Aileen Crossley – Q&A

Aileen Crossley’s book, Henny is Stuck was published by Little Door on 13 March 2023.

Aileen kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Henny is Stuck.

Henny is Stuck is a story about a little chick that is still half stuck inside her shell. She cannot play with the other chicks and feels left behind and a little different to them all. Henny tries to get out with the help of her good friends and some new friends along the way. Finally, due to an act of bravery and kindness, and feeling good about herself,… she…. well, you need to read the book to find out. Henny is Stuck touches on the themes of friendship and diversity and self belief / self love.

2. What inspired the book?

Someone I once knew had a little music studio out the back of his house in Scotland which he called The Blue Egg after the blue eggs his hen laid.

This caught my attention and I wondered about a character Blue Egg stuck in his shell created a story around this character, her problem and how she might overcome it. After many iterations Blue Egg is now Henny. My lithography printmaking practice was key to finding my illustration style, and working with Little Door Books really helped elevate the final outcome.

3. How important do you think illustrations are to a children’s book? What do they add to the story?

The illustrations and the text work together in a beautiful dance. If both leave ‘gaps’ for the reader to fill with their imagination, it becomes a much deeper and richer an experience. I think picture books are the works of art that they are because of the illustrations. It’s a very specific kind of alchemy that relies more heavily on the images. But of course, the story and the text must have their own magic.

4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that surprised you?

How hard it is to find a publisher! It took me a long time to make Henny, as it is my first picture book, and then find a publisher, which I did by chance at Bologna Children’s Book Fairs. By the time I met Little Door Books, Henny was nearly there, and working with Alan and Susan was exactly what she, and I needed, to get her over the line.

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

I am studying for my MA illustration at Falmouth part time, on my Final Masters Project. It’s amazing and challenging and I can feel I’m developing further as an artist.

I also work in RTÉ (Ireland’s National Broadcaster) as a motion designer. I love walking my dogs in the Dublin mountains and that helps so much to get space for ideating and figuring out narratives and compositions.

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?

Flooded by Mariajo Ilustrajo. It just gets me every time. Beautiful, fun, smarty pants clever, stunningly illustrated and laugh-out-loud funny.

7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

What is the dream?

To be a fulltime artist/author/illustrator from a cottage in the countryside with a print studio out the back garden.

About the Book

Henny is a baby chick, she is sweet and fluffy just like her friends. But unlike her friends, Henny has one tiny problem. Henny is stuck in her shell.

Yes, her tiny legs and her tiny wings peep out. But Henny is most definitely stuck.

Follow Henny on her journey as she and her friends try to solve her problem and along the way end up saving the day.

You can buy a copy of the book here.

(This is an affiliate link and so I may make a small amount should you purchase through it. You can also buy a copy of Henny is Stuck from your local independent bookshop.)

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