Interviews / 18 November, 2019 / Ellie Thompson
You’ll find the work of Axel Scheffler in pretty much every child’s bookcase. Best known for his illustrations of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, Axel’s latest project involves furry characters of another kind – yep, we’re talking cats. Cat in a Flat’s Axel Scheffler & Friends 2020 Calendar has just launched, with 100% of profits going to support endangered wild cats in the care of Born Free. The calendar has been co-produced by Scheffler and online service Cat in a Flat, a trusted cat-sitting community created by cat lovers for cat lovers.
We catch up with Axel Scheffler to find out a little bit more about the calendar, as well as throwing in a few other must-ask questions, of course!
I have known Cat in a Flat from the early days and always liked their concept of a cat sitter community in your neighbourhood, so I approached them with the idea of a cat calendar for 2020 – where the proceeds should go to a cat-related charity.
I thought it would be good to do something for wild cats – all under threat from extinction. Somebody suggested Born Free as the right charity to support and I asked some illustrator friends if they would be happy to do an illustration for it.
To be honest, it was really the idea of my partner and my daughter to get cats.
No, unfortunately, my cat books were published before we had any cats of our own. However, we now have three chickens, so maybe they’ll appear in a book one day.
I think I have to say cats, as they are both more independent and more enigmatic. Plus, I’ve never actually owned a dog.
I don’t think I could say that any of my books would be my favourite. I like the picture books by the American illustrator William Steig best.
I’m never 100% happy with my own creations – so, for me personally, I don’t think the ultimate one will ever happen.
I am fortunate that, as an illustrator, I always have the authors text to inspire me.
In all honesty, I’m never completely in charge. Julia is in charge of the story. She writes the text completely independently from me. And there is also an editor, who gives her comment on my sketches and designs. It really is team work to create a picture book.
Although it’s not necessarily my favourite book, I really should say “The Gruffalo” which is our most popular book. It sold millions of copies, has been translated into over 83 languages and is a worldwide success.
Although I once translated TS Eliot’s poem of the naming of cats – we have ignored his advice when it comes to our cats and called them ‘Cachou’ and ‘Mimi’. Because the family is half French – they’d be cross with me if these were not my favourite names!
As somebody who couldn’t describe himself in one sentence!