Children’s author and storyteller Vivian French doesn’t worry about writer’s block; her problem is just the opposite. “My first book was published in 1990, and since then I have written almost nonstop. I think I have become addicted to writing. I have always been addicted to words.” But after first taking a job as an actor in a theater company in an attempt to satisfy this love of words, Vivian French realized she still hadn’t found her calling. “I don’t think I was very good at acting,” she explains. “It seemed much more fun to share the story, which is why I became a storyteller. All the same, when I am writing a story I still act it out in my head, and I always know how the voices sound and how my characters move.”
This attention to detail is evident in Vivian French’s award-winning nonfiction book, Growing Frogs. Her engaging narrative accurately evokes each growth stage of the frog, in a story that may inspire children to roll up their sleeves and experience firsthand the wonders of the natural world. The story had its origin in a charming mother-daughter ritual: every spring when Vivian French’s daughters were young, they visited the pond next door to collect some frog spawn and watch the tadpoles hatch. And the writer’s daughters weren’t the only ones who enjoyed this tradition. Vivian French notes, “My cat was always very interested!”
Vivian French’s cat also figures into another of her stories, A Present for Mom. This tale follows Stanley on the night before Mother’s Day as he tries to think of just the right gift for Mom. Interestingly, the author notes, illustrator Dana Kubick “has drawn Stanley to look exactly like my cat, Louis.” But sometimes Vivian French takes her inspiration from artists rather than the other way around. She remarks, “I love meeting up with illustrators and seeing if I can find the seeds for new ideas in their drawings. I think illustrators are the true magicians of the world; they take words, and suddenly there the characters are. And they are real!” In A Present for Mom, Stanley is “real” in more ways than one. He may physically resemble Vivian French’s cat, “But he talks and thinks like my daughter Nancy. She’s the youngest of four, just like Stanley, and she says it doesn’t make life easy.”
Vivian French is also the author of The Story of Christmas, a retelling of the traditional story of Jesus’s birth that School Library Journal calls “a joyful and readable introduction to the Nativity.” In A Christmas Star Called Hannah, Vivian French takes a different approach, revisiting her theatrical roots with a simple but heartfelt tale about a girl performing in her class Christmas play. For years, both holiday favorites have held a place of honor on readers’ bookshelves, as well as in their hearts.
When asked what she does when she’s not writing, Vivian French answers, “I look for my daughter’s socks, or put on the washing machine, or shop, or read, or go to the library and spend far too long there. Or I spend time with the family . . . or sleep.” She lives in Scotland.