Q&A with Tom Percival author of Bubble Trouble

How long have you been making children’s books, and how did it come about? 

My first picture book, Tobias and the Super Spooky Ghost Book was published in 2010 and you work a year ahead in picture books so I guess I started in 2009. I illustrate a series of books for older children called Skulduggery Pleasant which was successful enough that publishers became interested in seeing what ideas I had of my own. I’ve written and illustrated my own stories since I was a child and if you have a passion for something then eventually you get good at it. 

It took me a while though, all my pre-publication ideas would have made terrible picture books, too long-winded, too many characters, sub-plots. I could go on, you name the mistake I’d have made it! Having said that, some of them are still good ideas in their own right. What I’m realising now is that nothing is every truly a mistake, if you match up the right idea to the right medium then you’re away! That overly complex picture book idea might make a brilliant chapter reader.

What do think makes a picture book great? 

Hmmm, apart from getting it made by Oliver Jeffers I’m not sure I have a very clear answer to that! What I strive for in my picture books is to make something that is accessible, entertaining, and communicative. I’ve learnt so much from the books I’ve read over the years and I think if you can help children develop an understanding of the world, relationships, emotions AND give them an exciting journey to go on, then that’s all you can hope for from a picture book. Anything else is really just stylistic. For example, I like writing funny stories at the moment, but a picture books doesn’t have to be funny to be great. So I guess what makes a picture book great is the same as what makes any book great, it’s a story that speaks to you and inspires you.

What were the last 5 picture books you bought?

Specs for Rex by Yasmeen Ismail
The Promise by Niciola Davies and Laura Carlin
This is London by M. Sasek
Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson
Zagazoo by Quentin Blake
The friendship between Rueben & Felix is very funny, can you name 3 of your favourite friendships in picture books?
Mabel and Me by Mark Sperring and Sarah Warbuton has a really funny friendship at it’s core. Apart from that my mind has gone completely blank! I don’t want to go ferreting around on my bookshelves looking for picture books about friendship because that would feel like cheating! So can I just say that one? 

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