Have you ever been so excited by something that you just had to share it with everyone?
If you have, then you will know how I feel about my friend’s latest book for children!
‘I Don’t Like Cheese’ by author, Lizi Jackson tells the story of Matty the Mouse who is a bit different to his siblings and takes the readers on a journey about self discovery!
As a parent, I love to encourage my children to get lost in a book so I could not wait to read this to them. My youngest, 4, only really likes books that he can relate to with visual recognition such as Cbeebies or Nick Junior characters and because of this, I was apprehensive that he wouldn’t sit and listen to this. He also struggles with social interaction which makes him different to others. But as soon as I told him the title, he was instantly interested and could not wait to hear it at bedtime.
The easy way in which Lizi has written the book, with its rhythmic poetry, means that the story could flow without my voice getting lost and this kept my son’s attention throughout. He loved joining in at the parts he knew he could as it has repetitive verses and he understood what was happening to Matty throughout. The illustrations by Ryan Fairbanks are beautiful and fill the pages with a lovely rustic feel to it.
My eldest son, 10, really struggles with fitting in with his peers and has low self esteem so I was hoping this book would help with improving this. He took the story to bed with him and enjoyed giving me feedback afterward saying he really enjoyed the story and that he could relate to the main character.
With this in mind, I wanted to share with you why ‘I Don’t Like Cheese’ makes the perfect Christmas present so I asked Lizi to take time out of her day to answer the questions I was excited to know the answer to!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
Firstly, what inspired you to write this book and why did you want to write it?
I wrote this story a few years ago for my children – I never imagined that one day it would be a book! My son had recently been diagnosed with autism and this is what led me to write about a little mouse who knew he was different but learned to love his differences. I hoped at the time my son would come to feel the same way about having autism, and I’m delighted to say this is indeed very much the case now.
I have always used writing as a form of therapy. I think writing this story so soon after my son’s autism diagnosis was as much for me as for my children. In the story Matty the Mouse’s parents take some time to come to terms with the realisation that their son is so different from them, and I think to an extent this reflected the way I was feeling at the time.
They’ve always enjoyed hearing the story and it’s been interesting seeing how they take different messages from it as they grow older. When the children were younger they were impressed that Matty the Mouse tried lots of different types of cheese when his parents asked him to. Now they are growing up they comment on what it is like for Matty to feel that he’s different.
My daughter does, yes. She’s my biggest critic! It’s really helpful reading my stories to her while they’re being written because she’ll tell me immediately if she doesn’t like part of it or if I’m not explaining my ideas as clearly as I think I am!
I think we can all relate to some extent. It’s our similarities that often initially draw us to other people, and I think it’s only human to want to fit in with the people around us. It takes real courage and confidence to embrace the things that make us different, and I didn’t really start doing that until I reached my thirties.
I’m a qualified PSHE teacher and I know the value of using stories to help children explore some potentially difficult ideas. I always knew I wanted to structure some “food for thought” questions to encourage children to think more about the themes of the book and to help parents who might want to discuss those ideas with their children.
The hardest part was not knowing whether anyone would like it. When I read it to the children who came to my book launch and I saw their faces transfixed and smiling as they listened, it was such a massive relief!
The children loved the character of Matty and I felt like they could really relate to him. The illustrator, Ryan Fairbanks, did a truly incredible job of bringing my little mouse to life and making him completely adorable.
I’ve learned that I’m good enough! I was very nervous when I first showed the story to anyone other than my children, and was delighted to receive such wonderful feedback.
I was extremely anxious when my book was launched in case other people thought it was just a bit rubbish! Every time I receive positive comments from parents saying their children love it, it means the world to me.
I think it helps to know that every single parent struggles. Whether your child has special needs or not, parenting is massively difficult and we are all learning as we go along. I think it’s important for parents to be kind to themselves and realise we all make mistakes. In fact I think it’s great for our kids to see that we sometimes make the wrong choices, and for us to show them the important thing isn’t being perfect, it’s acknowledging when we’ve gone wrong and work to put it right.
I’ve had an idea for a follow-up story about Matty’s experiences of being different at school.
I’d love to explore how his classmates respond to him admitting he’s not like the rest of them – I’m sure there will be a range of reactions!
I’ve started my second rhyming book, Hula Petula, and hope to have it published in 2017. I’ve also started writing my first young people’s novel which is about the experiences of a boy with autism.
I was a voracious reader as a child and it’s very difficult to pick one favourite!
Some of my most loved books that I read again and again were One Hundred and One Dalmatians; The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; and The Twits.
The book encourages children to acknowledge and embrace the things that make them different, and also consider ways to appreciate differences in other people. It’s a fun and heart-warming story with an important message running through it.
It is a book highly recommend to all parents and children, especially those who struggle with fitting in and being different.
You can purchase the book from Lizi’s website, www.lizijackson.co.uk