The wonderful world of Harry & Lil!
I’d like to say a big thanks to Hebe for inviting me to tell you about the Harry & Lil series of picture books. If there are any little people in your life between the ages of one and five – of if you just happen to have a passion for picture books – this one’s for you!
Children’s books are sometimes seen as the poor relations of other, supposedly more important forms of writing. But I believe that books written for young children are among the most important of all: get children hooked early and they are likely to remain readers for life – and being a reader brings with it all kinds of benefits. By the time I started writing for children, I had been publishing adult poetry for many years (one of my poems is currently on the EdExcel A’ Level English syllabus) and I’m sometimes asked what made me turn to writing for a younger age group. One, simple answer is that – like most authors – I write the sort of thing I have most enjoyed reading.
I have very clear memories of my own picture book favourites from childhood – and I remember, too, that special feeling of being read to as I fell asleep or sat snuggled on my parents’ or grandparents’ laps; there’s no feeling quite like it. I can still hear the soothing rumble of my father’s voice as I lay an ear to his chest and settled into the story. The books I asked to hear over and over included The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Go, Dog, Go!, Where The Wild Things Are, Harry the Dirty Dog and Do you like My Hat?
This last is by the incomparable Dr. Seuss, author of the more famous The Cat in the Hat – a story so enduring that it was made into a live action film in 2003. Do you like My Hat? was unusual for a Dr. Seuss book, in that it didn’t rhyme. But I had other Seuss books too, and what I loved most about those was the sound of the words – the bouncy rhythm, and playful rhymes that tripped off the tongue – as in this snapshot from Horton Hears A Who!:
Then Horton stopped walking.
The speck-voice was talking!
The voice was so faint he could just barely hear it.
“Speak up, please” said Horton. He put his ear near it.
When I came to write my own children’s books, it never occurred to me to write without rhyme. Rhymes are very reassuring for children: the steady beat and chime of the words fixes the text in their memories, and it also encourages them to predict what comes next (as in ‘When Lil and her friends at last appeared / all the animals clapped and —.) The confidence instilled by guessing the right word in this way can make the reading experience a whole lot easier when children move on to reading by themselves.
But rhyme is nothing without a good story, with characters that the children can relate to and engage with. The Harry & Lil books are based around two central characters. Candy Stripe Lil is a fearless little shrew who is resourceful, quick on her feet and happens to like to wear candy stripes. Her best friend is the lovable Harry the Hog; Harry likes to party, is loyal, fun-loving and very fond of sleeping! Together, the pair get up to all sorts of adventures at home on Piggyback Hill. In Hog in the Fog, Lil ventures out into the swirling fog to search for Harry when he fails to turn up for his tea. In The Hog, the Shrew and the Hullabaloo, the two set about investigating the strange noise that is stopping Harry from sleeping. And in The Shrew that Flew, Harry looks on anxiously as Lil draws on all her powers of inventiveness to work out a way to fly up to the rooftop and rescue her favourite hat – just in time to wear it to Badger’s birthday tea! Each book contains a small twist or element of surprise – an essential ingredient for keeping children interested through to the end.
To see a free preview of The Shrew that Flew, please click here.
The illustrations for these books are by the prodigiously talented Eunyoung Seo, who is a joy to work with. As an author/illustrator partnership, we have received some wonderful feedback. Here’s a small selection:
Harry & Lil are eternally endearing. Eunyoung Seo’s delectable scenes, coupled with Julia Copus’ tongue-tingling rhyming text are guaranteed to bring joy to listeners and readers aloud, at every turn of the page. Spectacular! – Red Reading Hub
There are lots of rhyming picture books but very few that read aloud as beautifully as this one. Lil and Harry are an endearing partnership and this little story of try, try again is made even more appealing by Eunyoung Seo’s captivating illustrations, and that silvery rhyming text. – Lovereading4Kids
If this gem of a book from poet Julia Copus and illustrator Eunnyoung Seo is anything to go by, there is another partnership to rival Donaldson & Scheffler. They work with equal skill and apparent consummate ease to produce truly wonderful, memorable picture books. – Books For Keeps
I hope you’ll enjoy the Harry & Lil books as much as these reviewers have, and that your children will become part of their ever growing fan-base. All the current titles are available online from Amazon, WHSmith and Waterstones, as well as many independent sites, like the excellent Hive Books (hive.co.uk) – and, of course, from any good high street bookshop!
Julia Copus is poet and children’s author. Both her adult poetry and children’s books are published by Faber & Faber.
Just to round off I wanted to say Thank you to Julia Copus for giving me the opportunity to host her and her wonderful work on my blog! I don't usually promote Children's books as my audience are mainly teens I believe, however, I hope you know someone (as I know I do) who would love the wonderful world of Harry & Lil!!