Children's author Jeremy Strong to visit Cambridge Literature Festival
Bestselling children’s author Jeremy Strong has been writing hilarious tales for more than 40 years and has penned more than 100 books.
Some of his best know stories include the Hundred Mile an Hour Dog series and My Brother’s Famous Bottom. But his new collection of short stories for children has taken a more thoughtful direction.
He will be taking part in the Cambridge Literary Festival in April with a talk about his latest book, ‘Armadillo and Hare: Small Tales from the Big Forest’.
Tell us about your new book for children
Im very pleased with Armadillo and Hare. It’s a new departure for me. I have been writing what I hope are very funny stories for years, almost comic strips put into words. But I began to think recently I could do with writing something a bit different. I have always loved animal stories myself from childhood so i thought it would be nice to write about a group of animals, especially ones that were a bit more unusual and came from different continents so that, in a way, you are writing about different cultures too.
Also, I wanted to break away from the constraints of writing about people and the problems of political correctness. When you write about animals you can say things that are perhaps more difficult to say about people. A simple example is is you can say that an animal is fat.
How does the book differ from your previous stories for children?
They are funny stories but not in my previous style of writing they are a lot more thoughtful there’s small nuggets of philosophy stuck in there you could say that each story has a bit of a kroal or you could read them as they are. I have tried to keep them as light as possible so that I’m not hammering home any messages there are simple messages about friendship and empathy and so on.
What inspired the book?
If any there’s a bit of inspiration from a set of fable books I had as a child which were african folk tales about a much larger group of animals. They weren’t heavily moral in any way. I’ve found that a lot of very traditional stories are very similar around the world that all have a very deep human connection - from Anansi the spider to Brer Rabbit and Aesop. Cultures produce very similar kinds of stories without knowing what the other cultures are doing. I think it’s fascinating that the way the human psyche works is international - that sounds like a rather grand thing to say doesn’t it?
I remember reading a bit of Jung on that plane of thought, that similar philosophies tend to spring up around the world.
Who are the characters in Armadillo and Hare?
I have been trying out some stories on some friends, reading them out and i said i think I have just realised Armadillo and Hare are really two versions of me. My friend said ‘Have you really only just worked that one out?’
Armadillo is a bit grumpy but kind he is not Eeyorish, not a depressive. He is just a bit grumpy, thinks he knows everything, buttons his clothes up in the wrong order and is a bit sloppy. Whereas Hare is a bit more elegant and refined and is always reading. He is musical as well - he plays a tuba. When he plays the tuba things come floating out of the top depending what mod he is in so if he is in a partyish kind of mood and things like fireflies and party crackers and bits of cake come out and slowly vanish away.
What makes children laugh?
My own brain is kind of located somewhere around the age of eight in many respects which makes it good for writing for children. I find boys always like the ‘poo, bum, fart’ kind of stuff so i tend to put a modicum of that in the stories. Girls are much more catholic readers and they are much easier to write for than boys in some respects.
I always tend to think my stories are a bit like comic strips put into words because the comedy is very visual and slapstick.