What was your favourite childhood book and why?
Probably The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien. For some reason I really connected with the character of Samwise Gamgee. Most people probably think of Frodo as the hero, or at a push Aragorn, but I’ve always thought it’s Sam. I guess it depends on how you define a hero as there can be lots of different types. For me it’s the character who represents the story’s heart, and Sam is definitely the beating heart of The Lord of the Rings. Also, he is always positive, a real can-do person, totally altruistic, well-intentioned and above all, the best and most loyal friend that anybody could wish for. And these are traits that I think I really prize.
Which of your own books is your favourite and why?
I think my favourite of my picture books is Odd Dog Out. I’m very proud that it’s message of blazing your own trail and being yourself has resonated with so many people across the world. My favourite of my middle-grade stories is Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City. Mainly because it’s the only one I’ve written (so far)! It’s my first attempt at a chapter book and I couldn’t be prouder of it. I’m really excited to see what readers make of it.
Why do you choose to read?
The benefits of reading are manifold. There’s the obvious stuff like the fact that it helps build vocabulary and develop language/grammar skills, but I think it’s also really important because it exposes you to a wealth of places, characters, social situations and issues that you might never encounter in your real day-to-day life. It teaches you to walk in someone else’s shoes which, in turn, helps nurture empathy and kindness. And the real key is reading for pleasure. Once that happens, ie you’re not just reading because your teacher has told you to, but because you want to, you really start to develop a natural desire to learn. You become curious. It’s a short leap from being desperate to find out who the Half Blood Prince is, to wanting to know the outcome of the War of the Roses or how plate tectonics works. So reading really has the power to set you up for the rest of your life and help you to fulfil your potential.