Today we welcome Caryl Hart into The Reading Realm to talk about her lovely new picture book THANK YOU FOR THE LITTLE THINGS, which is illustrated by Emily Hamilton!
Without giving too much away can you tell us about your new book Thank You for the Little Things?
Thank You for the Little Things follows the day of a small child as they focus on little things that make them happy. It’s really a story about being mindful and how taking the time to appreciate amazing, ordinary things around us can help us feel grounded, can banish anxiety and remind us that our world really is incredible.
What inspired you to write this story?
During the early lockdowns of 2020, many people, including myself, found themselves rather adrift. Suddenly, there were no school or library events, book publication dates were rescheduled, editors went quiet as they were busy firefighting – dealing with adapting systems to enable home-working as well as with bookshop and library closures and shifting to online sales. For me, life became suddenly very uncertain and like many self-employed people, I had no safety-net to fall back on.
To combat my mounting anxiety, I tried to focus on the things I could do. I threw myself into building a better online presence and tried to make the most of the situation by appreciating little things such as sitting in my garden with my daughter and going running up the deserted street and out into the Peak District for my daily hour of exercise.
Thank You for the Little Things came out six months later as a way to articulate how focussing in really helped me deal with the stress and anxiety of those months.
What are the challenges of writing a picture book in rhyme?
Some books just want to come out in rhyme and once you’ve started down that road, there’s no avoiding it! I’ve had times when I’ve got totally stuck because I’ve chosen a tricky rhythm, or I just can’t make the text do what I want. But I’ve had a lot of practice so my brain is actually pretty good at coming up with solutions these days.
The most challenging things are ensuring the rhythm – or scansion – is really tight. The last thing you want is for your readers to stumble over the words, so I work hard to try and ensure the text can only be read in one way. As an example, when you’re writing the word “Princess” which syllable do you stress?
I also hate half-rhymes but sometimes these are hard to avoid as people read with their own regional accents so words and rhymes can sound different depending on where you were brought up!
It can take several hours, or even days to create a rhyming verse that I’m happy with and then, if I need to make any editorial changes, it can result in having to totally rewrite the whole verse – or several verses. So writing in rhyme can bring many challenges, but it’s also the most fun and is very, very satisfying when it goes well!
How did you feel when you first saw the gorgeous artwork by Emily Hamilton?
I was so excited when Emily’s roughs came in. I get to see all the various stages of a book in production, including character sketches, first and second roughs and final artwork. It’s wonderful to see a book evolving over what can be many months.
I was familiar with Emily’s style from her book The World Made a Rainbow, written by Michelle Robinson, so I had a good idea of how our book might look, but it’s come out even better than I could have imagined, so I’m super happy!
What children’s books have you read and enjoyed recently?
I’m currently reading a series of books about black history called Voices. There are four books written by Patrice Lawrence, Bali Rai, Leila Rasheed and EL Norry, each of which is set in a different period of history and follows the lives of non-white children in Britain. They are actually fascinating so I’d recommend them!
I’ve also love David Olosuga’s Black and British – again, definitely one that every family should read!
Finally can you describe Thank You for the Little Things in three words?
Mindfulness for children.