It’s a fine balance creating a picture book that combines cool artwork and a compelling storyline with an important message.
But this is something that Duncan Beedie seems to have mastered beautifully.
His witty debut The Bear Who Stared tackled friendship, shyness and manners, and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, while last year’s The Last Chip was moving story of a hungry pigeon, and gave a percentage of every sale to a homeless charity.
The Bristol-based author-illustrator and dad has a background in children’s animation, working in television and online, but only published his first book in 2016. Now he’s already on his fourth – Molly’s Moon Mission, which came out earlier this month.
It tells the tale of a tiny moth who has a big dream – to fly to the moon. The odds are stacked against her and others doubt she can make it but even after a few wrong turns, Molly is not deterred from her far off destination.
The story was an instant hit in our house, thanks to its engaging illustrations, humour and space theme. Baby Bookworm loves to do the ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1… blast off’ countdown and feels a real empathy with the main character.
She’s a really positive role model and I’m always heartened to see a female lead, particularly in the traditionally ‘male’ part of an astronaut.
Molly’s Moon Mission is especially timely given the 50th anniversary of the moon landings in July and a great bedtime story for children interested in space.
We think it will inspire many little ones to think big and so we’ve asked Duncan to share with us the stories, characters and creators who inspire him. Here are his favourites…
FAVOURITE CLASSIC CHILDREN’S BOOK
Clever Polly and The Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr. I read this to my daughter not long ago and, while the concept of a little girl outwitting a hungry wolf is well trodden storybook fare, I was bowled over by the dryness of the humour. I was under the misconception the mid-20th century children’s literature would be a bit staid, but I was very glad to be proved wrong.
FAVOURITE RECENT READ
The Claude Series by Alex T. Smith. Now that my daughter has grown out of picture books (sob!),she is starting to read more to herself. We started the Claude books earlier this year and she is smitten with the silly humour. The stories are are instantly accessible to kids, which is a potent skill for any writer.
You can’t make me pick one favourite, you monsters! I’ve had the pleasure of reading slabs of picture books over the years, but some of the standout authors are Peter Bently, Oliver Jeffers, Alexis Deacon, Nadia Shireen, Benji Davies and Jon Klassen.
Júlia Sardà. I was first introduced to her work in The Liszts by Kyo Maclear. She is one of those illustrators who is so good it actually hurts your eyes. Her sense of composition and her colour palettes in particular are tremendous.
There are a lot of them out there to choose from, but I’ll have to go for my childhood favourite – Mr Bump. I think he was the first picture book character for whom I genuinely felt empathy. Although, despite his constant accidents, he always seemed remarkably upbeat. If I were him, I’d never leave the house.
Molly’s Moon Mission by Duncan Beedie is out now. £6.99, Templar
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