We were so excited to be able to ask the wonderful Britta Teckentrup a few questions about her latest book, When I see Red. A book that deals with the emotion of anger. Read on for her amazing answers!
When I See Red is a powerful account of a young girl and the storm inside her. Where did the idea and inspiration for this story come from?
I wrote the first draft of the poem a few years ago and I can’t quite remember what exactly triggered it. It might have been a personal feeling or a reflection on the mood of the times like the #metoo, #blacklivesmatter and #fridaysforfuture movement – most probably it was a combination of everything.
The poem has been lying around in my drawer for quite some time but I always came back to it and rewrote parts as I began to understand the feelings of rage, fury and anger a little better.
For some reason it feels quite timely to publish it now.
The use of imagery and vocabulary is wonderful and will inspire children to go beyond the use of ‘angry’ when communicating their emotions- was this an essential aim of your book?
Yes, feelings of anger and rage can be so difficult to articulate and I thought that a very visual language paired with powerful images can help children to express themselves.
I hope that the book can be an affirmation and an opening to talk about strong feelings of anger and rage and help to make sense of them.
Has there been a book you have worked on that really challenged you?
Actually, this book has been quite challenging…
There are so many aspects and layers to feelings of anger/rage/fury and it can be approached from so many different angles, that it was quite hard to put it all in a picture book and focus on one aspect.
Rage is often seen as a primitive and negative emotion – it is a warning signal when somebody is crossing our borders or an injustice is done to us.
But whilst sadness makes us powerless, anger can empower us.
Anger can be the powerful force that helps the little girl in my book to move forward – it acts as a catalyst for change if used in the right way – a force for good, a vehicle for changing from within.
(It was important to me to have a girl as the main character as they are quite often discouraged from showing anger.)
Do you have a favourite book that you have created?
Answering that question feels a little bit like picking a favourite child 😉
So, I guess that my answer is ‘no’ – all the books have their own personality and I wouldn’t want to choose.
Having said that, I did write ‘The Memory Tree’ for my late grandmother and it holds a very special place in my heart.
What made you want to create books for children?
Maybe it is the way children look at pictures? I am fascinated by their direct approach to visual language. Most of my books are picture books and I find the combination of words and pictures very inspiring and exciting.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration all around me and it comes from all different sources and places.
It can be a sentence I overhear on the streets, the change of the seasons, a feeling I have that I need to explore further, an object that I find fascinating, an injustice that I can’t get out of my head, nature etc.
Do you carry notebooks or sketchbooks with you for when inspiration hits?
I don’t carry a sketchbook but use my mobile phone as a digital notebook.
Whenever I have an idea for a story, overhear something or have a sentence in my head that I need to write down immediately I use either my phone or any paper that is lying around.
When I See Red by Britta Teckentrup is published by Prestel and is available now!