As we welcome 'What I Like Most', a brand new picture book about coveting your favourite things, author Mary Murphy wrote a lovely behind the scenes piece about how the book came to be and her inspiration behind it:
Sometimes I have an idea for a book, but I'm the wrong illustrator for it. So I just write the story down, and put it away.
Then one day Maria, my editor, said, 'Why don't you write a book for someone else to illustrate?' I remembered my half-finished stories on half-pages of paper. I typed out 'What I Like Most', and sent it to Maria. I thought she would say 'That's not what I meant, I meant a proper story with a beginning, middle and end.' But she didn't. She said yes. And then she said, 'Zhu Cheng-Liang would be the perfect illustrator for this.'
Now, everyone loves Zhu Cheng-Liang, including me. His 'New Year's Reunion' is one of my favourite ever books. I thought he would say 'That's not what I illustrate, I illustrate proper stories with beginnings, middles and ends.' But he didn't. He said yes. You can imagine how pleased I was.
Everyone says how nice Zhu Cheng-Liang is, and I really hope to meet him someday. He is Chinese, and when he had said yes to the text, I started to think that the text was about a girl who moved from China to the U.K. I hadn't noticed this before, but that is one of the things about stories. They offer different things all the time. So Zhu Cheng-Liang shows us a girl in her new home, and she is noticing everything. He did the book in watercolours. It suits perfectly. I love the drawings, and colours, and the feelings between the girl and her friends, and how she looks at everything, including her mother. He based the girl on his granddaughter, Fiona. Some people think she looks like me when I was little.
The book is like a game I used to play on car journeys. Think of something you like, for example 'banana'. You say: 'Bananas are the best!' The next person has to think of something they like better, for example drawing. ' Except drawing,' they say. 'Drawing beats bananas, it's the best!' Then you might say 'Except the moon. The moon beats drawing, it's the best!' If the other person disagrees they say 'WRONG! Drawing beats the moon!' and you have to think of something else better than drawing - or they can. In the end you have a list of things you really like: holidays, rabbits, visiting, pizza, friends, swimming... they can be unusual things like untangling wool, or letting a bee out a window. You end up with something you can't think of anything better than. When I played, a dog was nearly always the thing I couldn't think of anything better than.
Except two dogs.
Pick up copies of 'What I Like Most' at your local bookshop!