Lauren Child wafted into the world of children’s books last year like the proverbial breath of fresh air. Her debut as writer/illustrator, Clarice Bean, That’s Me, published by Orchard Books, was universally hailed as a little gem of observation and originality. Within months of its publication it was a prize-winner in the Smarties Book Awards.
Clarice Bean is a bright six-year-old in search of some respite from her oppressively large family, especially her younger brother with whom she is made to share a bedroom (“If he puts one toe over my side he is sorry”).
The text is full of one-liners worthy of Jo Brand and the illustrations are just as witty, with bold swathes of colour providing a striking backdrop to Child’s scratchy line drawings and sudden bursts of collage.
The deceptively spontaneous style of her line drawing owes a clear debt to Blake, which she is the first to acknowledge. “As a child I loved his black and white drawings because he was so clever at portraying feelings in them.”
Since Clarice Bean, she has published the equally witty I Will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato, also published by Orchard, about a small boy’s ingenious attempt to make his even smaller sister get over her resistance to certain foods. Again it has been received with reviews to die for in the literary press.
In the three years prior to writing Clarice Bean, Child was assistant to artist Damien Hirst at his Bermondsey studio. Her job was mixing colours and filling in circles for the artist’s spot paintings, which now adorn banks and museums in the US and Japan.
She has also worked as a window dresser at Harvey Nichols, and as a lampshade maker to the rich and famous (well, Ewan McGregor bought one). Her true vocation only emerged when she sought advice from a fashion designer friend about marketing children’s products. Create your own characters, said the friend, then nobody can nick your ideas.
Another Clarice Bean story is on the way, plus further adventures of Charlie and Lola, the siblings in the Tomato book. There is also talk of Clarice Bean being animated for TV, with the merchandise fest to follow.