I interviewed Emily Ann Davison about how she developed her characters for her picture book, Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny, for the #246 17 Aug edition of the UK national writing magazine, Writers’ Forum.
Emily told me as a child she enjoyed writing stories and songs, so it wasn’t really a huge surprise that as a grown up she returned to writing. She also worked with young children for many years, and this is where she discovered her enthusiasm for children’s books, in particular picture books. One day, a picture book idea popped into her head and she revealed now the ideas just won’t stop popping.
She explained the inspiration behind her debut picture book, Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny which is published by Nosy Crow, came from working with children and being a mother. She understands just how wriggly young children can be, and felt there was a place for a book to help wriggly children feel calm. She wrote this story at a time when her daughter was finding it particularly hard to feel calm at bedtime, so Emily had started to try different relaxation techniques to help her. She discovered the main thing that helped was yoga!
“I’d previously written a draft picture book about a family of monsters doing meditation. Doing yoga with my daughter, reminded me about this story, so I dug it out and transformed it into a story about yoga, calm and mindfulness and features an excitable bunny called Yo-Yo!”
Yo-Yo is a fidgety, bouncy, can’t-sit-still-EVER type of bunny. Grandpa suggests the bunnies try yoga, but even that doesn’t stop her wiggling and giggling. Yo-Yo later finds herself lost and all alone in a shadowy forest. She feels panicky, but maybe Grandpa’s yoga will be able to help… At the end of the book, there are simple step-by-step instructions so children can stretch, feel calm and be a yoga bunny too.
Emily said when writing for young children, it’s important the characteristics or experiences of a character are relatable to a young child’s own life experiences. It was important to Emily, that at the end of the story Yo Yo was still wriggly and giggly, and found it tricky to sit still as she didn’t want the character to change her personality, she wanted Yo Yo to learn a method of feeling calm by using yoga.
Some stories are all about the setting. For Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny, it is the concept that is most important. Emily told me when writing picture books it is often the characters and concept of the book that dictate the plot and theme.
“Young children have a very short attention span, so it is important to keep the pace going. You need to have some type of suspense in the story or some type of escalation throughout the book.”
She also revealed for a picture book, page turns are important. At each page, you want the child to HAVE to know what happens next. her suggestion is to think of page turns as a ‘flap’ in a ‘lift the flap’ book. The page turn can be used as a reveal.
Emily’s advice to other writers wanting their picture book manuscript published is – do the research. Research picture books. Research publishers and agents before submitting. Know as much about the world of picture books as you can and try to connect with other picture book writers. The journey is much easier when you have a network of writers around you, who you can share the highs and lows with.
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