My favourite five: author-illustrator Sophy Henn

Sophy Henn’s picture books are firm favourites in our house. Baby Bookworm adores Where Bear?, Pom Pom Gets The Grumps and the recent Almost Anything, so much so that he can recite chunks of each by heart.

When we interviewed Sophy late last year, she revealed she was working on a new book that would be a little different. Namely, many more words.

The result is now out and features another brilliant character that children are definitely going to be dressing up as next World Book Day. Her name is Bad Nana and she’s a one-of-a-kind grandmother with a twinkle in her eye and a real naughty streak.

The book is the first in a three-part young fiction series aimed at five to eight-year olds. It’s cheeky, witty and we just love the stylish illustration in a black, white, bright pink and green colour scheme.

Big thumbs up for the strong female characters in this book too. If only Baby Bookworm was old enough to read it!

To celebrate the new book, we asked Sophy about the books, authors and illustrators that have inspired her own career. Here are her choices…

MY FAVOURITE CLASSIC BOOK… Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. £6.99 (paperback), Red Fox

“Maurice is not afraid to show the darker side of things. I love how this little boy’s fury is made real with the monsters and by the end he realises they are a little bit silly. He goes on his emotional journey and then he comes back and his dinner’s not even ready. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

“He navigates that emotional arc in such a beautiful way, in a way that children connect with. Sometimes people can forget who picture books are for. There’s room for art but the measure of it is how children connect with it. The fact we are still talking about this book years later and children still love it means he’s made his connection.”

Jean J

MY FAVOURITE RECENT READ… This Is Not A Book by Jean Jullien. £8.95 (board book), Phaidon

“It’s such a fun playful way of interacting with a book. When you see it, you think ‘Of course it can be a laptop, a doorway, a bottom!’ But no one has done that before. It’s so original, for kids of many ages. Adults can enjoy the playfulness of it too.

“Also board books are under appreciated and are such a gateway for young children and adults, to realise that books are a bonding moment, fun and playful. That book really generated a lot of discussion. He’s a fantastic designer but he still remembers who he is talking to.”



“The first Paddington was published in 1958 and I’m buying him for all the Reception and Year 1 kids I know. To create a character with such longevity, that generates so much love and warmth, is wonderful.

“With people not being sympathetic to others suffering troubles and tragedies, we all need to go back to those books and that character. We are only human but it takes a bear to let us know that. As long as your heart is in the right place, it should be alright.

“I’ve been re-reading them and Michael Bond never spoke down to his audience. His turn of phrase and words he used gave people something interesting and generated curiosity.”

Michael Bond’s final Paddington book is published to mark the character’s 60th anniversary


“In terms of a personal connection, as a mother, it has to be Lauren Child. Charlie and Lola had just come out when my daughter was little and she loved them. And the way Lauren illustrated and the text on the page was so exciting from my point of view as a freelance designer. It was playful, fun and engaging.

“The way she writes with a rhythm and a truth about how children talk is fantastic. A good rhythm when you are reading a book for the twentieth time makes life so much nicer. She gets that voice of children. That’s such an art.”

We meet Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child



“There are so many I admire, such as Lauren Child, Hilary Knight, Joyce Lancaster Bright. But a book that struck me recently is Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez.

“It’s a cross between a graphic novel and picture book. The images are so stunning. Her use of colour is beautiful. The depths she creates in her images and the richness as wonderful. It’s the sort of thing I would sit and pore over as a child, like the Richard Scarry books.”

Sophy’s new book, Older Not Wiser: Bad Nana, is out now. £8.99 (hardback), HarperCollins Children’s. Available from Amazon

More authors and illustrators share their favourite reads…

Allan Ahlberg

Rob Biddulph

Nadia Shireen

Jane Foster

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