Award-winning children’s writer and illustrator says there are valuable lessons in contemporary politics
Sharjah: Lessons from contemporary politics may seem like an unlikely topic for children but award-winning British writer Ed Vere has a knack for drawing out the moral of the story. Vere, a New York Times best-selling writer and illustrator of picture books, told Gulf News his latest book, ‘Grumpy Frog’ (nominated for the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award), was “directly a reaction to the Brexit campaign”.
Vere, who recently gave a talk at the Sharjah Children’s Book Fair, also revealed his upcoming book, ‘How to be a Lion’, is a reaction to the 2016 US presidential election, which resulted in Donald Trump taking America’s top job.
In ‘Grumpy Frog’, the frog doesn’t hang out with anyone who isn’t green like him. He turns down a potential friendship with a bunny because the bunny is pink. The frog does eventually befriend some green — a crocodile who eats him in the end.
In the Brexit campaign, which saw Brits take sides between leaving or staying in the European Union, Vere said “there was a lot of intolerance against people who some people consider ‘the other’. Immigration was one of themes and a lot of people felt worried as there is, across a lot of Europe, a move to the right and a feeling of intolerance”.
He added: “So I wanted to do a book that, in a way, isn’t directly talking about politics, but is talking about what it is to be intolerant and whether that is a pleasant way to be.
“I think most children understand that naturally. They have to be actually taught to be intolerant of other people. I think they are naturally tolerant, but children do have moments when they have tantrums, and getting them to look at that behaviour is what I was interested in.”
In ‘How to be a Lion’, releasing on June 26, Vere challenges the idea that “some people think lions can only be one way — fierce”.
He said: “It’s a book for everyone but it’s also talking to boys … I think Donald Trump gives across this sort of ridiculous bravado, and you know that whole thing with him and how he treats woman with zero respect, which is ugly behaviour.
“He’s the president, so people are going to look at him as an example and I want to say a president, or a man, or a woman — nobody has to behave like that … So I’m saying it’s fine to be gentle, its fine to be sensitive, it’s fine to like poetry [like the lion in the book] … This book is trying to show you how to stand up for that, if that’s how you are. How to be a lion is many, many ways; it’s not just one way.”