Magic, Morals, and Mischief: A Conversation with Jacqueline Criddle, Creator of Esme and Griswald (2024)

An interview about Esme and Griswald Search for a Potion, presented in partnership* with Jacqueline Criddle and The Children’s Book Review.

Today, we sit down with Jacqueline Criddle, the imaginative mind behind the enchanting children’s book Esme and Griswald Search for a Potion. As a teacher-turned-author, Criddle brings a wealth of experience in child development to her writing, crafting stories that blend magic, humor, and valuable life lessons. In this exclusive interview, we’ll explore the inspirations behind her colorful characters, her journey from educator to storyteller, and her approach to creating engaging chapter books for young readers.

Join us as we delve into the magical world of Esme and Griswald, and discover how Criddle’s passion for literature is helping to shape the next generation of avid readers.

What personal experiences or people in your life inspired you to create the characters of Esme and Griswald?

Jacqueline Criddle: I taught for many years and encountered many Esmes.’ Young children tend to be impulsive; they haven’t yet learned self-control and want instant gratification. Esme is no exception.

Magic, Morals, and Mischief: A Conversation with Jacqueline Criddle, Creator of Esme and Griswald (1)

She saw a supersonic broomstick, and she wanted one. She knew she was supposed to be doing her homework, but she just couldn’t help herself. Griswald is not much better. Although he’s meant to be keeping Esme on the straight and narrow, he enjoyed the illicit broomstick ride as much as she did. But they are always genuinely sorry and try hard to put things right.

What inspired you to want to write?

When I was nine (a very long time ago!), my mother was seriously ill in hospital, and my sister and I went to live with my grandparents. At that time, children were not allowed hospital visits, so our mother effectively disappeared from our lives. My mother was never mentioned, and children weren’t meant to ask questions in those days! (How things have changed – for the better). However, I was aware that the grown-ups believed my mother was dying and would never come home.

Then, one day, I discovered a cupboard full of my aunt’s old Enid Blyton Adventure books. These stories transported me on wonderful adventures away from the realities of life—from pony trekking in the Bavarian mountains to hijacked planes, abandoned copper mines, and secret tunnels beneath the sea! I was happy in a world of make-believe.

From then on, I have always desired to write, and now I have the time to do so.

I hope Esme and Griswald Search for a Potion will transport young readers to another world full of magic and fun and that they get as much pleasure as I did from those adventure stories.

Your story blends magic with real-life problem-solving skills. Was this intentional, and if so, why did you choose this approach?

I think fiction must have some bearing in reality. You must set problems that the protagonists need to overcome, or the story will have no purpose. But my main reason for writing is to create an enjoyable adventure that is fun for the child, and this is where magic and fantasy come in.

In a fantasy world, you are free to create whatever you want. In the Weird Wood, there are flying monsters, exploding pods, flying pigs, and a dinosaur. What could be more fun than letting your imagination run wild and creating strange and remarkable creatures?

This enjoyment is fundamental to the child’s journey as a reader. It’s essential that they think the story is fun. The more they enjoy the story, the more they will be motivated to read.

As a teacher, I realized that once children could read, parents often thought it was no longer necessary for them to read to the child. I hope parents will always share their joy of reading even when the children are fluent readers. I continued to read to my son until he was twelve. If you express to your child how much pleasure you derive from sharing books, they will become avid readers. (My son’s wife is thinking of moving out – he has so many books!)

Could you tell us more about the process of developing the elements of humor and moral lessons in the book?

Esme and Griswald are a foil for each other, which naturally creates humorous situations.

The moral lessons occur when Esme and Griswald make a mess of things and must work out how to put things right, which happens throughout the book. If you were to ask me which piece of advice in the story is the most important, I think it would be Madame Mildew’s words of wisdom.

‘Trying and failing is right,

Failing to try is wrong.’

This is an important lesson for children and grown-ups. The person who succeeds isn’t necessarily the cleverest or the fastest, but often, it is the person who, after failing, picks themselves up and tries again and again.

If a child develops this mindset, they have learned a wonderful lesson for life.

Could you share some insights into your collaboration with Dazzling Media for the illustrations?

Initially, I had no idea how the system worked, but Arpita of Dazzling Media was incredibly helpful. I had to explain exactly what I wanted in each illustration and what size I wanted it to be. This was a steep learning curve as it meant working to strict measurements detailed in KDP.

Once I had decided on measurements, I described exactly how I envisaged the illustration. Obviously, I had a definite picture in my head, but unfortunately, I was not an illustrator. However, I needn’t have worried, Arpita, was very patient and professional. She worked until the illustrations were just what I wanted. I’d recommend her to anyone who needs illustrations for their first book. I am thrilled with my illustrations.

Magic, Morals, and Mischief: A Conversation with Jacqueline Criddle, Creator of Esme and Griswald (2)
Magic, Morals, and Mischief: A Conversation with Jacqueline Criddle, Creator of Esme and Griswald (3)

What were some of the specific challenges you faced in writing a book that transitions young readers into chapter books?

Good question. Yes, it’s quite a leap from picture books to chapter books. Obviously, I have kept the chapters short so that the young reader does not feel overwhelmed.

Another thing I have done to try to help with the transition is to include color illustrations. Traditionally, chapter books have black-and-white line drawings. Picture books are so full of color and life that the transition is a big one, and hopefully, the inclusion of color illustrations will make the transition easier.

Many children will need help and guidance from a parent or teacher when they begin to read chapter books. They are bound to encounter some unfamiliar words, but hopefully, they will find the story so exciting that they will be motivated to make an effort to read it and, consequently, expand their reading vocabulary.

Are there any plans for future Esme and Griswald adventures?

Yes. I’m excited to say that Esme and Griswald are up to their old tricks again in Book Two, which should be ready for publication by September. Book three is also underway.

About the Author

Magic, Morals, and Mischief: A Conversation with Jacqueline Criddle, Creator of Esme and Griswald (4)

Esme and Griswald Search for a Potion

Written by Jacqueline Criddle

Illustrated by Dazzling Media

Ages 7+ | 70 Pages

Publisher: Amazon KDP (2024)

Publisher’s Book Summary: Esme is in trouble. She and her familiar, a huge hairy spider called Griswald, have conjured up a supersonic broomstick and gone joy-riding instead of using mending magic on Mrs Hubbard’s leaky roof. The Grand Witch is so cross she removes all their magic powers and expels them from school.

Esme pleads to be given a second chance and they are set a challenge. If they can cure Prince Boris’s bottom boil by midnight, their magic powers will be reinstated, and they will be allowed to return to school.

But are they brave enough to enter the Weird Wood, where strange and scary creatures live, and how are they going to manage without magic?

Esme and Griswald Search for a Potion is not just a fun-filled adventure but also a tale that imparts the values of self-sufficiency and responsibility. It is a story that will leave young readers feeling enlightened and inspired”

The Children’s Book Review
Buy the Book

About the Author

Jacqueline Criddle is an experienced primary school teacher passionate about creating a world that absorbs the child completely and helps stimulate their imagination.

Having taught reading for many years, she believes that character-led stories with lots of humor help motivate children to read.

Sometimes referred to as Criddle the Fiddle, Jacqueline plays fiddle in a ceilidh band and is also learning to play tenor guitar. In 2015, she participated in the world record for the largest bodhran playing session in Dublin, which was incredible fun!

*Disclosure: Please note that this post may contain affiliate links that share some commission. Rest assured that these will not affect the cost of any products and services promoted here. Our team always provides their authentic opinion in all content published on this site.

Magic, Morals, and Mischief: A Conversation with Jacqueline Criddle, Creator of Esme and Griswald (2024)


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