The book we sent our Cockatoo subscribers this month is a brilliant debut that is laugh-out-loud funny, moving and relatable in so many ways. We asked author Helen Rutter to tell us what inspired her to write the book and all about her favourite funny reads for kids.
What inspired you to write The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh?
My son Lenny stammers and so he was my main source of inspiration. I think once he found a way of owning his stammer and reached a point where it no longer defined him, it gave me the space to recognise it as a story that I really wanted to write. At first, I was writing it for him - so that he could see himself in a character. We had not found a character in literature who stammered and had only seen stammering used in a negative or nervous way in books. When I began writing it, I realised that the story had the potential to connect with all sorts of people, who could relate to feeling unheard or different from the rest. The comedy element of the book was inspired by my performance background and having performed stand up myself. I have also lived with a stand-up comic for the last twenty years - it was bound to seep in!
Are any of the characters inspired by real people?
Well Billy Plimpton is of course based on Lenny although he grew and changed into a character all of his own. I take a lot of things from the people around me and so all of the characters are made up of bits of everyone. You will spot bits of my mum in Granny Bread and bits of teachers that I have known in Mr Osho. Billy’s friends have bits from children that I have taught or friends of my kids. I have to make sure that I change them all enough though so that they become their own character though!
What item from home would you choose to represent who you are?
This is such a hard question! Maybe my dogs?! I hope that I am as funny, loving and loyal as they are (but hopefully not as smelly!).
Do you have a favourite place to write?
We used to have a shed in the garden that was full of spiders and old bicycles. When we found out that I was going to have two books published my husband Rob decided to turn the shed into a tiny but beautiful writing room for me. I love it so much. It is my favourite place and for some reason smells amazing! (Even though the dogs are always in there with me!)
Why did you decide to write books for children?
When my kids began reading middle grade books, I started picking them up and reading them too. I would sit and read books like Pax and Wonder in one sitting and I felt like a child again and fell in love with books for that age range. As I started writing the story, I knew that I wanted to write a book for Lenny starring a child just like him - at that point I had no idea it would actually be published!
What was your favourite book as a child?
I read The Secret Garden about a hundred times!
What funny books for kids would you recommend our subscribers read next?
I am doing an event with Simon James Green next week and we have had so much fun preparing for it. My kids love his books and he is as funny in real life as he is on the page.
Tell us a joke!
Sometimes I tuck my knees into my chest and lean forwards - that’s just how I roll. This is my current favourite from the book, although my favourite changes regularly. Every chapter starts with a joke and so there are so many to choose from.
Like the sound of The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh? Grab a copy, along with our fun-filled activity pack, here.