“Some people write children’s books for their own children,” says Jez Alborough. “But I don’t have any children. I write for the child I was.” And it’s clear that he remembers the experience well. His rhythmic writing makes his books a joy to read aloud, while his bold, colorful style is humorous and appealing and enormously popular with children. His hilarious picture book Where’s My Teddy?, together with its sequels It’s The Bear! and My Friend Bear, have sold more than a million copies.
With the irresistible Hug, Jez Alborough explores a somewhat different format: a book of very few words and very big heart. A little chimp named Bobo is in search of a hug from a special someone, and along the way he sees all his animal pals hugging in their many different ways. “Bobo and his mommy just had to be chimps,” the author-illustrator explains. “They’ve got the best arms for giving hugs.” In celebration of Hug’s publication, Jez Alborough and 500 schoolchildren in London embraced one another for fifteen seconds in a giant “hugathon,” raising nearly six thousand dollars for charity and earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Jez Alborough brings Bobo back in the much-anticipated follow-ups to Hug. Yes deals with bedtime for Bobo, while in Tall, Bobo finds that his jungle friends are happy to help him feel tall—but that small is still the perfect size for being safe in Mommy’s arms. “Bobo experiences feeling small as well as feeling tall,” the author notes. “But in the end he learns that whatever size you are is the size you’re meant to be.”
Another tale from Jez Alborough, Some Dogs Do, follows a puppy discovers that he has the ability to fly. Nothing can keep him down—except maybe the skeptics all around him. While writing, the author discovered that he had more in common with his character than he initially realized. “At first I thought my idea about a dog who finds out he can fly—but starts to question his experience when no one else believes him—was far too wacky for my editor to take seriously,” Jez Alborough admits. “Then I realized that the whole point of the story is that miracles do happen, so I showed the idea anyway, and a miracle did happen: it became Some Dogs Do.”
Jez Alborough stays connected with his readership by spending a good deal of time talking with schoolchildren. When they ask where his ideas come from, he answers with a poem he wrote:
Ideas are like butterflies.
If I chase them,
they will get away.
But if I sit perfectly still,
and I’m lucky,
one might land with a tickle
on my open hand.
Then I just look
as the butterfly opens up its wings
like the pages of a book,
and I think: “Aha! I will
write that book.”
Then the butterfly flies,
leaving me to capture it
between my pages.
Jez Alborough and his wife live in London, where they both like to practice Shiatsu, a form of Japanese massage. The author-illustrator also enjoys guitar playing, laughing, roller-skating, learning how to do new things, and juggling, a hobby he finds relaxing when working on a book and has been known to demonstrate in bookstores.