I have two favourite childhood books. One is the first book I ever bought for myself. It was ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’ by Dr Seuss and I bought it from a school jumble sale when I was about 5. I was amazed and riveted – it was like opening a door into a bizarre barmy universe with different creatures on every page. Later I loved ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’ by Tove Janssen – a tale of a magical transforming hobgoblin’s hat and a summer unfolding in Moominvalley.
My favourite of my own books to read aloud to an audience are The Last Wolf, The Bad Bunnies’ Magic Show, and Jim. The Bad Bunnies and Jim are both comically disastrous and people get sawn in half, knives get thrown, and people get eaten. Audiences seem to like that sort of thing happening. But The Last Wolf is the first book I’ve made that features the natural world and wild animals, so I have a soft spot for that one at the moment.
We humans use stories all the time to make sense of the world, to understand the past and plan the future – we are the story-telling animal, and it comes from having wildly powerful imaginations. Imagination makes us the most dangerous animal on the planet and the most amazing. And books are a fantastic way of delivering one person’s idea straight into somebody else’s head. We read because inside every book is a world somebody invented to be unlocked and explored. Books are great empathy developers – the best way to find out what it feels like to be someone else is in a book. In the words of the marvellous Chris Riddell: “Books are like doors. You can open them and step into another place…or time…or world.”