Friday, 7 August 2015

Summer of Children's Classics - My Favourite Classic Children’s Book - By Mo O’Hara

Throughout August we at Space on the Bookshelf will be posting interviews and features celebrating Children's Classics. So to kick of our Summer of Children's Classic's interviews we have My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish author Mo O'Hara sharing with us her favourite Classic Children's book.

What is my favourite classic children’s book?  Wow. There are so many.  Ones that made me laugh and made me cry. Ones that made me want to read and ones that made me want to write. There is one book though that made me want to read out loud and that is the book I’ve chosen. The Velveteen Rabbit (Or How Toys Become Real) written by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson was the book I most loved to hear read aloud.  The sound of the words was entrancing. It was kind of English, kind of old fashioned, and it captured a world that was very distant to me as  1970s suburban Pennsylvanian kid. The idea of a ‘nursery’ that wasn’t a school room full of kids crying as they’re dropped off by their parents sounded amazing to me.  That was stranger than toys that could talk and feel (which of course was completely normal).  

There were lots of words I wondered about.  I spent a lot of time thinking about what on earth ‘bracken’ could be and  I had no idea what ‘playing brigands’ was either.  The boy’s life was so different to mine.
The voice of the book though, the softness and wisdom and humour of the narration still gets me. 
It was the book that I would read aloud to myself.  I loved the sound of it.  I felt the drama of it as I read on.  I even remember getting an old cassette recorder and taping myself reading sections of the book.  It is a book that just demands to be read out loud (again, and again and again).  At college I had a record of the George Winston and Meryl Streep recording of the book and played it in my dorm. So I guess I never grew out of that.  

(I may have to hunt that out online and download it soon to hear it again.)

It’s a hugely sentimental book but it’s always seemed genuine to me.  I guess I always believed in the nursery magic.  I still  have some of my ‘real’ childhood toys that look down at me from my shelf on my desk as I write and I often think, ‘What do they say when I’m not here? And do they wonder about ‘bracken’ too? ’ 

Originally from America, Mo moved to London because she wanted to live abroad but spoke no foreign languages. After a brief and unsuccessful stint as a serving wench at the Tower of London Mo found work as an actress and comedy performer. It was when she toured the UK as a storyteller that she started writing for kids.   Mo’s debut novel, “My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish” was published by Macmillan in the UK, the USA in 2013.  It’s follow up “My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish the Sea-quel” came out later that year in the UK and in 2014 in the USA. “My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish- Fins of Fury” and “My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish- Any Fin is Possible” both came out in the UK in 2014. ‘Live and Let Swim’ and ‘Jurassic Carp’ are out in 2015.  The series is now published in 12 languages worldwide.  Mo is currently working on two picture books to be published by Macmillan in 2015 and 2016. 

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