0

SEARCH


Books
Books

Q&A with Polly Dunbar Author of Hello, Mum

When award-winning illustrator Polly Dunbar had her boys, she started to doodle some of the magical, and not so magical, moments. They’ve now been collated into this book which would make a perfect gift or keepsake for any parent. I was thrilled to ask Polly some questions about Hello, Mum.

AD | I have been or could be if you click on a link in this post compensated via a cash payment, gift or something else of value for writing this post. See our full disclosure policy and privacy policy for more details.

Naomi. I absolutely loved your new book, Hello, Mum. As a mum myself of two boys aged 4 and 6, I can totally relate to it! It perfectly captures the highs and lows of having small children from the all-consuming new-born years to the hilarity, (and occasional tantrums) of toddlers and the fantastic logic of pre-schoolers. I especially loved the way you captured your children’s sense of wonder and the tiny moments of magic that hide amongst daily life with them.

Polly. Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! My two boys are 3 and 6 now, very similar ages.

Naomi. I wondered how long the book took you to draw/write? Did you start when your eldest was a baby as the book suggests?

Polly. As you know, the book is a collection of sketches/cartoons that come straight from my sketchbooks. It spans the time from newborn all the way to the age they are now. There are a few cartoons from the very early days but mostly I was just too dazed according to it all. I started drawing in earnest when my eldest was five and my youngest was two, they were at an age where I could take my eyes of them for a minute to look down at the page and do a quick sketch, before then I found it impossible. So I would say that the book is about a years worth of doodles, I didn’t draw it in chronological order I hopped back and forth to when they were really small to the current day. I’ve sewed all the little strips together and the book makes a narrative exploring our journey of growing up as a family.

Polly. As you know, the book is a collection of sketches/cartoons that come straight from my sketchbooks. It spans the time from newborn all the way to the age they are now. There are a few cartoons from the very early days but mostly I was just too dazed according to it all. I started drawing in earnest when my eldest was five and my youngest was two, they were at an age where I could take my eyes of them for a minute to look down at the page and do a quick sketch, before then I found it impossible. So I would say that the book is about a years worth of doodles, I didn’t draw it in chronological order I hopped back and forth to when they were really small to the current day. I’ve sewed all the little strips together and the book makes a narrative exploring our journey of growing up as a family.

Naomi. The book feels very ‘in the moment’ and I wondered if you found yourself wanting to go and sketch things as soon as they happened? I imagine sketching in this way would have been very therapeutic!

Polly. Yes, most of the drawings are very in the moment, the pictures aren’t drawn from life, they were usually inspired by something that had happened recently or how I was feeling that day. As you know, there are so many magical moments that pass by when you have young children, it’s hard to pause and absorb them. For me it was like life was in extreme close up. I started recording it all so that one day I could stand back and reflect on all the bits I’d missed or forgotten. As you say it’s therapeutic too, I find drawing how I was feeling extremely helpful for channeling and processing. Being a parent isn’t all magical…it can be extremely tough and frustrating and sometimes lonely too. So as well as being funny little ditties, the drawings are extremely honest and sometimes raw.

Naomi. Did you envisage it being a book when you first started sketching it, or was it something that evolved as your children grew?

Polly. No, I didn’t have a clue they would become a book. I was drawing entirely for myself, I spend so much time drawing for my children’s books it seemed mad that I wasn’t drawing all the real life stuff that was happening. I shared one drawing on social media in support of World Mental Health Day and I got such a lovely warm and supportive response I kept on sharing them. It turned out that there are quite a few parents out there who relate to what I’m doing. A couple of people suggested I might make a book, after a while I had more than enough drawings and the book began to take shape in my mind. I was absolutely thrilled when Faber said they would like to publish it. I have been making children’s books for many years so this is something quite different for me, although still a picture book this one is for grown-ups!

Naomi. Like most parents, I’ve been finding it hard to juggle working around home-schooling during lockdown. How have you found working around having small children in general, but especially during the national lockdowns?

Polly. Having children has made it so much harder to find the time to work but also given me renewed love for my job. I’ve always felt lucky to make children’s books but now I feel especially blessed that I have a job that fits in alongside being a mum. Also, being a parent has inspired me, I always knew how important books are to children but now I see firsthand how they work magic with small children. Of course, I got to revisit all my favourite classic books while reading to them every night.

I have found like so many parents, that having children makes you more efficient with work time. I just get on and do it now rather than putting things off until in the right mood. The first Lockdown I was putting together this book, I guess I was lucky in a way that it was a book about my children who were with me all the time. The heightened emotion of it all is in the book too… the highs and lows of parenthood are magnified in the extreme during lockdown. There is no mention of it in the book. This latest lockdown is the hardest, I feel like so many parents that I’m running out of steam to be all things to all people. I’m lucky that I have my drawing as a refuge and an outlet. The children are also drawing a lot, I think it’s catching!

Naomi. Hello Mum has obviously been hugely inspired by your family life, did you show it to your boys and your other half as you went along?

Polly. My boys always show a passing interest in my doodling and sometimes like to add to my pictures (or scribble on them)..which is fine by me, the page then holds even more memories of that moment. My other half sees the images posted on Instagram and always gives them a like! When I recently got the first actual copy of the book I sat and read it to my eldest and to my complete surprise he loved it, chuckled all the way through and empathised with the not so funny bits. I’m so delighted that he liked it. As they grow up they will probably see different layers in it and hopefully it will bring back good memories. It certainly will for me.

Naomi. Finally, Mini Travellers is all about travelling abroad or at home with your family. I wondered what your favourite family holiday has been and if there’s anywhere you’d like to go to next (assuming we can all travel more freely one day soon!)

Polly. I’ve sent a photo of me on a family holiday at Dover Castle (My other half is taking the picture). It was the first fine day of that year and our first holiday as a family of four. I love the picture as I think it captures all the joy of the sunshine and freedom we were experiencing. I am so looking forward to being able to get away again, more so than ever. I haven’t tried taking the boys abroad yet as I haven’t been brave enough with them being so little. My dream is a cottage in the UK somewhere, with a garden, by the sea or a little stream. Something really simple… and of course a bit of sunshine too, please. I think after these months of lockdown mini adventures will be so much appreciated and we’ll never take for granted the life we had.

Naomi. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I loved reading Hello Mum and wish you all the very best with publication!

Polly. Thank you for such thoughtful questions!

Hello, Mum by Polly Dunbar publishes on 4th March 2021, in hardback, £12.99 (Faber)

https://uk.bookshop.org/books/hello-mum/9780571365104?aid=5045

Naomi Jones

A mum of two, Naomi Jones spent eight years working for Children’s Publishers in London and is now a children’s author and freelance editor. Her debut picture book, The Perfect Fit, will publish in March 2021.


You Might Also Like...


No Comments

    Leave a Reply