Anouska Jones is Publisher of EK Books, an award winning publishing house featuring children’s books with heart on issues that matter.
Even more than that, Anouska is an editor, an author and a reviewer. She loves yoga, good food and splashing around in water. Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together, take them apart and put them back together again for the wonderful Anouska Jones. Woo-hoooo!
Hi Anouska and thanks for joining us today.
At EK Books you produce a wide array of books with really useful messages that help children through all sorts of situations. Is humour something you go in search of as part of this, or is it an added bonus to a script that fits your philosophy?
For the EK titles, I don’t deliberately seek out humour. Because we have the ‘books with heart on issues that matter’ motto, there are some issues that don’t lend themselves to a laugh-out-loud funny manuscript (the death of a parent or domestic violence, for example). That said, humour can often be used to lighten heavier messages and introduce difficult topics to kids in a gentler way. The CBCA Notable book Grandma Forgets (about a family coming to terms with their grandmother’s dementia) is one example of an EK title that does this.
Can humour itself be a message? Can reading for the pure joy of laughing be something that helps children become readers, or do they need more depth of story and message?
Kids will only become readers if they enjoy the experience — and humour is an obvious way to help develop that enjoyment. So if all they want to read initially is pure humour (those big books of jokes, for example), then let them. They’re still engaging with the written word and that’s great. Once kids get bitten by the reading bug, I think they naturally tend to seek out books with more depth, character development, etc., although these can obviously still be funny stories.
What books do you find funny?
I find Tristan Bancks’ ‘Tom Weekly’ series ridiculously funny. And one of my all-time-favourite-truly-hilarious-always-makes-me-laugh-no-matter-how-bad-my-day-has-been picture books is The Cat Wants Custard by P. Crumble and Lucinda Gifford.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot or spirit animal?
At this point of the interview, I should clarify that my daughter is now reading over my shoulder because she wondered why I was looking at something to do with tacos (her favourite food). So when she saw this question, she got me to answer a ‘What is your spirit animal?’ quiz and apparently it’s an owl. From a writing perspective, I’m okay with that. Owls are associated with wisdom, magic and mystery — all of which are useful elements of a writer’s toolkit.
An owl it is then. Such a hoot! You’ll have to make tacos for dinner now.
Speaking of food, should pineapple be on a pizza?
Woo-hooo! Another for the yes pile. Your daughter has great taste.
When cheese gets its picture taken what does it say?
That’s awesome. I like it.
If a cow laughed, would milk come out of her nose?
Of course not! That would be udderly ridiculous.
Do you have a favourite joke?
I don’t, but I do have a favourite riddle!
Cool. Our first Tacos riddle.
Q: What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a head but never weeps, has a bed but never sleeps?
Ooh that’s a tricky one. Don’t tell me. I’m going to think about it and get back to you. Hang on, is it a pool table? They have legs but don’t walk or sleep.
No, it’s not a pool table.
With your children’s publishing hat on, what tips can you offer anyone looking to write a funny story?
Don’t force it. Don’t deliberately set out to ‘write a funny story’. Instead, aim to write a great story that flows naturally. If humour happens to be part of that, then congratulations, you’ve written a funny story. If it doesn’t, then maybe tragedy is more your thing. Also, make sure your humour is age-appropriate for your target market.
Thanks, that’s great advice. Hey, you know what else flows naturally? A fish. It flows in water. And it has a mouth but doesn’t talk. A fish is the riddle answer. It is, isn’t it?
No, it’s not a fish (But it does flow).
Finally Anouska, are there any upcoming EK books that might have us chuckling in the near future?
I’d encourage anyone with a vivid imagination (or perhaps I should encourage anyone who feels they don’t have a good imagination!) to check out our April 2019 release, The Incurable Imagination.
In June 2019, we have Grandpa’s Noises, which explores what all the extraordinary noises that come from all parts of this particular grandfather (not just his excitable bottom) actually mean.
That’s got me written all over it. I’m so gettin’ that.
And for more gentle humour, we have Arabella and the Magic Pencil in September 2019. When Arabella gets sick of her younger brother Avery she decides to simply erase him from her life, but surprisingly that’s not as satisfying as she’d thought it would be.
Thank you so much, Anouska. I know how busy you are, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions. I got a lot out of it and I’m sure our readers will too.
And, for those playing along at home, today’s riddle answer is …
Oh yeah, that was going to be my next guess. It really was.
For more information about Anouska’s work and EK Books check it out right here: http://www.anouskajones.com/