I am delighted to welcome Ella Burfoot to Library Mice today. I have long admired her work, since Darkness Slipped In was released, (you can read my review of another of her books, Betty and the Yeti, here) and I have been awaiting her return with anticipation. Her latest book, Recipe for a Story (Macmillan Children’s Books), does not disappoint, particularly for the metafiction fan in me.
Ever thought of creating your own story? It is just like baking a cake as we find when we follow our little heroine as she sets to cook a book! All the ingredients are carefully weighed in and chosen: breaking one’s thoughts into a cup, choosing the right words, cut out the characters, not forgetting to add full stops capital letters, and glaze with happy endings. If you follow the recipe, you will find yourself with a delicious read at the end!
The analogy between baking a cake and concocting a story is perfectly delivered with a short rhyming text and vibrant detailed illustrations. There are so many little details to pore over. The childlike style and use of mixed media add an extra sprinkle of magic; I particularly love how the slices of the finished cake look like individual books. Recipe for a Story is perfectly pitched so that even the youngest readers will feel inspired to create their own stories. Again the mixed media here comes into its own, encouraging little people to be creative with their story-making, giving the reassurance also that story making is not only about tons of writing. Though the tone is light-hearted, there is nonetheless a strong message about the importance of creativity and keeping it fun within the pages of Recipe for a Story. Parents and teachers, take note.
The Inspiration behind Recipe for a Story
by Ella Burfoot
Recipe for a Story was a poem that I wrote when I was sat on the sunny steps of my art college in Falmouth, studying for my MA in Authorial Illustration, and an idea which I came back to several years later.
I was trying to start a story, and what better way to start than by setting out all of my storytelling ingredients, and mixing them all up in a big bowl of words and pictures?
I started chopping up books, collaging pages and playing with culinary and literary imagery. My character began to dance across the pages, flying through the book with giant pairs of scissors, riding in enormous teacups and creating a very special story of her own.
The first page reads “I’ll break some thoughts into a cup. I’ll beat them, whisk them, mix them up.” And this is exactly the process that I was going through in making this book…experimenting, playing and thoroughly enjoying myself!
I had only used collage a tiny bit in my previous title, Betty and the Yeti, and for Recipe for a Story it added an element of spontaneity to the images which I loved…the pieces of collage were like interesting found objects which I dotted around the artworks to add texture and interest.
My character doesn’t have a name and really represents any child who loves to read and write stories, draw pictures, bake or play kitchens, but, as my daughter, Lila, will tell you, she looks like her, and Lila loves to do all of those things!
My work is inspired by so many writers and artists, but my first love was for the writing of Edward Lear, and when I was a child I would pore over The Book of Nonsense, being transported to ridiculous and amazing places by his strange tales. ‘The Story of the Four Little Children Who Went Round The World’ was a real favourite, a story in which four children take a boat around the world, sleep in a tea kettle and, amongst other things, knit small woolen frocks for fishes. The boundless and unrestricted imagination in Lear’s stories completely delights me, and much of his imagery has inspired Recipe for a Story, with my gingerbread characters travelling in a giant jug, and leaping from a butter knife into the story.
I work away from the house in a small green caravan overlooking fields and our (often neglected) vegetable plot. When collaging the floor becomes littered with offcuts of old wallpaper and coloured papers, a bit like sprinkles.
I have my collection of old cups and saucers, jugs and teapots (many of which appear in Recipe for a Story) on shelves around the studio, and the caravan is my little space purely for creating, away from the phone, computer, and washing up…I think everyone should have one!
Recipe for a Story is not a story with a typical ending, but is intended to be a beginning…a starting point for children to create or tell their own stories, to draw pictures, cut stuff out and write things down.
I hope that the children who read Recipe for a Story are inspired to enjoy making their own books as much as I enjoyed making mine!
Thank you so much Ella for such a lovely insight into the recipe for your book! I do love your caravan!
Recipe for a Story is published by Macmillan Children’s Books and is out now.
You can find more about Ella Burfoot on her website, Twitter @EllaBurfoot and Facebook.
All illustrations& photographs © Ella Burfoot