Elli Woollard is an author of picture books and children’s poems, from London.
The Giant of Jum (with illustrations by Benji Davies) is her latest release (published April 2015 by Macmillan). It’s a delightful play on a classic fairy tale.
Said the Mudwaffler… ‘Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, deliciously enjoyable – a tale as tall as they come!’
The Giant of Jum is grumpy and hungry, sitting in his cave with a tree in his hand – he really wants to eat a child, but not just any child of course, he wants to eat a snack, called… Jack! He trudges through fields and forests and rivers and swamps to find him, and soon arrives at a garden where children are playing. The Giant is more than happy to eat them up too, but the children have something else in mind – he’s big enough to fetch their ball down from the tree. He agrees to help them, with a warning that he’ll be back to eat them once he’s gobbled Jack the snack. And so begins a list of things the children need his help with…
The children are kind and admire his skills, however, the Giant isn’t used to people being nice to him, and when he discovers one of those people is the very same Jack he’s looking for, he finds himself wondering if he can eat him after all…
This is a really fun story which everyone in the nest can join in with… “Fee” he said and “Fi” he said, and “Fo” he said, and “Fum”… “Little children are yummy, yum, yum!” It’s hard to read the lines said by the Giant without making your voice deep and loooow! The rhyming text has a great melody, pacing you from page to page all the way to a pause just before the end, for a moments repetition of one of my favourite words (I won’t give it away), before picking up the pace again for the home straight. Woollard’s words are WAFFLE-tastic!
Whoever decided to team up Elli Wollard and Benji Davies deserves a big chocolate medal! Davies illustrations capture the enormity of the giant superbly, and yet he’s still looks loveable, even when he’s grumpy! And what can I say about the giant’s hat?! I want one. The book has a lovely bright colour palette and Davies makes great use of the white space. Plus there are lots of animals to spot throughout the book in all sorts of fun poses. My favourite illustration is this one…
I hope to see another Woollard / Davies collaboration soon!
And of course, it gets the Mudwaffler’s stamp…
Now, it’s WAFFLE time! Elli Woollard joins us for a Q&A…
What inspired you to write The Giant of Jum?
It all started with my very messy house. Me and tidying hate each other with a passion, and so my house is a complete tip. I think I’m probably allergic to cleaning. So one day I glanced on the floor and saw, on the top of a higgledy-piggledy heap, a picture book called ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum’. I think it’s long out of print now, but it’s a collection of nursery rhymes illustrated by the brilliant Raymond Briggs, and it had probably been sitting there in that heap of books for the last ten years or more. So that made me think about the ‘fee Fi Fo Fum’ refrain, and the rest of the story followed from there.
Subconsciously though, I think it was partly inspired by a lovely guy I know who served time in prison for some very serious offences, and then managed to completely turn his life around. Nearly everyone (even giants who want to eat children!) has something lovely inside them, but to find that something it’s important we treat them as fellow humans, not monsters.
What are you currently working on (any sneak peek news!?)?
At the moment I’m very busy drinking coffee and being on Twitter. That’s work, isn’t it? Oh, you mean book-wise…Well, I’ve got another book coming out with the brilliant Benji Davies next year – not sure how much I’m allowed to reveal, but it involves a dragon. I’m also about to begin edits on something top secret that I’m not allowed to talk about yet. Other than that, I’m trying to write something in prose rather than verse, but I’m not sure if it’s going to lead to anything.
What is your favourite thing to write about?
Anything and everything! I love anything based on fairytale characters, as the characters themselves are familiar to children and they make a great starting point for new stories. And I love writing funny stuff, but I like the sweeter, gentler things too.
Who (or what) are your influences?
In terms of verse writing, undoubtedly Julia Donaldson. It was reading her books to my children that made me realise how much children enjoy rhyme and rhythm. There are also a lot of picture book writers who write in verse who’ve influenced me the other way – when I read them I think ‘But I could do better than that!’ There are several really brilliant writers in verse, but some writers would do better sticking to the prose.
I guess I’m influenced by lots of poets too – people like Edward Lear, Michael Rosen and Spike Milligan.
Then of course there are all the books I read in childhood, which are too many to mention. The one I will mention is called ‘I Like This Poem’ – a poetry anthology which I bought when I was six or seven. I absolutely loved it when I was little, and I love it still.
Do you have any advice for writers who are just starting out?
Read books in the genre you’re writing in. Try to work out why they work (or don’t work). Read books in other genres, even ones you’re not naturally drawn to. You never know where inspiration is coming from.
What are three words that best describe you?
Shy, determined, bonkers.
What is your favourite word?
Crepuscular. It’s been my favourite word for years and years and years. I love the way it sounds. Almost good enough to eat.
If you could share a cuppa with anyone (alive or dead), anywhere, who would it be and where would you go?
Lots of dead people, in a cemetery, at midnight. We’d have a waaaaaaaail of a time. More seriously, I would love to share a cuppa with the illustrator David Roberts. I know he lives on the same road as me about 30 seconds from my house, but I’ve never (knowingly) seen him, and it’s really bugging me! He can come round to my house and show me sneak peeks of all his work. I don’t draw myself (I was actually considered good at art at school, but then I stupidly gave it up and have now lost it), but I just love looking at illustrations.
Many thanks to Elli!
Swamp Hugs! Till the next time…