Lena: On Saturday 29th November, we interviewed the illustrator, Axel Scheffler, at Kew Bookstore in Kew. He is responsible for illustrating many children’s stories including ‘The Gruffalo’, ‘Room on the Broom’ and ‘Monkey Puzzle’. It was amazing meeting the man himself and getting our books signed. But before that, we got to ask him some questions about his job…
Layla: I asked if he was good at drawing when he was little. He said he wasn’t that good but he always liked it. I also asked how he thought the Gruffalo would look. Axel said that the text in the book described how the Gruffalo should look but he also thought that ‘Gruffalo’ rhymed with ‘Buffalo’ and so based it on that too. However Julia (the author) saw the Gruffalo as more of an alien.
Lena: Axel went on to explain that he loves his job, and has wanted to be an illustrator from quite a young age. Because he has wanted to be an illustrator for so long, when I asked him what he would be if he wasn’t an illustrator, he had no idea what to reply with!
Hannah: I asked if he had based any of his characters on pets or people. He was sure he hadn’t but he said that Julia thinks he has drawn her a few times but it wasn’t deliberate. She thought that the diver in ‘Tiddler’ was meant to be her and she also sees herself as one of the giant townspeople in ‘The Smartest Giant in Town’.
Lena: Axel told us that he illustrated his first published book straight after he came out of art school. It was called ‘The Piemakers’ and it was filled with black and white illustrations.
Hannah: I asked Axel who his favourite illustrator was and he said straight away ‘William Steig’ – an American who illustrated the book ‘Shrek’, which was later turned into the film.
Lena: When I asked him what his favourite thing to draw was he replied that he enjoyed drawing small animals, and he especially enjoyed drawing rodents.
Layla: I asked if he had any advice on how to draw the Gruffalo. Axel said he didn’t have any special advice, but that you could always copy it or trace it.
Hannah: I explained to Axel that in most of his books after ‘The Gruffalo’, I had seen the face of the Gruffalo somewhere. He said, “That’s a very good question, are you going to ask me where they all are now?” I said yes. He started with ‘The Snail in the Whale’ and remembered it was a child drawing the Gruffalo’s face in the sand. Then he mentioned where it was in ‘Zog’, ‘The Highway Rat’ and ‘Tiddler’ but he couldn’t remember that there was one in ‘Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book’. I reminded him where it was - in ‘Goldilocks and The Three Bears’, there is a drawing of it stuck on the wall!
Lena: In total it was very interesting and enjoyable interviewing Axel Scheffler and learning about him in more detail. It was also great having some of his brilliant books signed after asking the questions!
A note from Little Star Writing: We'd like to say a very big thank you to Axel for agreeing to an interview with the Little Star Writers, and also to Hannah, Layla and Lena, who asked some brilliant questions and wrote this fantastic blog post for us. Another big 'thank you' goes to the lovely folk at Kew Bookstore - do pop down when you get a chance and visit their little treasure trove of children's books!