Author and Illustrator David McKee

Elmer the Elephant Author and Illustrator David McKee #elmertheelephant

World Book Day is fast approaching on 05 March and soon children across the world will be getting dressing up and get into character to celebrate.

We’ve been lucky enough to get some time with the wonderful David McKee, author and illustrator of the celebrated Elmer the Elephant books and one of this year’s official World Book Day £1 authors.

Author and Illustrator David McKee

Elmer the Elephant Author and Illustrator David McKee #elmertheelephant

We know you as the talented author and illustrator behind Elmer the Elephant – what first sparked the idea?

It was two things really. At the time I was doing lots of cartoons for magazines and newspapers. And I liked drawing elephants.

And my paintings at the time were quite influenced by Paul Klee’s squared block colour paintings, so one day I squared off an elephant.

I always say to children: just read. Read as much as you can. It’s the best thing for helping your own writing.

The image came first, then the name, then the story. I chose the name because of the ‘El’ sound for elephant.

What creative process do you go through when coming up with a new story? Do the words come first, or the pictures?

With a new Elmer story it’s now the story first. With the first Elmer book it was the picture.

It usually develops from an idea over a period of time. But sometimes they come in a flash. That’s the best way. And with Elmer it’s a bit like visiting an old friend and seeing what he’s up to now.

What do you like about writing for kids as opposed to adults?

I just write. I’ve often said that I like to work for the adult the child will be and the child that the adult still is. Picture books always have a double audience. They are the one type of book that is shared.

I like to work for the adult the child will be and the child that the adult still is.

What or who inspires you?

Everything really. Life itself inspires me.

I always say to children: just read. Read as much as you can. It’s the best thing for helping your own writing.

We know you love to write and illustrate but do you have any other crafting passions?

I spend a lot of time painting in oils, gouache, acrylics, watercolours – anything really. And I draw in sketchbooks. It’s my way of life, not my job.

What would be your top pieces of advice for people thinking about writing their own children’s book?

Look at what’s around. Look at the books already exist. And just do it for your own pleasure. Don’t do it with the idea of making money. If you have a story you want to tell you should just do it. And enjoy it – to create children’s books is a privilege.

What are you working on now?

Elmer the Elephant Author and Illustrator David McKee #elmertheelephant

I’ve always got more than one book on the table. And the next Elmer is always part of what I’m working on. But I’ve got a couple of other books on the go as well.

More about World Book Day »

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