Henley Life October 2018 - page 15

INTERVIEW
Francesca Simon is the bestselling author
of more than 50 children’s books, but most
famously she is the creator of the notorious
Horrid Henry
. Cindy Burrowes spoke to her
ahead of her appearance at the Henley
Literary Festival.
For the past 24 years
Horrid Henry
has been an
ever present character in the lives of Britain’s
children (and further afield).
He is a naughty boy who does horrible
things, mainly to his younger brother Perfect
Peter. He has become part of the fabric of our
growing up, often to the exasperation of
parents willing their offspring to not emulate
Horrid Henry
.
The vile child is the creation of Francesca
Simon, a Californian-born writer with degrees
fromYale and Oxford Universities in medieval
history and literature.
She says that if she had not become a mother
she probably would not have written
children’s books. Her son Joshua was three
when Henry popped into her mind, but she
does say that many of the incidents in the 24
Horrid Henry
books are inspired by
conversations with him as he grew up.
“I would ask things like what could be the
worst Christmas ever or the worst sports day
ever,” she said, “but
Horrid Henry
is one side of
everyone in the world so he is based on
everybody. Everyone is both, we all have both
sides in our character, the desire to be good
and the desire to knock down doors.”
And consequently Perfect Peter is the good
side, but she said she was fascinated by
legends, sagas and rebellions is not
altogether evident in
Horrid Henry
it makes
an appearance in her other books.
For older children she has written
The Lost
Gods
and
Helping Hercules.
She also wrote
The
Monstrous Child
about her take on Hel, the
Norse Goddess of the Underworld.
Francesca returns to the Henley Literary
Festival with a picturebook for very young
readers called
Hack and Whack.
“Hack andWhack are 100 per cent mischief
because they are Vikings, if they were
modern children you would say ‘where are
the parents?’” said Francesca, who also feels
that “Norse is having a moment.”
She is looking forward to an interactive
event with young children, and her
Hack and
Whack
illustrator, Charlotte Cotterill.
“I talk about how I wrote the book and
Charlotte takes them through how to draw
some of the characters.
“It is about the creation of the book,” said
Francesca who loves the interest of working
with someone else for an audience.
She chose Charlotte to illustrate
Hack and Whack
from a wide
selection of illustrators.
“I chose Charlotte, from samples,
and liked her by far the best and
she was very funny and she
could draw children and
animals, which is rare. You
get a much better
book if the artist has a
lot of freedom -- they
won’t do their best
work if the author is
breathing down their
neck,” said Francesca who is
keen to support Charlotte, a
recent graduate, because of
her talent.
Francesca Simon and
Charlotte Cotterill will be introducing
Hack and Whack
to Henley on Monday,
October 1 and subsequently at other
literary events around the country.
Introducing Hack and Whack
by the Horrid Henry author
families with one ‘good’ child
and one ‘bad’ child, and how the
parents treated their children.
“One of the interesting things about a
family is that you don’t choose who you live
with – it’s like a situation comedy,” she said
and she agrees that over the years she has
probably provided a balm for worried
parents who are relieved when their child
does not act out as badly as
Horrid Henry.
“It is also about parents recognising that
their children have violent feelings towards
each other -- the stories provide a very safe
outlet for very uncomfortable feelings,” she
said.
Although her lifelong love of myths,
HENLEY
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