Monday 22 September 2014

A ReadItDaddy Guest Post from Holly Webb, author of "A Tiger Tale" (Scholastic)

"A Tiger Tale" by Holly Webb (illustrated by Catherine Rayner) - Out now from Scholastic Children's Books
We're handing over the blog today to an author we've admired (and read an awful lot of books by!) Holly is one of the most prolific children's authors and her latest book "A Tiger Tale" deals expertly and in child-friendly terms with the tricky subjects of grief and loss.

Over to you Holly!

I’m not surprised that you wanted to know why I chose to write A Tiger Tale! I’ve tried to describe to a couple of people recently, and it does sound very sad. 

I didn’t set out to write a sad book at all. I’d noticed over the last few years of picking up my children from school, how many of their school friends were being looked after by their grandparents, as their parents were working. Both my own sets of grandparents lived a long way away, so we didn’t see them very frequently. My own children’s grandparents are the same, although they visit often. So this very close grandparent and child relationship was intriguing – a whole different family dynamic. I’d been thinking about that for a while, and then it struck me that a grandparent who was so close, and so much part of a child’s life, would be a terrible loss.

I wanted to write about the importance of a toy, too. I had (still have) a toy polar bear that I was given aged about four. I traumatically lost my first polar bear, and my poor parents had to find a replacement identical one…I imagined a whole life history for that original bear (I used to get really worried when I saw bears on the front of dustbin lorries, thinking that might have happened to Polar One.) 

We invest so much love in special toys. Secret lives, languages, friendships (and rivalries) with other toys… It didn’t seem a huge leap for a grieving, exhausted child to think that a toy could become real. 

One of my favourite books was The Velveteen Rabbit, where the boy’s much loved rabbit has to be taken away as he’s infected with scarlet fever, but he’s turned into a real rabbit instead. Real (with a definite capital letter) is only for the most loved toys. 

The two themes came together, but I wasn’t quite sure how the story would end until a reader sent me a photo of her beautiful tabby cat. He was huge, with a tigery ruff around his neck…

I loved writing this book, but it was very emotional (I’ve been accused of making several editors at Scholastic cry…). I’m a bit worried it might be sad for readers too, but I’m hoping that it will inspire the sort of conversations I always seem to have with my children (particularly my eight-year-old twins, at the moment) on the way to school. This is such a hard subject to talk about – and to experience, obviously. I wanted to explore it, and give children a way in to thinking about something so very difficult.

Holly Webb (Photo credit © Nigel Bird)

"A Tiger Tale", with illustrations by Catherine Rayner, is out now from Scholastic Children's Books.