This month we chatted to Tom Percival, author of the Dream Team, a brand new middle-grade series exploring anxiety in children through action and adventure. With echoes of Dreamworks’s Inside Out and The Incredibles, the Dream Team is a great way to introduce children to managing their anxieties, especially if they have a bad case of the heebie-jeebies! Over to you Tom to tell us a bit more about it…
Can you tell us a bit about the Dream Team and why you decided to write it?
The Dream Team is a fantastical, funny, fast-paced adventure series set in the Dreamscape, which is where our consciousness goes when we sleep. Because the bulk of each story takes place in a dream world, there is a lot of scope to explore impossible situations and characters. There’s a young boy called Silas made entirely out of shadows, who can travel at the speed of light, a shapeshifting character called Sim who is sometimes a boy, sometime a girl, sometimes a tiger, a cactus or a table lamp, but is ALWAYS kind and supportive and there is a furry little Heebie-Jeebie called Beastling who can only talk in pictures.
So far, so impossible… but I also wanted to ground the series in relatable, everyday emotions. So the Dream Team’s job is to help children who are experiencing emotional challenges and help them work through their problems in their dreams so that when they wake up, they are better equipped to deal with whatever it was that was troubling them.
There’s lots of opportunity for fun, excitement and adventure, as well as a few subtle pointers on how to cope with emotional challenges. The first book, Attack of the Heebie Jeebies is all about anger and it’s where we meet Erika, a human girl who goes on to become an honorary member of the Dream Team and the main character in the series.
Particularly at this time, helping children to manage anxiety and emotions is extremely important. What do you hope children will take away from the book long after they’ve finished the final page?
To be honest, I think that EVERYONE needs help managing their emotions, children and adults alike! I know that I do! It’s very easy to fall into the trap of being immediately led by our emotions.
Now, I’m not suggesting for a minute that we should ignore our feelings, or bottle them up in anyway. What we need to do is explore our emotions. We need to consider HOW we’re feeling, then work out WHY we’re feeling that way and then we can start to think about WHAT we’re going to do about it.
If we skip through that process and jump straight into reacting to a situation without considering WHY we feel the way that we do, it’s very likely that our decisions will be rash and might even cause more problems.
So, in short, what I would like to do with this series is encourage children to start to thinking about their feelings and to question why they feel the way that they do. After all, the more in tune we are with our feelings, the happier we will be.
And talking of happiness, I hope that the readers will also just enjoy the adventure! I’ve certainly had fun creating these books.
What’s your favourite thing about being an author/illustrator?
I just love making things. If I’m not working, then pretty much everything I like to do for a hobby also involves making things.
I like to do woodwork, I like to make music, I like to take photography and make videos and animations, the list goes on… So the best thing about writing and illustrating is making a world and then spending time in it.
May is National-Share-A-Story-Month. Who do you most like sharing stories with and why?
I most like sharing stories with my kids. A story or world that you create and spend time in can seem real to you, but if you share that experience with someone else and everyone is invested in it and contributes to it then it feels as though it exists beyond just you. It becomes even more real because you’ve ALL been there.
When did you first start drawing and sharing stories and what advice would you share with a younger Tom Percival?
Literally as long back as I can remember I was drawing pictures and coming with ideas for characters, worlds and stories. The advice I would share with my younger self, or ANYONE really is to not worry about what other people are doing. I certainly used to be very preoccupied with whether my work was ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than other peoples work. Even until very recently. I realise now that it’s just a waste of time. Comparison is the thief of joy.
You should just focus on doing what YOU do and making it the best that you can make it at the time. If you keep doing that, then you will keep on improving.
If you could live as a fictional character for a day, who would it be?
I would like to live as Calvin from the comic strips Calvin and Hobbes because he basically doesn’t have to worry about ANYTHING, as long as he’s got his best friend Hobbes with him he’s happy.
Plus, I just loved those comic books when I was a kid and really identified with Calvin’s spirit of fun, imagination and adventure. Sadly as the years have rolled on, I’ve definitely become a lot more like Calvin’s dad—I even look a bit like him now.
Dream Team: Attack of the Heebie Jeebies by Tom Percival, published by Macmillan is out now.
About Tom Percival: Tom Percival writes and illustrates all sorts of children’s books. He has produced covers and inside illustrations for the Skulduggery Pleasant series, written and illustrated the Little Legends series, as well as created five picture books including the Carnegie-nominated Ruby’s Worry, Perfectly Norman and Ravi’s Roar. Tom has been drawing since he’s been able to hold a pencil, and making up stories for as long as he can remember.
Follow Tom @TomPercivalsays