Review: Lunchtime, by Rebecca Cobb

I do love someone who’s multi-talented; and so, when ‘Lunchtime’ (by Rebecca Cobb) landed on my doormat, I was terrifically pleased to find that she had not only written her book but illustrated it as well. And, as someone who can’t draw to save his life (although hopefully this particular situation will never arise), I couldn’t help but instantly enjoy this book – even though it’s aimed at my children.

‘Lunchtime’ tells the story of a girl ordered to eat her lunch by her mother, and imagines the arrival of a crocodile, a bear and a wolf – who handily eat the lunch for her. Enthused by their praise for the tastiness of the food (and the terrible taste of little children), she eats up all her tea.

My sons – who, I suppose, are the real reviewers of this book – loved it. The blurring between reality and imagination appealed to them, and – on my part – voicing the animals proved to be a pretty enjoyable way of flexing my range of accents (giving the bear a Brummie accent went down a treat).

If you needed any further illustration, here is my youngest son – who has the attention span of a goldfish – leafing through the pages for the third time today. He can’t read, obviously, but can’t get enough of the illustrations.

He’s not drunk: I’d put the camera flash on.

Would I recommend this book? Certainly. I’ve read it to my four year-old more times than I care to remember, so much so that I almost know it off by heart. At lunchtime, Mum said, “Eat up.” I said, “No thanks, I’m a bit too busy…”

Lunchtime is available on Amazon, RRP £10.99 (but currently priced at £5.93).

An interview with Rebecca Cobb, author of ‘Lunchtime’

Where did you get your inspiration for ‘Lunchtime’?
‘Lunchtime’ is based on my childhood memories of sitting at the table and not eating my food. As a child I was more interested in playing and drawing than eating. I wanted to make a book about the power of childhood imagination and how it overlaps with the real world. I remember that I had an imaginary lion living in my bedroom for a while that I was frightened of; I made sure that the animals in ‘Lunchtime’ were friendly because our imagination can be a dark, scary place.

For readers who would like an insight into the publication process: please give us an overview of the timeline of ‘Lunchtime’, from its inception to publication.
After having the initial idea for ‘Lunchtime’ I drew out a rough storyboard including the text. The next stage was drawing out first roughs, followed by final revised roughs and then finally finished colour illustrations. The whole process took about 6 months and it was then another 12 months for the book to be published.

How are you going about publicising ‘Lunchtime’?
I am very lucky because Macmillan Children’s Books have done most of the publicity and they have been so helpful in giving me guidance about what I can do. I am holding some storytelling and book signing events in bookshops, which I have been making props for and I am also appearing on a few blogs, including this one, so thank you for inviting me!

How long have you been an author? Is it what you always wanted to do as an occupation?
I have been an illustrator for 8 years and writing the book ‘Missing Mummy’, which was published in 2011, was my first experience of being an author as well. I have always wanted to be an illustrator and I found that it was quite a natural progression from illustrating to writing picture books because I was already telling stories through my illustrations. I enjoy the relationship between the words and the pictures because as an illustrator you can say things with the pictures that you do not need to include in the text.

What are you first, an author or an illustrator?
I will probably always be an illustrator first because book ideas usually come to me as a visual narrative. I also enjoy illustrating stories by other authors; I like interpreting a text in my own way and trying to add something to a story through the pictures.

If you have any children yourself, what do they think of ‘Lunchtime’?
I don’t have any children yet but if I did, I like to think that ‘Lunchtime’ would be their all time favourite book!

What were your favourite children’s books growing up?
The first book I ever learnt to read was ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’, I was absolutely fascinated with the troll under the bridge. I had a lot of favourite books about mice: Helen Craig’s ‘Angelina Ballerina’, who I wanted to be; ‘The Tale of Two Bad Mice’ by Beatrix Potter, about two naughty mice who lost their tempers and I think I identified with that; ‘The Little Mouse One, Two, Three’ also by Helen Craig, which is an amazing counting book that I would spend hours looking at all the little details in the illustrations. I also loved Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s ‘The Jolly Postman’, with all those beautiful letters and postcards to pull out of the envelopes and read; Jane Hissey’s ‘Old Bear’, Dorothy Edward’s ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ stories, ‘What-a-Mess and the Cat-next-door’ by Frank Muir and Joseph Wright, ‘Eric and The Lost Planes’ by Malcolm Livingstone and John Sheridan and ‘The Incredible Cottage’ books by Paul and Willie Rushton. As I grew older I loved ‘The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark’ by Jill Tomlinson, ‘The Worst Witch’ stories by Jill Murphy and all Roald Dahl’s books with Quentin Blake’s illustrations.

Do you have any more books in the pipeline that we can look forward to?
I am currently working on a third picture book collaboration with Helen Dunmore and I have also illustrated two picture books which are due to be published this autumn: ‘The Paper Dolls’ by Julia Donaldson and ‘The Empty Stocking’ by Richard Curtis.

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