Children’s Books North: Alison Murray Q&A

We are delighted that Roaring Reads is today’s stop on the Children’s Books North Autumn Highlights tour, and especially excited to be welcoming Scottish author-illustrator Alison Murray, who introduces her latest picture book, Sharky McShark, below.

Children’s Books North aims to connect children’s book professionals living in the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Scotland. The network seeks to promote members’ work, new books and events. Additionally, CBN is keen to bring focus on the importance of regional diversity in children’s books and the industry

Can you tell us about your new book?

My new book Sharky McShark and the Teensy Wee Crab is really a book about the bravery of being kind, no matter what. It’s about a great big bully of a shark who thinks she can quite happily live alone, being mean to everyone she encounters, until one day she gets tangled in an old fishing net and dragged down into a deep, dark abyss. Here she experiences a revelation.

What’s your favourite spread/passage?

Can I share two? My second favourite bit is the main turning point of the book when Sharky finds herself (having been a bully all of her life) at the bottom of the abyss with no one to rescue her because she has no friends. There, she has a realisation about why she has been mean and what she has missed out on. It’s a poignant moment.

My first favourite bit is when Sharky musters up the courage to ask her rescuer to be her friend. The spread still makes me giggle. (Is that too mean?) I think it’s because I know how she feels; sometimes it’s hard making new friends.

What inspired this book?

The inspiration for the book came from a fable by Aesop – ‘The Lion and the Mouse’ – a story about a little mouse who rescues a lion. Also perhaps my rescue dog, Skip.

Can you nominate one children’s book by a northern or Scottish creative to read this winter?

Helen Kellock’s The Star in the Forest is a lovely winter read.

Have any of your stories (or scenes in them) been inspired by things that happened to you in real life?

I think it’s inevitable that characters and the things that happen to them come from personal experiences. I must say that I have never been a bully! BUT there are times I can remember when perhaps I might have been kinder, and so I can empathise with Sharky’s regrets.

Sharky is most likely about my rescue dog Skip, who is very naughty and did not trust people at all when we re-homed him. He was inclined to nip at our heels and clothes. He terrified us at first because he would bare his teeth in an evil grin every time we came back home; we worried he might bite us.

Despite this, we continued to love him, and after five years he is beginning to trust us – a little. We still love him, even though he is a very difficult dog. He still grins at us but we got used to it, and he never did bite any of us.

Credits: text and illustrations Alison Murray ©2020, Sharky McShark is published by Orchard Books (Orchard are part of Hachette Children’s Group)

  • Click here to read our review of Sharky McShark.
  • This Q&A is part of the Children’s Books North Autumn Highlights tour, which includes celebrated northern/Scottish authors such as Tom Palmer, Sophie Anderson and Louisa Reid. Find out about the stops below:

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