Inspiring the generations
STINKY rats, evil weasels and racoon thieves all sound like the kind of characters young children would delight in meeting.
So it's lucky that children's author and illustrator Hannah Shaw is on hand at the first Cirencester Children's Literacy Festival to introduce them first hand.
Youngsters get to meet Stan Stinky, Erroll Squirrel, Ralph Racoon and all of the colourful characters Hannah has brought to life in her popular collection of picture books.
Although she has recently become a mum, the Stroud-based writer is still keeping busy up and down the country talking about her books at festivals and schools.
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On Monday she will be holding court at Octavia's Bookshop in Cirencester with tales of Stan Stinky, a sewer hero, surfer and adventurer rat who is the star of her latest fiction book to hit the shelves.
Not only has Hannah written about the exploits of Stan but she has also illustrated the book with more than 200 drawings of the venturing vermin and his pals.
"I love doing festivals and talking to children about my books," said Hannah, 31, who lives in Stroud with husband Ben, a blacksmith, and eight-month-old daughter, Meryn.
"Although I think most children still love books and reading, festivals like this do help to promote reading and show people what is around.
"In today's world where everything seems to be shortened like in texting and social media, I think sometimes children can find whole books a bit daunting.
"Stan Stinky is a fiction book but it has loads of pictures so there is lots for children to look at while they are reading.
"It's a great way for children to move from wholly picture books to fiction."
She is excited about the new festival in Cirencester and is looking forward to giving her talk on Monday.
"I'll do some reading from Stan Stinky and then get children to draw their own vermin pictures," she said. "I will be bringing along a couple of print-outs of the map of the sewer where he lives so we can stick their pictures on it."
Being an artist as well as a writer, Hannah has illustrated many books written by other authors as well as her own.
Her latest venture is providing contemporary illustrations for the well-loved series of Sophie books by Dick King Smith.
"You have to be careful when re-illustrating books like these that are so popular because you don't want to change them too much yet you need to bring them up to date," she said.
Other books she has illustrated have included Katie Davies' series of animal books including Hamster Massacre, and two books by The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson, called Mr Birdnest and the House Next Door, and The Snake who Came to Stay.
As the daughter of a graphic designer and an artist, it is no surprise that Hannah is so adept at drawing and graduated with a BA in illustration.
She broke into the children's book world when she took her first book Evil Weasel to an artists' book fair and her talents were recognised.
"I am passionate about drawing and I also have an overactive imagination which helps when I'm trying to think up new characters for my books," she said.
Brought up in nearby Slad, Hannah first lived in rural Cherington before recently moving into Stroud, which she finds more convenient with a young baby in tow.
Hannah loves meeting her readers as much as she can at schools, libraries and of course festivals.
She has appeared at Cheltenham Literature Festival and the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, as well as many much smaller ones around the country.
"With a young baby to look after now I find it much harder to get the time to travel away so much so it's lovely to be able to do festivals so close to home like Cirencester," she said.
"It's also great being able to support this event as the bookshop is such a lovely place – one of those old-fashioned, cosy bookshops where you can just browse without any pressure and Octavia is always so helpful."
■ Hannah is appearing at Octavia's Bookshop on Monday at 2.30pm. Tickets cost £1 from the bookshop in Black Jack Street.