Illustrated by Ana Gómez
For ages 2+
Huge welcome to everyone reading this who found me today via the Oxford University Press Blog Tour! Lovely to see you! I'm thrilled to have been given the opportunity to interview children's author, Naomi Jones about her latest picture book 'How to Catch a Rainbow'. Jones's previous picture books include the bestselling mini-series with her adorable 'shapes' characters: 'The Perfect Fit' and 'One More Try'. This is the start of a new series for Naomi Jones and I'm so excited about it! Hopefully you'll feel inspired to borrow a copy from your library or purchase a copy from your local bookshop (or online from my Bookshop.org shop link at the end of this article).
Freya is obsessed with rainbows, she LOVES rainbows! I do too! Lying on her bed, reading a book one day, Freya feels so inspired, she decides to become a 'Rainbow Hunter'. Armed with perfect rainbow catching equipment (see below) she heads out to explore her garden filled with high expectations and excitement. Finding the first few items for her rainbow aren't too hard... rose hips for red, grass for green, but then things start to get a bit more tricky and her feelings of frustration, hopelessness and disappointment get the better of her until she takes a deep breath and closes her eyes under the tree. Looking up she spies something that might help get her back on track! Even though Freya does manage to find all her rainbow ingredients in the end, things don't quite go to plan. Using her imagination and creativity once again she makes a perfect rainbow with her crayons not just for her, but for her Dad too.
This is wonderful story for children that not only teaches about nature's beautiful rainbows, simply how they're made and their colours, but inspires a go-getting attitude in spite of the highs and lows of achieving a goal. Find out more about this captivating and vibrant story, and its author, Naomi Jones, in my interview below.
Nicci: With the success of The Perfect Fit and One More Try, you’re back with the Oxford University Press awesome Children’s team for a new series it seems, which is so exciting, and the first is this gorgeous rainbow-tastic story ‘How to Catch a Rainbow’ which published on 4th August. With this new series you’re working with Ana Gómez, whereas up until now your children’s picture books have been illustrated by your husband James. Although I’ve loved James’s illustrations, I have to say that Ana has done an amazing job here! How have you found working with a new illustrator?
Naomi: It has been wonderful working with Ana, she’s so talented and I love how she’s brought my words to life in such a vibrant way. It’s definitely been a different experience from working with James - with James I see the artwork evolve more gradually and we brainstorm lots together too about things like what games the shape characters can play. However, with Ana I received the artwork all in one go – opening those emails from my editor were particularly exciting!
Nicci: Freya is an adorable little character utterly obsessed with rainbows - I love her zest for exploration and determination to create her own rainbow both scientifically and creatively. What inspired this exciting new story?
Naomi: All my stories are often inspired by lots of different things from my childhood to my kids who are a particularly big influence. I’ve got two boys aged 5 and 7 and they still get so much joy from spotting rainbows! I think because you don’t see them every day, and they don’t last for long, they feel particularly exciting and special when you do see them. My boys also love any kind of a hunt from bug hunts to treasure hunts. When they were younger and sometimes reluctant to go for a walk with me, I’d turn it into a nature scavenger hunt to make it more interactive for them which they loved. When I was little, me and my sister used to love playing in our garden, climbing trees, making mud pies and potions and building dens. Playing outside in nature is such a wonderful way for children to learn more about the world about them as well as themselves. I really enjoyed writing How to Catch a Rainbow and I hope that children have as much fun sharing it with their parents and teachers as I did making it.
Nicci: Your books have always delivered a clear message to the reader, whether it’s about fitting in, friendship, being yourself, or reducing plastic in our oceans (in The Odd Fish with HarperCollins). This new story, however, feels more intense as you the reader is invested in Freya’s quest, identifying with fleeting emotions including: frustration, sadness, loneliness, disappointment, satisfaction, hopelessness. Was there a conscious move away from your previous style to this more complex picture book storytelling style?
Naomi: I think as a writer your style is always evolving. For this story, it felt right to tell it in a slightly different way from my previous books. All parents will know how quickly small children can transition from feeling one emotion to another. I’ve always encouraged my boys to feel their feelings and I wanted Freya to be determined to find a rainbow but find it tricky to make or catch one. I know I learn more when things aren’t straightforward than when they are (even when I would like them to be!) I hope that readers of How to Catch a Rainbow will feel invested in Freya’s quest and emotional journey and that hopefully it will make the ending feel more satisfying.
Nicci: As a parent, a KS1 book club leader and literary consultant to schools, I love it when I find a book like ‘How to Catch a Rainbow’, which can be enjoyed on so many levels and I can create fun activities around. Do you think ahead to such end user scenarios when conceptualising your picture books?
Naomi: It is so lovely to hear that you can envisage How to Catch a Rainbow being used in lots of different ways – thank you! To be honest I don’t consciously think about how the books will be used when I’m writing them as my focus is on telling the best story I can. However, as a parent, and the daughter of a primary school teacher, I think I am drawn to stories that work on different levels and can be used in different ways with children, simply because they are the books that I like reading with my kids too. I also want to say here that such a huge part of any picture book is down to the artwork – Ana’s incredible illustrations in How to Catch a Rainbow are so child friendly that I am sure they will inspire lots of activities too.
Nicci: I love that Freya’s parent in the story is Dad, alone, there are no illustrations including any significant others, so the reader may assume that Freya has just a Dad or maybe Daddy is at home whilst Mummy or Daddy is out the house, there are multiple family setting options to increase the chance of a child identifying with this story’s parent-child relationship. Was this always the intention?
Naomi: Yes, this was always the intention. When I was growing up I didn’t think twice about the fact that all the characters in the books that I read looked like me and had a mum and a dad, just like I did. The world we live in is so wonderfully diverse and families come in all shapes and sizes. I consciously read books with my children that have characters and families in that don’t look like us and our set up. I want it to be normal for them to see how many different ways there are to live, and I think it’s important that all children have the opportunity to see themselves reflected in books too.
Nicci: So, I counted over 150 rainbows in this story! Fun challenge setting at the end of the book to see how many the reader can find… what’s the official total? Please?
Naomi: There are SO many rainbows in this book! I’m very sorry but the official total is a closely guarded secret.
Nicci: Would love you to tell me a bit about the next book in this superb series and when we can expect to see it on bookshop shelves!
Naomi: The next book in this story is called How to Make a Story and is about a boy called Milo who wants a brand new story just for him. His mum suggests that he makes one up but he doesn’t know how. With a lot of imagination and a little help from his family Milo embarks on a quest to make one up. It will publish in February 2023 and will feature more of Ana’s fantastic illustrations.
Nicci: Any other exciting new projects going on you’d like to share with my readers? I could definitely see you doing a World Book Day book (just putting it out there…)!
Naomi: I would LOVE to write a World Book Day Book. I am always writing and working on new projects and have been working on a new series for readers of 5-7 which I am really excited about.
Nicci: You have arrived at being a children’s author by way of a career in publishing, working with some of the biggest names in publishing in rights management. Would you say that it was a massive help to have had that experience in the industry in order to secure your first book deal?
Naomi: Working in Rights at Puffin and Hachette Childrens definitely helped my understanding of how the industry worked and the process for publishing a book. I have always loved writing and decided I wanted to try and get a children’s book published back in 2007 when I was also looking for a job in publishing. During that time, I embarked on a writing for children course at City Lit, joined a critique group and read and wrote as much as I could. My first book The Perfect Fit was published in 2021 and I had another agent before the one I am currently with. My journey hasn’t been straightforward, but like Freya hunting for her rainbow, it’s been worth it in the end!
Nicci: What three pieces of advice would you give to aspiring children’s picture book authors of any age?
1. Read as much as you can
2. Keep writing
3. Have fun and play with the words and your stories!
Nicci: Finally, do you do school author events? If so, do let myself and my readers know how best to get in touch with regards to possible bookings.
Naomi: Yes, I do both online and in person events and love meeting readers. Please drop me an email at email@example.com if you’re interested and we can take it from there.
Thanks for the super interview, Naomi!
Free fun 'How to Catch a Rainbow' activity sheets (pdf):
About the creators
Naomi Jones (author)
Naomi Jones (née Cartwright) worked in children’s publishing for eight years before leaving to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. She is the acclaimed author of the picture book The Perfect Fit (OUP); its sequel One More Try, and The Odd Fish (Farshore). She lives in Cornwall near the sea.
Ana Gómez (illustrator)
Ana Gómez is a Spanish illustrator. She studied Fine Art at Salamanca University but her true love is illustrating for children and spreading humour and joy through her work.
Grab a copy
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Publication date: 4 August 2022
More picture books to enjoy by Naomi Jones:
'The Perfect Fit' (2021, Oxford University Press)
'One More Try' (2022, Oxford University Press)
'The Odd Fish' (2022, HarperCollins)
*Oxford University Press provided me with a review copy of 'How to Catch a Rainbow'.
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