Q&A with Catherine Jacob

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1. What inspired you to write Betsy Buglove Saves the Bees?

Two things inspired me to write this book: children and bees! My own three children are my main inspiration for writing stories and I actually came up with the character of Betsy Buglove six years ago when my eldest daughter was five-years-old. She was – and still is – a real nature lover and would always be found looking under rocks, naming families of woodlice, or saving bees and butterflies from peril on pavements. I’ve always wanted to write a story about bees; as an environment correspondent I learned lots about how incredible these little creatures are and reported on the fact that their numbers are dwindling. I really wanted this story to show even the littlest children that there is something they can do to help the environment… and what better place to start than with bees.

2. What’s your favourite part about writing picture books?

There are so many lovely parts! I generally tend to write in rhyme so nailing a particularly tricky rhyme is always super satisfying! Then there’s the moment when you finish your first good draft… that feels great! I love reading the text out to my own three children for the first time, (which can be a bit nerve-wracking as they’re quite discerning!) but it’s always a relief to see big smiles on their faces. Finally, possibly the best bit of all is receiving the illustrator’s colour roughs and seeing your characters brought to life on the page for the first time. Nothing can beat that! In the case of Betsy, Lucy Fleming couldn’t have done a more perfect job.

3. What’s your favourite thing about bees?

Oooh that’s a hard one there are so many things! Bees are just brilliant. Aside from the fact that without these pollinators them we’d have no food, and that they are such incredible communicators, I absolutely love the fact that bees are brilliant dancers. Their waggle dance is just the most astounding thing: the way a bee finds an amazing source of nectar then tells the others in the hive exactly where it is using a series of intricate movements. I mean, isn’t that just mind-blowing?

4. Do you have any top tips for children who want to help save the bees?

My top tips would be to grow some lovely wildflowers in your garden or in a window box or pot and watch the bees come to say hello! They particularly love purple flowers, like Lavender, but all bright colours attract them, and flowers that are tube-shaped are often popular, fox gloves for example. Too many meadows are being concreted over and that’s where bees live and thrive. So if we all let the flowers grow, the bees can happily do their job!

5. What children’s book are you most excited for in 2021?

Ooh, well aside from Betsy, there’s a book we can’t wait to read by Lu Fraser and Mark McKinley called The Viking Who Liked Icing. My 4-year-old is viking-obsessed and loves cakes so it should be a hit in this house! I’m also really looking forward to reading Good News by Rashmi Sirdeshpande with my older children. It lists all the reasons to be cheerful even when things seem a bit worrying. One for adults and kids too.

6.What are your top tips for aspiring writers?

Keep writing and don’t give up! Write what you love and what you know and write when the right moment strikes. Oh, and the first draft is always just that… be prepared to edit and re-write until it’s as perfect as it can be.

7. What do you want readers to take away from your new book, Betsy Buglove Saves the Bees?

I think the last line of our book is key: “See you can make a difference, although you’re quite small.” We wanted this story to show the youngest children that there are things they can do to save bees and help the environment. So I hope little readers remember this: you don’t have to be a grown-up to make a difference… you can too!
Betsy Buglove Saves the Bees (HB)

Betsy Buglove Saves The Bees by Catherine Jacob and Lucy Fleming is published in August 2021.

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