The Giant at Number Two | Emily Wensley Discusses The Mystery and Adventure of her Debut Picture Book

I knew that Daisy-May was a curious character and once she teamed up with her Gran, they were never going to leave the giant in peace!

‘The Giant at Number Two’ is the debut picture book from Emily Wensley. A rhyming picture book with a classic look and feel, Emily’s story is beautifully complemented by retro-styled artwork from illustrator Helen Morgan. The story centres around Daisy-May, an inquisitive young girl who one day spots a GIANT in the garden next door. But is there really a Giant at Number Two?

Daisy-May is known for having an active imagination. Thankfully, Gran is always up for an adventure and the pair work out a plan to find the Giant and trap him. But could he more gentle than he seems? You’ll have tor read to find out.

We chatted with Emily Wensley about ‘The Giant at Number Two’, collaborating with Helen Morgan, and the mystery of the Giant himself.

Hi Emily!  We’re very excited about ‘The Giant at Number Two’.  Can you tell me the story that inspired you to write the book?

Hi!  I’m very excited too. 

 It’s a memorable and special story really.  One afternoon, when walking my daughter Molly to nursery, she whispered, “Mummy, that’s where the giant lives.”  When I asked her how she knew, she pointed to a giant pothole on the pavement outside our neighbour’s house.  It really did look like a giant’s footprint, so during the walk home, the first part of the story was going around in my head.  I was desperate to write it down, so once I’d got my youngest son to sleep for his afternoon nap (he was only one at the time), I began writing the rest of the book. 

So, I guess a giant pothole and Molly’s amazing imagination was the inspiration behind the book.  The funny thing is, the house number (with the giant pothole outside) is actually one hundred, but I could think of a lot more words to rhyme with number ‘two’!

We love the relationship between Daisy-May and her Gran.  Are these characters based on anyone in particular?

Now that you mention it, their relationship reminds me a lot of mine and my mamma’s growing up.  It wasn’t intentional, but I think with any sort of writing, you tend to write from your own experiences without really realising it!  My mamma was a kind and quirky character like Gran and I would always feel comfortable going to her to talk about things because I knew she’d understand.  It’s the same for Daisy-May in the book – she knows her Gran won’t question what she’s seen and will be more than happy to help.  They make a great team!

What was it like to collaborate on ‘The Giant at Number Two’ with Helen Morgan?  What was your reaction when you first saw her illustrations?

It was wonderful working with Helen.  Our first conversation by phone was so natural and I felt like I was talking to an old friend, not somebody I’d just met.  Helen understood exactly the whole feel for the story, setting and characters.  She even added elements to the book that I would never have thought of, like having Bella the cat on every spread for younger readers to spot.  I remember her asking me if I had a cat and what colour she was.  The next draft she sent, there was Bella on each page and it was like looking at my own cat!  

When I first saw the illustrations, I was quite emotional.  Helen is such a talented illustrator and artist, as we know, but it was as if she’d dived into my imagination and brought the story to life.  She just got it and I’m so grateful our paths have crossed, as they have.

The scheming and mystery in ‘The Giant at Number Two’ is wonderful and the book has a feel of a traditional picture book.  Was this your intention from the beginning?

Thank you.  I hope readers will like that element of the story too. 

 I wouldn’t say that was my intention from the beginning, but once I’d started writing the story that was just the direction it took.  I knew that Daisy-May was a curious character and once she teamed up with her Gran, they were never going to leave the giant in peace!  

With regard to it having a traditional feel, I think that’s the combination of my writing style and Helen’s illustrations.  As a teacher and mum, I read a lot of picture books myself and I do love those with a traditional feel.  Like I said before, I believe you write from experience and naturally imitate what you enjoy reading yourself.

Are there any stories from your childhood that influenced the book and is there anything in particular that you want young readers to take away from the story?

Without giving too much away, I would say that traditional tales and fairy tales – those we get told from a very young age, have certainly influenced the book.  

I believe children’s books should be for enjoyment first and foremost.  However, if young readers do take away the moral message behind the story, then that’s a bonus to me as an author.  The book has a message of kindness, acceptance and friendship, which I hope both young and adult readers will appreciate.

The giant of course is a huge part of the book.  Without spoiling too much, what can you tell us about him?

He is a bit of a mystery, isn’t he?!  The giant is obviously different to all the other people living on the street and he is very aware of this.  You’re right, he does play a huge part in the story, but we don’t get to know him till the end really.  I would describe him as a bit of a BFG, going against traditional conceptions of how we believe a character should be, just because this is what we’ve always known.

Do you have a natural knack for poetry or was it difficult to get the story to work in rhyme?

Well, I did win a Pudsey Bear poetry competition when I was eight, but that was a very long time ago! 

 I enjoy writing in both rhyme and prose, but this story just came to me in rhyme and I’m so glad it did!  I think writing in rhyme is a bit like writing a song and I think young readers, especially, enjoy stories that have this element.

Are there any parts of the story that you’re looking forward to people reading?  What do you think their reaction will be?

There is a bit of a twist in the story, without spoiling too much.  I think that’s the part I’m looking forward to people reading the most.  I’m hoping readers will be surprised, yet satisfied with how the story unfolds.

Finally, ‘The Giant at Number Two’ is released on May 9th.  Can you give us a quick summary of the story.

Of course.  ‘The Giant at Number Two’ is a story about a young girl called Daisy-May, who has a big imagination.  She believes there is a giant living in the house next door to her, so with the help of her Gran, they form a plot to try and catch him.  Who and what they find, however, isn’t quite what they expect.  But I guess you’ll need to read the whole book to discover the mystery of the giant at number two!

‘The Giant at Number Two’ is published on May 9th 2024. You can get your copy here.

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