Tag Archives: Eilidh Muldoon

Formidable Females

There was a lot of the letter ‘f’ in the event with Lari Don and Eilidh Muldoon on Tuesday morning. Formidable females, which might have referred to Lari and Eilidh. Or it could have been their new book, Fierce, Fearless and Free. Which also featured formidable females. The Fs have it.

Lari started off by talking about how she writes, how she likes old stories the best, and how she’s been looking to find traditional tales with strong girls in them. Girls who don’t need rescuing by a boy, or needing to find nice clothes to be seen in. Lari did find some old stories about girls, and one of her favourites came to her from Ecuador via Aberdeen. She also reads her stories to audiences to find out what works best. Her stories are for everyone, about girls.

Eilidh did the illustrations for the book, and this was a particular favourite of hers. Because she only needed to do one illustration for each story, she had to work out what would describe every story best. So in the end that’s why there are no lions or bears. She showed us her sketchbook where she tries out ideas as she reads.

The story we heard was A Siberian Legend, about a man who was very unfortunate because he had no sons, at all, and only one daughter, who could do nothing that pleased him. While Lari read about the girl’s bravery, Eilidh drew. She usually does this very slowly, on a smaller scale, and never when watched. But this worked too.

I am beginning to see a pattern here, because Eilidh challenged viewers to draw their own fierce female characters, and Lari asked for new stories, maybe featuring the ‘most unlikely baddie’, or talking animals granting favours, which is something she likes. And it is much more exciting when things go wrong.

Because they couldn’t hear all our questions, they sat down and interviewed each other instead. There was a lace dragon, and someone who liked temples. And Eilidh does not care for hippos, or at least, not to draw. Lari draws a bit too, but only where her characters are, never the characters themselves. They are in her head.

And here they ran out of time.

Remembering Judith Kerr

Now that we don’t have Judith Kerr to come and do events, we can have events about her. Because we need them.

Judith might have looked like a little old lady, but in Tuesday’s panel we learned that this was a woman who could out-party those much younger than her. I think Daniel Hahn rather envied her her stamina in that department. And Lindsey Fraser remembered a time when Judith’s train had been late and she needed a whisky, a bit early in the day, but someone sourced the requested tipple.

Her arrivals in the yurt always caused a certain kind of murmur among those present, those who were more famous than Judith, richer, younger; even more important. Everyone had some kind of relationship to her. Catherine Rayner said it felt like meeting the Queen. And like meeting the Queen, it was impossible to talk to her. She tried, but could never get the words out.

Catherine’s friends would ask ‘is she any good?’ as though Judith’s simple picture book drawings meant she couldn’t do proper art. She showed us some of Judith’s sketches, and they were certainly proper art. As was Mog’s scared face in the book about Mog’s nightmares. And those pictures of birds with teeth!

The first book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, often caused people to read hidden meanings into what the tiger symbolised. According to Daniel, Judith said it’s a book about a tiger who came to tea. As for Mog and the translation into German there was a discussion with the translator that Judith lost. Mog would be a boy in German. And then she gave Mog kittens.

Judith Kerr 2

After Judith was widowed she kept drawing, sitting at the same table she’d worked at for fifty years, saying ‘if I didn’t draw, I’d probably have taken to religion.’ Her husband was the one who suggested the plot for her first Mog book by saying ‘couldn’t she catch a burglar, or something?’

Tom Morgan-Jones talked about Judith’s last book, Mummy Time, and brought out so much more meaning from it than I’d seen. It even had those horrible teeth in it, again. He read most of the book, showing how it works on two levels; for the child, and for the adult reader.

Like Tom, Eilidh Muldoon never met Judith. And as everyone seemed to say, she also found the Tiger really scary. When Goodbye Mog was published, she was too old for picture books, but has since discovered how good it is to read them as an adult. The pictures in this last Mog are dreamier than the early Mog illustrations, and this could in part have been due to the same ink not being available.

Goodbye Mog

It’s not only Mog’s death that has helped readers deal with bereavement. Kate Leiper has experience from working in care homes for people with dementia, where she used to show them My Henry, which is about an old lady in a home, who dreams about her dead husband coming back for her. This was written after Judith’s husband died.

As Daniel said, you can have quite dark stuff in picture books. It’s all about condensing, according to Catherine. You put a lot in and then take more and more out. Judith would never use words about that which you could see from the pictures. And in Mog in the Dark – the nightmare book – she only used 50 [different] words.

This was a wonderful panel event; one which made us love Judith Kerr even more. As someone said, she had faith in human nature. And she considered herself British from the start of WWII. That’s worth remembering now, when we remember Judith. The piece from When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, read by Lindsey, about the family fleeing Germany, approaching the Swiss border by train, and being so very nervous. It’s all coming back.