The Power of Picture Books with…Camille Whitcher
Luna was sitting with her Grandma gazing up at the bright shining moon.
“Look up there, Luna,” said Grandma pointing up,
“when the moon is full and the sky is clear, you can see him.”
“See who?” asked Luna
“Why, the Moon Rabbit, of course!” replied Grandma…
Inspired by stories told by her Japanese grandmother, Camille Whitcher’s Luna and the Moon Rabbit takes young readers away to a dreamy world of night-time adventures led by a rabbit whose home is the moon. Whitcher’s illustrations capture the magic and mystery of the space between wake and sleep, when the mind feels free to float and thoughts swirl. Hints of Shaun Tan and Studio Ghibli pepper this striking debut, which won the inaugural Stratford-Salariya Picture Book Prize, a competition held by the Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival and Salariya Book Company to find a picture book by an unpublished author/illustrator. We couldn’t wait to meet this new talent and find out more about her through the book she loved most as a child.
TiaT: We know that your grandmother’s storytelling was important to your childhood — was there a particular picture book that also had a strong impact on you?
CW: I had a Japanese book called Omiya to Kamisama, which translates as “Shrines and Gods“. I’m not religious, but the images in the book stuck in my mind. It was a non-fiction book which described Shinto festivities, as well as some folktales such as the one that tells of how Japan was ‘born’.
TiaT: What was it about this particular book that captured your imagination?
CW: As a child, I was always aware (or made aware by some others) that I wasn’t (fully) English/white. I watched a lot of TV and didn’t really see anyone who was like me. The English books I read at school all had very English looking children in them — perhaps the reason I preferred books like Roger Hargreaves’ Mr.Men and Timbuctoo series. The little girls in Omiya to Kamisama had dark hair and dark eyes. I wasn’t exactly like them either, but I felt closer to them.
TiaT: Can you think back to particular images or lines that really captivated you?
CW: One of the festivities mentioned in the book is ‘Shichi-Go-San’, literally “Seven-Five-Three”, which celebrates girls reaching ages three and seven years and boys reaching age five. There’s a double page illustration of three children standing on the steps of a shrine in full traditional Japanese dress. Just shy of my third birthday, my family visited Japan and I got to go to shrines dressed in my kimono. I remember looking in the book after that and each time my mother reminded me that I was taken to the shrine just like the children in the picture.
TiaT: How did you first get your hands on this book?
CW: I think it was sent over from Japan by my aunt. The aim was probably that I would learn to read Japanese, though to be honest, I spent most of the time just looking at the pictures!
TiaT: Do you think Omiya to Kamisama had any impact on your style as an author/illustrator?
CW: I would say it had more of an impact on me as a person than on my ‘style’ as an author/illustrator. Omiya to Kamisama gave me a bit of a sense of belonging somewhere. It didn’t inspire me to draw any more than I already was. From a very young age, I scribbled away! However, I guess my interest in Japanese folklore could have come from this book, along with other sources.
TiaT: Is there a picture book you have seen recently that really blew you away?
CW: There are so many great books to choose from, but I’m going to go with “Du Iz Tak?” by Carson Ellis. There’s so much going on in the pages, yet at the same time, it’s clean and minimalist. Just gorgeous.
TiaT: What are you working on at the moment?
CW: I’m currently working on a couple of story ideas which aren’t ready or coherent enough to show to anyone. No publisher for anything yet, but one idea is a twisted fairy tale and the other is currently a rather sombre story still in its early stages.
Hopefully, there will be more to come soon, watch this space!
We can’t wait! For more about Camille and her debut picture book, Luna and the Moon Rabbit, here are the details of the other fabulous blogs that participated in her blog tour this week:
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