An award winning children’s book illustrated by Shetland based artist Jane Matthews was the subject of a fun interactive event at Mareel on Sunday morning.
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot is the work of Welshman Horatio Clare, whose story tackles heavy subject matter in a way that makes it accessible to children.
In the book the central character, named after Horatio’s three-year-old son, tackles his father’s depression with the help of his animal friends.
By tackling the growing issue of depression – which takes physical embodiment in the form of a villain called the ‘Yoot’ – in a children’s narrative Horatio has earned critical acclaim for his work, which will soon be published in French.
Speaking after the early morning book reading the writer said that he never expected the book to be a success, adding that it had been printed by a small Welsh press.
He said: “The last thing I thought I would be was a children’s writer.”
But now the journalist turned travel writer looks set to continue along this path, with a second book in the Aubrey series due out next year.
The sequel will be about distrust and is described by the author as a “post-Brexit” book aimed at kids.
He said: “As a travel writer I’ve always been interested in the idea of borders, flags and frontiers. I don’t believe in fences; I believe in sharing culture.”
Speaking about the mature subject matter of his books Horatio said: “There aren’t really any limits to what you can say to children. You simplify the language a bit but you don’t talk down to them.”
He added: “They’re just interested, you don’t have to put the brakes on.”
During the reading Horatio said that the idea for the novel came to him after the birth of his son.
The author said that he wanted to find a way to talk to his son and to a wider audience of children about unhappiness.
In an affable and humorous style the author explained to the assembled crowd of schoolchildren that life is made up of “hills and valleys” and that the ups can’t exist without the downs.
Horatio and Jane underpin this message by projecting an image from the book which shows Aubrey’s father having night fears about the things which concern adults – the U.N, taxes, the price of oil and M.O.Ts.
Jane’s drawings, which were shown behind Horatio as he read from the book, illustrate the tale. In one picture we see the Yoot as a beetle, with elements of a snake and scorpion thrown in for extra terrifying measure.
In the latter half of the hour long event the children in attendance were invited to create their own villain by piecing together drawings of different body parts.
The youngsters were undoubtedly thrilled by this interactive opportunity and were even happier to hear that their creation may make a cameo appearance in Horatio’s sequel which will once again be illustrated by Jane.
In an earlier illustration during the event, we see a warts and all representation of Aubrey’s birth, complete with umbilical cord.
Speaking after the event Jane spoke of her literal approach to illustrating the book which she felt “hooks the story into reality.”
This was important, she felt, because the publication “is an incredibly honest story which touches on a serious issue which is present and growing and I think very necessary to address.
“It’s important to have that element of reality to it.”
Horatio Clare will be appearing at Wordplay again this evening to discuss his book Down to the Sea in Ships. This book sees the author travel around the world in container ships soaking up the world of those who spend their lives at sea.
Wordplay continues until Sunday 27th, November.
- For more on Horatio Clare and Wordplay see the next edition of The Shetland Times.