This month our Parakeet subscribers are reading a fun, charming and important book that is perfect for initiating family conversations about anxiety. The Worries: Sohal Finds a Friend is the first book in a new series by Jion Sheibani. We were immediately struck by the gorgeous illustrations, carefully told story and fun, relatable characters. Here Jion tells us more about what inspired her to create the book and which illustrate chapter books for younger readers she would recommend you turn to next.
What inspired you to write The Worries?
I was looking for a book about worries to read with my son, who was 7 or 8 at the time. There were a lot of picture books, but I couldn’t find anything for older readers. So, I followed the advice, ‘if you can’t find the book you’re looking for then write it!’
What came first: the story or the illustrations?
Technically, it was the illustrations because I drew a picture several years before, when I first showed my portfolio at an SCWBI conference. It was of a boy in bed at night, staring at his worry monsters!
Are any of the characters inspired by real people?
Oh yes, like most characters they’re a big mix of everyone I know, myself included!
Which do you think is the worst Worry and why?
I think Jealousy. She’s a fun, cheeky character in Book 2 but in real life, if you let jealousy grow, I think it can really spoil relationships and stop you enjoying your life.
Do you have a favourite place to write/illustrate?
Yes, I’m really lucky to have a studio in my garden. But when I want to be around people, I love to go into central Paris and work in a nice, busy cafe or at the American Library in the 7th arrondissement.
Why did you choose to create books for children?
I suppose it’s because I have such fond memories of reading as a child. I also love kids - I was a teacher for over ten years - so it’s super rewarding to see the impact one of my stories can have on them. It’s a huge privilege. I also just love being able to write and draw for a living - the endless creative possibilities, how different and unexpected each day can be... I find that really exciting.
What was your favourite book as a child?
It’s really hard to choose just one! But if I had to, it would be my very tatty copy of Ladybird Bedtime Rhymes, which I remember being read to me. It had poems by Robert Louis Stevenson and Eleanor Farjeon in it. As I got older, my favourite authors were Roald Dahl, Jacqueline Wilson and Jostein Gaarder.
Which other illustrated chapter books for younger readers would you recommend our subscribers read next?
In our house, we recently read Genie and Teeny by Steven Lenton and really enjoyed it. It’s very funny. For slightly older readers, Maddy Yip’s Guide To Life by Sue Cheung is brilliant, as is the illustrated, non-fiction book by Abigail Balfe called A Different Sort of Normal. It’s all about Abigail’s autism journey and it’s just fab. I learnt so much.
Copies of The Worries: Sohal Finds a Friend along with our bespoke activity pack are now available for individual purchase here. Grab a copy while stocks last!
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