A. I love this story but sometimes feel that Dickens slips out of the grasp of younger readers. I think one job that writers can do today is to help make the books and plays of the past come alive. Staging posts on the way to reading the whole things later on are, I think, one way to do this.
Q. What message in this classic tale do you think still resonates with children today?
A. The core message in the book to my mind is that Scrooge has come to think (as did some people in Dickens’s day) that poor people can and should be discarded and that only being tough on them, will ‘save’ them.
Q. What was your favourite Christmas story when you were young?
A. I used to think ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Louis Stevenson was a Christmas story because I saw it in the theatre at Christmas several times. It isn’t but it still has that feel about it for me.
Q. What are your Christmas traditions as a family?
A. I’m often surprised by how conventional we are! We gather together whoever wants to come round and we spend most of an afternoon eating, talking, making toys and watching TV.
Q. Our readers are huge fans of your book Going on a Bear Hunt – what do you think is the secret to its everlasting appeal?
A. I think it combines a racy repetitive rhythm, which tells the story of an inevitable slide towards a jeopardy (inviting us to say ‘Don’t do it!’) while Helen’s pictures are stunningly beautiful evocations of a family in trouble, each person (and animal!) telling us their individual story. I have to say, that I don’t see it as ‘my’ book! I adapted a folk song, and Helen’s artwork is very much her own. I’m a very lucky participant in the process of producing such a classic.