BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Today we feature a Q&A with award-winning picture book creator Kate Milner, whose new book It's a No-Money Day (available here) is published this month.
Read on for our review of the book, followed by an exclusive Q&A in which we ask Kate about the inspiration behind this very moving story and all about her illustrative processes.
Book Title: It's a No-Money Day (available here)
Author/Illustrator: Kate Milner
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Publication Date: October 2019
Most Suitable For: Reception - Year 6
Kate Milner's new picture book entitled It's a No-Money Day is a must-have for primary schools. Rare in its portrayal of life on the poverty line and the experience of visiting food banks from a child's perspective, this is a truly special book that poignantly explores its subject with due compassion and gentleness.
A young girl visits the local food bank with her mother. An emptied penny-jar at home indicates that today is a no-money day and despite the mother's hard work and measured frugality, the duo must make a trip to the food bank in order to stock their bare kitchen cupboards.
Mum is ashamed but politely makes the best of the situation. The girl, on the other hand, sees no stigma in the experience and enjoys meeting the kind food bank workers and eating their biscuits. Could she have her favourite cereal this time?, she asks, only to be scolded by her humiliated mother. This child is a wonderful example of finding joy in life as it is; the food bank visit is a normal experience for her and she will easily see the good in it. Under the loving wing of her mother she finds other simple pleasures too, like borrowing library books, trying on clothes in the charity shops and having fun dreaming out loud of what life might offer her one day.
Kate Milner's illustrations capture the moods and emotions of the two characters so perfectly. Mum is wearier than she wishes the girl to know but the reader can see it in the lines of her face and the curves of her posture, which also show her deep love and warmth towards her daughter. The girl is simply looking to find interest and joy as she goes on her way - as children do - and many young readers will find the child character's perspective and acceptance of the way things are easily relatable. Who hasn't wondered if they can have their favourite cereal when a parent selects a boring one? Who hasn't imagined out loud a different way of life without pausing to consider the effects of those longings on a weary parent? The child's voice is one of innocence and hope, but it's easy for the reader to wonder what might happen to the family without the provision of food bank donations.
It's a beautiful and poignantly-told story that deserves a place in every classroom, providing a much-needed insight for many children into life on the breadline, while offering others a rare reflection of a familiar situation and a reassuring message that they are not alone. This is a book that is suitable to use across the whole primary age range and one that will be sure to encourage empathy and discussion around a very important topic.
with Kate Milner, author of It's a No-Money Day
What inspired you to write It’s a No-Money Day?
I asked myself what it must feel like to be the child of a family on the breadline. I wondered why that child would never see their experiences in a picture book.
What are you hoping that young readers will take away from the story? And what about the adult readers?
I hope children who see a donation bin for a food bank in a supermarket understand what it’s for and put something in it if they can. I hope adults do the same.
In the story, a young child visits the local food bank with her mother and this is an activity that will be familiar for a number of readers. For children in many classrooms, the story may provide the only opportunity they have had to see this very real experience of their own represented in a book. How did you research this key aspect of the story?
A few years ago I saw the film I Daniel Blake. There is a character in the film, a single mother, who can’t afford to buy sanitary products and, as a result I became part of a campaign on social media to get people to donate these products to food banks. Obviously it was important to check that the film was giving a true picture so I got in touch with the Trussell Trust who run a national network of food banks. This book has grown out of that contact.
What came first when you created It’s a No-Money Day - the words or the pictures? Can you tell us a bit more about your process for creating picture books?
I usually start by opening a file on the computer, a table of some sort. I make a row for each double page of the proposed book and within it I make notes about the words and images I need. Then I start drawing. As my ideas develop this file gets changed again and again but gradually a storyboard grows out of it.
The book depicts a mother and daughter going through a difficult time but also finding joy in their activities together - a charity shop visit, a library trip, an imaginative game of ‘maybe one day’. Can you recall times in your own life when you have found great pleasure in the simple, everyday activities?
There was a time when I was on my own with my two young daughters. For a short time, money was very tight, but I can remember a lot of fun. We were part of an informal Friday night after-school supper club; one family hosted and we all bought some food to share. There were trips to the library and trips to the local woods, and cuddling up on the sofa watching Robot Wars.
What is one thing that you wish more people knew about foodbanks?
Food banks need more than food donations, they also need toiletries and cleaning products. If you are waiting five weeks for your universal credit how do you pay for toilet rolls or washing up liquid? How do you get ready for a job interview if you can’t afford shampoo or deodorant?
The book is moving and insightful and it is likely to help develop much-needed empathy in a time when the necessity for food banks is increasing. The poignant illustrations of the mother and daughter in the story play a big part in this. As an illustrator, how do you go about capturing the intended emotion in the facial expressions and body language of your characters?
This is a really interesting question but I’m not sure I can answer it. At the start of a project I generally draw a character again and again as a way of finding out who they are. I know what they are feeling in the story but how the marks I make come together to convey that emotion is a kind of alchemy I can’t explain.
What were your own favourite books as a child?
I loved the Dr Suess books, particularly “Green Eggs and Ham”. Those extraordinary, bonkers images are absolutely seared into my brain.
Congratulations on winning the 2018 Klaus Flugge Prize with your previous book, My Name is Not Refugee. What was it like returning as a judge for this year’s award?
Being a judge for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2019 was a really, really interesting experience. It made me think hard about what I valued in a picture book. I also met some very interesting people.
Can you tell us anything about your next children’s book project?
Early next year a middle grade novel I have written and illustrated called “Duncan Versus The Googley” will be published. It’s a very different project about children and technology.
For more from Kate, visit http://katemilner.com or follow @abagforkatie on Twitter.
Many thanks to Kate Milner for answering our questions and to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book.
Check out the other stops on the blog tour, too!