When I was young we had few books in the house. One that I did have, and treasured, and still have today, was a book of nursery rhymes. As a child I spent hours looking at all the poems and knew the words of each page by heart, because I loved them so.
Many of the rhymes in The Cat and the Fiddle came from my old book, but many came from the collections of books I had amassed when my own children were young. Most families who love books have at least one book of nursery rhymes in their collection. We have about twenty.
Finding the shape of the book was difficult. I looked at the way others had organised. Some had themes, like animal rhymes, weather, counting etc. Others were ‘a day of rhymes’. In the end I settled for organised chaos which seems to suit the rhyme and the reason of rhymes. Small sketches in my moleskine notebooks grew into small thumbnails and then paintings and each page became more full and playful.
The cat in the picture is Max, and the words are just a joy to speak:
“Sing sing, what shall I sing? The cat’s run away with the pudding string. Do, do, what shall I do, the cat has bitten it quite in two!”
The hope is that this is a book that children will return to again and again and find in it new things that they haven’t noticed before.
I found that I was drawing in things that were happening around me, places that I have been to, objects that were in the home, from an old sewing machine in Four and Twenty Tailors to a set of stepping stones across a river in Dartmoor that came into the Jumping Joan painting.
And Rosie, Hannah ( my daughter’s) little black and white collie worked her way into the book. Not just Rosie, but her habit of stealing things, from wooden spoons to toys. So, in Jumping Joan Rosie is running around with something in her mouth, looking pleased with herself. On the next page you find it is the Master’s fiddling stick that Rosie has stolen. Naturally he doesn’t know where to find it.
And this is Rosie: she does love to run with a stick…..
The book also gave me the opportunity to buy some stuffed weasels from the antique shop in Newport, now known as the tax deductible stuffed weasels, because as everyone knows, half a pound of tupenny rice and half a pound of treacle is just the way the money goes, then pop goes the weasel. ( Every time I had been into the shop these weasels and friends made me laugh so much! Not sure why. Badly stuffed weasels shouldn’t be funny).
As a child one of my favorites that had stuck in my mind was :
There was an old woman tossed up in a basket seventeen times as high as the moon…..
I tried to make her beautiful.
In the evolution of the book it changed its name. Originally called A Rhyme in Time, the cover was to be a clock showing characters from inside the book, but the cover didn’t work, and the images became the endpapers, but in the meantime Jon Mayle, jeweller, made this beautiful clock which is astonishing accurate to the original painting for the endpapers.
The Cat and the Fiddle is published in the USA and the UK by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.
Longlisted for the Greenaway Award 2013
Signed copies are available from Solva Woollen Mill who are happy to deliver anywhere in the world. It can also be purchased from all good independent bookshops and ordered from any library.