This month we sent our Parakeet subscribers the fantastic Super Happy Magic Forest and The Humongous Fungus by author and illustrator Matty Long. Super Happy Magic Forest started out as a series of picture books, which Matty has evolved into a companion series of highly illustrated chapter books for young readers – our favourite kind of fiction! Here Matty tells us what inspired the series and about his favourite childhood reads.
What inspired you to write Super Happy Magic Forest and what came first, the illustrations or the story?
I was inspired by all the fantasy-themed books and video games and films that I had enjoyed growing up. I was doodling around in my sketchbook looking for a direction for a new project and drawing a lot of gnomes, mushrooms, and unicorns. So, the illustrations definitely came first and that's how I typically create my books; it starts with a scribble.
Who is your favourite character in the book and why?
I have to be careful what I say because kids hate it when I don't pick their favourite! There are probably parts of myself and my own personality in each one. I think Trevor and Blossom are the two characters, though, that embody what the Super Happy Magic Forest is all about. I think you only have to look at Trevor to get an idea of what to expect from a book with him in.
Do you have a favourite place to write and illustrate?
I mostly work at home. I'll do the majority of my drawing in my studio, but I like to write in other rooms - either the ones with comfy chairs or those in close proximity to the biscuit tin.
Why did you choose to create books for children?
Children's publishing felt like the best fit for the sort of things I liked to draw, and the way I was drawing them. As a student I liked to be more proactive with my illustration - creating characters and worlds rather than being more responsive to a brief or someone else's writing. I didn't really know how to organise my ideas into stories though, so I took the Children's Book Illustration MA course at the Cambridge School of Art.
What was your favourite book as a child?
My favourite picture book was called Where Do the Wicked Witches Live? by Juliet and Charles Snape and it's one I still like to take into schools and show kids when I can. It's about a boy called Dennis who sets out to look for witches around the neighbouring town, fields, mountains and forest. He asks all kind of characters where the witches live, not realising there is one hidden on every page. As a child I loved looking for the witches and all the other details and characters and I like to include similar elements in the work I do now!
Do you have any top book recommendations for our subscribers?
Sadly Where Do the Wicked Witches Live? is out of print, but there are some great books out there that reward you for really taking time to look at each page - I like Digby Dog Delivers by Tor Freeman and, for slightly older readers, Pierre the Maze Detective by Hiro Kamigaki and Chihiro Maruyama. The Where's Wally books by Martin Handford, too! And If you enjoyed Super Happy Magic Forest and The Humongous Fungus, then you'll maybe want to check out Elys Dolan's Knighthood for Beginners.
We have a few copies of our Super Happy Magic Forest and The Humongous Fungus packs available to purchase here. To find more about our children's book subscription and how you can receive a surprise book parcel each month, head here.