I was recently sent a copy of a new book by Annabelle Neilson which focuses on exploring the ups and downs of emotions. The first, Angry Me, is a great book that helps younger children understand how it feels to be angry.
You might recognise the name of the author – Neilson is far better known for her socialite past (she counts Kate Moss, Jude Law, Naomi Campbell, and Richard Branson amongst her friends). I was intrigued as to what the motivation was for Neilson to branch out into the world of children’s publishing so was thrilled to get the chance to put some questions to her…
Q: What was your favourite book as a child?
A: I like Alice in Wonderland. My favourite part was the Mad Hatter’s tea party, I think that was the first party I ever really wanted to have an invitation to.
Q: people will know you more for your socialite background, what prompted the move into children’s fiction?
A: Yes I know people know a bit about me from, let’s say, my more colourful past, which is fine; we all have one. I have written other pieces which were for children, ‘On The Pond’ is a book I wrote about a lot of people I know but they’re all birds. I wrote a story for Lee Alexander McQueen that he’d asked me to write from his show ‘The girl who came down from the tree’ but the ‘Me Me Me’s’ came about in some part because of my personal experience as a child having extreme dyslexia and my desire to find a way to bring feeling and action together for children to talk about.
Finding Astro was key to bring the ‘Me Me Me’s’ to life and I’m really proud of them and ‘Angry me’ is out but there are a lot of other ‘Me’s’ so we’ve really only just started.
Q: Where did the inspiration for the ‘Me Me Me’s’ characters come from?
A: My childhood first, some from myself and my sister but also I have a lot of godchildren and little cousins. So I drew from them; how I saw them react to situations, how very different they all are and how different situations affect each of them very individually. Also I loved the ‘Mr Men’ books and the ‘Smurfs’ were one of my favorites. I think that I have drawn on some of the stories and characters I knew as a child but I think the ‘Me Me Me’s are very unique and I know comparisons might be made but they really are a very special group of characters and I absolutely love them all.
Q: I can see a lot of my children in the characters in the Angry Me book, they often find it difficult to understand and manage their emotions. Do you have any other me me me characters planned?
A: Yes there are quite a lot of ‘Me’s’ right now; I have 18 but when I talk to children and ask them if they were a ‘Me’ what me would they be it’s amazing how many that I have not even thought of as they shout out, I love that they all seem to want their own.
Q: How did you find the process of writing the book? Are the illustrations by Astro what you pictured when you started this journey?
A: I am so lucky to have found Astro as my illustrator. We worked really hard on the original drawings for each of the ‘Me’s’ and then when I began to write each character I wrote them as a story so that we knew where each ‘Me’ lived in the ‘Me Me Me’ village. There was a lot of detail to the characters and their world before I started to write the books as they are now. When I right a ‘Me’ I then write the illustrations for each page so it takes a lot of work from both of us and I am so lucky that Astro and I seem to just understand each character, we see the ‘Me Me Me’s’ the same way and I think that’s one of the reasons it works so well.
The first in the series, Angry Me, follows the Me who is cross and angry. He wakes up angry and his mood worsens through the morning as he struggles to contain his emotions. I found this an interesting book as it’s often difficult for young children to explain their feelings and emotions. Reading this with Mr D has helped in some ways to explain his feelings and how I can help him shift the angry and cross mood.
The books is a rhyming story so it is fairly easy to read – the first half I really liked as the rhymes work really well and there is a nice rhythm to it. The rhythm does change slightly midway through the book and I did stumble a little when I was reading it, but I soon picked up again. The descriptions used to explain the physical feelings of being angry (clenched fists, stiff arms etc) are really clever as well as the internal feelings of anger too.
I think the Me Me Me series of books will be interesting to keep an eye on, especially for those children who really do struggle with their emotions.