‘They’re such a great model for how child heroes can create their own amazing story-world…I definitely draw on that when I’m writing Squishy.’
‘The love and wit that fills her stories hits you right in the chest. I’m glad I found these.’
Ailsa Wild and Ben Wood are the very talented creators of the Squishy Taylor series (read our review of the series here).
Wild is a circus and theatre performer as well as an author, and runs workshops on writing and illustration for kids. Wood has illustrated a dozen books and, when not working in his studio, visits schools to teach students about the world of publishing, character design, and the joys of creating stories.
We asked them to tell us about some of their favourite children’s books and the creators who inspire them (click on the titles or cover images below for more information about each book):
BRK: Please tell us about a children’s author whose work particularly inspires you.
Ailsa Wild: I love Sally Rippin, she’s dealing with important issues like sexism, honesty and loyalty, but with such a light touch and in such accessible language. I think she’s done a fabulous job. Her novel Angel Creek is set down by the Merri Creek near where I live, it’s a lovely, magical slightly dark story which deals with belonging and responsibility for the environment in her classic, delicate way.
Ben Wood: Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll books are incredible. I love fantasy, but strangely only discovered these a couple of years ago. The love and wit that fills her stories hits you right in the chest. I’m glad I found these as an adult.
BRK: What are some of your favourite book series for kids?
Ailsa Wild: For a younger audience, Annie Barrows’ Ivy and Bean books are fabulous. I gave one to my niece and then my sister had to go out and buy the rest. The Henrietta series by Martine Murray are a gorgeous, rollicking, whimsical, literary ride.
Ben Wood: Judith Rossell’s Withering By Sea is superb. She’s created a world that is rich with detail, fantasy and mystery. I’m addicted and ready for the sequel please!
I also recently read The Last Kids on Earth, by Max Brallier, and illustrated by Melbourne’s Douglas Holgate. It’s about some school kids who’ve survived a monster apocalypse. They battle zombies and monsters all over town. It is really funny! Doug has filled the novel with illustrations that compliment and push the story further. Easy to read, and fun!
BRK: What about some individual (standalone) novels or picture books for kids?
Ailsa Wild: John Klassen’s This is Not My Hat is utterly brilliant, slightly creepy and a lesson in understanding that you can believe one thing, while it’s very obvious to everyone else that the opposite is true.
I just bought Imagine a City by Elise Hurst, which has illustrations I could spend hours over.
Ben Wood: Mr Huff by Anna Walker, because everyone has a huff visit at some point.
Noni the Pony, by Alison Lester, because Noni is the best!
The Big Adventure of a Little Line, by Serge Bloch, which will resonate with any creative person!
Go to Sleep, Jessie, by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood – Freya creates silence through her use of space.
BRK: And finally, what books particularly influenced you as a child?
Ailsa Wild: I read the Narnia books and the Dark is Rising series over and over again as a child. I loved the magical adventures and how important the child heroes were in the story. I think that recognising the links to ancient myths and legends woven through these stories was a really important part of my literary growing-up.
The other series I read on repeat was Swallows and Amazons. I just loved them. They’re such a great model for how child heroes can create their own amazing story-world, right bang in the middle of a real world. I definitely draw on that when I’m writing Squishy.
Ben Wood: As a kid, I loved There’s a Sea in my Bedroom by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Jane Tanner, My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch by Graeme Base and Adrift by Alan Baillie. [Adrift isn’t currently available in bookstores, but you could check your local library.]
You might also be interested in our interview with Judith Rossell, author of Withering by Sea.
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