Books, as I may have mentioned in the past, take a long time to take form. There are so many people involved, there are so many elements to consider. But it’s so fabulous when they finally get here. I have just received the rest of my author copies of Great White Shark and that means there is stock in the warehouse, ready to ship. Official release day is 14 August which is less than a month from today.
I can’t wait to share this book with readers. Cindy Lane‘s art is fabulous, beautiful and evocative. Our oceans are so magnificent and so important for we land-dwellers. Every ocean animal plays a role from the tiniest zooplankton to the enormous whales. Sharks are vitally important to the health of our oceans, and in the shark world, Great White Shark is the apex predator.
Sharks are awe-inspiring animals and endlessly fascinating. Did you know that great white sharks have roamed our oceans for many millions of years and their shape has changed very little.
Great White Shark is a new title in the Nature Storybook series from Walker Books Australia. You can see more titles in this series here
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.
Pirates and octopuses, parrots, hats and boats. Families and more pirates.
Today, I did a reading of Treasure in the beautiful Williamstown Botanic Gardens courtesy of their fabulous Friends group. There are so many corners and little nooks in these gardens that we were able to set up in the least windy spot. This is not to say that the wind didn’t find its way down paths and through garden beds, but it mostly waited until the end of my session.
Participants were encouraged to turn up dressed as pirates and that they did, one with a hook hand and another with both a parrot and an octopus! Such riches! We speculated what a pirate might look like and a few hardy souls donned jacket, stripy trews that I’d brought with me.
After the reading, we made hats and then, using the simple magic of paper folding, turned them into boats.
I told two new pirate jokes and I collected a few more.
About eight years ago, I wrote a picture book story based on an ‘auto-correct’ phrase. Not one I made, but one that another poet conjured when we were part of a summer poetry blog called A Poem A Day. A Poem A Day was set up by Kat Apel and ran every January for several years. (In fact it continues still, but in another form). I have a whole folder full of poems written over Januarys past.
But I digress. I don’t recall who the original poet was (feel free to remind me if you are reading this) but I did ask permission to play with the phrase that became ‘a bag of pirates’.
Imagine, I thought, if you found a bag of pirates on the grass close to your house. Imagine if you took them home, like so many stray kittens. Imagine if, instead of being grateful for your cleaning and mending and feeding, they took it for granted and then began to wreak havok.
And that’s what I did. I imagined the trouble that could fill the house if pirates roamed unchecked. Clearly, someone had to take charge.
About four years ago, Ana Vivas at Scholastic thought it would make a fun and funny picture book. Tull Suwannakit imagined my pirates and added a very curious extra character. I laughed out loud everytime I saw a sketch or a colour page. His work is so fabulous! Along the way A Bag of Pirates became Treasure!
And here, finally, on April 1, Scholastic Australia, Tull and I are more than happy to share Treasure! with you and yours. It’s bright and shiny, colourful, silly and fun and rhyming.
There’s not always time to stop and think about why I do what I do. I suspect it’s the same for other book creators. And even if we did, would we be able to articulate it? I’m not sure. If pushed, I can say that I want to stimulate curiosity and wonder, as well as explore some of the amazing aspects of who we are and how we connect with our world.
But, it’s more than that, and for that I have fewer words. Which is why ‘The March of the Ants’ is such an interesting and compelling picture book. Authored by Australia’s current Children’s Laureate, Ursula Subosarsky and illustrated by Tohby Riddle and produced by the team at Book Trail Press, ‘The March of the Ants’ offers an explanation for, an exploration of, what stories and books are all about and why they are important.
The ants are off on an expedition. Each ant loads up with a tool, or some other element clearly essential for an expedition. The destination, if there is one, is not named. The leader scoffs at the suggestion that a book will be in anyway useful , but the littlest ant refuses to give it up and so, in the name of expediency, is allowed to bring it.
Every part of this book, from the golden sunshiney cover, to the marching ant textured endpapers is wonderful. Like all the best picture books, the text is deceptively simple, big ideas couched in accessible words. The industrious ants are expressive and the march through the valley of despair has so much to offer observant readers. Cooperation and teamwork are wonderful things, but we also need individuals who follow their own path and enrich us all.
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.
ATTENTION students, parents, teachers, librarians. It’s Kookaburra Competition time! Clear your desks and sharpen your tools. We have a writing competition AND an illustration competition. Submissions are invited from students for either or both competitions! Four entries (two writing, two illustration) will win a copy of ‘Kookaburra’. But wait, there’s more …
The class that submits the most entries will win a book prize pack from Walker Books Australia.
Results will be posted here and on social media. Winners will receive their prize via Aust Post.
Many will be familiar with the rhyme/song, ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’. This popular song was written by Marion Sinclair in 1932. She wrote it for a competition and won! The rest, as they say, is history.
Here’s the original and one of the popular extra verses.
Kookaburra (the original)
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, Merry merry king of the bush is he. Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra, Gay your life must be!
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, Eating all the gum drops he can see. Stop Kookaburra, stop Kookaburra Save some there for me!
And here’s a well-known extra verse … NOT written by Marion Sinclair
Kookaburra sits on electric wire
jumping up and down his pants on fire
Ouch, kookaburra, ouch kookaburra
Hot your pants must be!
We’d like you to write a new verse for this song. Extra points for basing it on any page in ‘Kookaburra’.
Download Tannya’s outline of a kookaburra. Make it simple, make it fancy. Make it beautiful! Use pencils, paints, collage or a mix of all of these to show us how much you love kookaburras. When you’re done, take a photo and email it to Tannya.