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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Camilla Pintonato, DETECTIVE MOLE

Oscar is a whiz in the kitchen, but he’s always dreamed of being a detective. When a squirrel is reported missing, Oscar hopes this will be his big break.

Max's Boat Pick:


By Camilla Pintonato

Publisher: HarperCollins (November 16, 2021)

Can you tell me the origin story behind Detective Mole?

CP: "I wrote Detective Mole at a moment in my life when I found myself having to make a choice between working as a graphic designer or trying to be a full-time author-illustrator.

Before, I used to do both to earn a living, but I wasn’t happy because my dream was to to always work on books. On the other hand, being a graphic designer allowed me to enter a studio and work more serenely. It was a real dilemma.

It was precisely at that moment when Oscar arrived; blindfolded and with his head in the clouds, he’s exactly like me. He is a chef (a very good one) but his dream is to be an investigator. Why? He doesn’t know either, but dreams are always like that.

So there wasn't a precise moment when I thought 'this is going to be a detective story.' The idea came when I wasn't looking for it, and I don't even know exactly how. Maybe it came with a good laugh because a mole is really unfit to do this kind of job!"

Can you tell me how you got started in picture books?

"I fell in love with picture books exactly twelve years ago, when I came back almost by accident to visit an exhibition I remembered I saw once in my childhood and which took place every year in a small town called Sarmede, near the home of my maternal grandparents. The exhibition consisted of a few rooms on the first floor of the town hall and that year the guest of honor was Beatrice Alemagna. I think I stayed there for two and a half hours. When I went out it was dark and I was very clear what I wanted to do in life. I haven’t looked back since."

Who are some other illustrators you admire and what do you think they do especially well? "There are so many. I'll mention just a few that I really love: Oliver Jeffers for his absurd irony, Jon Klassen for his iconic designs, Beatrice Alemagna for her magical atmospheres and Marc Boutavant because nobody makes animals as beautiful as he does!"

What are the contemporary picture books that you hope will become the classics of the future?

"On my dream list:

Little Bird by Germano Zullo and Albertine

What is a Child? by Beatrice Alemagna

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

The Forest by Riccardo Bozzi, Valerio Vidali and Violeta Lopiz"

What do you think the best picture books do? "For me, the best children’s books teach without doing so explicitly, using irony and simplicity.

Chris Haughton is a master of this, and he achieves it in all of his books. But if I have to pick a favorite, it would have to be Little Owl Lost."


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