PICTURE BOOK FEST DAY 1- THERE WAS A TALENTED AUTHOR

This week we’re having a picture book fest at Kids’ Book Capers – we’re taking time to celebrate some great Australian picturebBooks and their creators.

Unfortunately, in a single week we can only cover a small selection of wonderful Australian picture books, but we’ll be delving into the minds, the lives and the inspirations of three popular picture book authors.

Melbourne’s, Claire Saxby is the author of four picture books but she hasn’t always been a writer. After leaving school, Claire became a podiatrist, but she soon realised that all she wanted to do was write. Claire says,

One of the things I liked most about podiatry was the stories people shared.

Today, Claire is talking to us about her latest picture book, There Was an Old Sailor, a seafaring version of the rhyme, ‘There Was an Old Lady who swallowed a fly”. The Old Sailor eats some seriously unpalatable seafood, but the nonsensical text and Cassandra Allen’s wonderful illustrations are bound to get young readers giggling.

Claire was inspired to write There Was an Old Sailor by  a storyteller friend  who bemoaned the lack of ocean-based cumulative stories and said someone should write one. So Claire thought she’d have a go!

There Was an Old Sailor was published this year, but Claire has been performing it in schools and libraries for  a long time. She says,

Kids like There Was an Old Sailor because it’s absurd! They enjoy the rhythm and repetition and generally are joining in the refrains by about half way through the book.

Cassandra Allen’s illustrations paint the Old Sailor with wonderful laughing eyes, a ‘robust’ frame and Popeye forearms. He’s substantial but never frightening. There’s nothing to dislike about him really, although perhaps he’s a tad greedy.

It’s no wonder that There Was an Old Sailor is proving to be very popular. The language and absurdity give it child appeal, it’s easy and fun for parents to read and it provides opportunities for teachers to talk about the ocean, food chains, fantastic fiction and more.

Claire says she really enjoyed thinking of crazy things for the Old Sailor to do.

The hardest thing was getting the rhyme and rhythm right, so that it could be read for the first time with ease. It took time and redraft after redraft to get it right.

I asked Claire if she had any consistent themes/symbols/locations in her writing.

I hadn’t been conscious of it, but ocean or water feature strongly in many of my stories. Actually in my non fiction too. I grew up by the sea and holidayed by the sea. Many of my stories are in or around water. Themes? I don’t consciously write to a theme. Sometimes I’ll identify the theme and strengthen the story around it, but that comes in the redrafting, not in the original drafts.

Claire has had more than 30 books published and There Was an Old Sailor is her fourth picture book. Her other picture books are Ebi’s Boat, Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate and A Nest For Kora.

Teacher’s notes can be found for There Was an Old Sailor on Walker Books Australia website http://www.walkerbooks.com.au/statics/dyn/1266193594964/There-Was-An-Old-Sailor-Classroom-Ideas.pdf

On Wednesday, we’re talking to Queensland author, Trudie Trewin, author of I’ve Lost My Kisses and Wibbly Wobbly Street.