From the archives: Q&A with Alex T. Smith
Back in 2015 I was facilitating the Page Turners book club for children aged 7-9 in Rathmines Library. One of the group's favourite books was Foxy Tales: The Cunning Plan by Caryl Hart and Alex T. Smith and Alex very kindly gave up his time one afternoon to answer their questions via Twitter. Alex is the illustrator and creator of the Claude series and of several picture books including Egg, in which the stars of Foxy Tales made their debut. The following is a transcript of our conversation, which takes in everything from old ladies with tiny feet to drawing and doglets. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could ask such burning questions as 'Do you ever do illegal stuff while driving?', 'If you were made of chocolate would you eat yourself?' and 'Did you murder Roald Dahl?'...Enjoy!
Page Turners: Hi Alex! Page Turners junior book club say a big HELLLOOOOO!
Alex T. Smith: HELLO!!! *waves WILDLY*
PT: Here's our first question: Why did you become an illustrator and how old were you when you started drawing?
ATS: Good question! My first ever memory is of drawing. I was about 2 and sitting on my mum's lap at the table and I drew a teddy bear (it was really a big messy circle with sticks poking out of it, but I knew I was drawing a teddy!). I became an illustrator because I LOVE drawing and telling stories with pictures. Sometimes pictures tell you more than words can.
PT: Why do you draw so many old ladies and why do they have such tiny feet?
ATS: Haha! Well, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a child and great aunts etc and I always found them bonkers and super fun to draw! And tiny feet? Well, I suppose it's because I like the contrast of these big characters having tiny feet!
PT: What was your favourite book when you were a child?
ATS: I LOVED The Tiger Who Came To Tea when I was a little boy. I loved the whole idea of it as well as the fantastic pictures. (I also liked that the little girl went out to eat in a cafe in her pjs at the end and i REALLY wanted to do that too. I still do).
PT: We all LOVE that book too! *AAAAAHHHHS all round*
ATS: It's brilliant isn't it!? I saw some of the original artwork for it last spring and I looked like this: ♥‿♥
PT: Who is your favourite illustrator? (The gang say it's okay to pick yourself)
ATS: Ooh gosh! That's a tricky one - I ♥ so many. I do *love* the work of a man called Hilary Knight who illustrated the ELOISE books, but there are so many illustrators whose work I admire. We are very lucky to have so many talents artists working in books today!
PT: Who is your favourite character in Foxy Tales and did you base them on anyone?
ATS: I love Foxy as she's so naughty and scheming and I love Alphonso because he's so stupid! Foxy is loosely based on two old film stars called Shirley Temple and Bette Davis (in a scary/funny film called Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) :-)
PT: What's your favourite picture in Foxy Tales?
ATS: Oooh! Another tricky question - I like these! Very difficult to pick, but I do like a pic in the first book where Foxy is sneaking through a hole in a hedge with Billy Bongo the chihuahua. I really liked drawing that page.
PT: What are your dogs names and what do they look like? Do you have a favourite?
ATS: Here they are from the left to right: Poppy, Mr Bongo and Coco. I don't have a favourite. I ♥ them all equally!
ATS: And here they are at Christmas...
PT: AAAAAAWWWWWWW SOOOOOOO CUUUUTTTTTEEEEEE!!!!!
ATS: Hehe! They are VERY cute. NAUGHTY, but very cute!
PT: Our last question is: If you had a million pounds, what would you spend it on?
ATS: Gosh! Wouldn't that be lovely! Well, I'd firstly celebrate with a GIGANTIC cookie. Then I'd go on holiday, then I would buy a little farm and live there with lots of rescued animals. (I would also fill my house with a properly old sort of library with a library ladder and a secret entrance to a secret room!)
PT: Good answer! We're all out of time . Thanks a million and BYEEEEEEE from Page Turners!
ATS: Thank YOU! This has been lots and lots of fun! Bye bye from me and the doglets! :-)