I interviewed Michael Rosen about the research he does for his writing in 2009, when he was children’s laureate .
He explained when researching, he uses a mixture of the British Library, Internet, newspapers, Cecil Sharp Library and the state library of Melbourne (re Cuffay). He often starts with Google and goes from there. He revealed he often uses Carpenter’s Oxford Guide to Children’s Literature as a starting point.
Michel Rosen told me:
“In phase one of your research, you should allow yourself to be distracted by anything and everything that you discover. In Phase Two, you have to be ruthless and only stick with the subject in hand, or you’ll never finish the work.”
There is no pattern to the way he researches. He said he usually puts everything he discovers either physically into piles in his office, or log it into the computer. He likes to follow his nose – let one thing lead to another.
“Asking ‘what if’ and speculating are two important research techniques to discover a coherent narrative and ear-catching moments.”
In one of his ‘following his nose moments’ he discovered museums in Britain kept the heads (or at least one head) of aboriginals who had been killed. Michael Rosen used this idea in You’re Thinking about Tomatoes when the protagonists hear the sound of bubbles and wheezing, and when they get to see what’s going on, it’s the head of an aboriginal man talking to them.
You’re Thinking about Tomatoes and You’re Thinking about Doughnuts are two books that explore how things we see today, a museum and a stately home, owe their appearance and exhibits to aspects of the past.
You can find out more about Michael Rosen and his children’s books on his website: www.michaelrosen.co.uk