As part of Bunny Week at Kids’ Book Capers we are thrilled to welcome Katherine Battersby, creator of Squish Rabbit, a picture book that’s bound to delight all ages.
Clearly, Squish is a character who is very close to his creator’s heart.
Squish is such a great character. He could be any young animal or even a child. Why did you decide that Squish had to be a rabbit?
Thanks Dee! I didn’t really choose his form so much as Squish demanded to be just what he is. I often find myself chasing my characters around my mind, trying to capture them on paper, as opposed to feeling like I really create them myself. Squish has taken on a few different forms over the years but he has always been a rabbit. He’s always been kind of soft looking and squishy, and always very small.
He’s like that little whimsical part of me that never really grew up and certainly never grew any taller. I always did feel kind of short as a child!
What have you loved most about creating and getting to know Squish?
Squish was the first time my illustration style really came together as my own. It was such a thrill when he appeared on the page, and I could see from people’s reactions that he was something a little bit special. Once I found it, his story and illustrations came at a rush. For me, Squish is such a joyous little guy to spend time with. He’s tiny and cautious and a little self-doubting, but he’s also clever and loyal and wonderfully quirky. He’s certainly a character I can relate to, and I think my affection for him probably comes across in his story.
How have you drawn on your own experiences to create Squish?
As a young writer I was frequently told to ‘write what you know’. I’ve learnt over time that this isn’t meant to be taken literally – it actually means ‘write to your emotional truths’. If you write about the feelings you know and have sat inside of, then your characters and stories will be that much more alive.
Looking back on my childhood, Squish Rabbit certainly captures my emotional truths. I recall vividly what it was like to feel small in a big world. I remember the first time I lost my mum in the supermarket – the panic was so big it filled up my small body, so that I honestly believed I would never see her again. I remember having important things to say in a world where big people get listened to first. I recall having thoughts and questions and ideas bubbling up inside of me, and yet having no clue how to say any of it.
This is ultimately why I started writing and drawing – to express all those things I had trouble voicing. This is also where Squish comes from. He is that small part of me that was at times unseen and unheard. I suppose he is that secret part of anyone that has ever felt small or different and alone in it all.
How long did it take for Squish to hop from an idea in your head to the bookseller’s burrow?
This can be a tricky thing to pinpoint as ideas brew and broil together in one’s mind over many years. Squish Rabbit was actually one of the very first stories I wrote (when I first began pursuing writing seriously) back in 2006, although like with most first stories … it was really bad. Luckily I kept writing and drawing, and many years later rediscovered this little character filed away in my drawer (and my mind).
My style had developed a lot over that time so when I started drawing Squish again he looked quite different. I decided his old story was well and truly deceased, and spent some time with him to figure out his true story. It emerged in early 2009, and mid-year it got the attention of my wonderful agent who sold it to Viking (Penguin US) on my September birthday that year. I developed it with my publisher over the next year, then it sold to my amazing Australian publisher, UQP, in early 2011. It’s now been in bookstores nearly 2 months, coming out over here August 29th.
Do you have any more adventures planned for Squish?
He’s so alive to me, I can’t help but daydream what other adventures Squish gets up to. I had a secret little hope I might get the chance to tell another Squishy tale, so when my publisher asked for book two I was thrilled. His second book should be in coming out August 2012…
If so, can you give us a sneak peek at what he might be up to next? Does Squirrel join him on his next adventure?
Yes, squirrel plays more of a starring role alongside Squish this time (and she even gets a name!). The story is about another problem Squish encounters due to being small – namely that there are many big things to fear. His greatest fear is the dark, which is so big it’s everywhere. He’s pretty good at hiding from his fears, until Squirrel goes missing late one afternoon … I only hope Squish can find the courage to go out into the dark and find her.
Thanks for chatting with me, Katherine. I’m so pleased to hear there will be another Squish adventure. I can’t wait to hop into it.
A ‘Squish’ Review
Squish Rabbit is a little rabbit with a BIG problem…he doesn’t have a friend.
Simply told, this book is so insightful. It delves right into the heart and mind of a small child, making up a pretend friend because he doesn’t have a real one.
Then he meets a squirrel who invites him to play, but can Squish save his new friend from danger?
Squish has a very large heart but nobody can see it, because they don’t look at him, seem to notice he’s there. As small children, how often do we feel unnoticed and afraid in the big wide world?
Although Squish is a rabbit, his feelings, emotions and fears are very genuinely those of a small child.
Squish thought no one was watching so he threw a tantrum.
This response is so childlike yet even when he is scowling and throwing himself on the ground, just like a small child, Squish manages to look cute.
The authenticity of Squish’s dilemma and the way he handles it makes the story all the more poignant.
Katherine Battersby has clearly captured her characters feelings of being alone and small in a big world. Even as adults, we still experience these feelings and this is probably one of the reasons this book will appeal to adults as well.
Katherine has an obsession with textures and she has brought this to the story, using all sorts of materials to provide the layered illustrations in the book. Her use of this method is combined with clean lines and bright colours to provide an original and striking look for Squish Rabbit.
The words and pictures work in perfect harmony in this book. So much is left unsaid in the text and told in the pictures.
The illustrations are deceptively simple, yet they convey so much. The text is sparse with not a word out of place, not a word wasted.
Squish Rabbit is beautifully produced to evoke maximum response and even has a squishy cover.
I can see this one being handed down through the generations.
Squish Rabbit is written and illustrated by Katherine Battersby and published in Australia by UQP. I look forward to Squish Rabbit’s next adventure.