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Joyce Dunbar on parent/daughter collaborations

An extract from an interview with Joyce Dunbar in which she discusses collaborating on picture books with her daughter Polly, most recently Pat-A-Cake Baby published by Walker.

“Polly showed early promise. From the age of 5 onwards her Christmas present to me was a tiny picture book she had made. I saved them all – Polly has them now. I was working on books with my husband at the time. I didn’t dream that I would one day work with Polly. It all seemed so far away.

For Pat-a-Cake Baby –  she was trying out new techniques and had this ingenious notion of making the words part of the pictures. This meant cuts and changes. We had a lot of fun – and sweat – working it out. Because we have a shared sensibility in some ways, it feels like a book by two people rolled into one rather than two separate individuals – a special pleasure for me  because I would love to have been an illustrator as well as a writer. Every publisher’s dream is the person who can do both.

I never hurry it along, especially now that I have to wait in a long queue while Polly is working on other books.  You have to leave the illustrator to get on with their side of the dance. You are equal partners – except that I do think the illustrator makes or breaks the text. In this case, the illustrator is the inspiration for the text, and the incentive. Without Polly, neither of these texts would ever have been written. I can’t hurry myself along. I had the idea – but couldn’t make it work. Then one day Polly was ill in bed with flu and she did some sketches of these tiny candy babies making a cake – with outsize rolling pins and so on. I knew then that I had to make it work – but it was another 6 years and mountains of scribble before the text was acceptable. Now it all looks so simple.”


Joyce and Polly Dunbar at the launch of Pat-a-Cake Baby, with Sonny, a real life Pat-a-Cake Baby.

To read the full interview, click here.