Our Festival of Children’s Literature, on November 9 in the Birmingham Conservatoire, will finish with a flourish: For the final session of the day you’ll be able to hear Emma Chichester Clark in conversation with Michael Morpurgo. Together they will discuss their new collaboration, a retelling of Pinocchio.
In the run up to the big day I ask Emma for some background on her illustrations for Pinocchio and here’s what she had to say.
“Michael Morpurgo has written his version of Pinocchio and – I’m sorry to use this word – but it’s a CRACKER! It’s a cracking story that races along at a cracking pace with cracking characters. It is TOP fun and has you teetering on the edge of your seat one moment, while rummaging in your pockets for a hankie the next. It’s also funny and cheeky – as you would expect, told in Pinocchio’s voice, with childlike enthusiasm and innocence.”
“So, having read it, I realised I was going to have to try very, very hard to keep the standards UP. Much would be expected of the illustrator…”
“Despite being slightly nervous, I was, at the same time, desperate to get my hands on the little varmint – Pinocchio, not Michael – AND the blind cat, lame fox, shark… and, and, and… there is so much to draw in it. It is, as visual treats go – the equivalent of the Fortnum & Mason chocolate counter.”
“I began by working out how I thought Pinocchio should look, which didn’t take long as I’d been able to picture him so clearly while I read the 200 or so pages of the manuscript. Cheekiness, combined with innocence and intelligence, while remembering that he was a wooden puppet. If you go to Italy there are Pinocchio puppets everywhere. They are always painted green and red and they’re fun – I have one – but I don’t much like green and red and luckily for me, Michael had described his clothes as being made out of an old bedspread – so it could be anything!
I don’t usually use collage but to start with, I drew him and stuck down four different collaged outfits, just to see. I had intended to paint the actual pattern in an approximate way, but I ended up liking the flatness of the collaged printed pattern, so decided to use it as it was – enlarging and reducing it on a photocopier, depending on how near or far Pinocchio was in the picture.”
“Gradually, collage filtered into the landscapes of all the illustrations – not in a main subject sort of way – more like a garnish.
It made a huge amount of mess all over the house and there were little bits of gluey paper stuck to my clothes, my hair, the dog – but illustrating Pinocchio was the best fun I’ve had for a long time and I hope it shows. I grew very fond of him.”
I can’t wait to hear more about Pinocchio, can you? You can buy tickets to hear Emma in conversation with Michael Morpurgo (£5) here, or in person in Birmingham at The Box (in the brand new Library of Birmingham).