Author Focus: Emily Gravett
Emily Gravett is a British author and illustrator who has won many awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal 2 times! (The Kate Greenaway Medal is awarded for the year’s best picture book in England.) Emily was expected to attend art school and become an artist, as her father was a printmaker and her mother was an art teacher. Instead, Emily stopped her formal schooling at age 16 and spent the next 10 years traveling around England, Scotland, and Whales living as nomad and sometimes working as a fruit picker. After her daughter Oleander (Olly) was born, she decided to return to school to study art. In fact, some of her most popular books arose directly from those school assignments.
Emily’s favorite book as a child was The Giant Jam Sandwich, by John Vernon Lord. It appealed to her because of its detailed illustrations of the townspeople’s struggle with the wasps and the fun use of language and rhymes. Ms. Gravett’s own illustrative style varies, but she frequently uses found objects to create a scrapbook-type of effect. Emily scans copies of old postcards, newspapers, maps, and even library cards. Then, she edits the images to use as layering elements in creative illustrations.
She currently works from her home in Brighton, England with her partner, Mik and her daughter, Olly. Her daughter has served a test audience for several books, including Emily’s very first book, Wolves. This book follows the story of a rabbit who wants to learn more wolves by reading a book from the local library. Rabbit becomes so engrossed in the book that he doesn’t realize that the text is coming to life all around him, and he is in danger. There are actually 2 endings to this book! My favorite part of the book is the optional alternative ending. Emily tried out the original ending with Olly, who loved it, even though it’s a bit gruesome. But for younger readers, the alternative ending allows for the book to end on a happier note.
The first book I read by this author was Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears. (I describe it in detail in an earlier blog post about dealing with fear ) But through research for this post, I learned more in depth about the process Emily used to create the authenticity of this book. Emily’s daughter had 2 pet rats, named Button and Mr. Moo. In order to create truly gnawed-off pages, Emily placed pages of paper in the pet rats’ cage. They didn’t want to chew it initially, so she enticed them by putting yogurt on the edges of each page. In the end, the rats sat, played, and even peed on the pages. This yellowed the edges, and created the exact effect Emily was hoping for….. But don’t worry! The published book only has scanned images–so NO stinky pages!
Her newest book, Again! immediately caught my attention— as it has a hole burned through the back cover! This text follows the story of a young dragon and his mother as they read a story before bedtime. Emily brings a humorous twist to the nightly challenge that parents frequently face, as their child requests, “read it again?” This book also offers an opportunity to chat with your young reader about tantrums and what might happen as a result.
Emily wrote Orange Pear Apple Bear in just 1 day, in order to turn in as a school assignment. The day was Mother’s Day. When her family asked what she would like for the holiday, she requested to have the day to herself. She awoke with an idea and needed some time to expand upon it. The result is a simple yet satisfying story using just 5 words! This book is a fanciful read for young ones, but would be a fun model for older children to use in order to create a similar story of their own as an exercise in word play and art.
Other titles by Emily Gravett include:
For more about Emily Gravett, including a video interview with her, check out this article on Reading Rockets. Also, visit her author page to play games and print activity pages inspired by her books!
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Klem-Mari Cajigas, Bilingual GROW Project Facilitator