Tuesday 17 August 2021

Let’s Get Ready for School - Q&A with author Jane Porter

Today we welcome Jane Porter onto Picture Book Party to talk about her new picture book, Let's Get Ready for School illustrated by Carolina Rabei.  

What will school be like? What will we do there? What if I miss Mummy? Do I have to go?

Jane Porter answers all of these questions and more in this warm, witty and reassuring book for young children that explores everything they'll need to know before starting school. Marley, Maya, Theo, Akiko, Ella and Zakir are all getting ready to start school. Why not come along with them and see what it’s like? Illustrated with charming characters by Carolina Rabei, this is the perfect introduction to joining a new class.

Guest Blog Post from Jane Porter

Every summer I get invited to a very special graduation – the nursery I visit once a week organises a special celebration for all the children who are ready to move on and start school. There are songs, certificates and the children get asked what they want to be when they grow up – usually a firefighter or a clown.
It’s a big moment, and it’s sad to say goodbye to the children I have got to know. And it’s easy to see that they all have different feelings about this huge next step in their lives – some are apprehensive whilst others can’t wait to dive in. All of these children were at the front of my mind while I was writing Let’s Get Ready for School, and I wanted to show in the book that there are all sorts of different ways you might experience the move. The six different characters in the book – Zakir, Ella, Akiko, Marley, Maya and Theo – should, I hope, offer every child someone to relate to.
When I was researching the book, I was lucky enough to be able to go back to my own children’s primary school and spend a morning in Reception, observing and chatting to the children. The lovely teachers there were so helpful, and really helped give me a sense of how the school day works and how they help settle the children in – and I was able to put all of this into the book.

Young Jane Porter
Once the text was finished, it was over to illustrator Carolina Rabei to work her magic. I was so excited when I saw her first samples for the book and the finished artwork is just a joy. The pages are packed with the kind of tiny details that I know children love to spot, and I really hope the combination of my words and Carolina’s pictures will reassure children and give them confidence for the big adventure they are about to embark on. I love all the spreads in the book but I think my favourite is the one where all the children are waking up in the morning, and you can tell straight away how they are feeling about the big day ahead.

Young Carolina Rabei
When I started school, many decades ago – I was very, very shy so I didn’t find it easy at all. It turns out that Carolina felt just the same! You can listen to us chatting about our starting school memories, from cinnamon buns and bunches of flowers in Moldova to bottles of milk and colours for numbers – as well as why we should treasure our teachers below.
Good luck to everyone starting school this September!


Can you tell us a little bit more about your writing process?
I like to make notes in pencil in small, pocket-sized notebooks before I start typing anything on the computer. If I’m feeling a bit stuck, the best thing to do is go for a walk or a bike ride with my pencil and notebook – this usually jogs things along nicely. Sometimes the ideas flow so fast I have to keep stopping to do some scribbling!
Tell us about your journey into the world of children’s books? 
Children’s books are a second career for me – I used to write and edit magazines about gardens and landscapes. Then I retrained as an illustrator, and my first published picture books were me illustrating other writers’ texts. Then I started writing and illustrating, and it’s lovely to be able to collaborate either way round.
What are your favourite picture books, both older and more recent?
There are so many wonderful picture books being published now, it’s impossible to choose! I think one of the most creative picture bookmakers around today is Viviane Schwarz – she is amazingly inventive, and I love her work.

I have a YouTube series called ‘Looking At Picture Books’ where I interview other illustrators about their process and there are some wonderful books featured from Fiona Woodcock, Dapo Adeola, Yoko Tanaka, Rebecca Cobb, Diane Ewen, Momoko Abe and Jenni Desmond – you can find all of them here.

Older picture books I admire include anything by John Burningham or Brian Wildsmith, and I’m a big fan of Rosemary Wells and Arnold Lobel.


A special thanks to our guest this week, Jane Porter!
Let's Get Ready for School is now available from all good booksellers.