We had the opportunity to interview Renato Moriconi, a Brazilian writer and visual artist. He has had more than forty books for children published in a number of countries throughout the world, including Brazil, France, Mexico, and South Korea. The Little Barbarian (Eerdmans), his North American debut, received multiple starred reviews and was named one of the Boston Globe‘s best children’s books of 2018.
What made you decide to become a children’s book author?
The field of contemporary children’s books is a border territory where there is a mixture of languages, a place open to experimentations. It has a fluid identity. It is literature and visual art at the same time. That is what attracted me to the field in the first place.
Who or what has been a major influence on your writing style?
Angela Lago, Gianni Rodari, Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, Edward Lear, and Lewis Carroll, to mention a few.
Which children’s book most inspired you as a child?
Like many others of my generation in Brazil, I was raised under the influence of Monteiro Lobato’s writings. I still remember a nightmare that I had when I was 5 or 6, with Cuca, an evil character from Sítio do Picapau Amarelo, Lobato’s best known novel series.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
I have no idea. The world is full of stories. Sometimes they jump into my brain.
Which five words best describe The Very Hungry Plant?
Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense and irony.
Can you share a highlight from the book that you like the most?
If I do that, I would reveal the end of it. The surprise ending—and its contradiction—is what I like the most. This whole story was created around that.
Where do you find your inspiration for new stories and characters?
As I said before, I believe that the world is full of ideas. Sometimes it’s something I hear, sometimes something I see on the street or in my apartment (even a fly on the wall can be a good story). Sometimes I find inspiration in books, movies, paintings… Inspiration is everywhere.
Why is The Very Hungry Plant a great addition to a child’s home library?
Because it is very good to have a carnivorous plant at home: it brings you luck.
If not an author, what would you have been?
I would have been a priest of an isolated gothic chapel with no members and where no one visits.
Why do you believe reading is vital for children?
I would say it is vital for everyone, and that includes children. It is vital even for babies. I’ve been reading to my son since he was born. I wanted to have a connection with him like my wife had when she breastfed him. Even knowing that it would be impossible, I knew that I established a kind of communication similar to the one my wife had with him. The books became a bridge between our worlds, our common language. It was very clear to me when, after reading the same book over and over again, he started to make the sound of some words of that book. It was our first dialogue.
What do you hope kids learn from The Very Hungry Plant?
I don’t want to teach anything. I create books to share my emotions, my way of thinking, but that doesn’t mean I want to teach something. I just want to say and show my inner thoughts. Sometimes the story, the characters, take the control of the content and fight against my opinion. Art, literature, doesn’t need to be restricted to the author’s ideas. It has to be open to the characters’ voices. I am used to listen to my characters’ opinions while I’m writing or painting a book. Sometimes I don’t agree with them, sometimes I want to change them, but I never take them for granted. Art is something that goes beyond my opinion. It is a vivid form of communication.
Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
I was a very hungry kid—now I’m a very hungry adult—and, one day, in the shower, the white bar soap looked so delicious to me, irresistible. It looked like coconut pudding, so I took a bite of it.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Don’t eat bar soap.