Mini Monsters: Can I Play? by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Tony Neal and published by Simon & Schuster is the first in a new series of picture books for pre-schoolers.
The Mini Monsters; Scout, Sparkle, Arthur and Tiny enjoy having lots of adventures, playing and having fun but dealing with friendships and emotions can be tricky and the idea behind this new series is to help support very young children as they try to navigate similar situations in their lives.
A well thought out and sweet story that will provide lots of opportunities for little ones to talk about how they feel and to refer back to when they find real life situations difficult.
To celebrate the publication of Can I Play I’m thrilled to welcome author Caryl Hart to the blog, who has very kindly answered some questions about the Mini Monsters and her career as a children’s writer.
Can you tell us a little bit about how the Mini Monsters came about and what other themes will be covered in future books?
I was inpsired to create a series of stories about preschool characters after watching countless episodes of Channel 4’s brilliant The Secret Life of Five Year Olds series. It took a long time and many, many re-writes to come up with the characters and situations that would work in a picture book context, but I’m really pleased with the results!
The first book, Mini Monsters – Can I Play? deals with the tricky business of playing together. In this story, Sparkle is putting on a magic show with Arthur, but when Scout tries to join in too, Sparkle isn’t happy. Feeling left out, Scout runs into the playhouse. But when Arthur goes to comfort him, Sparkle is left on her own! It’s a confusing time for Sparkle. How will she find a solution that works for everybody?
The second book, which Tony Neal is currently illustrating, focuses on the tendency of some children to be competitive as the four friends learn that not everything is about winning and losing and that being kind is the most important thing of all.
Before you took the plunge to become a writer, which children’s books inspired you?
The book that got me writing was Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury. It was given to my daughter as a gift when she was two and I just loved the way the text trips along, while not actually being in verse. It is a delightful book to read out loud and it really did get me thinking about the beauty of picture book texts.
I was hugely impressed by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Gruffalo, which was published in 1999, the year my daugther was born, although I didn’t discover it unitl a few years later. Donaldson’s storytelling and rhyming is pure genius and I was enthralled with the way the book flows and with the cleverness of the story. I have since learned that the story itself is based on a traditional Chinese tale about a tiger and a fox, but this does not diminish my admiration for the way this brilliant pairing created what is now probably the best loved children’s book of all time!
You have written nearly 50 books, do you or your children have any particular favourites?
My children are 21 and 17 now, which is crazy! They both love When a Dragon Comes to Stay and the sequels that are published by Nosy Crow and due out later this year and next. I mean, how could you not fall in love with Rosalind Beardshaw’s darling illustrations of this cheeky preschool character?!
Completely agree with you there, Rosalind Beardshaw’s illsutrations are so beautiful. Which other current children’s authors or illustrators work do you admire?
Oh gosh, there are literally so many, it’s impossible to choose. But my favourite picture book creators would have to include Neal Layton, for his fantastic pop up book – The Story of Everything, Mark Sperring and Dave Tazzyman for The Naughty Naughty Baddies, Yuval Zommer for his incredible nature books, for example The Ground Beneath My Feet, written by Charlotte Gullain, and The Big Book of Bugs. I also love Petr Horacek’s illustrations in Hello Little Bird, and Yasmeen Ismail’s I’m a Girl!
What have been your proudest moments as an author?
I think I’m probably most proud of the impact of Girls Can Do Anything, illustrated by the amazing Ali Pye and published by Scholastic. I have received so many messages from parents around the world who love this book and who tell me that their daughters delight in shouting out the refrain: I’m a GIRL, I’m FANTASTIC! I’m STRONG, BRAVE and PROUD!
It makes my heart sing to know that we’ve created something that has inspired little girls and helped them to gain confidence.
I’m also really proud of mine and Sarah Warburton’s rhyming version of Peter Pan, which is published by Nosy Crow. This book was a mammoth project to complete and a huge challenge, and the book itself is stunningly beautiful. I’m so grateful to have been asked to write it, and so astonished that I actually managed to pull it off!
How wonderful, you have much to be proud of! Do you have any tips to inspire and encourage children to write stories?
Creating stories is great fun, whether you write them in words or make them with pictures, you can really go wild when making up your own stories! Creating stories is a brilliant way to share your feelings, your hopes and dreams and your sense of humour with other people so I really do encourage children to have fun and make up the stories they want to make.
Thank you so much Caryl for taking the time to answer our questions, we can’t wait to see how the Mini Monsters will tackle competitiveness and what they will get up to next.
You can find out more about Caryl on her website where you can also find activities for the Mini Monsters as well as many of her other books. And if you head to Caryl’s YouTube channel you can see a video storytime with the Mini Monsters too.
This post is part of the Mini Monsters Blog Tour, be sure to check out the other stops!
Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending a copy of this book for review. This post contains affiliate links that won’t change how you shop but may earn us a few pennies… that we will probably spend on books.