Interview with Alex Latimer, PIP & EGG
Pip is a seed from a glorious tree, and Egg is a bird's egg from a nearby nest. When Pip and Egg first meet, they are almost the same size and shape, like two peas in a pod. But as their friendship grows, so do they—for Pip this means growing roots, but for Egg?
Pick by Alice Hemming, The Leaf Thief:
PIP & EGG
Written by Alex Latimer and illustrated by David Litchfield
Publisher: Scholastic (May 6, 2021)
What inspired you to write Pip & Egg? AL: "There were two parallel thoughts that inspired it - the one being an appreciation for the true friends we meet in life. The kind of friend who, when you haven’t seen them for years - that moment you’re back together, it’s as though no time has passed at all. The other thought was a general fascination with life and animals and plants. I got to thinking about how similar all animals are, really - vertebrates especially, as we share names for all of our bones. But other animals too - we breathe and we sense and we move. And that got me wondering about how similar we are to plants - plants also breathe and sense, but they don’t move. I love this idea of celebrating the similarities AND the differences between us."
Are there other picture books you love for how they explore friendship? "A Friend for Little Bear by Harry Horse is a really beautiful book. Beautifully illustrated, but I love the story, too. It’s a very simple book about a bear who lives on a deserted island and is searching for a cup - all he wants is a cup to pour with. Then items begin to wash ashore on his island, including a friendly wooden horse and Little Bear must decide what is really important to him."
What do you think the best picture books do? "My view on this is changing all the time - but I remember with my first two picture books (The Boy Who Cried Ninja and Lion vs Rabbit) - that some people were concerned that the message was slightly ambiguous. But for me, that was the point. I don’t want a book to tell me what to do. I think good picture books are firstly fun and compelling and engaging - but I love a book that raises a topic and then doesn’t necessarily close the loop. Is lying always bad? Is cheating always bad? These are things for parents and children to discuss. So the best books, for me, create that human connection."
What was your favorite picture book as a child? "The one I remember best is The Wild Baby by Barbro Lindgren and Eva Eriksson. It’s about a baby who is really out of control - but the thread that ties the book together is the mother. She is exhausted and frustrated by the baby, but she is completely loving. As a child those two things really stood out. It’s still one of my favourite covers - the absolute love and devotion of the mother in the centre as she hugs her wriggling baby is perfect."
What contemporary picture books do you think will be the new classics of the future? "David Litchfield - illustrator of Pip & Egg - has a book called Lights on Cotton Rock. I hope that it will be a classic one day. The pictures are incredible, as always with David’s work, but I really loved the story. When I first read it, I couldn’t think of another book quite like it. It’s sci-fi for little children and it’s heart warming and it also does that thing I mentioned earlier - where it doesn’t quite close the loop. It’s a story that needs to be discussed."
"Before I end I have to mention Book Dash. Book Dash is a non-profit that creates and distributes quality picture books for free here in South Africa. All of their books are open-license and can be translated or used in any way throughout the world. Access to books in South Africa is very limited and so this is such an amazing initiative."