A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Today I am interviewing my friend and author, Isabel Atherton, on our new children’s book, “Springy Chicken”, which I have been very lucky to illustrate.
Bethany Straker: Hi Isy! Are you looking forward to the release of ‘Springy Chicken’?
Isabel Atherton: I’m so excited about our little chicken book, Beth! Here’s hoping others like it!
BS: Can you explain a little about what happens in the book, and the lessons children can learn from it?
IA: Martha is an unusual chicken. She was attacked by a wicked fox and nearly ended up in chicken heaven. Her owner, a crafty farmer, managed to save her life, but her legs were so badly damaged that he had to attach two giant yellow springs in order for her to be able to walk.
Unfortunately, these springs go Boing! Boing! Boing! all the time, which annoys the other chickens. Martha is also unable to lay legs, as she’s too tall and can’t get to the ground to lay them in time – they all end up scrambled. This infuriates the other chickens who end up with sticky scrambled eggs stuck to their feet.
Martha is naturally terrified of the wicked fox – he always seems to be lurking around the hencoop. However, her limitations also make her strong and able to defeat the fox and become accepted as different and special.
The moral of the story is that it is okay not be like everyone else and that others should not judge. It’s all about acceptance and living harmoniously.
BS: Why did you go for a chicken as your central character?
IA:I was having lunch with our editor, Julie Matysik, and she said she wanted a story about a chicken. I offered to have a go at writing a script with you in mind to do the book’s illustrations. You’ll recall I originally came up with two very different stories and that we agreed to go with the more quirky one.
BS: Do you think the book will appeal to parents, too?
IA: I hope so!
BS: There seems to be more emphasis on farming, growing your own produce and the great outdoors recently. Do you think it’s important to teach children about these things?
IA: Most definitely. It’s important for children to learn about where their food comes from and for farming methods to be ethical. Springy Chicken is free range 😉
BS: You recently moved to New York, whilst I’m in the British countryside. Do you think this has affected the way the two of us work together?
IA: I don’t think it’s affected us in a negative way. It’s only a 5 hour time difference and I was always in NYC for extended periods of time with the agency. Plus, being in NYC has facilitated all these wonderful book deals. I like our NY-Kent vibe!
BS: Another book we worked on together, ‘Zombie Cat, The Tale of A Decomposing Kitty’ has done very well. Any plans for a sequel?
IA: You know, I have been making notes, but I feel I need to experience more of America to nail the sequel. It will be very US-centric and I hope readers will find it funny too. The first one seems to have become a bit of a cult hit.
BS: All of your characters have very warm, quirky personalities. Do you identify with any of them?
IA: I do draw a lot from my own experiences in my stories, so yes, I’d say there is a part of me in every one of our characters. However, I am not obsessed with eating brains!
BS: Thanks very much Isy. Here’s to a successful new release!
IA: Thanks, Beth! Fingers crossed people will like it and purchase it.
ISABEL ATHERTON is an author, literary agent, and director of Creative Authors Ltd. When she is not helping her authors she likes to write illustrated books herself. She is the author of ZOMBIE CAT, an illustrated adult humor book (for Skyhorse Publishing), SMELLY GHOST, THE BAD EASTER BUNNY, SPRINGY CHICKEN and RUBY MOO’S DEEP SEA ADVENTURE, all children’s picture books (Sky Pony titles). She splits her time between London and Whitstable—a seaside town in Kent, England.
• ZOMBIE CAT: THE TALE OF A DECOMPOSING KITTY with illustrator Bethany Straker (Skyhorse Publishing, Fall 2012).
• THE BAD EASTER BUNNY with illustrator Stephanie Rohr (Sky Pony Press, Feb. 2013).
• SMELLY GHOST with illustrator Bethany Straker (Sky Pony Press, Fall 2013).
• SPRINGY CHICKEN with illustrator Bethany Straker (Sky Pony Press, Spring. 2014).
• RUBY MOO’S DEEP SEA ADVENTURE with illustrator Bethany Straker (Sky Pony Press, Summer 2014).
BETHANY STRAKER is an illustrator and designer working in Kent and London. She is currently working on 6 picture books for Skyhorse publishing and currently has a book out written by Isabel Atherton, called ‘Zombie Cat: The Tale of a Decomposing Kitty’. Her new books include a book she wrote called ‘The Funny Bunny Fly’, ‘A Curious Robot on Mars!’ written by James Duffett-Smith and ‘Smelly Ghost’ by Isabel Atherton. Previously, Bethany has illustrated for magazines for Disney, CMP Information, Bliss magazine, the National Magazine Company and GoGo’s Crazy Bones. You can see some examples of her work on her website, www.bethanystraker.com