Kate Pankhurst

What books did you read when you were a child?
I used to spend hours looking through books with really intricate, busy illustrations. Richard Scarry and Raymond Briggs titles, and of course, Where’s Wally?
If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
Perhaps George from The Famous Five, as a child I really liked George’s fearlessness and how outspoken she was. (She was by far the best detective in The Famous Five.)
What is the best thing about reading?
Being able to visit places you’d never normally get to go and be with the characters in the book, sharing the emotion of their experience.
What is your all-time favourite book?
I’d have to say my fondest childhood memories are of making my dad read Fungus the Bogey Man by Raymond Briggs, over and over. I loved all the made up facts about Bogey men, what they wore, how they smelled and even what a bogey children’s bedroom looked like. It was a slime filled, slightly unnerving imaginary world that seemed very real.
Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
I’ve really enjoyed following Chris Riddell’s time as children’s laureate. His pledge to spread the word about the importance of visual literacy in children’s learning really rings true with what I’ve seen in my direct work with children and young people in school settings. For both children and adults drawing van be great way of exploring the world around us. It absolutely doesn’t have to be a finished master piece and can be a stickman or small doodle, even a scribbly sketch can be a way into talking about complex subjects and emotions that are hard to articulate in words alone, especially for young children. I know lots of adults have hang ups about their own drawing skills but drawing with your children, or discussing their drawings can be a great way to develop language and communication skills. Despite what many people think, anyone can draw. There doesn’t have to be a right or wrong way, it’s just about unlocking ideas and getting them on paper.
How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A massive part. I’d say the reason I write books as well as illustrate is because I’ve read so many books and as mentioned above I think I have my dad to thank for growing my love of reading with all those childhood library sessions, and the long drives to my grandparent’s house where my dad would retell classic tales like Moby Dick. Also, in terms of following writing and illustrating as a career, my parents always made me feel like this was something I could do if I tried hard enough and never suggested I should follow a slightly more reliable and stable career choice.
How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I’ve actually just had a baby (nine weeks ago at the time of writing this) and I literally cannot wait to share books with him. We have started reading some picture books together, a friend bought us Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen. I love the musical quality to his books, reading them makes me feel like I need to sing the words, even though I really cannot sing. I think at this very early stage singing in silly voices might be more for my sleep deprived benefit than Otto's!
I’m looking forward to introducing him to some of my the illustrated books I’ve collected over the years. Lots of the picture books on my shelf are there because I found the stories and illustrations beautiful – it will be fun to see which ones Otto responds to and I’m looking forward to discovering lots of new authors and illustrators with him. (As if I needed another excuse to spend more money on books!)

Kate Pankhurst illustrates and writes from her studio in Leeds with her spotty dog, Olive. She loves a good story and gets her best ideas by doodling in her sketchbook; because even quick wonky drawings can spark ideas for amazing plots. As a child Kate spent most of her time drawing silly characters and thinking up funny things for them to do, she feels very lucky that this is now her job! Her book Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World is out now.

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