We are delighted to welcome Carron Brown, author of the Shine-a-Light books, to Story Snug The Shine-a-Light picture books introduce children to a variety of non fiction topics and publisher Ivy Press is generously giving away two sets of their newly published titles, On The Plane and On the Space Station, written by Carron and illustrated by Bee Johnson. On The Plane takes children through the experience of checking in, boarding a flight and what happens while you are in the air. On The Space Station shows the journey that astronauts make to a space station and how they live and work while they are there.
Hi Carron, thank you for visiting Story Snug. We’ve been having a lot of fun with your Shine-a-Light books ‘On The Space Station’ and ‘On The Plane’. Can you tell us about the books and how you got your inspiration for the concept behind ‘The Shine-a-Light Series’?
Hi, I’m really glad that you have as much fun reading the books as I do putting them together. The Shine-a-Light books can be read as straight story books, with questions on a scene to lead you on to the next page or, and here’s the magic, you can shine a torch through the back of the scene to reveal the answer without turning the page. The ‘hidden’ images work because they’re on a black-and-white page behind a colour page. Try it yourself by colouring a scene with coloured crayons on one side of a piece of paper and create the hidden picture using only black and the white of the page on the other. Shine a torch from the black-and-white side and you’ll see the image revealed on the coloured scene.
The concept behind ‘Shine-a-Light’ came from the first editor of the series. She was reading a magazine that showed a person with arms outstretched on the page facing her. But then a ray of sunlight illuminated the page behind it and a skeleton shone through from that page into the person’s body. Georgia thought that was a fantastic idea for a book, and I was contacted to help think of a story that could use the idea. That story became ‘Secrets of the Apple Tree’.
Where do you get your ideas for the themes and how do you research your books?
The themes come from the Ivy Kids creative team. They give me a title, such as ‘On The Space Station’ and I come up with the ideas for the hidden images and for the story (for example, the build-up to lift-off, to time in space, and ending with touch-down and looking up at the ISS). I start researching in my local library and then head to specialist museums. For ‘On the Space Station’ and ‘On the Plane’, I was lucky to be visiting Seattle at the time I was researching and I went to the Seattle Museum of Flight, which has a mock-up of an ISS module, and so much information about spaceflight and planes. I also watched a lot of Chris Hadfield videos on the NASA and YouTube sites. For ‘Secrets of the Vegetable Garden’, my Mum was invaluable. She is a marvellous gardener!
How much collaboration, if any, did you have with your illustrator, Bee Johnson?
When I write the synopsis for the book, I also sketch out how I think the page might look. I also gather picture references so that Bee doesn’t need to second-guess exactly which creature or piece of equipment I’m talking about. Bee takes it from there and adds her own lovely touches. I like spotting the dogs, ladybirds and other creatures she’s weaved into the artwork.
We are fascinated by the illustration showing the astronauts sleeping in ‘On The Space Station’ (two more appear when you shine the light behind the page).
Illustrated by Bee Johnson © Ivy Press 2016
Do you have a favourite illustration from one of the books?
Ooh, that’s a tricky one. I think it has to be the scene near the end of ‘On The Train’ where you see people waiting to leave the carriage and the question asks “What’s inside their luggage?”. When I read that to kids, they love shouting out what might be in the bags. There’s a cat box there, so that one’s usually guessed correctly, but it’s great fun to reveal the cat, the teddy bear and the presents.
Illustrated by Bee Johnson © Ivy Press 2016
You have written several Shine-a-Light books. Do you have a favourite? Which one did you enjoy researching the most?
Another tricky question. I think the first book ‘Secrets of the Apple Tree’ is my favourite because I was really getting to grips with the concept and experienced the first fun of working on the ‘Shine-a-Light’ books.
Which one did I enjoy researching the most? I’m more of a natural history person at heart, but I really enjoyed the challenge of finding out about machines, particularly in ‘On The Space Station’. I really admire the astronauts who spend up to six months working on the ISS – what an adventure!
We always like to know how our guests became authors. Could you tell us how your first book came to be published?
I’ve always wanted to work in books and I’ve done so for the last 20 years. My first job in publishing was as an editor and the very first book I edited was called ‘Modern Industrial World: Australia’. I got to choose all the pictures, talk with the author and edit the book. It was amazing. The first book I ever wrote was ‘I Can Write: At Home’, which was a first book for writing first words, complete with shiny pages and a pen that could write on the pages again and again. There were only about 40 words in the book, so small beginnings.
Do you have a favourite location or environment to write in?
I prefer to work outdoors in my garden in West Norwood, London, which is visited by squirrels, many birds (starlings, sparrows, dunnocks, blue tits, blackbirds, long-tailed tits) and a couple of bold male foxes. If I can’t be outside, I’ll work near the window to the garden.
Can you tell us about any future titles or projects that you’re working on?
I can’t tell you about specific titles (I’m sworn to secrecy) but this much I can tell you – there will be two more Shine-a-Light books within the year. They’re at the stage where I’m sketching out ideas for the hidden images.
We’re always interested to know what authors enjoy reading. Do you have a favourite picture book from your childhood?
My favourite book from my childhood is the Collins Children’s Dictionary (1978 edition) – my Dad bought the book for me after one of his work trips to the Hebrides. The illustrations in the margins alongside the words fascinated me. I still use the book when I get a little stuck on how to describe a particular word to a child.
Do you have a current favourite picture book?
I can’t resist looking at picture books whenever I see them. On Saturday, I spotted What’s Hidden in the Woods by Aina Bestard (Thames & Hudson). It’s simple and so clever – using different-coloured lenses, the reader sees three different scenes on one page, depending on which of the three lenses the scene is viewed with. I wish I’d thought of that idea.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Carron.
Thank you very much.
Carron Brown is a Highlander from Inverness in Scotland, where her parents took her birdwatching in bogs, glens, forests and mountains. After studying Publishing at Napier University, Carron became an editor of non-fiction children’s books and has been an author for more than five years. When Carron is not editing or writing, she’s taking photographs and making notes, particularly of the animals she sees (the more rodenty, the better!), and heading to the countryside with her bike and a tent (all the better to see the animals). She lives in West Norwood, London.
Carron on Twitter
The Shine-a-Light books are priced at £10.99 and are available from all good bookshops and online retailers. Thank you to publisher Ivy Kids who are very generously giving away two sets of On The Plane and On The Space Station by Carron Brown and Bee Johnson. You can enter the giveaway here.
Thank you to Ivy Kids for sending us review copies of On The Plane and On The Space Station.