NiddFest is delighted to welcome prize-winning children’s author and illustrator Helen Stephens. Her hugely popular ‘How to Hide a Lion’ has been followed by further lion stories. She has illustrated books for other authors including Michael Morpurgo.
At NiddFest Helen will read aloud from her new book ‘How to Hide a Lion at School’, show the children how to draw their very own lion and invite children from the audience to become a part of the stories.
Helen will be at the Memorial Hall, Pateley Bridge, 2.30pm Saturday 6 August. Tickets £5 adult, £3 child. Tickets on the door or HERE.
Here is Helen’s Q and A:
1. What is your earliest memory of the natural world?
Getting up early, while the dew was on the grass, and picking mushrooms with Dad. We’d eat them before school.
2. Did you always want to be a writer?
I always wanted to be an artist and draw stories. When I was 4 I declared to my rather startled parents that I was going to go to art school.
3. Who were the authors or people who inspired you to start writing?
I had a wonderful teacher, Miss Kent. She saw that I had a talent and gave me extra time to draw and make things in class. She would take us to her ramshackle, stone built house in Teesdale where we would eat picnics, paddle and build dams in the beck. Sadly teachers don’t have this kind of freedom anymore, it seems that nothing is more important than passing tests, it makes me so angry.
4. Do you have a favourite place or landscape?
My favourite place is a little cove near where I live on the border of Scotland and England. In the summer the shallow harbour warms up enough to swim among the little fishing boats. Sometimes a freezing cold current from the cold north sea comes through the mouth of harbour and we scream and struggle back to the warmer shallows, heaven!
5. How do you feel about the state of the natural world today?
When I hear about the big picture I feel frightened. But my immediate surroundings in Northumberland feel healthy and thriving. I walk on the beach with my dog Peggy every day, and sometimes, for as far as the eye can see I am the only human on the beach. I get such a kick out of that.
6. Do you have a motto?
No. I get mottos and jokes all wrong. Mix my metaphors and punchlines, awful.
7. What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on my dream job: illustrating a book of fairy tales. And after that, another treat! Writing a fourth book for the growing How to Hide a Lion series, it will be called How to Hide a Lion at Christmas.
8. What are your three ‘desert island’ reads and why
Owl at Home written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel
This is the first book I ever read to myself: sad, quirky, funny stories. It became almost mythical in my mind because I didn’t know the title or author, and couldn’t find it as an adult. I only discovered it again recently when I saw the cover image on Instagram. Reading it again, I was delighted to find that it entirely lived up to my expectations. I wanted to write to Arnold Lobel and tell him what a big influence he’d been on me, but sadly he died before I rediscovered him.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
I only discovered Murakami recently. What I love is that his stories can be interpreted in so many different ways, I could read this book again and again on my desert island and always find something new. There are images I will never forget. It’s one of those books I try to imagine illustrating, but I would never be able to pin down the magic of his words, and I shouldn’t try.
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
This is one of Tove’s adult novels, and like all of Tove’s writing it is joyful, melancholy, wise, funny, and never sentimental… In fact I’d like to take Moominland Midwinter and Comet in Moominland too (with the original covers). Can I do that? Maybe a box-set of Tove?