Love and affection, along with the idea of feeling safe and secure, are what we all seek. And these are also what children, who are extremely vulnerable, want, says Leigh Hobbs, children’s author and illustrator, who is in the city participating in various literature festivals.
Leigh’s books are essentially a character study. He says, “The strength of my characters is what defines my book. Unlike many writers, I don’t like indulging serious issues. However, if you look at my stories they will delve on ideas of friendship and love.” Hobbs is best known for the children’s books he has written and illustrated featuring his characters Old Tom, Horrible Harriet, Fiona the Pig, Mr Badger and Mr Chicken.
Talking about the abundance of content, Leigh believes that people often underestimate children. “I feel very responsible towards children and I believe that they can sense when a person or a book is not genuine. Even though my characters are grotesque, they are good-natured. One of my characters, Old Tom is a bright orange, black-eyed cat who carries a fish bone which is like his teddy bear. Old Tom is really naughty but no matter, he is always loved by Angela, the funny looking lady who is like his adopted mother. It is relatable to the children as Old Tom can very well be a six- or seven-year-old kid,” shares Hobbs, who wanted to be an artist since childhood.
An art teacher for 25 years, Hobbs never planned on becoming a children’s writer. “When I was in my late 30s, someone asked if I would illustrate a children’s picture book after which I continued illustrating for other people. However, I stopped doing it as I couldn’t engage with the characters. Also, I had ideas of my own. So I started to create characters and since I didn’t want anyone else to write the stories, I started penning them down myself,” shares Hobbs, who has been Australia’s Children’s Laureate for 2016 and 2017.
His character Old Tom is also a popular television series and Mr Chicken Goes to Paris was adapted for the stage by National Institute of Dramatic Art.