The Inside Story with author Cerrie Burnell



Hooray! The blog birthday celebrations continue as we are very lucky to have Cerrie Burnell with us today! Many of us recognise Cerrie from her work on Cbeebies, but did you know she is also the author of a stack of books? Including these picture books (beautifully illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson)

Cerrie has also written a series of chapter books based on a character called Harper who lives in the City of Clouds. Along with her beloved cat Midnight, and a flying umbrella, Harper whisks readers off to magical adventures.

Furthermore, Cerrie writes plays, and recently adapted Snowflakes into a play for children which was performed at the Oxford Playhouse in December 2016.


Hi Cerrie! Was writing for children something you’d always wanted to do? How did your first book come about? 

I’d always dreamed of being a writer, but it was a dream that in one sense felt incredibly real, and in another seemed impossible. Before I began working for CBeebies I’d written a children’s play and when I had my daughter and discovered there weren’t enough diverse stories being told, that was motivation to do something about it. So I wrote Snowflakes.

Did you have any particular favourite books as a child?

I’m highly dyslexic, so I couldn’t until I was almost ten. I was lucky enough to have an amazing mum who read to me every night, so my world was still enchanted by Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree, Alice in Wonderland and the startling light and dark of fairy tales.

What is the most important thing to you in your writing at the moment?  

I think all writers want their work to be the strongest it can be, regardless of when its written.  I’m interested in keeping the magical elements that can make a story feel classical but with a strong focus on reflecting the diverse world we live in.

Tell us about your part in the CILIP Carnegie/ Kate Greenaway awards!  

Hosting the Carnegie awards was actually very moving. It’s a big day event, with a lot of kids in the room so you have to keep it snappy and upbeat, whilst remaining empathetic to subject matters tackled with in the books. I was incredibly proud to be part of it.

Your Harper series has really taken off! Can you tell us about Harper: What kind of character is she?

Harper is a girl with a rare musical gift, she can play any instrument by ear. She is calm, courageous in quiet and focused way and is untune with the world in a delicately magical way. In the first book HARPER AND THE SCARLET UMBRELLA all we know is that Harper lives with her Great Aunt Sassy and cat Midnight in a Tall Apartment Block full of creative families.

When Midnight goes Missing Harper discovers the Scarlet Umbrella and soon learns it can fly. Together with her friends and a pile of instruments she sets of to rescue her cat (and all the other missing cats) only to discover something much stranger…

You are so lucky to have Laura Ellen Anderson illustrating your Harper books! What was it like when you first saw the illustrations? 

Laura is an amazingly intuitive and generous illustrator to work with- not to mention fast and of course gifted. Seeing the pictures for every book we have done together has been a complete wonder to behold.

Did you have to change anything for the US editions?

My U.S Publishers Sky Pony have just been wonderful. Harper will be published in thirteen territories, so I have complete trust in all of my overseas publishers. There is even a German Audio book!

Have you developed any tricks for yourself to get in the zone for when you’re switching between writing picture books and your Harper books or playscripts 

My life has always been fairly chaotic, so switching between age groups or projects comes quite easily. Being dyslexic, I think I carry all the stories I’m working on in my head simultaneously – alongside all the ones I’m yet to write!


Many thanks to Cerrie for taking time during the summer break to answer these questions. We look forward to reading more of your stories!

1st September 2017

More about Cerrie:

You can

  • read more about Cerrie in this recent Guardian article!
  • find Cerrie on twitter as @cerrieburnell
  • watch this video from the Scottish Book Trust!
  • or watch this video from Waterstones

Thanks for visiting 🙂

Pippa Wilson @hellopipski


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