A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Having worked with Rose Mannering before on The Spotty Dotty Daffodil; her beautiful story about individuality, I collaborated with her again on a new angle concerning feeling ‘different’ to those around us. Boo’s Beard tells the story of Tom and his dog Boo, and the difficulties Tom faces when interacting with a new group of children…
What is it that Tom struggles with throughout the book, Rose?
Tom struggles to integrate himself with his peers, preferring the company of his Miniature Schnauzer, Boo. He finds it difficult to read and understand the facial expressions of others. He wants to join in with the games of the children at the park, but he isn’t sure how to.
Does Boo’s help and comfort reflect your own feelings about dogs and their contribution to our lives?
Definitely! Four-legged friends are so beloved by many of us for a reason – they totally transform our lives for the better. They’re companions when we’re lonely and happy to see us even if we’ve only left the room for five seconds.
I know that Boo is based on a family dog of yours, Rose. What made you think of her when basing your story around these issues? Is there something in her nature that you felt made a good character for the book?
There is indeed a real Boo! I have two Miniature Schnauzers, Boo and Delilah. They are two naughty twins who are real characters and always inject a bit of humour into my life. It was the funny expressions their long beards make when they’ve been sleeping or rummaging through bushes that gave me the idea for the story. Their faces are so expressive and can often look silly. That teamed with the way in which dogs and pets can become a refuge for those who are lonely or seeking companionship, was the beginning of the idea for this picture book.
Before having my son, I worked at home and added my dog, Alf, to our home as a companion. He has been such a great friend. I think that there’s an affection that humans have for dogs that makes this book feel universal, despite it concerning people with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Was that your aim?
I really wanted to celebrate the relationship we often have with our pets – particularly dogs. All of us struggle at times with feeling lonely, but our four-legged companions can be relied upon to shower us with love. They are always affectionate and I think many who have had a dog, will recognise the special relationship Tom has with Boo.
I love Boo as a character. Do you think there’s a possibility she might make a return to the page?!
Thank you! Oh, I think she would love to. Delilah would probably like to muscle in there too.
It’s funny how animals can affect us very deeply through fiction. Black Beauty, Watership Down, even animations like Bambi. There’s a melancholy aspect in all of these, as there is in your book.
There is a melancholy note to the book – aided by your beautiful autumnal illustrations! I think to feel lonely is terribly difficult for the individual and not to be taken lightly at all. I wanted to portray Tom’s sadness at feeling distant from those around him, and then his happiness at the end of the book when Boo helps him gain the attention and acceptance of the other children.
Thanks Rose, I hope we work together again soon!
Thank you so much for speaking with me!
Boo’s Beard is out now, published by Sky Pony Press.
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Rose/G. R. Mannering is an international bestselling author and lifelong book lover. Under the name G. R. Mannering, she dreams up dragons, unicorns and curses that last hundreds of years, writing fantasy YA fiction. As Rose Mannering she creates sweet, fun picture books with touching tales and a lot of character. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s posting on her book blog or uploading videos to her book-based Youtube channel. She resides in the UK with twin miniature schnauzers and teetering piles of paperbacks.
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