Not for children? Lauren Child review

Written by Louisa Davison.

It was going to be a long shot, taking my five year old to an author's event. He has just accepted that Doctor Who is an actor, so enjoying an event by someone who wrote the books he loves was possibly a concept too far.

I expected a reading of a Charlie and Lola, Clarice Bean and certainly Lauren Child's new book, Look Into My Eyes featuring teenage detective Ruby Redfort. So it was surprising that we didn't hear the person who wrote them read them.

Instead this was aimed squarely at older literature enthusiasts: a discussion of where the ideas for the books came from, when she started writing, how she illustrated her books, etc. Great for me, boredom for my five year old, though there were some excellent questions from other young children at the end.

Grumbles re missing the mark for the main readership aside, I enjoyed hearing about Lauren's inspiration for Ruby Redfort. Exactly my era, childhood Lauren loved American shows such as Columbo, Starsky & Hutch and Heart to Heart, which “worried my mum,” she said. A great advert for trash TV then, as this was the inspiration for this bestselling author.

Lauren has created a character in the Heart to Heart universe: a fantastically wealthy 1970s-style world with a likeable cosiness and a child-genius lead character.

She didn't set it in modern times because: “I wanted to get away from mobile phones,” Lauren explained, “so she would be in dangerous situations where she had to use her brain. I wanted readers to care about her and – like Hitchcock films – to have its comedy moments.”

Ruby Redfort was born because Lauren was now writing too many words for illustrated book Clarice Bean, and so she was encouraged to write her first novel. Look Into My Eyes took a while to finish because Lauren 'rambled' about the characters and “hoped a plot developed – it didn't for six years.” Now the first book of a six book deal is published, Lauren feels 'terrified' at completing one a year.

In a festival exclusive, Look Into My Eyes is on sale a week before the shops, and it can be bought in the town hall until Sunday. Unsurprisingly there was a huge queue for the post-event signing.

Lauren still writes mostly in Wiltshire and she picked out a few of her local references such as Minal Cricket (Clarice Bean) and the doors of Avebury Manor, photographically featured in The Princess and the Pea.

Lauren is one of (at least) three festival authors to be a former St John's School student (the new building "looks fabulous" she said). The school should be proud.

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