Charlie and Lola
Interview with Lauren Child
Writer, illustrator and creator of Charlie and Lola
Author Lauren Child is thrilled to see Charlie and Lola come alive.
"It's very exciting because
I always wanted them to go on TV," she says.
And though she's found the process hard work
("I'm very pernickety," she admits with a smile) and slow-going, she says it's all been worth it.
"It's been really good and the thing I've really liked about it is what I very much wanted, that
adults and children would find it amusing in different ways, and that's definitely been what's
come across," she says.
"Listening to adults talking about it is really nice – we had a sense that
it would work for children, obviously, but I also had this thing all the time that I wanted it
to be something that parents wouldn't mind having on in the background and then might get
interested in too.
"It was never going to be one of those annoying shows where it's just lots of
noise and you only engage with it if you're the right age, and I think we've succeeded in that
so I'm really happy."
But while Lauren is keen that adults like the Charlie and Lola stories – after all, as she says,
they're the ones who are going to be reading them over and over to their children – she didn't
want any of them to appear in the books.
"A lot of life when you're growing up, certainly I found anyway with my sisters, you spend a
lot of time together and your parents are doing other things and so they might be around but
they're not really taking part in your games or discussions or arguments or whatever it is you're
"I thought it would be interesting to see life acted out with just siblings, and that whole
imaginative side of being a child.
"I thought it would
be interesting to see
life acted out with just
And young Lauren and her sisters sometimes imagined they had a brother…
"I have an older
sister and a younger sister and my older sister was desperate to have an older brother - we all felt we'd
like to have one," she says, a tad wistfully.
And of course, he'd have had to have been like Charlie!
"That's what one would have hoped, but I don't know that many Charlies, I have to say - I think he's
quite a rare thing," she grins.
But though Charlie may be pure imagination, Lola was sparked into life by a real little
"I was travelling with my Danish boyfriend through Denmark on a train and there was a child who kept asking her mum and dad all these questions all the time, and my boyfriend was translating for me.
"She was an incredibly sweet-looking child and she looked very like Lola; she was just such a character and there was something about her, the way she was dressed and everything, and so I drew a picture of her and then I thought of a story that would work with that kind of character," Lauren explains.
"That's really where it came from, just seeing somebody that I thought was rather enchanting and then I worked a
story around that character, which I don't normally do.
"She was an incredibly sweet-looking child
and she looked very like Lola."
Lauren's stories are firmly rooted in issues relevant to small children.
"For Charlie and Lola, I set myself quite strict rules in that I only ever do stories that are based
on things, very tiny child issues about sleeping and eating.
"We've managed to think of a lot of
those for the TV series. I think the best ones work when they're things about being envious,
or not wanting to give someone a present because you want it, the really tiny subjects which
actually apply to everybody.
"There's an episode we've done where Lola breaks Charlie's rocket
that he's made and that thing about having to say sorry and own up to something applies to
"Most of these things are just bigger for children because they haven't learnt how to deal with
those situations so they seem much more scary.
"But I think pretty much everything, even the
fussy eater thing where you go to dinner with somebody and you have to eat something you
don't like, it carries on applying at any age."
Lauren Child is the best-selling author and illustrator of the Clarice Bean series and the hugely
popular Charlie and Lola books, including I Will Not Ever, Never Eat a Tomato.
Lauren was born in 1967 and grew up in Wiltshire, the middle child of three sisters and
the daughter of teachers.
Her father was an art teacher and she went to sixth form in the
school where he taught.
She studied at City and Guilds Art School. She admits that she did
not learn much at art school, and left after a year.
She had a variety of jobs
including starting her own company, making exotic lampshades. She also spent some time working for Damien Hirst, assisting in his studio.
The turning point came after talking to a business manager who suggested she should write a children's book and design a product range around it.
The result was Clarice Bean. It took Lauren five
years to find a publisher, and the first Clarice Bean was published in 1999 by Orchard.
Her work combines her fascination with childhood and her talent for designing and creating.
shortlisted for the Smarties Prize for Clarice Bean, That's Me and in 2001 won the
prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for I Will Not Ever, Never Eat a Tomato.
Lauren won the
Smarties Gold Award in 2002 for That Pesky Rat.
In 2005, her top-selling Charlie and Lola series will be screened on
CBeebies for the first time.