Tag Archives: picture books

Coral Vass and her new picture book ‘Meet Don Bradman’

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I feel very lucky today to welcome Coral Vass to my blog to celebrate the launch of her latest book. It’s part of the Random House ‘Meet Series’ about the extraordinary men and women who have shaped Australia’s history.

Meet…Don Bradman is a children’s picture book about cricket’s greatest ever batsman, Sir Donald Bradman. It’s the story of how he first came to play for Australia, and how his record-breaking feats in the Ashes series became a source of pride and hope during the hard years of the Great Depression.

As we’re huge cricket fans, it’s very exciting to see more picture books about cricket!

Coral’s book has been beautifully illustrated by Brad Howe. Don’t you think his style suits the era of this story perfectly? I do.

Congratulations Coral and Brad – it’s such a beautiful book.

Now Coral, tell me…

  1. Were you a cricket fan before you wrote this book? 

I wouldn’t say I was a die-hard fan, but I have always enjoyed watching cricket on TV. My three sons however, utterly love everything there is to love about cricket.

And since writing this book, I have gained so much more appreciation for the game.

How good is that?

  1. What did your research involve?

I had a lot of fun researching the life and career of Sir Donald Bradman. The internet is not always a reliable resource, so I visited the libraries frequently; borrowing countless books on Bradman, as well as watching old footage of the game and various interviews.

Sounds like great fun.

  1. What was the most interesting fact you found out about Sir Donald Bradman?

Despite his relatively quick rise to fame, Donald Bradman actually had many knock backs. Most Australian cricket selectors initially didn’t see his cricketing potential; thinking his batting style was unconventional. But with persistence, hard work and a little bit of luck, Donald went on to become cricket’s greatest ever batsman. Don’s story offers a great message of hope, hard work and persistence for all children.

What a fabulous fact? I did not know that…

  1. What was the best part about working with Brad Howe and Random House?

It was an absolute honour and thrill to be given the opportunity to profile such an amazing Australian legend. And watching Brad Howe bring this story to life with his phenomenal illustrations was a joy.

Brad’s illustrations work perfectly with your text, Coral.

  1. Did your opinion of Don Bradman change or deepen as you wrote the book?

My appreciation of Donald Bradman grew immensely as I researched and wrote this book. I definitely have much more admiration and a deeper respect for him as a sportsman and a person, as I gained insight into his character. As well as being a phenomenal talent, Sir Donald Bradman was a man of enormous integrity and humility.

  1. What was the most challenging part of the project?

The most challenging part was making sure I got it right. The hardest thing about writing non-fiction is checking, double checking and triple checking that all the details are correct. Added to that was the pressure of writing about and making sure the story honoured this extraordinary man -Sir Donald Bradman.

I definitely think you’ve got it right. Well done you.

Coral Vass and Brad How‘s book ‘Meet Don Bradman’ can be purchased from any good bookstore.

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So, as Molly would say, do yourself a favour…and go out and get it!

‘Meet Don Bradman’ written by Coral Vass and illustrated by Brad Howe

ISBN: 9781925324891
Published: 18/04/2016
Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s
– See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/coral-vass/meet-donald-bradman-9781925324891.aspx#sthash.wBX24DC4.dpuf

Interview with the amazing, Julie Vivas, Illustrator

Hi Julie, thanks for coming onto my blog today. I’m a big fan and had the pleasure of meeting you recently at Books Illustrated where we were celebrating 30 years of ‘Possum Magic’. Awesome! And you were kind enough to grant me an interview about your amazing career in Picture Book Illustrating.

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You spent four years in Spain with your family. Creatively speaking, what was the most significant thing you learnt from your time there?

Recalling that time, which was 40 years ago, I was responding to the difference in the people in how they lived in Madrid and Jerez to the existence I had in Australia. I could have been attempting to catch or hold onto to that life in cafes bars and markets.

Perhaps it’s the visual, and emotional stimulation that’s needed me to make images.

How do you prepare yourself before you start a picture book?

I daydream about the work I will do illustrating a new picture book.

The reality is doing a lot of drawing, and searching for images.

I cannot control the state of my mind i.e. prepare my head for drawing and painting. Except for isolating myself from people to work.

Each manuscript is a different animal and has it’s own problems that I have not experienced before.

I don’t control the excitement from an idea that goes through my head. It happens as I work and work more to realise it on paper, or frustratingly it does not happen for an extended time.

Do you have favourite picture books that you’ve worked on?

‘The Nativity’ and ‘Possum Magic’.

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When and where do you illustrate most often?

I illustrate in the house where I am living, in different rooms where the light is good, the kitchen or dinning table or my workroom.

I’m on the move when I do sketches and thumbnails. I could be anywhere, waiting for a dental appointment, on the bus or in the park.

Dummy bookwork and painting I tend to do in good light and privacy.

What’s your favourite medium and why?

I like graphite pencil and watercolour.

Watercolour is transparent. The paint moves unexpectedly on wet paper letting the paint spread in the wet on its own or feed/bleed with more pigment into it while it’s alive (as in wet, and reactive).

Graphite pencil lines can be delicate and they also have an energy and expression in the changing weight of the line.

I have more control over a pencil with small detail than working with a brush.

How long would it take you to do one illustration?

Illustrations in the early stage of the process of making a picture book require rough sketches for each page. These are developed further, some needing more work than others depending on the size or number of figures in the image. It can be from 5 to 10 drawings for each image before they work.

So, from roughs to a finished work really does vary.

I need to see the pages in sequence and be able to see whether images work with the pacing of the story. That’s why I make a dummy book for this.

The publisher and author also have a look at this dummy and depending on their feed back there could be changes.

After the dummy is approved by all involved I start to draw the first image on watercolour paper over a day. Then it takes 3 to 4 days to paint it.

This would be a medium size illustration with two figures and background.

A simpler one figure on white background, I would do over two days and go back to it on a third day to adjust small detail.

If watercolour doesn’t work at this stage, I do the image again.

What do you enjoy about the most about the process?

I enjoy the early work on a picture book, thinking and getting excited about the author’s text.

Trying out those ideas in rough drawings and page compositions.

Developing the characters in the story takes time, but the early drawings are usually spontaneous. At this stage I have a real sense of freedom and I’m inventing people and their world.

What advice would you give other author/illustrators?

This is not advice so much as – how I see a working life in Illustrating Picture Books.

If you enjoy the process of making images it’s likely your artwork will keep evolving and become more interesting and exciting for you.

Illustrating a picture a book takes time, a lot of time that you are not paid for. Some very good illustrators have other work to pay their bills.

I was extremely lucky to have illustrated a popular book.

And have had enough income to live on picture book royalty payments and been able to work full time for 30 years Illustrating.

What influences your work?

It was not a particular painter that influenced me. We had prints of Marc Chagall and Raoul Duffy on the wall when I was growing up.

There were National Geographic Magazines with photos of fish insects and birds taken in the 1950’s that amazed me.

The natural world, water sky forests changing weather, people and animals are what influence my image making.

Yeah, wow, I love Chagall. Thank you so much for coming onto my blog Julie, that was a fascinating insight into your work. Good luck with your next project.

Julie’s latest book, written by Margaret Wild is called ‘Davy & the Duckling’. Published by Penguin Australia and it’s available in any good bookstore.

9781743480960

Published 24/07/2013

Format HB

RRP $24.99

ISBN 9780670075614

Publisher  Penguin

Imprint  Viking

Penguin has wonderful teaching notes to accompany this story.

Check them out at… Penguin Australia

You can also buy some of Julie’s beautiful work as individual pieces at Books Illustrated . They make unique and gorgeous presents.

About Julie Vivas: the superb watercolour illustrations of Julie Vivas are much loved by children and adults alike in Australia and overseas. Perhaps best known for ‘Possum Magic’, written by Mem Fox, Julie has illustrated stories by many well-known Australian authors, including The Tram to Bondi Beach by Libby Hathorn and Stories From Our Street by Richard Tulloch. Her work has received numerous awards, prizes and commendations, and in 1992 Julie was awarded the Dromkeen Medal for her significant contribution to the appreciation and development of children’s literature.

Day 10 Evening Panel Discussion: ‘READING PICTURES’ at Toorak/South Yarra Library

This event was a new edition to the Literature Alive Program and was an eagerly anticipated panel discussion.

Mandy Cooper, the curator of GALLERY FOR A DAY, was the M.C for the evening and she spoke briefly about what picture books mean to her, that the narrative is in the artwork and that it’s a unique skill it is to make this relationship work. She quoted Children’s Writer and Illustrator Ann James:

The illustrator must not merely echo the words, they must illustrate between the lines. So the story is like a song -lyrics and music. Each has it’s own voice and part to play. But they must be in tune with one another. They can be discordant but discordant on purpose.

Mandy then introduced Kevin Burgemeestre to talk about his thoughts on this topic.

Kevin thinks he has the best job in the world. He can’t believe he’s paid to play, that he does all the things he once got into trouble for at school. Kevin tells us how the reader always brings something to the work, whether that is based on their own experiences or their imaginations.

Text gives impetus for drama. It creates sequence. You establish a shot, a scene and you have action and reaction. And it has to be dynamic on the page. There are a number of points of view that create the reaction.

Kevin likes to use metaphor. Through gesture and body language, his character is telling us something symbolic and he reminds us of how religion always used over-wrought alter pieces to get the message through.

Composition is important. For example, how you divide the paper? This connects the art to the narrative particularly well if there is conflict. A fence maybe…

In Kevin’s book, ‘Thunder Mountain’ he deliberately drew his illustrations increasing in size across the page to relate to a counting narrative.

In ‘B for Bravo’ Kevin’s dioramas create drama through shadow and depth and shape and in the mountains scene, the emptiness creates possibility for the plane to fly through.

In regards to point of view, Kevin quite rightly states, the mouse has a different view to the eagle.

In Kevin’s new book, (it’s YA fiction) called ‘Kate’, Kate is protected by ‘Spirit’ the dog and the artwork has deliberate elements of tribal spirit symbolism that relates to the text. Very cool stuff from Kevin.

Elizabeth Honey was introduced next and she spoke about using less words and letting the picture do the talking. We were honoured to see the roughs for a new book. She was in a dilemma and asked us our opinion on the medium she should use. Wow!

It’s a picture book about all the things parents say to children. Families have a way of communicating, they use words that deal with situations or ‘wrangling’ as Elizabeth put it. It was a delightful story.

Hop up, wriggle over, snuggle in.”

Elizabeth wanted to use the right medium to covey the mood of the book: soft, fluffy and how big should the book be? These were all valid questions.

Elizabeth also showed us how she wrote and re-wrote ‘Not a Nibble’. When you work with water, double spreads are the order for the day.

Elizabeth writes and paints at the same time when she’s creating a book as this allows an economy of words. It also allows her to make pictures intriguing and to not give it all away too early, such as in her book ‘That’s not a Daffodil’

Elizabeth chose to work in gouache on rough watercolour paper that has a deep tooth so she could then layer with oil crayon. There were some difficult perspectives to deal with as the Turkish man next door was huge and trying to fit him in the artwork with the little boy took some time. It’s all about angles…

Mark Wilson works completely different to Kevin and Elizabeth. Yay!

Mark uses dual narratives in historical based stories. By this, I mean he used his illustration and the text to tell the story, all adding a different perspective.

For example, in ‘Angel of Kokoda’ Mark used the illustration of Kari and certain birds, lifelike and carved, that were important to his tribal belief systems as well as the text that was telling the story and a letter from command that described the state of the battle. This layering is really effective storytelling, allowing the reader to put all the pieces together. And there’s so much information here.

‘Vietnam Diary’ used two narratives through illustration. On a double page spread, there are two brothers on opposing sides. On one side of the page, one brother is protesting against the war in Vietnam and Mark has painted this in a dropout, tonal effect. It’s very 60’s in style, representing that era. On the side, the other brother is painted very life-like, clean cut; almost like a photo. This young man (which just happens to be Mark himself) has had his name drawn out of a tattslotto type of machine ordering him to do National Service and join the Army. The illustration is ‘realist’, reflecting his situation at the time. Very cool Mark.

In the book ‘My Mother’s Eyes’ Mark used colour to represent the horror of war, rather than draw that detail for children. He is allowing the reader to use their imagination and through the emotive use of colour: red for fire, anger, blood.

Several people in the audience then had an opportunity to ask our panelists questions and one absolute beauty, which was directed to Mark was: “What artists have influenced your careers, obviously Turner has?”

Mark nearly fell off his chair, he was flattered Turner could be seen in his work. I can see it too now, in the way he uses light to illuminate certain illustrations. Mark rattled off a few other admired artists such as Tom Roberts, whom he has written a book about, ‘Ben & Gracie’s Art Adventure’ & ‘Inside the world of Tom Roberts.’

Kevin loves the artwork of Max Meldrum and Ken Avery (of Bugs Bunny fame), Rembrandt for humanity, Goya, Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Joy Hester, Fred Williams.  Quite a list, but I will have Google Max Meldrum and Ken Avery.

When Elizabeth Honey was asked about admired artists she immediately answered Matisse, and that he strongly influenced her in ‘I’m still awake, Still’. You can see this this in Elizabeth use of long lines and flowing movement. How cool is that!

Overall, the READING PICTURES discussion panel evening was deemed a success and will remain on the agenda for the festival next year. What a great night!

 

Day 6 School Workshop with Elizabeth Honey at Prahran Library

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Elizabeth is a natural public speaker and her rapport with the Year 5 & 6’s of Stonnington Primary was engaging and warm. Conversational and funny, Elizabeth managed to get the children to open right up about what they like about story telling and writing.

Elizabeth talked about her experiences growing up and becoming a writer and what it takes to write a book. She used the analogy of ‘witchcraft’. For a witch to know how to make spells, she needs to understand the ingredients. She needs to learn her craft. And writing is the same; a writer must learn their craft before they can write well.

A collector of words, Elizabeth asked the children what sort of words they like to say, how it feels when they say it.

Partiality, pop, books (‘oo’ words were popular), arresting and quarrel were some of the words the children liked. Growing up, Elizabeth particularly liked the word ‘supreme’. Everything was ‘supreme’, supremely good or supremely bad. I have to admit I’m a big fan of the word ‘vivid’ (it must be the two ‘v’s).

We then launched into some of writing of our own. We were going to write some short poetry called ‘Haiku’. Elizabeth explained this style of poetry is made up of three lines. The first line consists of words with five syllables, the second line has seven syllables and the third line has five syllables.

Elizabeth showed us an image of a palm. It was facing upwards, holding some grains of rice. We were to write out Haiku about this image.

After much brainstorming and concentrating, the children had a chance to read out their poetry. It was fascinating what they wrote. It varied from “Dude, these are my drugs” to more poetic pieces about and hope and humanity.

This is mine…

The offer of seed

An open palm promise

Hope and hunger freed.

Yeah, I know, don’t give up your day job.

Then Elizabeth put up an image of an old man wearing a peaked gap. (He looked rather grumpy).

The children had to name him and make up a sentence he would say. He did look like an old sea dog, so the children came up with some terrific seafaring themed names and sentences like…

“Life on the seven seas is the only life for me…”

“Back in my day…”

“I’m not getting up and giving my seat to you…”

Elizabeth was wonderful with the children and I think they had a terrific time. They thanked her beautifully and I was very impressed with the children from Stonnington Primary School.

Elizabeth showed us how to deal with children with confidence and encouragement and I loved the way she taught them how to write simple but beautiful poetry.

About Elizabeth Honey…

Elizabeth Honey is a writer and illustrator of poetry, picture books and novels for children. Her work is always full of fun, with action packed stories, lively characters and zany illustrations. She is probably best known for her novel ‘45 & 47 Stella Street and everything that happened’ which was a CBCA Honour Book, and since then has written a number of highly entertaining novels, such as ‘Don’t Pat the Wombat’, ‘Fiddle-back’, ‘Remote Man’, ‘What do you think, Feezal?’,‘Cauldron Bay’ and ‘To the Boy in Berlin’. She has also written and illustrated a number of picture books, including ‘The Cherry Dress’ and ‘Not a Nibble’ which was the CBCA Picture Book of the Year.

“My books grow from an idea I find intriguing. I know it’s a good idea when it follows me around like a stray dog that won’t go home.”– Elizabeth Honey



You can read more about Elizabeth and her books at…

http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=311&author=98

Here are some of Elizabeth’s books…that can be bought in any good bookstore…

You can book her from an Author Visit to your school on…

http://bookedout.com.au/find-a-speaker/author/elizabeth-honey/

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Day 3 Maurice Saxby Mentorship

Visit to Allen & Unwin

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This morning we met with Erica Wagner, Publisher of Books for Children and Teenagers. Erica started off by discussing with us how our reading habits have changed. She loves her iPad and looks forward to reading it every night. ‘It’s iPad time!’

I love, love, love my iPad, although it’s awkward to hold it in bed, it’s just a bit heavy for me. I’ve tried those pillow support thingys but they don’t seem to help. It really gets me in the neck. Time to upgrade to an iPad mini I think.

And why do we love reading from the iPad? It’s just so darn easy. A click of a button and you can read whatever you want. Although, due to the format of children’s picture books, I hear it’s difficult to achieve a satisfying digital format.

One innovation that Allen & Unwin have introduced to their picture books is a direct link via a QR scan (which can be easily found on the half title page of their PB’s) to an Allen & Unwin website that provides an audio reading for the book. One is an actors voice reading the story (for playtime), the other is the writers voice (for bedtime).

These picture books will sell for $24.95 and research in the U.K shows a definite link to increased sales.

Erica then took us through the production of two wonderful books.

The first was ‘Jandamarra’ written by Mark Greenwood and illustrated by Terry Denton. This is a powerful story about Jandamarra, a Bunuba warrior from the Kimberley in Western Australia. Books, plays and movies have been made by about this amazing man and this picture book does his legend credit. Collaboratively written with the permission of the Bunuba Elders, text and illustration weave together an amazing tale. It’s 48 pages long, which is a big deviation from the standard 32 pages normally used in making picture books.

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The process of laying it out, fitting in what was just right, revising the artwork and the text on several occasions sounded like an incredible challenge. Erica talked about the Writer/Illustrator relationship and how the Illustrator needs to take ownership of the text to make it work. It was a fascinating process but the result speaks for itself. This book is wonderful. I’m heading out to buy this it tomorrow!

 The second book we had a sneak peak at was a graphic novel by the talented Julie Hunt (you can see an Author Interview done on Julie in todays Buzzwords magazine).

Now, this was exciting for Nadine’s as she is writing, amongst many other things, a graphic novel or a hybrid graphic novel that also includes prose.

Wow, the way Julie Hunt’s story ‘Kid Gloves’ is written is so unique I’ve never seen anything like it. It was all dialogue. Erica explained when you writing a graphic novel, you need to convey action as if it’s a film. The artwork for this book is in panel format and it was incredible.

It made me want to read Nikki Greenberg’s books, Hamlet and The Great Gatsby. More books! (Don’t tell my husband. Where are you going to put all these books he asks me as I waltz in with another armful of literary treasure?).

Erica believes graphic novels are a little risky, that perhaps they are ahead of their time. They’re a massive amount of work and they take years to complete. But all in all what I saw was a book that is completely compelling and different that it’s a real experience in itself to read and enjoy such a book.

Erica was so good to talk to, it was thrilling to discuss their publishing list and what their expectations are for writers and illustrators. She talked about Allen & Unwin’s strengths as a publisher. They love good picture books, they are always looking for Middle Grade Fiction 8 – 12 years. They pride themselves on having a varied and interesting publishing list, promoting literary qualities. I believe this to be true.

Erica also talked about the importance of finding your voice as a writer. It’s about having confidence in your voice and developing characters people can recognize and relate to. Strong story telling is always compelling and a fresh and contemporary approach to stories is what they’re looking for. Erica was very encouraging to us all. “Writing is a craft and you can always make it better,” she says.

It was such a treat to chat with Erica. She was so generous in sharing her knowledge and expertise with us, I left feeling very grateful and ready to have a go at my next story.

Visit to Penguin

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After a lovely lunch at docklands with Helen Chamberlin, Heather Gallagher, Laura Wilson and Nadine Cranenburgh, we headed off to Penguin Publishing to meet with Senior Editors, Amy Thomas and Katrina Lehmann.

The Penguin offices were pretty amazing, funky and very modern with a huge open layout workspace.

Penguin have a corporate culture with a strong commercial values. They publish about 100 books a year. Of these, only 12 – 14 would be picture books. About 15 books would be submitted by agents and only a random 1 – 2 unsolicited manuscripts (from new writers) would be picked up. Many titles are also what they call buy-ins, as in they buy the rights for picture books from the U.S or U.K and release them here. There’s little opportunity for the new writer.

Amy and Katrina explained to us how their roles as editors has changed with the tightening of Penguin’s belt in that they do their own type setting as well as editing. It certainly gives them more control, but of course, it’s added work. Their editing work involves a great deal of manuscript development. It may begin with structural editing, plot development, changes to the story arc, alterations in chapter length, character re-focusing and then they narrow it down scenes, to linking lines and line-by-line editing.

We bandied about the pros and cons of one getting an agent, which seems just as hard as getting a publisher.

Katrina took us through the production of three new books they have recently launched and what was involved in each of these and the challenges experienced.

Penguin have brought out a middle reader series called, Eerie by S.Carey (Scarey – get it?). This series was written by established writers under the pseudonym of S.Carey as the‘C’ is always stacked in bookstores at eye height. I told you they were commercial!

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This book is almost an early reader with loads of ‘break out’ text to make for easy reading, targeted at reluctant readers.

The other series of books looked at was ‘Juliet nearly a Vet’ by Rebecca Johnson, illustrated by Kyla May. This is for 8 – 10 year olds and would compete against books like ‘Billie B. Brown’.

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The pros and cons of writing a series was discussed. Penguin won’t put all their eggs into one basket by publishing them all due to diminishing returns if the concept doesn’t take off.

When it comes to manuscript submissions, Amy and Katrina focus on the manuscript first and read the cover letter later. A short and concise cover letter is adequate and if you’re previously published author, pop a book in the mail or email a digital version so they can see your ‘runs on the board’ and get a better feel for who you are.

The importance of having an online presence was seen as an advantage. Websites and Blogs and Teaching Resources were seen as an absolute necessity for any books written.

We also looked at Isobelle Carmody’s new book, The Cloud Road. This is a beautifully designed and crafted book and they all raved about the story so I’m also putting this on my reading list as well. Isobelle is a prolific writer and she did all the illustrations which are absolutely charming.

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 Amy and Katrina also explained to us the process a manuscript goes through before it might be accepted fro publication. If it’s a great story, it’s selected in an ‘Acquisitions’ meeting. From here they need to get backing from the people ‘upstairs’ (senior management, I assume). Then they need the marketing people to say ‘yes’ we can sell this. A lot of this has to do with timing.

Penguin are currently looking for Young Adult fiction with a slight move away from the paranormal to a more contemporary realisation and good stand alone Middle Readers are always sought after.

Thank you Amy and Katrina for a detailed insight into Penguin Publishing.