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5-Question Friday: Barry Timms talks about his wonderful 'This is Not a...' series with Ged Adamson

Find out where award-winning author Barry Timms gets his ideas and learn how a picture book evolves when working collaboratively...

What inspired this series and what do you hope children will take from it? The honest answer is that I never envisioned a series when I wrote This is NOT a Unicorn! And in truth, I stumbled upon the wordplay element by accident after pursuing a different approach. It was a major lightbulb moment. I’m a fairly serious person but I also have a silly, playful side, and this suddenly went full-throttle! Preschool children love playing with language (which is brilliant for developing their confidence with words), but in addition to that, I hope the inventiveness in this series will inspire them to follow their imaginations. What did you think when you saw Ged’s artwork for This is NOT a Dinosaur! for the first time? Do you have a favourite spread? I loved Ged’s unicorn character so much and was braced for an anticlimax with the second book. But if anything, I like the dinosaur even more. I think it’s the little tooth poking out - it’s just the most endearing facial quirk. My favourite spread is possibly the wild abandon of the Hold-on-really-tight-osaur snowmobile. I’d written the line with a roller coaster in mind, but Ged’s interpretation had a delicious off-the-rails freshness!

Barry's favourite of Ged Adamson's illustrations for This is NOT a Dinosaur!

Did you have fun thinking of the different word combinations? How do you come up with ideas? Yes, it was loads of fun. I sat on a park bench and came up with all the rhyme options I could think of. Then it was a matter of pulling out the ones that ticked three boxes: making good images, offering variety and working well in a sequence. When Ged and the brilliant Nosy Crow team joined in, inevitably some things changed. But that’s exactly how it should be when you work collaboratively. How did it feel to win the Stockport Children’s Book Award for This is NOT a Unicorn!? I was very, very proud. Having worked in publishing as an editor for twenty years, I’d seen other authors do the trip to Stockport for the award ceremony. So it was pretty surreal, and unexpected, to find myself in that position. So many brilliant picture books are published every year, so to have your book chosen by children as their favourite is the greatest honour. I still don’t think it’s fully sunk in.

This is NOT a unicorn by Barry Timms and Ged Adamson
A spread from This is NOT a Unicorn!, illustrated by Ged Adamson

Are there more titles to come in the series? Yes - we have something in the works for autumn 2023. As a team, we’re working really hard to ensure it’s just as silly and inventive as the previous two books. But I think that’s all I’m allowed to reveal at this point! Thanks so much to Barry for answering all our questions and to the lovely people in Nosy Crow for sharing this Barry and Ged's books with us and arranging the interview! You can take a closer look at each book in the series, and find out why we love them here: Read our review of This is NOT a Dinosaur!


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