The power of humour in picture books is explored by author-illustrator, Matt Carr as we meet his latest character, Captain Looroll!
I got into making picture books sort of by accident but I think it was partly a reaction to reading so many children’s books to my kids at bedtime over the years.
My daughters had a habit of choosing the same book over and over again and it always seemed to be the dullest, unfunniest book. They wouldn’t even let me do voices to try and jazz things up, it was always, “NO! Read it in your own voice!” So a children’s book that made both ME and my kids laugh was something truly special. I didn’t mind reading it repeatedly because I always got something out of it. I thought to m myself that’s the sort of book I’d want to write if I ever got the chance. At the time Shrek had come out at the movies and it’s humour catered for both adults and children. We loved it. This was also a great influence on me.
I also think it’s good to read or listen to something funny before you go to sleep to ward off nightmares and worries. As a teenager I used to listen to comedy on tape every night (yes I’m that old!) in bed for just that reason! In this day and age with all that’s going on in the world I think you need to seek out funniness where you can.
I have always loved comedy because not only does it cheer me up but it’s also so honest. You can’t cheat a laugh. Something either makes you laugh or it doesn’t. I remember once going to watch a Chekov play at the National Theatre, (you’re thinking wow, this guy is very high brow but actually it was only because I got a free ticket off my sister in law! I don’t usually do theatre much because I’m such a fidget) Anyway where was I? An actress walked on stage and basically did nothing and the audience chuckled knowingly. Then the actress did something else equally as unfunny and they chuckled again. This went on throughout the play. To this day I have no idea what they were laughing at. I felt like standing up and asking what I was missing in the humour department, but obviously I didn’t. I just sat there trying not to fidget.
I write my books mainly to make myself laugh with the faint hope that everyone else, both young and old, will like them too. Luckily I have a very juvenile sense of humour which helps! At school I was always getting told off for not concentrating, mucking about and trying to make everyone laugh. Little did my teachers know that this was all part of an elaborate scheme which would lead me into my current occupation. When I’m writing a kids book I do try and shoehorn as many puns in as possible and you can get away with some terrible punnage because the lovely thing about picture books is you can be as silly as you like! I also love rhyming because even if you don’t get a huge joke in, a pleasing rhyme can make you smile and that is a very nice feeling too.
It’s always very nerve wracking when a book comes out and you pray that people will like it and find it funny. At least you have the confidence of knowing that your publisher deemed it good enough to go out into the big wide world. I have lots of storyboards of books which for different reasons will probably never get published but every now and then I read them again and I’ve forgotten them they still make me laugh all over again! I have to say that even though I got into creating kids books pretty late it really has changed my life and I do feel very lucky indeed and when I get an email or a drawing from a kid who likes one of my books it really makes my day.
Captain Looroll by Matt Carr is published by FarShore and is available now.
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.