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Tania McCartney: Ask Yourself a Question

If you could live anywhere, where would you choose? Author and illustrator Tania McCartney has lived in a number of different places around the world but if she could, she’d ‘live inside a book’. With over 50 books to her name already, and living ‘in a forest of artwork and a mountain of books’, she’s pretty much achieved that goal. Have a look at her YouTube channel for a sneak peek into Tania’s world. Not one to just sit at home, writing and drawing, Tania is also highly active in the KidLit community – an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, running workshops for kids and creators and instigating creative and informative platforms, including Kids’ Book Review and a series of podcasts. Ask yourself a question: How many hours does this wonderful lady have in her day?

With so many books already written, surely Tania McCartney is running out of ideas! Not so. Keep reading to discover what inspires her stories – and find your own little bit of inspiration in the process.

Tania McCartney Evie and Pog Take Off
Where do you get your ideas for your books?

From everyday life! The happenings around me – especially when I meet and chat with kids; they are endlessly inspiring.

Nature is also a huge inspiration, as is art and travel. I’m a visual creator, so stories can be born of a single image or a picture that pops into my mind.

Inspiration for my non-fiction works comes from a deep interest in the workings of our world and often old ecological themes.

Do you have any tips for students who might be struggling with the blank page?

Ask yourself a question. The stranger the better.

What would you do if you met a rhinoceros made of noodles?

Then ask another question – what would you do if the noodle rhino turned out to be your teacher?

Then another – what would you do if your noodle rhino teacher had a hot air balloon that could take you back through time?

Just ask, ask, ask. Questions need answering and that makes for good stories!

Which of your books is your absolute favourite? Why?

Of course, this is like asking about a favourite child… but for me, it’s usually my most recent book because it’s still close to my heart.

I have to admit I’m feeling particular affection for my Evie and Pog junior fiction series because all my other books are picture books or non-fiction, and being able to tell a long story, with deeply fleshed-out characters, has had an emotional impact on me. I care enormously for Evie and Pog. They are more than real to me, and I love who they are – vibrant, life-filled, flawed, creative and curious.

So… Evie and Pog.

Which of your characters is your favourite? Why?

Evie.

No, Pog.

No, Evie.

Wait – Granny.

No, Evie! Because she just is who she is. She has no agenda. She’s not perfect but she’s plump of heart. She’s endlessly curious, immensely caring and just wants everyone around her to be happy and feel loved. There’s a deep creativity to Evie.

Evie’s a problem-solver but no Pollyanna.

She is, I guess, the best parts of all children, with some of the worst thrown in!

Tania McCartney - Evie and Pog Party Perfect
When you think about children reading your books, how does this make you feel? What do you want their ‘take-aways’ to be?

Unbelievable. It’s everything. It’s why I make books.

To know that anything I’ve created could bring happiness, comfort, insight, enlightenment, enjoyment – I couldn’t be more grateful if even one child finds this in my books.

I also want them to see themselves, to be able to relate, and to find cues that will help them navigate life, both internally and in the external world.

I want my books to harness a love of story in children—for anything I create to help forge a lifelong reader. Literacy is freedom.

Books and stories are central to the human condition and how we live life on Earth.

After this, you’ll want to find out more about Tania McCartney and her books (and everything else she does). Start with her glorious website and make sure you go back regularly because she’s always updating it. Then move on to her blog where you’ll get more nuggets of info – and regular giveaways! You can also find Tania on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And don’t forget to download and listen to her wonderful podcast series, The Happy Book. (Remember the YouTube channel too, and Kids’ Book Review – links at the top of this page.)

If you’re a teacher, ask yourself a question: do you use picture books with older readers? If you don’t – our blog post on this very topic might just change your mind. Tania’s beautiful picture book, Mamie, is in there as a wonderful story to teach Year 5/6 students about human endeavour.

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