How wonderful are our oceans? From the beach to the rock pools to the deep dark trenches, there is so much to love, so much to wonder at. Perhaps it’s not such a surprise that the ocean has been a feature of many of my books.
It’s also appropriate that this is the day that another ocean-connected book advance copy arrived in my letterbox. Great White Shark (Nature Storybook), illustrated by Cindy Lane, published by Walker Books Australia, is an introduction to the wonder of sharks in general and this one in particular. It’s also a reminder why we should be less scared and more in awe of these wonderful creatures. Out August 4, 2021.
Iceberg was released in February and is set entirely at sea. Treasure! released in April, is set in a lighthouse surrounded by sea.
Organising booklaunches can be tricky at the best of times. Whatever time or date chosen, there are going to be calendar clashes, prior engagements, other priorities, venue restrictions. Add in a 5-day lockdown just as Melbourne was beginning to settle into new-normal and there was an extra level of challenge. Could it go ahead? How many could join us? How would we manage? It was Wednesday evening before we could be sure that the Saturday launch could happen. Wednesday was a day of phone calls and emails, text messages and not a little floor-pacing!
The wonderful Ella from Younger Sun Bookshop (with help from Kate and Pele) made sure it was hiccup-free. (Apart from two early attendees slipping in through a side door – yes, it was my parents!) Numbers were capped, attendee registration was required, as was hand-sanitising, masking and on-the-day registration. But, there was also a freshly-carved (as opposed to freshly-calved) iceberg, an iceberg cake, blue-and-white coconut ice, bergy bit meringues and some penguin-carrying fruit pieces!
And there were people! Real people, in the same room, able to chat with each other. Safely distanced, waving-not-hugging people. It was so lovely to gather with friends and family and booklovers and share the celebrations for a new book. Judy Horacek did the honours, officially and fabulously welcomed Iceberg into the bookworld. Jess and I spoke a little about the making of this Iceberg, and there were quizzes with prizes.
Just like it takes a big production team to make a book, there is a big support team of family and friends and others who make it possible to make books. Big thanks to them all. Sail on, Iceberg!
Picture books do not happen overnight. No books do. But man it’s exciting when they finally do make it into the world. What begins as a word or an idea, and grows and changes endlessly before submission. This story began as a poem which was published by The School Magazine over a decade ago. This rewriting, which took the sensibility of the poem and added seasons, food webs and more, was as fraught if not more than most picture books. I knew the ‘shape’ I wanted it to have, but I wanted to add the changing light (including the Aurora Australis), the wakening of phytoplankton, the explosion of krill numbers … everything! … all the way up to the appearance of the whales, all the while playing with the wonderful language of ice and icebergs. All in a picture book length text – in this case, just over 500 words.
But a picture story book needs more than words. Enter Jess Racklyeft and the team at Allen & Unwin. Jess’s ideas grew into sketches (and other technical idea-presentation forms that this non-illustrator only partially understands) and into the wonderful art that now fills the pages. Look at that colour! Look at the light, the atmosphere. Suddenly the words had music.
This is a visual ‘song’ I’m very proud of and very happy to be able to share with the world.