A beauty – Rich and Rare

RIch and Rare cover Med ResThere really is something for everyone in Ford Street Publishing’s latest collection of Australian stories, poetry and artwork for teens – Rich and Rare. With pieces from almost 50 fab authors and illustrators, including Shaun Tan, Judith Rossell, Susanne Gervay, Gary Crew, Justin D’Ath and Michael Gerard Bauer (to mention a few), the anthology delivers tantalizing morsels to suit every reading taste. There’s an alien invasion, a Dickensian-style thriller, a warrior adventure in old Japan, a bushranger tale, intrigue in the cane fields of northern Queensland and much, much more.

Editor Paul Collins joins me ahead of next month’s book launch to take us inside Rich and Rare and to reflect on his own prolific and successful career as a writer, editor and publisher. Paul is best known for his fantasy and science fiction titles which include The Jelindel ChroniclesThe Quentaris Chronicles ─ co-edited with Michael Pryor, and The Warlock’s Child, done in collaboration with Sean McMullen. He also runs Ford Street Publishing and the Creative Net Speakers’ Agency.

JF: Congratulations, on Rich and Rare, Paul. What a line-up of Australian talent! What can readers expect from this collection?

PC: I’d like to think a sumptuous literary feast. No one will go away hungry, as the collection is a literary banquet with something for everyone.

JF: How does it compare to others anthologies you’ve edited?

PC: Anthologies aren’t as easy to put together as they might seem. An editor starts off with a list of potential contributors. I’ve been lucky in as much that most of my list this time around contributed illustrations, stories or poems. Across the three anthologies I’ve edited lately, I think everyone I’ve approached is represented. But not one of the collections has everyone. So too people reading Rich and Rare will be happy to see some contributors lacking in the other anthologies, but on the reverse mystified that others are missing. This collection is more illustrative and has longer and more varied works. This will please some, and perhaps disappoint others. So in answer to your question, it’s very subjective. A creator’s latest work is always their “best” work.

JF: What are the challenges of editing such a large collection of stories, poems and artwork?

PAUL-COLLINS-PC: Most contributors aren’t precious about their stories being edited. Those who are can be difficult. Working with up to fifty creatives can be challenging – remembering of course I’m working with many others at the same time. And because an editor says a story should follow this or that path, doesn’t necessarily mean the editor is right. It can be subjective. Stories especially vary in quality, and it’s the editor’s job to get some rough stones and polish them to gem standard. Hopefully, and with the help of several others here at Ford Street, I’ve managed to do this.

JF: You’re a writer, editor and publisher – how do you fit it all in? 

PC: I think I’ve edited around a dozen anthologies. This doesn’t include 45 collections Meredith Costain and I edited for Pearson (Spinouts and Thrillogies). I’ve published around 100 + books over the years, and written around 150. Running Creative Net Speakers’ Agency and the seminars/festivals does keep me busy!

JF: What are you currently working on? 

PC: Right now I have three plays and two short story collections (the latter in collaboration with Meredith Costain) coming out from other publishers. This year I published around 16 books. I have my first 2016 title, Dance, Bilby, Dance, by Tricia Oktober, ready to go to the printer.

JF: How did you get started as a writer and what led you to publishing?

PC: I self-published my first novel at the age of nineteen. Realising it wasn’t good enough, I figured I’d move into publishing other people’s work. I published Australia’s first heroic/epic fantasy novels in the early 80s. I also published science fiction books. Losing distribution I returned to writing. My first book was published by HarperCollins in 1995.

JF: You’re best known for your fantasy and science fiction writing – what appeals about those genres?

PC: They’re as far away from contemporary as you can get. I think we live the lives of those people we read in contemporary novels, so why read about them? I can’t imagine why people watch TV shows like East Enders and Coronation Street, or the spate of reality TV shows. Big Brother for example must have been one of the most boring shows anyone could watch. And that’s what I feel about contemporary fiction.

JF: Does your personal passion affect your publishing decisions?

PC: No. I have published contemporary fiction, for example. I don’t just stick to fantasy and science fiction. If I think something has quality and there’s a market for it, I have to make a commercial decision.

JF: What do you wish you’d known when you started?

PC: The massive database I’ve built up over the years, contacts with book clubs and others who buy bulk books. Basically, knowledge that you need to be successful. Alas, unless someone sits down and gives you a list, you need to find all this stuff out yourself. And that takes years.

JF: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

PC: Persistence is the key. The Wizard’s Torment was my first book – that’s the one that sold to HarperCollins. I had written it in the early 80s. It took me around twelve years to get it published. I wrote another book at the same time called The Earthborn. That was rejected by just about every publisher in Australia. An agent sent it to TOR in the US and sold sold the trilogy over there. I mentally thanked every Australian publisher that had rejected it. Just never give up.

JF: Thanks Paul, and good luck with Rich and Rare!

PC: Thanks, Julie.

Paul Collins has edited many anthologies including Trust Me!, Metaworlds and Australia’s first fantasy anthology, Dream Weavers. He also edited The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian SF&F. Paul has been short-listed for many awards and has won the Inaugural Peter McNamara and the A Bertram Chandler awards, both of which were for lifetime achievement in science fiction, and the Aurealis and William Atheling awards. His book, Slaves of Quentaris, features in 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Die (UK, 2009).

Paul Collins website.

Ford Street Publishing website. 

Julie Fison writes for children and young adults. Her books include the Hazard River adventure series for young readers, Choose Your Own Ever After, a pick-a-path series that lets the reader decide how the story goes, and Counterfeit Love for young adults. Her latest short story – Sugar is Sweet is in Rich and Rare.  

 

Margaret Wild Changes Lives – Picture Book Reviews

margaret -wild-300x0Margaret Wild is a much-loved, award-winning author with over 70 titles to her name, having great success with acclaimed books including Fox, The Very Best of Friends, Harry and Hopper, Lucy Goosey, Davy and the Duckling, and The Treasure Box. Her books extend to a wide range of themes, and are characteristically known for their exploration of identity, hardship and loss. The two current titles outlined in this article differ in their exposition and intended audience, but they comparably focus on the central themes of change, finding oneself and having a positive outlook on life.  

9781742978185The Stone Lion, illustrated by Ritva Voutila. Little Hare Books, 2014.

“COMPASSION IS A FORCE MIGHTIER THAN STONE”  

Shortlisted for the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Awards, The Stone Lion is undoubtedly a stand out. From the magestic, embossed front cover to the delicate, subdued pastel drawings and equally sensitive plot, this is a profound and powerful story to warm the heart.

Set to be a classic, this story tells of a fierce-looking stone lion with the desire to become a breathing creature, able to sense emotion like the human visitors outside his library pedestal. The need for freedom, even if only for a short while, grows immensely, and it is upon the devastating collapse of a cold and hungry homeless girl with her baby brother in the frosty winter that the lion feels his first flicker of emotion – pity. As fervent as his appearance, so is his desire to save the poor children, and with flexed claws, stretched legs and a beat in his heart, the now powerful lion carries the baby basket, and then drags the little girl inside the library. The flexibility of his muscles may not remain permanent, but the warmth, contentment and spirit in his heart does, as does the gratitude and love that Sara and her little brother share for the lion for years to follow.

Stone Lion 1Wild‘s sophisticated and elegant use of language, beautifully complemented with Voutila‘s Depression-era, breathtaking imagery, literally sends chills up your spine and sparks a fire in your heart both at the same time.

The Stone Lion will be treasured for its undeniable beauty and depth, with themes of kindness, compassion, optimism and sense of self at its core. It is an inspirational story for primary-aged children to be empowered to change others’ lives, whether it be a mighty, or mini gesture.

1431011577357Bogtrotter, illustrated by Judith Rossell. Walker Books, 2015.

Targeted at a younger audience, preschoolers will be immediately drawn to the adorable lime-coloured creature that graces the cover of Bogtrotter. Whilst soft and muted greys and browns suit the subdued mood in The Stone Lion, more vivid greens and splashes of watercolours wash over the bog in this lively, yet sensitive story of an energetic Bogtrotter.

Imagine living in a world of monotony, without ever taking the time to stop and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you, without realising there is a world out there full of opportunities. This certainly is reality for Bogtrotter, who spends his days awaking from his gloomy cave only to run across, up, down and around his bog, for days and years on end. But sometimes he feels bored and lonely without understanding why and how to change it. A small, lateral-thinking frog probes Bogtrotter, empowering him to alter his dull existence, even if it is as minor as picking a flower. And in that instant, the world becomes his oyster, and the possibilities are endless.
With hope and motivation in his heart, Bogtrotter replays his usual daily jog, but with a difference. He befriends a family of muskrats, swings from a tree, and makes a pink daisy chain. Delightfully, he doesn’t stop there. However, there’s still one thing missing. It is his discerning amphibian friend that leaves him with another thought to ponder, and Bogtrotter takes the biggest risk of his life. What he discovers is nothing more than remarkable.

Bogtrotter book imageWith Margaret Wild‘s simple yet multi-layered, philosophical tale and loveable characters in their mentor-student-like roles, paired with Judith Rossell‘s enticing illustrations, Bogtrotter opens up a world of new and exciting challenges for all its readers. I love the beautifully painted scene of this endearing character pining for more as he gazes into the starry night sky. This powerful moment literally shows us that the sky’s the limit.

There will definately be plenty of “Ah” moments upon exploration of this inspirational, enchanting story of self-discovery, courage and change. And perhaps adults will be more inclined to delve further into the answers to their preschooler’s favourite question – “Why?”  

Indie Book Awards 2015

 

BushLast night I was fortunate to attend the Indie Book Awards. It was a great evening, hosted by Hachette Australia in Sydney. These awards are organised by Leading Edge Books, who support independent bookshops (see more about them in last weekend’s AFR and in this interview with Galina Marinov). The shortlists and winners are voted by staff at Australia’s 170+ indie bookstores; widely read and discerning readers who have a strong sense of which books are the standouts and what readers should buy and appreciate.

The Indie Awards are also the first of Australia’s slew of literary awards for the year and a valuable predictor of what is going to appear on shortlists across the country. They have a strong record of picking winners in their seven-year history, including last year’s overall winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, which of course went on to win the Man Booker Prize and jointly win the Prime Minster’s Literary Awards.

http-::www.boomerangbooks.com.au:Golden-Boys:Sonya-Hartnett:book_9781926428611Winner of the Fiction category, was Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin Australia), which I reviewed for the SunHerald. Sonya wasn’t able to attend because of house renovations but she sent a memorable thank-you speech that brought the parlous state under her house to life.

The Bush by Don Watson (Penguin Australia) beat a strong field in the Non-Fiction category, which included Helen Garner’s This House of Grief (Text), Where Song Began by Tim Low (Penguin) and Cadence by Emma Ayres (ABC Books HarperCollins), who graciously attended. Her book, with its strong music background, looks fascinating. The Bush also won the overall Book of the Year award.

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke (Hachette Australia) was the popular winner of the Debut Fiction. This was a strongly contested category, which included Emily Bitto’s The Strays (Affirm Press). (See my review here.) http-::www.boomerangbooks.com.au:Foreign-Soil:Maxine-Beneba-Clarke:book_9780733632426

The Children’s and YA shortlist spanned a picture book, Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic); a YA novel, Laurinda by Alice Pung (Black Inc) (see my interview with Alice here) and two completely different novels for primary aged children, The 52-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (Pan Macmillan) and Withering-by-Sea, the deserving winner by author-illustrator Judith Rossell (ABC Books, HarperCollins). (See my review here.)

A distinctive aspect of the evening was the announcement of the winners by booksellers from Sydney as well as interstate. This set the tone of the Indies as an award with special synergy and respect between authors, publishers and booksellers.

Withering by Sea

Judith Rossell chats about Withering-by-Sea

judith rossell photographJudith Rossell’s prodigious talents as an illustrator and writer, her inimitable wit and her obsession with Victoriana come together superbly in her latest book for children – Withering-by-Sea.

The story follows the trials of Stella Montgomery, an 11-year-old orphan, who lives with her dreadful aunts in a damp, dull hotel in Victorian England. But everything changes when she witnesses an evil act in the conservatory.

The book is the first in a series of Victorian adventures for Stella Montgomery and features the kind of beautifully intricate and magical drawings that have made Judith Rossell one of Australia’s most successful illustrators.

Judith joins me to talk about her new book and the historical period that inspired it.

JF: Congratulations on Withering-by-Sea. It’s a wonderful book and the illustrations are stunning. Which came first – the pictures or the words?

JR: Thanks Julie! I’m very happy with how it came together. (Particularly the ribbon. I’m very happy about the ribbon!). I started with the words, but along the way I did some of the drawings. Sometimes drawing the little details of the characters or the setting can give ideas for the story. Drawing the pier gave me the idea of a theatre, which gave me the idea that the Professor was a stage magician.

JF: What interests you about Victorian England?

withering front coverJR: I’m a big fan of the early Sherlock Holmes stories, with the lovely atmosphere of fog and gaslight, and mysterious goings-on. And it was such an interesting era for the enormous changes that were happening, so many important inventions, and social changes. The pace of change in the 1890s was so much greater than now, people experienced the first telephones, motorcars, moving pictures, anesthetics, votes for women, education for all children… so many life-changing things. It must have been an exciting time to live.

JF: Why do aunties get such a bad rap in Victorian era fiction?

JR: Aunties and Stepmothers! You’d expect your mother to be on your side, sympathetic, reliable and looking out for you, but an Aunty might do anything! Aunties have many more possibilities, for exciting adventures, and for evil deeds. (I’m an Aunty myself, so I can say these things).

JF: There are some very fanciful characters in the story – singing cats, a clockwork beetle, and a hand of glory. Where have these come from?

I remember reading a story when I was little which had a hand of glory in it, and I found it terrifying! The clockwork beetle is a little bit steampunkish, I think. I like the idea of clockwork and magic working together. I can’t remember where I got the idea of the singing cats from… Sometimes things just come to you, and you think – yes!

pier low resJF: What are the most intriguing snippets of Victoriana that you unearthed while writing Withering-by-Sea?

JR: My favourite invention of the time is a bed that’s attached to a clockwork timer. You wind it up, and go to sleep, and all night it goes tick tick tick, and in the morning, the whole thing flips over and dumps you on the floor. What a way to wake up! I have a recipe book, too, and my favourite recipe is for negus, a kind of fruit punch, which was mainly served at children’s parties. The recipe says for 10-12 little children, a pint of cheap port is sufficient. Basically, don’t waste the expensive drink on the little kids.

JF: How long do you spend on each drawing and did you have to redraw any to suit the story that you eventually wrote?

JR: The single page pictures took three or four days each, and yes, I did have to do a couple of them again, because I rewrote the ending of the story, and there were significant changes. It’s difficult to be annoyed with the writer changing her mind, when the writer is yourself. haha.

JF: This is the eleventh book you have written. You have illustrated 80 books. Which do you find more rewarding – writing or illustrating? 

JR: I like them both. I enjoy illustrating picture books, and bringing the characters to life. But it’s also been a real pleasure to write and illustrate my own book, without having to consider what another creator might want. I’ve never written something that someone else has illustrated, I think it would be difficult to put your work into someone else’s hands, and step back. I admire the writers who can trust the illustrator like that.

JF: You worked as a scientist before becoming an illustrator and writer. How does your background affect your work?

singing catsJR: The only thing I can think of is that I do enjoy the research. I love getting a new history book and reading it to find things I might use for my story. At the moment, I’m reading a book about shell grottoes, which were caves and tunnels people built in their gardens in the 18th and 19th centuries, decorated with shells and coral and stones. One was decorated with the knucklebones of sheep, and another with the baby teeth of the children in the house! I’d love to put a shell grotto in my new story.

JF: I remember sharing a stage with you and a group of other talented authors at a school in Rockhampton. Michael Gerard Bauer revealed that he had wanted to be a Ninja when he grew up. I shared my hopes of owning a wildlife sanctuary in Africa and you revealed that you wanted to be a rubbish collector. Why was that?

Three AuntsJR: I’d forgotten that! I was very little, and the father of one of the boys in our class was a rubbish collector. He used to ride on the back of the truck and jump down and pick up the bins. And it was clearly the best job in the world, this boy had a lot of status in our class, because his dad had such a cool job. I was a bit vague about what my dad actually did (he was a scientist), and so for a while I pretended he was a rubbish collector as well, so people would think I was cool too. Sadly, I don’t think they ever did.

JF: I understand you are working on a sequel to Withering-by-Sea. Any hints on what Stella Montgomery gets up to in that one?

JR: Aha! I’m working on it right now. The title is probably going to be Wormwood Mire. Stella is sent away to a mysterious house, to stay with two cousins and their governess. And there’s something lurking in the forest… Something frightening…

JF: Thank you for visiting Judith. Good luck with Withering-by-Sea. I look forward to the sequel!

Julie Fison writes for children and young adults. Her books include the Hazard River adventure series for young readers, Choose Your Own Ever After, a pick-a-path series that lets the reader decide how the story goes, and Counterfeit Love for young adults.

 

Gothic Tales for Christmas

Withering-by-SeaThree gothic novels by Australian authors will intrigue primary-school aged (and slightly older) readers who enjoy reading about danger cloaked in mystique and how children can overcome this.

Withering-by-Sea (ABC Books) is written and illustrated by Judith Rossell, whose talent is really taking wings. She has also illustrated picture books, which include Ten Little Circus Mice and Too Tight, Benito and she wrote and illustrated Ruby and Leonard. Withering-by-Sea is the first of the ‘A Stella Montgomery Intrigue’ series – what a fascinating name for a series. Stella lives in the Hotel Majestic at Withering-by-Sea with her formidable aunts. The scene is set for skullduggery when Stella witnesses new guest, Mr Filbert, bury something in the conservatory, the lush garden Stella regards as her Amazon playground. She is thrown into a diabolical situation when she witnesses a burglary and murder.

Another atmospheric gothic tale is Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee (Hot Key Books). Foxlee’s debut was a novel for adults, The Anatomy of Wings. She followed that with The Midnight Dress (one of my 2013 best books for young adults) and now she has triumphed with an original story set in a snowy city’s museum. With a countdown to Christmas Eve, Ophelia’s father is Ophelia and the Marvellous Boypreparing a sword exhibition. The museum where he works is a fantastic maze of exhibits and displays: the exhibition of elephants, the pavilion of wolves, an arcade of mirrors, a room full of telephones, a gallery of teaspoons, a checkerboard floor, paintings of girls in party dresses and, most importantly, The Wintertide Clock. The whole building is like an enormous cabinet of curiosities and this is where Ophelia discovers the Marvellous Boy, whose story intersects with that of the evil Snow Queen. Ophelia must race time and winter to save those she loves from the Snow Queen but she is invested with the power to be the defender of goodness and happiness and hope.

N.J. Gemmell’s sequel to The Kensington Reptilarium for both girls and boys, The Icicle Illuminarium, is also structured loosely around Christmas. The Australian Caddy children, who are living in England, are preparing an extravaganza for the Twelfth Night of Christmas when the story begins. But when their father’s health declines, they set off to find the mother who is presumed dead but may actually be alive. Their quest takes them to the mysterious, moth-eaten Icicle Illuminarium.

See more about this book at http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/meet-n-j-gemmell-author-of-the-icicle-illuminarium/2014/10.

These three stories are well written and imaginative, with elements of the macabre, but they ultimately reward hope, love and goodness over evil in true Christmas spirit.

Icicle Illuminarium

 

Review – To Get To Me

To Get to MeI love going places and reading often takes me more places than mere physical effort alone. Imagination and desire help too. Not to mention having the odd pen-friend (remember those?) in far flung exotic locations. To Get To Me is Random House’s newest picture book encapsulating the essence of getting there via planes, trains and automobiles.

Sydney-sider Peter is going to the zoo and who better to share a day amongst the animals with, than his best buddy Ahmed. Never mind Ahmed lives in far North Africa, half a world away. Friendship knows no boundaries, nor crazy distances.

Peter carefully gives Ahmed directions over the phone, detailing each method of transport he’ll have to take for each leg of the journey.

Eleanor Kerr Eleanor Kerr skilfully explores nearly every mode of transport barring hot air balloon. Even the humble camel is depicted clomp clomp clomping through the sand dunes of Ahmed’s immediate environ. Her crisp, undemanding text is simple enough for budding readers to enjoy themselves yet fused with enough action-based onomatopoeia to ensure a fun and energetic read aloud experience for the younger audience. Camels clomp, buses vroom, ferries splish splosh. Sounds ingenuous, but To Get To Me is anything but pedestrian and coupled with Judith Rossell’s ebullient illustrations, easily convinces readers that Ahmed really will be able to make the journey.

Judith RossellRossell combines collage, real photos and pencil drawings to perfectly capture the heat of a Moroccan desert, the bustle of inner-city Sydney and the serenity of Sydney Harbour.

Look closely to appreciate how both we and Ahmed, are transported seamlessly from a world of Arabic influenced dialects to a more familiar western English speaking society through the use of written Arabic and cut out newspaper text. There are even a few stock exchange listings carefully insinuated as CBD buildings.

The concept of making a small world even smaller is strengthened by Peter waiting for Ahmed at the Zoo surrounded by a delightful cultural mix of African and Aussie animals. Thanks to Peter’s conviction in his clear instructions, we and Ahmed are left in a positive state of happy anticipation; ‘see you soon!’

To Get To Me provides a warm fuzzy, hands-around-the-world experience while at the same time is suitably chock-a-block full of mobility, machines, cultural glimpses, and even Kombis! Enough to satisfy young boys in particular and geography nuts like me.

You can view and purchase this book here.

Random House July 2013

 

THE HOUSE OF 12 BUNNIES REVIEWED

Before reviewing The House of 12 Bunnies, I have to declare for the record that I live in a house with two bunnies, so this book was always going to have appeal for me.

But I was also drawn to the fun of a houseful of young rabbits causing chaos as they go about their business. I enjoyed their childlike actions – and the way they cover just about every piece of floor space with their toys and precious belongings.

Sophia, a cute white bunny is the star of The House of 12 Bunnies due for release by Little Hare books tomorrow.

Being completely white she is easy to distinguish from the other bunnies and can be seen peering over fences, among toys and between boxes; her little white face sometimes only just visible.

Written by mother and daughter, Caroline Stills and Sarcia Stills-Blott, The House of 12 Bunnies is an entertaining read with beautiful illustrations by Judith Rossell. She has drawn each rabbit with its own endearing personality.

Sarcia was 8 when she wrote the first draft of this story and seems to have injected a child’s sense of fun into The House of 12 Bunnies.

This picture book has so many layers and Judith Rossell’s images offer something different for the reader every time they open the book. The closer you look the more you realise how much fun these bunnies are truly having.

The storyline is something small children will relate to – losing an important  possession just before bedtime. I’m not going to give away the ending but the resolution will leave the reader content and ready for sleep.

There is also a learning component to the book with opportunities to count and add up and to identify different animals and objects.

“In the playroom there are 5 teddy bears, 3 dogs, 2 cats, 1 duck and a giraffe with stuffing coming out.”

There was so much to enjoy about this story and the gorgeous pictures, that I couldn’t choose a favourite scene, but bunny bathtime and bunnies bouncing on the bed sure brought back memories of when my kids were little. And that’s where I think The House of 12 Bunnies will have appeal for small children and adults alike.

As the blurb on the back of the book says, “When twelve messy bunnies live under the same roof, the rooms nearly bust with fun things…”

And of course there’s the fact that The House of 12 Bunnies is published by Little Hare

 

WHY JUDITH ROSSELL CHOSE RABBITS FOR HER LATEST PICTURE BOOK

Today, illustrator of The House of 12 Bunnies visits Kids’ Book Capers to talk about being an illustrator and why she chose bunnies for this book.

Have you always enjoyed illustrating?

Yes, when I was small, like many kids, I liked to write stories and illustrate them.  I was one of those children who was always getting in trouble for drawing in class, when I should have been doing something else.

How did you become an illustrator?

I used to do greetings cards and other small illustration jobs all the way through school and uni. I remember doing a design for the mining engineering student society’s badge, and getting paid $20 and some beer. I was pretty happy about that! I studied science, and worked for 7 or 8 years, and later I became a full time illustrator. I started out mainly illustrating educational books, greeting cards and a bit of commercial illustration. Now I mainly illustrate children’s books. I’ve been doing it for about 12 years now.

Where does your inspiration come from?

From all around the place! Recently, I’ve been doing more drawing from life, which is good practice for me, and also makes me look at things properly. I also like to look at other illustrator’s and artist’s work.

What inspired you most about illustrating this book?

I liked the idea of a house full of messy characters. I have friends with little children, and a messy house gives you the impression that there are lots of  fun things going on! Originally, the text was for a house of 12 children, and I made a start drawing them, but it wasn’t really working, and so I tried creating 12 rabbit characters instead, and they seemed much more appealing!

Who is your favourite character and why?

I tried to give each of the 12 rabbits his or her own personality. In each picture, there is a sad little grey rabbit who often misses out. He might be my favourite, I feel a bit sorry for him.

How did you decide what the main character would look like?

The main rabbit is Sophia, who is looking for something. I chose to make her a plain white rabbit, so she stands out from the others and is easy to recognise even if you can only see a tiny part of her, like the tips of her ears.

Can you tell us about the illustrating process for this book?

Firstly, I planned the characters, and it was at this stage they changed from being people to being rabbits! Then I made pencil drawings of all the pages, and sent them off to the editor for her feedback. The designer used these pencil drawings to make the layout, which was great, because then when I came to make the final illustrations, I could incorporate the changes she wanted. It’s great to work with a good designer! Then I went ahead and transferred the pencil drawings to the watercolour paper. Then I painted them.

What was your favourite part of the illustration process?

I quite like making the final artwork. I tend to watch DVDs when I work, and make lots of cups of tea. I like colouring in!

What was the hardest part of the illustration process?

Doing the rough drawings is sometimes quite difficult. In a book like this, where each page has the 12 rabbits in a different room, I tried hard to make sure that all the pages worked together, but that there was also enough variety on each page so they didn’t look too similar.

Did you get to collaborate with the author or did you work fairly independently?

Fairly independently. I didn’t have any communication with the authors.

Can you tell us about the medium you used to illustrate this book?

Pencil and acrylic (which I use like watercolour).

How long did it take to illustrate?

About 6 weeks.

How many books have you illustrated?

About 80

What number is this one?

Perhaps 81?? I’m not sure.

Any tips for people who would like to become children’s book illustrators?

Practice drawing things! In particular, children and animals. Be brave and take your folio around to show publishers.

Anything else of interest you might like to tell our blog readers?

People might be interested to know that my cat Fidel now weighs more than 7 kg!! (haha!) Also, a picture book I wrote and illustrated, ‘Oliver’ is going to be published by Harper Collins in the US next year. I’m very excited about it!

You can find out more about Judith Rossell by checking out her new website at judithrossell.com

 

CAROLINE STILLS TALKS ABOUT 12 CUTE BUNNIES

Today, Caroline Stills is back at Kids’ Book Capers to talk about how she collaborated with her daughter, Sarcia (aged 8 at the time) to create their new book, The House of Bunnies.

What inspired you to write this book?

The House of 12 Bunnies started with my daughter, Sarcia. Like a lot of children, she has always been very creative, and spends lots of her spare time typing up stories or drawing pictures. A couple of years ago, I was reading through some of her stories, and one in particular grabbed me as a great idea for a picture book. It was called The House of 99 Kids, and in the story Sarcia (aged 8 at the time) imagined what would be in each room of a house where so many children lived.

I worked on her initial manuscript, adding more rooms to the house and expanding the text, and sent it to my publisher at Little Hare Books. She liked the idea, but preferred to target it to a younger age group, so I re-wrote it as The House of 12 Children, as most children can count to twelve by the time they start school. Then, together, my publisher and I worked on several more versions of the text, adding layers so that we were educating readers in a subtle way as well as entertaining them, and creating a fun narrative, until we were both happy with the final version. And lastly, after seeing the lovely bunny illustrations created by Judith Rossell, we changed the title to The House of 12 Bunnies.

(They are gorgeous illustrations, aren’t they, Caroline? Tomorrow we’re talking to Judith Rossell about how she created them.)

What’s The House of 12 Bunnies about?

This is what is written on the back cover: When twelve messy bunnies live under the same roof, the rooms nearly burst with fun things to find and count. There are twelve chairs, twelve beds, twelve towels, and twelve of just about everything else! In the middle of all the muddle, Sophia searches for the one thing that will get the bunnies to bed on time.

What age groups is it for?

Children aged 2 to 7. The younger children can have fun helping Sophia find what she is looking for and seeing what the bunnies gets up to in each room. Most readers will be able to find the 12 things on each page, and older readers can even attempt some simple addition.

Why will kids like it?

It’s interesting to imagine living with lots of others, and seeing what each of the bunnies is doing. And it’s essentially a fun search-and-find book to learn about numbers and counting.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

I’m proud to have written this book with my daughter. I hope it encourages lots of other children to try writing their own stories. You never know what could happen.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I love that this book is a real group effort – starting with Sarcia’s original story. I really enjoyed the collaborative process working with the fantastic team at Little Hare Books, who truly care about creating fabulous books for children.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Nothing. It was a terrific experience and process.