Friday, July 16, 2021

Sophy Henn Interview - Pizazz

Photo Content from Sophy Henn 

Sophy Henn is an award-winning picture book author and illustrator with a master’s in illustration from the University of Brighton. She is the creator of the much-loved Bad Nana series, the Pom Pom series, the Ted board book series, and the nonfiction titles Lifesize and Lifesize Dinosaurs, among others. Her debut picture book Where Bear? was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Sophy was the World Book Day Illustrator in 2015 and 2016.


What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
That while you might feel like an outsider at school, your moment will come.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I wish I could say yes, but my career path has been a varied one and I have definitely taken the scenic route to being a writer. I came to create children’s books via illustration and I am still surprised when I am described as a writer! I do know I have always loved to tell stories with words and pictures, be it making tiny books as a child, with a series of photographs at college or in an advertising campaign in my first few jobs. I guess (without really realising it) one way or another I have always been telling stories only now I get to put them into actual books.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I am currently writing Pizazz book 4 and I am LOVING IT! I have mapped out two more and I am very excited about Pizazz’s journey to the end of book 6! I am also happily busy making picture books, both fiction and non fiction ( a third Lifesize book is on it’s way, which are great fun to create). I am also thrilled that with the world slowing opening up again I can start to do more events at festivals and schools, I’ve really missed it!

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
It’s such a brilliant way to communicate all kinds of different messages and information, and nurture emapthy. No matter where I start or what I think I am writing about, I always seem to end up creating stories that I hope will reassure and empower the reader. I think that’s my favourite thing about storytelling, the power it can instil.

I was inspired to try my hand at children’s books by reading bedtime (and breakfast-time and lunchtime and afternoon-time, basically all-the-time) stories to my daughter. When she was tiny baby the conversation was a bit one way, so those stories gave me something to talk about and share. We loved exploring new books and I loved seeing how she reacted to them, and they gave us both so much. I always come back to that experience and draw from it when I am making my books, trying to keep focused on my reader and how I want them to feel, not worrying about what my peers are doing.

Can you tell us when you started PIZAZZ, how that came about?
As with most of my books, it was inspired by my daughter. Not that she is Pizazz, but I created Pizazz as a little comic strip which was part of a comic I made for her when she was about 7/8 years old. The idea was to turn the perky, can-do, sensible girl super hero idea on it’s head and wonder what it would be like if she just found the whole thing, well, a bit annoying! And then seeing how she combines her ‘normal’ life with her ‘super’ life, trying to balance fitting-in and standing out all whilst wearing a full length cape with her name written across the back. SUPER!

It’s an illustrated fiction book with added comic strips and you might have guessed I had a lot of fun writing and illustrating it.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I think sometimes Pizazz is unhappy about being different, but sometimes she rather likes it, even though she might try to hide that! It’s true she wishes that sometimes she could just be normal and fit in, which I don’t think is uncommon. But over the Pizazz stories, she also accepts herself a lot more and even starts to enjoys her differences. She gets stuff wrong, but steps up and tries to get it right. I want the readers to find a friend in Pizazz, someone a bit different and learning to embrace it, far from perfect but trying her best (well, most of the time!) and realising that you don’t have to be SUPER all the time!

What part of Pizazz did you enjoy writing the most?
I really like inventing the comic strip baddies! While there has to be mild peril I very much enjoy making them as ridiculous as possible!

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
Where The Wild Things Are. It is picture book perfection.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think I would introduce them all to Bad Nana. She is my absolute heroine and the person I want to be when I grow up! Bad Nana is a shining example of being old, but young too! She doesn’t really care what people think, she doesn’t;t put up with any nonsense and she has a strong sense of justice. Oh, and fabulous earrings. IN fact I think Pizazz could learn a lot from Bad Nana about be a bit less embarrassed about everything!

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
Well, I am not sure it was my favourite but it was the first time I remember sitting down to write a ‘book’. I was about 8 or 9 and LOVED an Agatha Christie/Cluedo so I decided to write a murder mystery. In my impatience I wanted to set up the plot and characters ALL on the first page, which as you can imagine proved rather tricky so it was abandoned about 2/3 of a page in! But it has really stuck in my mind, hopefully now I am bit more realistic!

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid?
Hmmmm, I must say the 1970s were pretty fun, but I think I would chose the 1950s because from what I can see the toy industry suddenly exploded and it feels like nothing was too ridiculous to be considered! And the freedom, there was much more freedom for a child than there is now. Time to get bored is VERY important.

What were you doing the last time you really had a good laugh?
Talking on the phone with my daughter. She’s the real writer in this family!

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
That we are all super, in our own unique ways.

  • 1. It’s HILARIOUS!
  • 2. Honestly, it is!
  • 3. There are LOADS of comic strips in it.
  • 4. There is a dog/telephone who gives good side-eye and she is called Wanda (she might be my favourite!).
  • 5. There is also a guinea pig called Bernard who gives good stink-eye (she, YES she, might also be my favourite!).
  • 6. If you sometimes feel a bit like you don’t fit in or maybe you feel a bit awkward I would like to think you will find a friend Pizazz.
  • 7. It reveals the truth about being a super hero (hint: it’s NOT super).
  • 8. There is ‘super’ stationery. Of course there is.
  • 9. Pizazz is an expert eyeroll-er, you could pick up some tips!
  • 10. I have been told, it’s SUPER! Really.
Writing Behind the Scenes
People often ask me what my writing process is and my answer to that is…”Oh I wish I had a process!” I love those articles about writers who have a specific breakfast before completing three chapters before lunch, and I long for a magic, word inducing breakfast! But for me it’s a case of sitting down at my desk, by about 7.30-8am with a giant mug of tea and stubbornly keeping going! The ideas part of the job is a little more fun I find and they can come from all directions. My first picture book Where Bear? came from an absent minded doodle of Bear, Pom Pom gets the Grumps arrived in cartoon form from a real life incident (HARRUMPH!) and Pizazz was inspired by my daughter’s trials and tribulations at school which made me want to create a book that recognised them and maybe even reassured the reader. But where ever the idea comes from, once it arrives that’s when the discipline starts! I will then write the story, break it down into spreads then sketch out each spread. That sounds straightforward though in reality it can be anything but! Some stories flow out, some have to be encouraged and others feel like almost impossible puzzles. But it’s a puzzle I love to crack and I can’t believe I get to do it for an actual job!

Discover the annoying side of being a superhero from snarky, reluctant hero Pizazz in this hilarious and highly illustrated new series for young middle graders—perfect for fans of Dog Man and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Most people think superhero work is awesome and fulfilling. Pizazz knows better. Whenever she’s in the middle of a movie or having fun with her friends, she has to dash off the save the world. And she’s always in the same outfit, including an embarrassing glittery cape, and the wedgies are unreal. Plus, being the good guy all the time is so not easy. Superheroes have bad days like everybody else, but Pizazz always has to be cheerful and noble and brave. More than anything, she just wants to be normal.

You can purchase Pizazz at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a Copy of Pizazz by Sophy Henn.


  1. "If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?" Bronzino, because he painted pretty pictures!

  2. I would be born as Michelle Obama because of her intelligence and wisdom.

  3. Marilyn Monroe. She was so beautiful.