Rabbit doesn’t want to listen to his mum telling him to get up, get dressed, have breakfast, play outside, come inside and least of all… have a bath! NO, NO, NO! he says. But at last they hit on something they both love doing together. Funny and perfectly-pitched, No! Said Rabbit is Marjoke Henrichs’ debut. She answers our questions about her book here.
You are originally from the Netherlands – this has a rich tradition in writing for children. What was your experience of books when you were young – especially picture books? Do you still remember them?
We had picture books at home which I shared with four older brothers. I remember they were the Golden Books and also children’s books with beautiful glued-in colour plates belonging to my mother. Also verses and rhymes by Rie Cramer. Once I was able to read, I got all my books from our local library. The book I still remember and wish I still had, was a large version of Funny Bunny by the Provensens; although it was in English, I understood the story and loved the pictures, and I have never forgotten the big fold out in the middle of the book!
No! Said Rabbit is your debut picture book, but your background is in theatre design. What has drawn you to the small, intimate experience presented by a book after working with the spread of a stage?
A theatre design only comes to life with performers on the stage. And once the performances are over, you are left only with a photograph. I love the fact that a book can last many years, and anyone can pick it up, look at it, and enjoy it any time they like.
What were the challenges? Did you find that there were similarities between the disciplines – or did you have to completely change your approach?
I feel that both practices are very similar, both tell a story. To me the only difference was that I did not have to make a 3d model, scale it up and present it to the workshop to be built!
This is a book that is aimed at a very young audience and is not easy to achieve. What inspired your idea? Is it drawn from personal experience?
The book evolved very organically, I did not have a story as such in mind when I started. I planned to use opposites as the theme, aimed at a younger age group, and it was part of my Master Stage Project at the MA. As inspiration I used situations remembered from being with my own children when they were little, and also my time working in a Montessori Nursery. While developing the story I tried to portray the character Rabbit from his viewpoint. I hope that comes across.
In No! Said Rabbit the text which you created is concise, bold and rhythmical, your illustrations bold, clear and uncluttered. Which came first for you? The images? Or the words?
The images came first, I had drawn Rabbit in lots of different situations. After that I tried to put them in a certain order. Once I got the storyline and had decided which images to use, I added the words.
You are an established artist and now have studied illustration at the Cambridge School of Art where students are exposed to a wide range of illustration styles and approaches. Which artists or illustrators have inspired or influenced you most?
The artists who inspired and influenced me most are the ones who have a very individual voice/style. Anselm Kiefer, Cy Twombly, Anthony Tapies, Tove Jansson, Brian Wildsmith, John Burningham, Beatrice Alemagna, Alice and Martin Provensen. These are just a few as there are many more!
No! Said Rabbit is published by Scallywag Press, 978-1912650248, £12.99 hbk.