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Trisha Krauss on illustrating Maude: The Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton

Meet the Shrimptons, the flamboyant family at the centre of the vibrant children's book collaboration with Lauren Child

Posted: 16 January 2013
by Catherine O'Dolan

Were you nervous about illustrating a book by Lauren Child, when her fans might expect her to illustrate? Yes, that did cross my mind, as I am not at all stylistically like her, and I feared some might say “What a letdown. What a bad attempt at a Lauren Child book!” Lauren is equally as talented as an author and an illustrator. I’ve worked with a lot of authors and she writes so visually. There wasn’t a single page that wasn’t filled with visual possibilities. Then all my fears vanished because I was so excited! Lauren describes her characters in such visual terms it was like Lauren took all the things that I really wanted to draw – peacocks, patterns, butterflies, hats and tigers – and put them in a book. She is very kind. It’s the perfect place to showcase Trisha’s talents.

What was your inspiration for the characters? It was a mixture but I based each character on some of my favourite Hollywood characters. Mr Shrimpton was based on Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird – though he’s slightly more flamboyant, but he is a lawyer but with that quirkiness. Mrs Shrimpton is a bit Anne Bancroft, very Upper East Side New York City. She’s beautiful and capable, and very hard working, she’s a hatmaker (which explains her exotic headgear), and takes care of the family. Overall, there’s a Royal Tennanbaums feels about the family. Mrs Shrimpton is part Anne Bancroft, part Angelica Huston in Chanel suits.

And what about the children? The inspiration for the big sister Penelope is Jean Shrimpton, simple as that. Hector reminds me of my first Weinmeiner dog, and Gene Kelly with his constant toe-tapping. Maude is very much a Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family as played by Christina Ricci. Constance, with her adorable curls, had to be Little Shirley Temple. Waldy was inspired by my stepson, who is now 18 but who was always terribly silly when he was young, a real joker.

Maude is a shy girl who is desperate to blend into her background. Are you a “blender”? Like Maude, I’m a middle child. I really sympathises with her as a child of our time; my siblings really tried to ignore me.

It’s not that Maude is unhappy, she just doesn’t know her place in the world yet, and she’s surrounded by such strong characters. At the end, there’s just a hint of the fate that has befallen her family, and Maude has just a hint of a smile. She finally realises her strength is that going unnoticed is not always such a bad thing.

What’s the moral of Maude? It’s a cautionary tale, there's a bit of darkness about it. But it was a tremendous amount of fun,

Will there be any further adventures for Maude? Well, it's hard to plan a sequel considering all the family gets eaten at the end… but maybe Maude could join an elite cast of fictional heroines who are orphaned or on their own, but can do what they want from The Little Princess to Pippi Longstocking. We’ve already toyed with a few titles, like Maude Abroad

Maude The Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton by Lauren Child and Trisha Krauss is published by Puffin, £15.

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