When the lovely people at Little Tiger Press asked Moontrug whether she’d like to review any of their upcoming picture books, one in particular caught her eye, initially because of the awesomeness of its cover. Stars: tick. Gorgeous giraffe: tick. And best of all, the title ‘Abigail’: TICK. Having studied Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at GCSE, Moontrug’s lasting memory of literary heroines named Abigail was of a psychopathic ‘witch’ dancing in the forest, and so it was refreshing to stumble across an Abigail as wonderful as the one in award-winning author Catherine Rayner’s latest picture book.
Rayner’s book follows the story of a giraffe called Abigail who loves to count. But when she tries couting zebra’s stripes and cheetah’s spots, they just won’t stand still… The book boasts page after page of stunningly beautiful illustrations that throw you right into the African bush where cheetahs race and zebras roam. There’s an energy about each page – whether it’s cheetah whooshing past or zebra gallavanting in the flowers – that carries the reader forward with the story. We may be learning to count with Abigail but we are also delving into foreign lands where wild beasts are wandering free.
There’s a fabulous fold-up page (a must for the animal with the longest neck!) and the colours Rayner uses make her scenes totally magical. I mean, any book that ends with a purple-blue sky full of stars and a handful of friends beneath it, is bound to win you over. This is a truly beautiful picture book, both in its story and message and in its gorgeous illustrations. And to celebrate its wonderfulness, Little Tiger Press is giving away a print of Abigail (as below) to the person who can come up with a name for the gorgeous ladybird in the book. It can be a first name and a surname – or just one name. Please send entries to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31st August. And as one final treat, Moontrug is thrilled to be able to share an interview with CILIP Kate Greenaway medal winner, Catherine Rayner, below:
MOONTRUG: You say on your website that you often draw inspiration from your pets and sometimes even use them as models. If you don’t have a giraffe as a pet at home (please say you do!), what made you decide to use one as your main character?
CATHERINE RAYNER: I’m afraid I don’t have one as a pet (although I really wish I did!). I was inspired to use a giraffe for many reasons… They are striking, beautiful, graceful and full of character. I also adore the colours. I just love giraffes I could draw them all day long!
MOONTRUG: I grew up in Scotland and have been to Edinburgh zoo many times (the penguins are my favourites). What is the most beautiful animal you’ve seen either in Edinburgh zoo or in the wild?
CATHERINE RAYNER: This is a very difficult question! In terms of native creatures, there is something very special about seeing hares in the wild; I think they are magical. In the zoo, it would be between giraffes, zebras and tigers as their markings fascinate me (the penguins never fail to make me smile though!). I love watching the way their stripes and splotches change shape when they move. They are all so lovely to draw.
MOONTRUG: I could spend hours looking at the stars and I LOVED the way Abigail and her friends counted them at the end of your book. Where was the best starry night that you’ve ever seen?
CATHERINE RAYNER: It would have to be one night whilst I was camping on a small island off Sicily. The stars were the biggest and brightest I’ve ever seen, I love the night sky.
MOONTRUG: Abigail is very good at counting. Were you good at Maths at school?
CATHERINE RAYNER: No – I was useless! Maths is absolutely not my strong point I’m afraid!
MOONTRUG: The ladybird in your book is very cool. Does he or she have a name?
CATHERINE RAYNER: The ladybird doesn’t have a name at the moment. She is a girl though – I called her Miss Ladybird whilst I was drawing her, but she could really do with a better name! Perhaps I should run a competition for that one…