a&u interview with Lauren Child

Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child talks to Claire Gill about her new illustrated edition of Mary Poppins, London life, creativity and – of course – Christmas.

lauren child back page interview

photo by Polly Borland

Did you read Mary Poppins as a child or just watch the film?

It was the first film I ever saw at the cinema and I will never forget it. We trundled off with my Granny to Southend and I was enchanted. I was told it was a book and went straight to get it out from the library.

When preparing to do the book, did you re-watch the film?

Absolutely, any excuse! Julie Andrews is Mary Poppins to me so my illustration is entirely with her in mind. The book is different from the film because it is a series of episodes rather than a full story. Disney was very faithful to the book – the only part he completely added was the scene at the bank; and giving a sense of resolution to the parents.

You have already illustrated iconic children’s characters. Any others you would like to tackle?

I would like to do A Little Princess or perhaps 101 Dalmations; I have got very into drawing dogs.

Last film you saw?

I was in LA and I walked into a little arthouse cinema in the morning and asked what was showing. It was a documentary called ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbour’, with Fred Rogers. It was really quite life-changing.

fred rogers a&u

What are you enjoying most about the role of Laureate?

It feeds me with ideas all the time, and it is deeply reassuring to know that so many people are so very passionate about keeping creativity and imagining at the heart of children’s lives.

Last children’s book you read?

sarah crossan moonrise cover

Moonrise, a YA by Sarah Crossan.

What is on your bedside table?

Elizabeth Strout, Anything is Possible.

Last exhibition you visited?

Edith Marx, House of Illustration. It’s my favourite gallery.

house of illustration gallery

photo by Paul Grover

Where do you work?

I’m about to move into a new studio, but currently at the kitchen table.

Favourite open space?

Primrose Hill. The best thing about urban settings is when you see so many things framed on the skyline – flats, St Paul’s... It makes me happy to be living in London every time I go there.

Most treasured possession?

A little cut out from the Radio Times of a young Shirley Temple looking really grumpy. It’s about 2x3 inches, in a frame. I love it.

shirley temple lauren child

Guilty pleasure?

I love watching really bad films!

Christmas traditions?

I sort of wish Christmas came around every two years and I would quite like to do it the Scandinavian way where it’s all about the week before. Christmas Eve is the big thing, Christmas Day is for family and then everything is down by Boxing Day.

Where will you be this Christmas?

At home listening to carols from King’s College, roasting ham. My daughter is longing to wake up in her own bed.

Do you like Panto?

No! Sorry, I can’t bear it and can still remember the terror I felt, praying that they wouldn’t pick me from the audience.

Christmas pudding or trifle?

christmas pudding lauren child

Although I don’t like it, a Christmas pudding always finds itself into our Christmas lunch; it’s all about rootling around for the sixpence.

On your Christmas present wish list this year?

A very expensive dress, but considering that we’ve decided to do a £10 max present thing this Christmas, it isn’t going to happen.

How will you see the New Year in?

I wish New Year’s Eve was in September.

Best advice you have ever been given?

You never know what’s around the corner.

If you had a magic carpet you would ask it to take you to...

Sydney, Australia.

mary poppins cover pl travers lauren child

Mary Poppins by PL Travers, illustrated by Lauren Child, £20.00