Today, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Ashling Kwok, author of the delightful new picture book Grandpa and Lola, illustrated by Yvonne Low. This interview with Ashling is part of a Books on Tour promotion.
About Ashling Kwok
After graduating from University, Ashling went on to become a journalist and magazine editor, before setting up her own freelance writing company. Over the years, Ashling’s work has appeared in a number of newspapers and magazines, and she is a regular contributor to a variety of online publications. When she is not dreaming up new ideas or working on her latest book, Ashling can be found scouring local bookstores, marvelling at all the wonderful books being created by talented children’s authors.
About Yvonne Low
Yvonne is an illustrator, writer and award-winning artist. She enjoys playing with words and colours and is particularly inspired by nature. Her work is whimsical, often has a dash of humour and always tries to tell a story. She works mainly in pencil and watercolour, but also dabbles in acrylic, pen and ink, pastel, digital media and Chinese brush painting.
About Lola and Grandpa
Lola and Grandpa is the story of a young girl and the tender, loving relationship she shares with her grandpa. When Lola’s grandpa passes away, she struggles to cope. However, as time passes Lola starts to remember all of the special times they shared. She can see her grandpa reflected in all of the things around her and realises that even though he is no longer physically with her, they will always remain connected.
What I like about this book
I knew I would love Lola and Grandpa as soon as I saw the bright cover filled with the sunshine from the ‘o’ in Lola’s name. The words and images dance across the pages, reflecting the joy felt by Lola and Grandpa as they spend their Sundays together. We can’t help but feel the warmth of their love and wish, as Lola does, that these times would last forever. The wisdom that Grandpa shares with Lola — “Time slips away, my angel, but love and memories last forever’ — is as reassuring for us as it is for Lola.
Lola’s grief is beautifully expressed with compassion and in ways with which children will be able to identify. When she finds her own understanding of the wisdom in Grandpa’s words, Lola’s sunshine returns.
This story is a beautiful way of discussing the importance of inter-generational love and the effects of loss with children. Adults will appreciate the journey back in time to fond memories of their own childhoods.
Welcome to readilearn, Ashling.
Thanks for inviting me.
Tell us about Grandpa and Lola. What gave you the idea for this story and why was it important for you to write it?
The idea for the story came from watching my dad and daughter stroll around his garden, lost in their own secret world. I would listen as my daughter, Emma, asked my dad all sorts of delightful questions that only a toddler can ask. My dad would give every question deep consideration and then answer it in the most profound and honest way he could. Listening to them was the most beautiful experience and it filled my heart with joy.
The reason it was important for me to tell this story is because I believe that the relationship between children and the elderly is magical and it is something that should be encouraged wherever possible. You only have to listen to their conversations or watch them play for a few minutes to see how much joy they bring to each other’s lives. It’s priceless.
What audience did you have in mind for the story and how do you hope it will make them feel?
Due to the nature of the story and the fact that the grandpa dies, I imagine that Lola and Grandpa will be read to children by their parents when they lose a loved one. But I really hope that it’s shared more widely because Lola and Grandpa is not a story of loss. It’s a celebration of life and love. It reminds us about how important it is to spend time with our loved ones, to live in the moment, and to make the most of every day.
I hope that everyone who reads Lola and Grandpa walks away feeling uplifted. I want them to feel empowered and to know that no matter how difficult life gets, if they focus on the positives, they can overcome challenges and grow from the experience. I hope Lola and Grandpa offers readers comfort and peace of mind and helps them understand that our loved ones are always with us – in our hearts and in the memories we shared.
How did you feel when you were writing it?
I went through a range of emotions because Lola and Grandpa is basically a true story. Although my dad is still with us, all of the imagery used in the book – from the sunflowers, to the whistling, to grandpa’s cardigan – is based on real life. Writing this story brought back so many beautiful memories of watching my dad and my daughter together.
However, it also brought many tears because to get the level of emotion right I had to go deep inside in heart and imagine how I would feel if my dad was no longer with us. I hope the heartbreak translates onto the pages, but more importantly I hope that the love between the characters is evident as this is what we need to focus on in times of grief.
Which part of your story do you like best?
I love watching Lola and Grandpa explore the world together because I think that children and grandparents learn so much from spending time together. There is nothing more wonderful than listening to a conversation between a grandparent and their grandchild or watching them play together.
Do you like the way Yvonne Low has illustrated it?
Yvonne did a great job with the illustrations. It was really important to find an illustrator who understood the relationship between Lola and Grandpa. I could tell Yvonne could feel the love between the characters which is a pivotal part of the story. Everything from the expression in the characters’ faces to the colour palette Yvonne chose depicts the emotion perfectly and I am delighted with the outcome.
Do you have a favourite illustration?
I can’t name just one because each illustration touched my heart in a different way. Every illustration reminds me of my dad and my daughter and looking at the images is like flicking through the pages of my photo album.
How would you like teachers and parents to present Lola and Grandpa to children and discuss it with them?
I would like teachers and parents to present Lola and Grandpa as a celebration of life and love. To reassure children that while it’s perfectly normal to feel sad when we lose someone we love, in time the pain will ease and all of the beautiful memories we shared will still be there. I would also like teachers and parents to focus on the beautiful relationship between the characters and remind children how important it is to spend time with their grandparents and loved ones and treasure every single day.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’m a freelance journalist so I’ve been writing for a long time. But I developed a real appreciation for children’s books when I had my own children. I read to them every single day – endless books filled with magical words that took us all on a journey. I watched their eyes light up with every page turn and smiled with delight when they asked me questions about the characters and the plot.
It showed me how important it is to read to our children and made me realise that reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. It made me think about how wonderful it would be to be a children’s author. To be able to bring joy to a child’s life or support them in their darkest moments – it’s the best job in the world!
Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?
There are only two places I can write — my study/writing room and my kitchen table. I would love to be able to sit in a park or at the beach and write my heart out, but it just doesn’t work for me. I think it’s because I have a short attention span so the less distraction I have the better.
What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?
Always computer – although I scribble notes everywhere.
When do you write?
Whenever I can! Luckily, I’m an early riser so I usually get a couple of hours in before anyone gets up. Then I do it on and off throughout the day depending on my other commitments. It’s often when I’m not actively writing that I get my best ideas, so I prefer to mix my days up a bit anyway.
Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?
I don’t know that I have anything to offer teachers other than to say that I think it’s important to discuss each book after it’s been read in great detail. Explore each line of text and examine each image. Get the children’s opinions and ask them questions that get them thinking, challenge their beliefs, and open their minds up to a world of possibilities.
Do you have any advice for children as writers?
Write what you love. There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a topic so write about things that interest you. Play with language. Develop your skills. Read books in the genre you want to write in. And most importantly, tell the stories that you want to tell. The ones that come straight from your heart.
What is your favourite picture book? What do you like about it?
It’s so difficult for me to name just one, but what I can say is that I love books that make me feel. Books that stir my emotions, break my heart, give me butterflies, and take me on an unexpected journey. Anything by Oliver Jeffers or Peter Carnavas will always be at the top of my favourites list.
Who is your favourite author? What do you like about his or her work?
Based on my last answer, I’d have to say Oliver Jeffers and Peter Canarvas because I love their work so much. On the surface their stories appear to be quite simple but if you examine them closely you will see that they are made up of many layers. Both of these authors have the amazing ability to say so much in so few words. It’s a wonderful skill to have and one that I am still trying to master.
Thank you, Ashling. I enjoyed meeting you and finding out about your inspiration for writing Lola and Grandpa. I’m certain there are many children, parents and grandparents with whom the book will resonate. It is such a beautiful way to open up the discussion about love and loss.
Lola and Grandpa is available from Little Pink Dog Books and all good bookstores.
This interview is part of a Books on Tour promotion. Check out this poster for details of other posts where you can catch up with Ashling and Yvonne.
Find out more about Ashling Kwok from
Her website Ashling Kwok
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Facebook: Ashling Kwok
Find out more about illustrator Yvonne Low from
Her website: Yvonne Low
Or connect with her on Social Media
This interview is now available free, in a ready-to-print format, in Literacy Resources Author Spotlight Author Spotlight – Ashling Kwok, along with interviews with other authors. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.
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