An interview with David Mackintosh by Robyn Sheahan-Bright

David Mackintosh, renowned graphic designer, writer and illustrator, has two new books out this year: There’s a Bug on My Arm That Won’t Let Go (HarperCollins) which he has written and illustrated, and Archie and the Bear written by Zanni Louise (Little Hare Books).

David has written five other books for HarperCollins in recent years, after over 20 years illustrating other writers’ texts. Born in Belfast, he grew up and studied art in Australia where his tutors included Armin Greder and Chris McKimmie, and where he embarked on his illustrious career. He relocated to London in 1997 and has since worked with some of the most acclaimed writers in both the UK and Australia.

There’s a Bug on My Arm That Won’t Let Go has all the hallmarks of previous works, Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School (2011), The Frank Show (2012), Standing In for Lincoln Green (2013), Lucky (2014) and What’s Up MuMu? (2015). It’s touching, hilarious, and highly inventive in image, design and words. His sympathetic design and typography makes any book he creates a fully integrated package. His whimsical take on the world can be viewed on his website, too, where ‘Notes to Self’ provide some inkling of how his inventive mind works.

David’s words and images always highlight what it is to feel as a child does, sometimes misunderstood, or ignored, and often alone.

They are intricate metaphors for what it means to tackle

life as an individual whether that be as a big person or as a child. The closing words in this text summarise that so well. ‘Goodbye bug. Look after yourself.’ The bug takes off, as the narrator must inevitably do as well.

David has an innate understanding of a childlike perspective on the adult world. His observations on family dynamics and on his feisty narrator’s friendship with the elusive Melody next door, and her cat Pearl, are endearing. She spends a day wishing a bug would ‘buzz off’ and leave her alone, but then she realises that: ‘This bug needs my help – just like Melody when everyone called her Scratchy. I told them that Melody probably didn’t want to have scratchy hair and how would they like it?’ And she saves the bug from a hungry bird.

Does David draw on his own childhood, or more through observation of those around him? ‘I’m sure I do draw on past experience when I’m trying to relate to a young audience. I am aware that if I’m doing a book that’s to be published for a young reader then there’s no point aiming too high above that, for example, by using highfalutin words. However, I try to think of my picture books as ‘books’ not ‘children’s books’. If I was overly conscious of an age range or something I’d never get anything done. I’m trying to deliver an idea or a point of view to help make the reader think about something that interests me, and that’s about it. It’s open to adults as much as it is to children. I easily recall experience of relating to adults as a child, but I

figure everybody does to varying degrees. I guess this is what you’re suggesting. I have a recollection of how demarcated children’s and

14 Books for Keeps No.225 July 2017

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