Animals in Picture Books

Our June chat is only 2 sleeps away! Our guest Katherine Battersby brings readers so much joy through the creation of her animal themed picture books. Her first Picture book is titled ‘Squish Rabbit’. Squish is only a little rabbit…which makes him hard to see and hear. However as we turn the pages we soon discover that despite being small….this little rabbit has a huge heart…and will definitely make his way into yours! Celebrate the joy of friendship with one very special little bunny .

squish rabbit


In her gorgeous book ‘Little Wing’ we discover that he is not just any bird…he is the world’s smartest animal! Yes my friends, this smart cookie of a bird had been reading his whole life. Join Little Wing on this journey of self discovery to help him figure out who is and where he belongs.This is such a beautiful gem and will resonate with adults and children. Learning is a fun adventure, spread your wings , be true to yourself and enjoy it.

little wing.jpg

If you haven’t discovered Katherine’s charming books I encourage you to go on a treasure hunt and add them to your ‘to read’ pile. Her titles include ‘Squish Rabbit’, Brave Squish Rabbit and Little Wing’ . She also has the ‘You’re Five’ series coming out in June with Shelly Unwin. Take a little adventure over to her website where you can  find out more. 

Katherine has written us very lucky folk at #picbookbc a blog post explaining why she uses animals in her work. Don’t forget to join us for our picture book party (with Kath, Squish and Little Wing! )  on Thursday, 8pm over on our twitter account! (@picturebookbc)

animals in picture books

      ‘Animals at Play in Picture books’       

In my picture books, I always explore common themes of childhood – feelings, friendship, fears, identity, fitting in, family – and yet my characters are never children. Instead, I use animals as stand-ins for children, as many writers and illustrators do.

Intellectually speaking, there are many reasons picture book creators do this. Animal characters are instantly relatable – they’re cute, fun, intriguing, and come with their own set of character traits that people attach to them, which writers can use to both shape and subvert. Animals are also easy to empathise with – everyone can see themselves in an animal character, whereas many kids might not often see themselves reflected in human characters. Alternately, animal characters can also create distance, which allows writers to tackle themes and issues that may be too confronting with human characters – providing a little distance in a story can allow readers room to re-examine their own thoughts and beliefs. Ultimately, using animals as characters can be an incredibly powerful tool for change.

But when thinking about why I use animals in my picture books, it’s not really a decision I’ve made. The reason seems to be much more emotional.

Whenever I’m making books, I have to go back to that place inside me where I remember what it was like to feel small. As a child, I was quite introverted and experienced a lot of significant change in a very short period of time. I had trouble expressing myself and relating to other kids, and yet I always felt comfortable with animals. When I was with animals, I didn’t have to talk. My cat was not particularly affectionate, and yet when I was sad she would sit on my lap and purr. When I went outside seeking alone time, if I sat still for long enough, small birds would collect at my feet. I loved that friends always joked that their pets had an affinity with me that they shared with no one else. I felt an easier connection with animals than I did with people.

I also grew up in quite an intriguing home. I lived in a small coastal town in north Qld, and my dad built us a rather spectacular eco home in the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean. We had grass on our roof and the animals in the area were pretty confused about whether it was a human home or not. Over the years, many local animals tried moving in with us, which had varying levels of success.

We had a family of frogs that lived on top of our dishwasher – my mum would fill the sink for them at night as we went to bed, and as my bedroom was closest to the kitchen I could hear them blobbing about in the water. We had a tree snake named George who started sleeping in the computer paper box in the office (he was less welcome than the frogs). Then there was the family of bats who lived down the back hall – they moved out in a hurry one day when George relocated. We also raised a baby wallaby whose mother was killed on the road. She was tiny but could jump surprisingly high and used to hop up onto my desk and chew the end of my pencils as I tried to do my homework. On our lawns, there were always kangaroos and bandicoots and possums and echidnas. Even the occasional wombat. We were surrounded by animals, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Growing up, we couldn’t keep the animals out of our house. It’s really no surprise to me now that I can’t keep them out of my books.

Katherine Battersby



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