The Rhyming Pirate is a treasure of a picture book! As I read it, I couldn't help but start to grin, and then to laugh out loud, and then to wish that the Young Lad (who is not so young anymore) didn't think himself above picture books so that I could take it home and read it to him. I liked it so much that I read it to a fellow librarian, my boss, my husband, and my daughter (Miss Missy, who is nearly nineteen). Even though I couldn't find a child to read it to, everyone really enjoyed it!
So of course I jumped at the chance to ask Glenn Jones, author and illustrator, a few questions.
Missbeecrafty: Pirates, rhymes, and Kiwiana work brilliantly together in your book, but they don’t exactly seem to go together like chips and dip! How did you come up with the idea to turn those three rather different things into a picture book?
Well, it started with the pirate, I like pirates and my 3 kids (2 girls and a boy) have all liked pirate stories. Then I set about writing a book that rhymed. The publisher loved it but also suggested adding some New Zealandness to the book, so I reworked it to add in some kiwiana themes.
Where you flummoxed by any rhymes while you were writing it?
Yes!! I found I had to say it out loud to make the rhymes work so I was talking a lot to myself
There’s a few edible things amongst your Kiwiana treasures. What is your favourite food? Did you include anything you don’t like to eat, other than carrots?
I have lots of favourite foods! I do like all the food in the book, especially chips, but yes, much to my mum’s frustration I never would eat my carrots!
I’ve loved pirate stories especially Captain Pugwash which my Dad used to read to me. Do you have any favourite Pirate stories?
I remember that too, and loved it – I think it’s the pictures in pirate books that I’ve always loved.
What do you and your kids like to read together?
Did you have a favourite book or author as a kid?
Yes, the Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch
And what about now, what sort of books do you enjoy?
I'm often drawn to the illustrations, I love The Gruffalo and Stickman etc, and I think because they’ve animated those now too, it just brings it more to life when I’m looking at the books
Do you have a favourite artist or illustrator?
Yes, NZ artist Tony Ogle, I’ve always loved his work
I really love the little details in your illustrations. There are things I didn’t notice on first read, like the Rhyming Pirate’s kea tugging on his gumboot in true mischievous kea style, or the title of the book on the hook! Can you tell me more about your illustration process?
Thank you, yeah I often draw something and then let it sit for a bit and maybe an idea for a little detail for something pops into my head so I’ll add that in. Sometimes I take stuff away too, I like simple, clear ideas
Did you approach the illustrations for your book in a different way to designing a t-shirt or art piece?
Not really, I had them all on the same artboard so I could keep on moving to different pages to make sure I had some continuity. I really enjoyed the whole process, lots to learn...
You’ve designed some really well known images! What is it like seeing your artwork on boxes in every supermarket, or your T-shirt design on TV?
I never get sick of that, always exciting
Are you a fan of Big Bang Theory? How did you find out your t-shirt design was worn by Sheldon on the show?
No I never really watched it, I found out when I started getting notification emails as we were selling the shirt that was on the show. There were a lot of emails! I got a text from my colleague in the US saying something like ‘are you seeing this? Sheldon is wearing our tee tonight’. It was really amazing, that was the first we knew of it.
Your t-shirt designs are really quirky, and funny. (Big Meal literally made me snort! It’s a little dark, but extremely funny!) How do you come up with your t-shirt ideas, and do you have a favourite shirt?
I think a lot of it is based on stuff I’ve grown up with, I like to take pop culture and put my own spin on it, I don’t really have a favourite, there’s hundreds of them
What about your Kiwiana artwork, do you have a favourite of those, and why?
All the nostalgic stuff, and we get great stories from customers about memories that are meaningful to them based on the art too, I love seeing that
Can you share any stories that you’ve been told that have been prompted by your artwork?
One I love was an older lady who told me that her dad used to work on the wharf. Every Thursday he would bring home a chocolate fish wrapped in newspaper and tell her he’d caught it for her. What a great dad!
What about your own childhood? Do you think your childhood influenced your artwork?
Yes, I grew up next to a dairy in the 70’s and 80’s so a lot of my subject matter is from really early memories of NZ brands
I feel like you probably enjoy cracking the odd Dad Joke. If so, do you have a favourite joke you’d like to share?
I probably do, I can't think of any at the moment but I do tell my kids I’m allergic to carrots and if I eat them I’ll turn orange and my hair will turn green. They' re constantly trying to get me to eat carrots, and every year they want to make me a carrot cake for my birthday 🙂
Finally, are you hoping to write more books for kids? Do you have an idea that you’re working on at the moment?
I do have more ideas, so hopefully there will be more!