Words Amicia de Moubray Photographs David Hayward
Children’s author and book illustrator Priscilla Lamont has a winsome twinkle in her eyes. In fact, she is just what you imagine such a creative person to be like. Friendly, sympathetic and warm, Priscilla launched her latest book last week at Top Hat and Tales, Faversham’s new independent bookshop. Hodge Podge Lodge (a rubbish story), is brimming with imagination and charm. As you have probably already guessed it is a salutary tale of how to deal with rubbish aimed at four to seven year olds. It conveys the story in a light-hearted whimsical manner.
The idea for the book came from the weekly walks Priscilla and her friends take every Friday all over East Kent. Bemoaning the amount of litter they encounter, she was inspired to write about the unfortunate consequences that befall animals who become ensnared by their own rubbish. ‘The pigwigs live happily in Hodge Podge Lodge making lots and lots of mess; but they never think about where their rubbish goes’, for example: ‘Squirrel had to be rescued from an inside an empty crisp packet’ or ‘Deer got an old broken toy caught up on his antlers.’ There is an element of that children’s classic, the Borrowers: ‘a mirror made of painted lolly sticks and smoothed-out silver foil, or ‘pretty flowers made from the wrappers of sweets and chocolates and ‘bottle tops for board games.’ The colourful illustrations are elegantly arranged on the pages, creating a clean, fresh but captivating book. All the animals have kindly and likeable demeanours and faces.
‘It is vital to pace the correct rhythm of a story. There is an exciting page-turning aspect to the process, twisting things to make them funny and inventive,’ says Priscilla. ‘It is much easier to start a book than to dream up the end. To begin, I make thumbnail sketches in pen or pencil and watercolour.’ Priscilla is a loyal customer of Faversham’s Stationary Shoppe for many of her materials. Her studio is in Creek Creative in the heart of Faversham just opposite Neil Brown of BeamTwenty3’s office, the designer of Faversham Life’s website. A selection of her greetings cards are always on sale in the gallery shop.
Priscilla studied graphic design and illustration at Canterbury College of Art and Design (now the University for the Creative Arts) after doing a Foundation year at Birmingham College of Art. ‘Children’s books seem to suit me but at first I also did a variety of work for magazines and publishers, as well waitressing and bar work.’
Listening to Radio 4’s Listen with Mother led to her first book, The Troublesome Pig, a reworking of the old nursery tale. She explains the tendency for children’s books to feature animals more often than humans: ‘If humans are involved it automatically makes it trickier and judgemental. Best to remove them altogether. Illustrations in children’s books are the first pictures a child will seriously consider. They have the potential to help that child make sense of the world.’
She has illustrated stories by Michael Rosen, Adrian Mitchell, Harry Secombe, Hilary MacKay and Julia Jarman, more than 40 books in total, and her work has been in numerous exhibitions.