntie Iris, she is a little nervous of her auntie's neighbours; bears on the first floor, crocodiles on the second floor and wolves on the third floor. Then one day when her auntie takes out the rubbish, she doesn't come back, and little chinchilla bravely ventures out to try to find out who ate her.
It is the third book that the duo have created, following Crocodiles Are the Best Animals of All (shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize) and the slightly darker The Grizzly Bear with the Frizzly Hair.
A chinchilla was chosen as the lead character in their latest story because the more obvious creatures—a rabbit or squirrel—had already been featured by them in their earlier work, says Taylor. "The animal had to be small enough to be frightened but also appealing. After much discussion and to-ing and fro-ing, chinchillas won the day.
"I got the title for this story before the plot. The story only evolved after many, many drafts. I like my stories to have a bit of fierceness in them, that's down to my taste, but I know it's also something that interests children. I've done lots of school visits and storytelling sessions, so I know what holds their ears and eyes—as well as what makes them laugh."
Illustrator Hannah Shaw says it's this quality that makes their partnership work so well. "Sean's writing is funny and silly, but there's a dark undercurrent to it, and there is something about it that appeals to me. The chinchilla is fluffy and cute, and that contrasts well with the dangerous neighbours.
"There were lots of details in the drawings I enjoyed creating. The lions are moved in by Savannah Removals, for example, and there is a shark with a screwdriver who is supposed to be helping install a jacuzzi, but has taken a dip in it instead.
"Some of the spreads were really fun to do. My personal favourite is the wolves doing yoga. I also enjoyed the ending; in the beginning the lights are off and you just see silhouettes of dangerous animals, but when the lights are on at the end of the book, you can see the animals are really just having fun."
- Attica Locke | "I think you can get people to think about things that are new, or uncomfortable, if you take them on a journey that feels vaguely familiar"
- Kirstie Allsopp: "I would never lie, or try to produce something that wasn't real"
- Charlie Higson | "I wanted to write something really scary for kids in the horror vein"
- Martha Long | "I Was born to provide; writing was the first time I had done something for myself"
- Joe Simpson | "I've had four accidents that should have killed me and I got away with them"