22 December: Sophy Henn

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Amazing author and illustrator Sophy Henn on Day 22!

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Sophy Henn writes and illustrates children’s books in her studio, with a large cup of tea by her side, and can’t quite believe her luck! Where Bear?, her first book, was nominated for both the Kate Greenaway Medal and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2015. Pom Pom Gets the Grumps won Junior Design Awards Best Book of the Year 2015, and Sophy won Best Emerging Talent (Children’s Author).  Sophy was delighted to be spokesperson for Save the Children’s Read On, Get On campaign, focusing on pre-school. She was also the World Book Day Illustrator for 2015 and 2016.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Slippers, I’ve got my eye on a rather lovely silver sheepskin pair. Yes, silver! A nice, comfy, baggy jumper. Books – A big Eames coffee table one, an Angela Thirkell, a curry cookbook and Mistletoe Murder!

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? My daughter and I make crackers for everyone around the table. It was fun at first, we started about five years ago, filling the crackers with fake moustaches, a little gift, jokes and a charade, each tailored for the recipient. It was very hilarious to see nieces, nephews, grandparents, in fact everyone around the table tucking into Christmas dinner wearing a variety of moustaches! It’s pretty labour intensive though and one member of the party was unnecessarily critical of the jokes (how can they be too cheesy??) last year so I think it’s my best and worst tradition all rolled into one!

(Brilliant – Christmas moustaches!!)

We also have a Christmas eve tradition of new pyjamas, one I am VERY happy to maintain.

What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? The GRINCH. Dr Seuss nails it again! I am utterly guilty of being over sentimental at this time of year, it’s easy to do. But Dr Seuss manages a hilarious adventure, packed with meaning, centred around Christmas without being at all smushy. Genius!

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? Obviously Father Christmas. I’d like to know how he get’s so much done in such a short space of time, I could use some of that magic!

Your illustrations bring to life your stories beautifully. If you could illustrate and bring to life a festive story of your choice, which one would it be and why? Thank you! But this is SUCH a hard question! Well I’m not going anywhere near The Grinch as Dr Seuss has that one covered. One of my other favourite Christmas stories is The Tailor of Gloucester, but again Beatrix Potter’s beautiful illustrations are such a big part of why I love it so I don’t think I could go there either! Maybe it would be A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement C. Moore which contains the magical line… “Twas the night before Christmas, when all
through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”. 
Just those 51b1m98zm8ltwo lines send shivers of excitement down my spine, its a very magical Christmas story. Or possibly Agatha Christie’s The Adventure of The Christmas Pudding. I’d like to have a go at illustrating a longer text and I think a collection of murderous texts by one of my favourites could be a good place to start!

(LOVE The Tailor of Gloucester -still have my edition from when I was little. And LOVE Agatha Christie – I think you should definitely do that one!)

Pom Pom is a wonderful character whose stories young and old alike can identify with! How do you think Pom Pom likes to celebrate Christmas?  I think Pom Pom would do what I did as a child, wake up at about 3am and run into his parents room bursting with excitement! Pom Pom would probably tear through his presents, talking at a hundred miles an hour because Christmas is SO EXCITING! Then I think he would probably slightly regret opening his presents so quickly, sometimes it’s good to savour your presents a bit! After presents Pom Pom would definitely sneak some gold coins in before lunch and cover the floor with all his toys! But alongside all of this very ‘busy’ behaviour, Pom Pom would be giving out lots of lovely Christmas cuddles and probably be fast asleep by 4pm!

winter-1027822_1920Reader’s question from students at Warden Park Academy; when you are creating a story do you draw it or write it first? My stories tend to start with a character. I think that’s my favourite part of my job, the thinking up characters part! Once I have sketched out my character, from all angles and doing different things, their personality starts to shape. Then a story will develop from their character or I will remember a story I have scribbled down in one of my notebooks that would suit them (then I have to find it!!! Not easy when you have a least a million notebooks!). Once I know who and what the story is about then I start to write. Then re write. Then edit. Then re write again. Then think the whole idea is rubbish, at which point I show it to someone else as I can’t see the wood for the trees. Then re write it all over again. Once I am happy with the words I sketch out each page VERY roughly. Then re sketch it, etc etc. And FINALLY when I am happy with the sketches I get cracking on the illustrations.

Turkey or goose? TURKEY

Real or fake tree? REAL

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? JUST MORE CHEESE PLEASE (spiced fruit is not right)

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? END OF THE BED

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? CHRISTMAS EVE – all the lovely anticipation and zero pressure to have “the best night of the year”.

Thank you for taking part in our festive Q & A! Have a very Happy Christmas!

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Find out more about Sophy www.sophyhenn.com and follow her on Twitter @sophyhenn.

 

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