Interview: Ruth Paul talks about Lion Guards the Cake
Ruth Paul is an award-winning author and illustrator, with titles Stomp!, Bad Dog Flash, Bye-Bye Grumpy Fly, My Dinosaur Dad, My Meerkat Mum and the popular Mini Whinny series among her collection. Her books have been published in NZ, Australia, the UK, the US, Canada, China and Korea. The King’s Bubbles and I Am Jellyfish, have both won best Picture Book at the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards. Ruth lives at Makara, near Wellington where she and her family reside in an environmentally friendly house, with straw-bale walls and watergenerated power.
She talks to NZ Booklovers about her new picture book, Lion Guards the Cake.
What inspired you to write and illustrate this book?
Near where I live there is a house with a stone Lion by the gate. I was writing this during the US elections so I suppose Trump was also in my mind - a larger than life character with not-a-little self interest. I think these two influences combined somewhere in my psyche and gave birth to Lion. What research was involved?
I read many children’s books with Lions and looked at many Lion illustrations. I never want to accidentally repeat a story or style belonging to someone else, so knowing what’s out there helps keep your own offering original.
What was your routine or process when writing and illustrating this book?
Ask my poor long-suffering artist friends! I wrote and re-wrote (and re-wrote) various versions and various endings - the ending was the hardest note to hit. I didn’t want Lion to be all good or all bad, a bit like all of us. But he is ultimately very self serving so I didn’t want to lose that element. I ran various versions of the story past the aforesaid friends and family to see what they thought. At one point I had an ending that made a four-year-old cry! ( I didn’t go with that one.)
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
Without question, Track Suit by the Minor Mishap Marching Band. What did you enjoy the most about creating Lion Guards the Cake?
I like Lion. I shouldn't but I do. He is so blind to his own failings.
What do you hope young readers will take away from reading the book?
I hope they will think about who they should trust. Maybe consider what makes someone worthy of trust. For children, all big people who appear authoritative kind-of have to be trusted, but sometimes that can be questioned. What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
Started another one. You’re only ever as good as your last book. What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
In terms of picture books, I love everything by Oge Mora - Thank You Omu and Saturday. I love her because these are perfectly shaped stories with beautiful artwork that looks effortless, but no doubt isn’t. In terms of adult books, The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste because I learnt so much about Ethiopia and it’s various colonisations, and it is such a powerful amazingly-written story.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’m working on two new picture books, but I’m also planting 20 Ha of native trees this winter so I’m hoping my drawing hand still works at the end of that!