“The response to this book just takes my breath away,” says Sam McBratney of his award-winning bestseller, Guess How Much I Love You, illustrated endearingly by Anita Jeram. “I was talking to my agent about the text after I completed it, and she said, ‘Sam, this book can do nothing but good.’ I didn’t really understand what she meant at the time, but now I know that she was thinking about the opportunities this book would create for wee ones and big ones to come together for a few precious moments.”
Sam McBratney teamed up again with Anita Jeram to create another classic opportunity for parents and children to share the pleasures of reading together. “People often ask authors where their ideas come from, and often authors say they don’t know,” he says of You’re All My Favorites, the comforting story of three little bears who learn there’s plenty of love to go around. “But I do know about this one. Once upon a time, my wife and I had three small children—two boys and a girl, just like in the story. And when they were young, we used to tell them a story very like You’re All My Favorites.”
The Northern Ireland native started writing children’s books when he was a teacher in his thirties, with the aim of helpingstudents who had trouble reading. But he continued writing for a more-personal reason: “The act of imagining simply makes me feel good,” he says. The fifty-seventh book of Sam McBratney’s career, and his first book with Candlewick Press, was the much-loved Guess How Much I Love You, which has sold an astonishing 15 million copies worldwide, and is available in thirty-seven languages. “This is not the sort of thing you expect when most of your books have been remaindered,” the author admits. “But, as the frog trapped in the milk discovered, if you keep going, sometimes you find yourself walking on cream cheese.”
Where does Sam McBratney get his inspiration? “I told my children stories when they were young,” he says, “so when I write I try to think of what they would have liked.” But there may be another source guiding his writing as well. The author’s father—who worked as a type compositor with the Belfast Telegraph, and whose favorite books were westerns—is the person Sam McBratney credits for giving him his love of the English language. “Most of my picture books—Guess How Much I Love You, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Just One!, and Just You and Me—explore the relationship between a big one and a wee one,” the author notes. “The big one is not called the father in the stories, but that’s what he is. Although my dad died before I became a writer, the father in my stories has a voice and a presence that he would have recognized and understood.”
In addition to authoring many books for children, Sam McBratney has also written radio plays for adults and a prize-winning collection of short stories. He received a degree in history and political science from Trinity College, Dublin, and worked for many years as a teacher. Married, with three grown children, Sam McBratney lives in Northern Ireland.