Young children can struggle to talk about big emotions that are part of their everyday life. Clare Luther’s beautifully illustrated children’s books are designed to help children explore their thoughts and feelings, offering them useful ways to think through their emotions and talk about how they are feeling.
Interview by Lulu Luckock.
What inspired you to write The Little Paws Hotel series of books?
I run a dachshund hotel called The Little Paws Hotel, which I’ve been doing for eight years, alongside having a passion to help young children (3-8 years old) explore big emotions in their everyday lives.
Being a mum and parenting two girls, now teenagers, it has always been a priority to help them recognise how they are feeling, name the feelings and then support them as they work through them.
Although I am no longer practicing, my previous careers and client-led experience as an occupational therapist and life coach have played a big part inspiring and shaping my stories too.
Can you tell us a bit about it?
My books, all beautifully illustrated by Maria Floyd, are written in rhyme and told through the eyes of different breeds of dogs with discussion starters at the back of the book to enable discussion and reflection.
I want them to be a platform to encourage meaningful conversations with young children about their thoughts and feelings from an early age. Each book thoughtfully and sensitively addresses a different emotion:
- Separation anxiety – Olive the dachshund
- Fear of new experiences – Gus the black Labrador
- Worried about making mistakes/ Perfectionism – Fig the pug
- Being bullied – Dudley the English sheepdog
- Being the bully – Peggy the wire-haired lurcher
- Bereavement/ grief – Basil the border collie
Each story is well researched and every script has been crafted alongside various professionals and focus groups, such as educational and clinical psychologists, bereavement counsellors, teachers, Special Educational Needs teachers (SEN), parents, care-givers and the children themselves. They have relatable key words throughout the story to help the young reader express the associated emotional, psychological, physiological and social aspects of the experience. The books are also eco-friendly.
Why have you used dogs to be the voices behind the stories?
Evidence from my initial focus groups with young children suggests that children relate better to animals when discussing these big topics. Talking about animals and their emotions can lead on seamlessly to rich subjective age appropriate discussions about how children are feeling. Why dogs in particular? I’m surrounded by four-legged furry friends all day in my dachshund hotel.
How difficult is it to be an author and mum at the same time?
It is a juggling act, but one that I try to do in school hours wherever possible. I gave up my previous careers to be able to care for my two girls in a very present way, so I have had to make sure that working for myself as an independent publisher and author fitted around how I wanted to be as a mum first and foremost. I don’t always get this right, though.
What impact would you like your books to make on the lives of children and their parents too?!
I have been overwhelmed by the wonderful responses from parents, grandparents, care-givers, teachers and children. So, I am already encouraged that the books are making a positive impact. Adults are regularly getting in touch to let me know i) how the books have helped open up conversations that they were struggling to start with their child and ii) that the content of the books is honest, literal and truthful, without nuances, which makes them very relatable for their young child.
Likewise, children write and tell me how they have related to the main characters and how they might cope with those emotions next time.
Has Cornoavirus had an impact on your business at all?
Yes. I have been unable to do my usual author visits so I have not been out and about as much as I would have liked. But on the other hand, having been stuck indoors I’ve put pen to paper and got on with more creative writing which I have been really thankful for.
Who is your inspiration?
Humanly speaking my husband’s grandmother, who passed away last year at the grand old age of 101, has been my inspiration for many years. Her independence, determination, resilience, and interest in others was absolutely infectious and such a motivation for me, especially with my work.
She would always show interest in my writing and be at the ready to edit any scripts – my goodness she was sharp – and she was a huge encouragement in keeping me going!
Spiritually, my Christian faith is my inspiration and gives me daily hope and strength in all I do.
Where is the best place to buy your books?
Online via my website www.head2heartbooks.com.