I adore getting books in for review, mainly because I’m such a huge believer in getting children to read and teaching them to love reading. It is one of the best things in the world. So I was quite pleased to receive copies of the book My Unusual Friends by Sally Hunter.
The book was happily dispatched to two other mums for reviewing and we also managed to nab the author to get a few words from her on the creation of the series.
To start with, the book is a tale about two adorable twins that discover a wonderful, magical world beneath their bed. It’s enchanting and beautifully illustrated with just the right amount of imagination and humour to make the constant re-reads worthwhile. It is, however, quite floral in its colouring and so may not quite be for the boys.
“My son liked the story but didn’t fall in love with the book," said Jo, "I don’t think this has anything to do with the story, though, because my daughter insists on reading it every night. I think it’s about the pastels.”
Yes, the book is very pastel so perhaps would be more suited to a little girl, but the adventure is definitely for all sexes. My daughter thoroughly enjoys the series. In fact, when I had to post the samples off to some other mums she was most upset that I was reducing her copies down to one. Needless to say, it meant that I had todo at least four reads to pacify her.
"Both of my kids enjoy the book," said Anya, "My son likes the idea of climbing under the bed and weird creatures while my daughter has a thing for the rainbow waterfall."
This is an enchanting book and the fact that you can build an entire nursery theme around it is also quite a bonus.
It retails for exactly £5 from Marks & Spencer along with all the characters and bedding.
And She Says...
On to our interview! Sally Hunter is a very successful author and illustrator, you’ll probably recognise the name from the Humphrey’s Corner range at Mothercare. We asked her all about her life and what inspires her.
PP: Do you have children?
SH: Yes, two sons and one daughter, in fact I based the three main characters, featured in Humphrey’s Corner, on my own children when they were much younger.
Lottie, Humphrey’s big sister was based on my daughter Georgie, when she was 5, headstrong and bossy in a nutshell! But also sweet, affectionate and my beautiful blue eyed, blonde curly-headed little girl. Humphrey is based on Ralph at 3, he was extra loving, soft tempered and gentle. Very Humphrey like!
He got more rebellious through the years but I had a good 6 years of bliss first! He is now a young budding fashion designer with bright green hair. Baby Jack is based on my youngest son Kim, who was just the loveliest, happiest, smiling and funny little one year old ever
PP: What was the inspiration behind your stories?
SH: Mixed with my own childhood memories, my children’s personalities, their toys, bedrooms and their different antics are the inspiration for my stories and the brand in general.
PP: How long did it take you to create these stories?
SH: My stories are ongoing and each one takes a varying amount of time. It is 12 years now since I created Humphrey's Corner. It started as an idea I’d had for a while and I used to experiment with sketches. It was a difficult time, two children and a new baby, a mountain of debt and no money.
But it gave me the incentive I needed to create Humphrey and the perseverance to keep making the journeys back and forth to publishers. Initially I developed a range of images for greeting cards. The range was successfully launched at the NEC Spring Fair, greeting card and gift exhibition. One of the people interested in Humphrey's Corner was a man who owned several greeting card shops.
He took some of the samples back home to show his wife, who happened to be the Head of Children's Books at Penguin Publishers. I explained I had already written and illustrated a book, which arrived on her desk the next day... I am pleased to say they loved it and it went pretty much straight off to print!
PP: What inspired you to self publish?
SH: Penguin published the first story-books but recently I have collaborated with Igloo who have published a new range of story, educational, activity and pop-up books which are bright and cheerful in design. Research shows that pre-school children are more receptive to primary colours and respond well when these are presented in educational books. This is a slight move away from the original pastel shades in the classic Humphrey story-books but the designs and characters are still the same.