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January 22nd, 2018

stories behind 'the new neighbours'

My upcoming picture book, The New Neighbours, is set in a tower block. Tower blocks make for great drama in stories; everyone's living close together and has to get along... or not.


Pre-order a limited bookplate hardcover or paperback edition here!


In the block of flats where I live in London, we've had people living here who have come from all over the world: Portugal, Nigeria, Cameroon, China, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Poland, South Africa, the United States (that's me). As a fellow immigrant, I love to find out where people used to live and hear their stories. But in the current anti-immigrant/Brexit climate, it's getting harder and harder to ask people, 'Where do you come from?' because people worry I might be judging them, or think I'm implying they don't belong here in Britain.

I remember a few years back in our hallway, hearing new neighbours speaking a foreign language and trying to pinpoint it. (I studied Russian, and I'm fascinated by the sounds of different languages.) When I asked them where they'd come from, they looked very uncomfortable and, at last, said "Romania". Happy that I now could identify the language, I said something like, "Oh, that's cool!" and the woman looked surprised. "People don't usually say that when we say we're Romanian," she said. "They think we're going to steal things." I felt gutted for her. (And they turned out to be good neighbours.) I had a British friend once tell me that when he hears an American accent, he immediately thinks the person must be at least 10% less intelligent than he did before they opened their mouth. That hurt.

The New Neighbours was inspired by this sort of encounter, although it's set in a world populated by animals, not people. In the story, the animals live in a seven-storey tower block and most of them know each other fairly well (and have had adventures together in an earlier comic book I made called Vern and Lettuce).



The picture book story kicks off when a pigeon brings news to the bunnies playing on the roof that new neighbours are moving in: rats! The bunnies are excited by anything new - perhaps new playmates! They hop their news downstairs to their big sister, Lettuce, who thinks they ought to go welcome the new arrivals. The bunnies and Lettuce go downstairs to share the news with their friend Vern (a bachelor sheep):



Click here for lots more under the cut!Collapse )

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jabberworks
Sarah McIntyre

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