The story of Christopher Nibble

Published on: 11 February 2015 Author: Charlotte Middleton

Charlotte Middleton, author-illustrator of Christopher Nibble, talks about the inspiration behind her popular picture book about guinea pigs.

Christopher Nibble had been in my mind for years before he made his debut on paper.

I had kept guinea pigs as pets with my sister for years as I was growing up. Whilst at University, a college friend also kept a guinea pig called Christopher. I liked the name, it seemed a bit unusual for a guinea pig, but also a bit quirky and sweet too. So, I was poised with some ingredients necessary to write a book:

  • Experience
  • A character
  • Inspiration

I just needed to work out the rest of the mix.

Christopher Nibble

A guinea pig's love of food had to play an important part in the story, in my mind, because I remember the endless nibbling coming from their hutch. My pet guinea pigs ate all kinds of vegetables but I wanted to focus on their favourite - dandelion leaves. To me, their love of dandelion leaves distinguished them from other pets. I remember how delighted my Dad was that our guinea pigs were doing such a remarkably good job of demolishing the dandelions on his lawn!

Christopher NibbleThe next step to my story was a natural progression. It came from a question to myself - what if Christopher ran out of dandelion leaves? Once I started to think about that and about the life cycle of a dandelion plant, I realised I'd stumbled across the resolution to my story too!

If Christopher could learn how to look after just one plant (and resist eating it) he would be able to feed not just himself, but all of the guinea pigs in town (and beyond!) Guinea pig kind were saved!

Christopher learnt how to grow a beautifully fluffy white dandelion clock all by himself and this was the most simple yet magical answer.

What came next was the one of the most enjoyable books I have ever worked on.

Designing Christopher's 'look' took on a life of its own as I spent hours working on the style of shorts he might like to wear and the place he would live in - Dandeville. Working closely with my publishers, Christopher emerged from a world of collage, ranging from some very very old wall paper, photos and beautifully patterned papers.

I absolutely loved working on this book and happily it seems children from the UK and around the world love to read it too. So it's not just me - the love of these fluffy, nibbling guinea pigs is definitely global!

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