Angela Sharda interviews Ian Brown, on his new book, Albert and his Friends.
Q. Talk us through the story?
A. Albert and his Friends takes tortoise Albert on a journey round his garden home encountering his friends like the ants, worm, spider, butterfly and bee. Each meeting introduces a new animal and a new characteristic of that animal. As our first board book, it makes a lovely introduction to all the other Albert picture books that are aimed at slightly older readers.
Q. How can children relate to Albert’s journey within the book?
A. Readers get to travel with Albert as he wanders the garden. Each meeting highlights something associated with that particular animal. Children can learn the names of animals, what they are known for – and they become familiar with the different animals in a non-threatening way. They learn a little about each animal with Albert.
Q. What age is your book targeted at?
A. The book can be read to babies or makes a first book for beginners.. 0 to 3 years.
Q. Where did the inspiration come from?
A. Five Albert the tortoise picture books have come before Albert and his Friends, aimed at slightly older readers. The idea for creating the book came from meeting teachers, shopkeepers, parents and others who felt board books featuring Albert would work well. Publishers Graffeg felt that as well. The original inspiration for the stories comes from our real family pet tortoise, Albert, who is more than 80 years-old and was found by my wife
more than 50 years ago. One day in the garden about five years ago, real Albert went upside down and as I was gently putting him back on his feet I could see the first story – Albert Upside Down. I had to dash to a piece of paper and start making notes. Then I contacted illustrator Eoin Clarke and we started to work on the opening book. The idea for Albert and his Friends came from seeing children react to the garden animals in our other books.
Q. What challenges did you come across when writing this book and how did you overcome them?
A. It was interesting more than challenging to try to keep things simple but entertaining and engaging. The illustrations by Eoin Clarke as ever draw readers in to the pages and it was fun to introduce each animal and their characteristic.
Q. Why does this book appeal to a younger audience?
A. The illustrations by Eoin Clarke fascinate little ones and joining Albert the tortoise on a tour of his garden home makes a fun story for younger readers who can spot animals and engage with them on each page.
Q. What is in the pipeline for the rest of 2023?
A. More Albert fortunately. Joining the five picture books already out we will be adding this board book Albert and his Friends then a sixth picture book in the autumn Albert and the Shed and then, in time for Christmas, a fun puzzle book featuring Albert and all his chums from his book adventures. Meanwhile, Eoin and I are working on more Albert books to come and more of our Hugg ‘n’ Bugg picture books as well. It is thrilling to bring
all these ideas to life.