A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Kate Louise: Hi Isabel! First can you tell us a little bit about the books and their series?
Isabel Thomas: Hi there Kate! Hansel and Gretel and Emma Peror are part of a series of deliciously twisted fairy tales from Curious Fox.
I imagined what the original fairy tale characters would get up to if they were six years old and living in 2015. Hansel and Gretel are on the hunt for sweet treats, of course, and the vain old Emperor becomes Emma Peror, ballet class terror!
The key themes of the original tales are there, with new settings and conflicts that children will relate to. And a trail of chocolate drops!
KL: You’ve written dozens of books, mainly non-fiction. What did you enjoy the most about the genre jump to fairy-tale themed picture books?
IT: Fairy tales were perfect for me because readers expect them to have plenty of bite. As with my non-fiction writing, I’m drawn to the details that make children chuckle or say YUCK, or both! It was great fun creating characters who could get up to mischief on my behalf.
KL: Both books take well-known stories and twist them into something new. What was the research process like?
IT: It was fascinating to read translations of the fairy tales as they were first written by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. I was raised on Vera Southgate’s retellings, so I’d almost come to think of those as the originals! There were lots of surprises. I had no idea that Hansel and Gretel returned home by duck, or that the story ends:
My tale is done, there runs a mouse, whosoever
catches it, may make himself a big fur cap out of it.
Well I felt a bit sorry for that mouse, so look out for his triumphant cousin popping up in Hansel and Gretel and the Dastardly Dinner Lady!
My other significant research was accidental. Some months before, I’d was quizzing a group of children on what they liked best about school. When I started imagining what modern-day Hansel and Gretel would be like, one of their quotes popped in to my head: ‘school dinners are disgusting but the puddings are brilliant!’.
The inspiration for Emma Peror goes much further back, to a ballet class I took when I was around six years old. Ballet bullies made life miserable for my best friend, and I don’t think we made it past second position. If only we’d had Trixie Tailor to exact revenge!
KL: What did you enjoy most about collaborating with illustrators Mónica Carretero and Erica-Jane Waters?
IT: It was such a funny feeling waiting to see what figments of my imagination looked like ‘in real life’! I was so thrilled with the results. Erica Jane Waters has a brilliant talent for capturing facial expressions, which helps readers understand what the characters are really thinking when they are playing tricks or playing along.
Monica Carretero’s illustrations are practically edible = perfect for Hansel and Gretel! She’s created a wonderfully wicked witch in a flowery apron and slippers – no mean feat!
KL: What’s next for you?
IT: I’m in non-fiction mode at the moment, finishing off a new hands-on science series, before starting work on four new fiction titles. I’m also looking forward to National Non-Fiction November, when book groups will be running an event I wrote for Lonely Planet Kids.
In the meantime, I’ll be having lots of fun launching Fairy Tales Today at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on 11 October. If you have a sweet tooth, join me to build a modern-day gingerbread house!
KL: And to wrap up, can we end with a quote from one (or both!) of the books?
IT: With a nod and a wink to the Brothers Grimm: Nibble nibble, little mice, STOP RIGHT THERE! I won’t ask twice…
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Isabel writes non-fiction for children and teenagers, published by DK, Pearson, Collins, Raintree, Wayland and Bloomsbury. She loves introducing young readers to awe-inspiring science. Before becoming a full-time writer, Isabel studied natural sciences and worked in journalism and children’s publishing. She is also zookeeper to three young sons.
Isabel Thomas has written more than 100 non-fiction books for children and teenagers. Click here to explore.
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Kate Louise is picture book author of THE UPSIDE-DOWN FISH, PIERRE THE FRENCH BULLDOG RECYCLES, and TOUGH COOKIE. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She graduated from university with a first class degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate rediscovered her love of reading, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. And she writes YA as Kate Ormand. Kate is represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd.