Ace Centre are so excited to share that our former colleague Clare Latham’s first foray into writing a children’s book has just been published. Clare was instrumental in the original development of Ace Centre’s popular resources Developing and Using a Communication Book and Look2Talk, a recently relaunched package to support the development of a communication book for people who communicate by eye pointing to symbols.
Erin and the Mouse is a collection of exquisitely illustrated stories about Erin, a child who communicates using her eyes, and her friend Mouse. It is a celebration of the power of AAC and of friendship. The main character is based on a real-life Erin, a girl that Clare has supported for several years with the charity SpecialEffect.
We caught up with Clare to ask her a little more about the experience of writing and illustrating this beautiful collection of stories.
How did the stories come to be written?
Erin had major surgery a few years ago and I looked for a book to cheer her up. I couldn’t find one about a non-speaking child so I wrote the first of the stories, ‘Mouse learns to write’. She loved to read it over and over again. I then continued to write stories for her as Covid hit and I could not visit.
Tell us about the journey to publication.
Hmm, well it was good friends who asked about Erin and felt the stories were worth publishing. Any big publishing houses suggested self-publication, but that requires you to both fund and market on social media. A friend suggested a niche company called GB Publishers, and they quite simply ‘got behind Erin’. There were many misinterpretations along the way, but they included me in every step, not proceeding until I OK ‘d everything.
How does Erin feel about the book?
Erin has received each handwritten and illustrated story over the years. She repeatedly asked to read them and as staff around her changed they too got in contact. Erin then wrote me a story where, in short, she rescues me from a locked castle! Erin has just received a copy of the final publication. Erin’s Mum says she insists on reading it every night, reading the dedication before each story.
Your illustrations are wonderful! Have you ever illustrated a book before?
No! I’ve never illustrated anything! But I did know what Erin’s communication book, eye gaze computer and interfaces (e.g. her music system) looked like. I suggested to the publishers that I would pay for an illustrator, but they declared mine ‘charming’ …. I was chuffed! They then made the drawings print-ready and you can see the results. I know Erin likes to study the pictures. Well, they are indeed very personal to her!
Erin and the Mouse by Clare Latham is available to order now from a range of booksellers.