Normally I’m focused on YA or middle grade books, but sometimes there are children’s books you can’t help but want to read. One of these is Cranky Chicken. Isn’t that just the best book title? I was honored to be able to interview the author of this children’s book and can’t wait to tell you more about it. Keep on reading to find out more!
Narwhal and Jelly meet The Bad Guys in this heartwarming, brightly illustrated, and downright hilarious chapter book about what happens when a very cranky chicken is befriended by a very cheerful worm.
Cranky Chicken is, well, cranky. With one cranky eyebrow, cranky eyes, and even cranky, scratchy feet. But then one day, Cranky meets a very friendly worm named Speedy who wants nothing more than to be friends. Young readers will love seeing the mismatched friendship grow over the course of three charming and laugh-out-loud short adventures as Chicken and Speedy become BFFs (Best Feathered Friends) and Speedy shows Chicken how to look on the bright side.
- Have you always wanted to write children’s books?
As a kid, I’m not sure I even realised that real people wrote the books I read and loved. Each book was so whole and complete – its own little mini universe – that it never occurred to me that someone made it! But I did always love stories. Even when I was small, I turned to writing and drawing when I had a big question – something about the world I didn’t quite understand or wanted to know more about. I made illustrated stories, created flip books, sculpted entire worlds out of lego, made stop-motion animations, wrote musicals and novels – stories were always pouring out of me.
As an adolescent, when I was figuring out what I was going to do with my life, the one thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to work with children. I was always drawn to the unique way kids think – the way they express themselves and interact with the world. I went on to study occupational therapy and specialised as a paediatric counsellor, working for many years in child and youth mental health. It was here that I got to become part of many children’s real life stories. In ways, I was becoming a specialist in the hearts and minds of children, which is exactly what children’s authors and illustrators do.
It took me a while after study and working full time to circle back to writing and drawing, but when I did it was like a door opened up inside me that I didn’t even know was there. It was almost immediately clear to me that making children’s books was my calling.
- What children’s books were your favorite growing up?
I was a voracious reader, so I had many books come into my life at an important time and leave their mark. As a tiny thing I loved Sandra Boynton’s books. They had so much life – a bright playfulness I was drawn to – and I would sketch her characters over and over. She is a master of white space and few strokes, so she has clearly influenced my own work as an illustrator. I also adored comic books and grew up surrounded by ones my parents collected on their travels – Asterix and Obelix, Tin Tin (many in their original French), Footrot Flats (a New Zealand comic) and The Far Side. When I was still quite young I had a great loss in my life and for a while I (unintentionally) collected books on grief. I read and re-read Isabelle Carmody’s Greylands and Kate DiCamillo’s The Tiger Rising, amongst others, and still find myself returning to these books now. After that I was drawn mostly to fantasies, preferring to be swept away and to enter worlds unlike our own but with familiar emotions. As an adult I have settled mostly into urban fantasy and love the work of Maggie Stiefvater, Kelly Barnhnill, Neil Gaiman and Haruki Murakami. But I read widely and love to bounce around between writers and genres, from novels to graphic novels back to picture books. I love it all.
I’m similar as a writer. I don’t like the idea of being limited to one thing or another. I love making picture books but I am absolutely thrilled to have my first graphic novel / early chapter book out!
- What is your favorite thing about Cranky Chicken?
As a character, I love that Cranky Chicken is always her own bird. She is cranky, yes, but she also has a kind certainty that makes her strut through life doing what she wants to do and wearing exactly what she wants to wear. Her self-assuredness is admirable and I love that she’s not a people pleaser (something I struggle with myself). Part of why Chicken so appealed to me as a character is that in stories we so rarely celebrate female grumps. I immediately fell for her – she was spectacularly cranky and somehow more lovable for it, so I wanted to put her front and centre in a book that joys in all her cantankerous ways. It’s my hope for all kids that they get to be just like Cranky Chicken – to strut through life being their own unique selves and to find those who love and celebrate them for exactly who they are.
- What is next for you? Any books you can tell us about?
So much more crankiness! The second Cranky Chicken is finished and coming out in June 2022. The third one I am writing as we speak and will be out in 2023. But I also have a number of picture books circling around my mind, which I work on in between drawing chickens and worms. Plus I have a more middle grade graphic novel I’d really love to work on, too (I’m just collecting ideas and doodles for this one). My head is always full of characters, jostling for room. It’s hard to get them to behave and wait their turn…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR
Katherine Battersby is the critically acclaimed children’s author and illustrator of one chapter book and twelve picture books, including Perfect Pigeons and Squish Rabbit, a CBC Children’s Choice Book. Her picture books have also been shortlisted for numerous Australian awards, including the CBCA Awards for New Illustrator and Book of the Year. Katherine lives in Ottawa, Canada. Visit her at KatherineBattersby.com.
I love learning more about the people behind the books I love or think sound interesting. If you have a younger child or still feel like a child yourself I definitely recommend picking up Cranky Chicken. Keep an eye on the blog for my review very soon!