For my own pleasure I adore reading picture books (as well as poetry and novels – just had to sneak those in – can’t bear to leave them out!). Picture Books tap into the part of my psyche that loves the essence, the pared down selection of words and text combined with art: colour, flow, energy and an emotional impact. It’s like fabric and thread, and the best picture books are the best woven.
Some of my favourite picture books are The Incredible Book Eating Boy (Oliver Jeffers), Pog (Lyn Lee, Kim Gamble), Wombat Divine (Mem Fox, Kerry Argent), Water Witcher and Lizzie Nonsense (both by Jan Ormerod), Belinda (Pamela Allen) and other books by Pamela Allen, Margaret Wild, Dr Seuss and Joy Cowley.
Which books did you love to read as a young child?
I wish I could give you a list but I can’t because of the lack of books at home and at school. I borrowed from friends if I could. I remember my mother once reading me The Story about Ping, and have tracked down an old copy of it because it made an impact when I was about four.
I tried to read The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens when I was about seven, because I found a copy in a little bookshelf in the lounge, but I couldn’t manage it. We had ‘readers’ at school, which we all had to take turns in reading around the class and I loved the stories and poems in them. I also remember reading titles by Enid Blyton and imagining similar adventure scenarios with friends.
Which three attributes make for a great children’s book?
– great writing (Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo,)
What is your number one tip for encouraging children to read?
Children must have time and opportunities to read.
Name three books you wish you’d written.
The Mousehole Cat – a picture book by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley (Walker Books). Based on a Cornish legend, it tells the story of an old fisherman, Tom, his cat, Mowzer and the metaphorical Great Storm-Cat which prowled the seas creating havok. Story, language and a warm, satisfying ending.
Because of Winn-Dixie – a novel by Kate DiCamillo. An intensely strong, moving story about a girl, her preacher father and a stray dog which changes their lives. Succinct writing and a unique voice that makes you say, Yes, that’s how it would’ve been; that’s how she would’ve felt.
A Ute Picnic – and other Australian Poems by Lorraine Marwood. The poems are so wonderfully Australian and yet universal. Every word and phrase is taut with perfect words and phrasing that spear straight to the emotions.
Janeen Brian is an award-winning children’s author and has been writing full time for over 20 years. Janeen writes all sorts – picture books, poetry, short fiction, novels, information books and short stories. She has had 75 books published and three more are due soon for release – Where’s your Flipper, Eddie Pipper? with New Frontier, Meet Ned Kelly with Random House and I’m a Dirty Dinosaur with Penguin.) She also writes for children’s magazines with approximately 200 stories, poems, plays and articles published. She is well-known for her award-winning books, Where Does Thursday Go?, Hoosh! Camels in Australia and Pilawuk – When I was Young.