Published 8 months ago
One of the featured books in our Bookroo board book box this month is No!. This fun story about the triumphs and setbacks children experience as they learn to talk was shortlisted for the Nottingham Children’s Book Award. It is written by Tracey Corderoy with illustrations by Tim Warnes. We had the opportunity to catch up with Tracey for an interview, and we’re excited to share it with you!
Tracey is originally from South Wales. She worked as a teacher until her first daughter was born, when she left teaching to spend time being a “mum.” She later returned to working at a school, where she delivered a specialist literacy program and helped students who had been out of school long-term with illness reintegrate into the school system. This experience sparked her own interest in writing. Today, she lives in what she calls an ancient cottage in a “hidden valley surrounded by sheep, wild deer and cows with big fluffy ears!”
We hope you enjoy the interview and the chance to learn more about Tracey and her work! You can also see more of her work on her website . (The interview has been edited for clarity.)
Bookroo: What did you enjoy most about writing No!?
Tracey: Writing the story brought back fond memories of when I used to teach young children, and when my own daughters were little. “No!” was definitely a word, I remember, that became a firm favourite for them to use for a while. Testing the boundaries and expressing our own preferences is a phase we all go through. It’s also one that I believe is necessary – if albeit a tiny bit ‘exasperating’ for parents and teachers constantly hearing the “No!” word when that phase ultimately begins!
Bookroo: What has been a challenge you’ve faced becoming a published children’s book author?
Tracey: There have been many challenges. Becoming a published author is a really hard thing to do. I wrote many, many stories for a number of years before a publisher (Little Tiger Press) decided to take a chance on one of them. I absolutely loved the process though. Stories not only take others out of the here and now, but when I’m writing them I’m also on the wonderful adventures with my characters too, so it’s never dull or boring in my head! But you do need to write with love and energy, and be tenacious too. Then, when you are published, the next story has to be just as good – even better in fact – and that’s a challenge in itself. But it’s also a huge privilege and an honour to see so many children, parents and teachers loving my characters and stories.
Bookroo: The setting of your “ancient cottage” sounds picturesque. How does life in your hidden valley influence your work?
Tracey: It’s calm and peaceful so a good place to think. I watch the seasons change. I see animals and their lives. Sometimes they have happy endings, and sometimes they don’t. That’s the sometimes harsh reality of nature. Watching, and allowing the silence in, clears away the day to day distractions constantly demanding my attention, and this paves the way for creative ideas lurking in the depths of my mind to quietly come to the fore. It can be quite solitary here too though so I balance this with visiting many schools and festivals. The best stories come out of balance and close observation I think.
Bookroo: What other interests or hobbies do you enjoy?
Tracey: As well as reading (obviously!), I love interior design. I wouldn’t be great at designing other people’s homes, though, as I’d fill them with the things I’d like (ha ha!). But I do like finding little things to display in the cottage that make me feel happy. These can be things I find out on walks; pebbles, feathers, acorns etc, as well as lovely cards and pictures I discover in shops, (I really like Pre Raphaelite art). I also enjoy doing craft activities, especially sewing, and watching tennis and rugby on the television. So I have an eclectic bunch of interests as you can see! And of course I love seeing friends, and spending as much time with my family as I can.
Bookroo: What does an average day look like for you?
Tracey: I spend most of it writing at my desk, drinking tea while I work, or walking the dogs (I have two – Dylan, an old Golden Retriever, and Brodie a young and very bouncy Miniature Labradoodle). When I’m not writing, then I’m usually out in schools and festivals across the country performing my stories, which is great. I have many props I take along with me and I make a story sack for nearly all of my new stories, which I fill with things to enhance the performance of the book. The children love all the props – and so do I!
Bookroo: What are you currently reading?
Tracey: I am about to start reading ‘A Pinch of Magic’ written by Michelle Harrison and published by Simon and Schuster. I’m really looking forward to it!
Bookroo: Do you have a favorite children’s book?
Tracey: Well, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I think J.K Rowling did a really (excuse the pun) ‘magical’ thing for children’s literature. My girls grew up with the characters and we loved to dip into the world together. It felt like the characters were old friends, and visiting the world became like an old comfort blanket. For me, an author that can achieve this is truly one of the greats.
Bookroo: What advice do you have for parents and others who are trying to raise readers?
Tracey: Just read to them/with them as much as you can, and let them see you reading your own books too as it’ll send a great message out that you love books as well. Make reading fun and something they love to do with you, carefully choosing books together. Setting aside plenty of time to read makes it relaxed and special; something that you both look forward to and enjoy. I taught my own children to read before they started school by talking to them constantly (as language is the starting point), and reading to them as soon as they were born (with my first daughter it was something I felt I could do well while I learned how to do all the practical stuff like bathing her, changing her nappies etc – which I wasn’t so clued up on!). We used to take photos wherever we went and I then used these to make scrapbooks of ‘Our Special Stories’ , with simple sentences underneath. I sometimes replicated these sentences on card and cut up the words, which my daughters used to keep in their own special tin, and then they used to play matching the words to the sentences beneath the photos. The fact that the stories were meaningful to them was really important. We loved to talk about all the happy memories, and we still have all the books that we made.
Bookroo: We’re a community of book lovers. Do you have any recent or upcoming books you can tell us about?
Tracey: I have new picture book coming out in April with Little Tiger Press called ‘The One-Stop Story Shop’ (it’s about a knight who can’t have his usual dragon for his story so he has to make do with a ferret from The One-Stop Story Shop instead. The knight thinks it’s going to be disastrous - but stories, he learns, can have more than one plot and one ending, and the unexpected story journeys that you can go on if you allow yourself to take that brave creative leap into the unknown are, in actual fact, sometimes the best!).
I also have a new Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam young fiction book being published in March called ‘The Aliens are Coming!’ These books are about two reformed robber dogs who now solve mysteries and catch baddies. The first reader books in the series (there are four picture books too) bridge the gap between picture books and fiction, and are really fun stories (3 in a book) that help children become independent readers too.
Finally, I have new Seaview Stables (ages 8+) adventure out in March called ‘The Mystery at Stormy Point’. The first book in the series was published last summer and is called ‘The Pony with no Name’. This series is one for animal lovers and those who like a good mystery/adventure thrown in for good measure.
Anyway, I hope you’ll like them all, and thanks very much for your support!
All images courtesy of Tracey Corderoy
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