‘Migrainysaurus Rex’ – A Hallelujah Moment

Tony Wilson is an author and broadcaster who has been writing books for children for more than a decade. In 2016, the bestselling The Cow Tripped Over the Moon soared to 2016 CBCA Honour Book status, and other titles such as Grannysaurus Rex, Harry Highpants, The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas, The Emperor’s New Clothes Horse, and Emo the Emu are also favourites. Tony will be our special guest for May’s #picbookbc Twitter chat and National Simultaneous Storytime themed party on Thursday 4 May.

National Simultaneous Storytime is held annually by the Australian Library and Information Association. Every year a picture book, written and illustrated by an Australian author and illustrator is read simultaneously in libraries, schools, pre-schools, childcare centres, family homes, bookshops and many other places around the country.

This year NSS takes place on Wednesday 24 May at 11am (AEST) and with the picture book The Cow Tripped Over the Moon written by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Laura Wood.

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Thank you Tony for sharing your picture book story with us!

‘Migrainysaurus Rex’ – A hallelujah moment

Tony Wilson

I became a picture book author because one day, out of the blue, I had a picture book idea. I remember exactly where I was. I was doing the dishes in our rental in Birkenhead Street, North Fitzroy, and I was living out my normal but best internalised monologue of jokes and word plays, as I applied elbow grease to a saucepan.

The word that came into my head was ‘Migrainysaurus Rex’. I was thinking about my mother, Margaret, a migraine sufferer, and an alternate reality in which she might turn into a dinosaur every time she got a migraine. ‘Hey that’s a good picture book idea,’ I thought, and then promptly unthought it, because kids wouldn’t know what a migraine is.

But I kept muttering ‘Migrainysaurus Rex’ ‘Migrainysaurus Rex’ ‘Migrainysaurus Rex’ over and over, and pretty soon it started sounding like ‘My Grannysaurus Rex’. It was a hallelujah moment. Every preschool kid on the planet loves dinosaurs, almost as much as grannies! And grandmas buy piles of picture books! My god. I was going to be rich! I ran to the computer and wrote my million dollar idea. Why would granny turn into a dinosaur? Maybe she’d undermine mum’s strict no-lollies policy and they’d go on a hallucinogenic sugar trip together? In the end, it was 1500 words long. I borrowed the ‘Writers Handbook’ from the library the next day, a very 2003 thing to do, and looked up the address for every publisher of kids books. Forty one Tatts tickets.

Two ended up paying off — Penguin wanted it for an Aussie Nibble, and Scholastic wanted me to cull 1000 words and the whinging mum, and make it a picture book. I ended up choosing the picture book, because the idea of having my name on a picture book was beyond my childhood dreams.

[As a side note, and unsurprisingly to anyone who knows anything about children’s publishing, my million dollar idea came up $993,000 short. That still counts as a success, by the way. ‘Bedsosaurus Rex’ got released in Denmark.]

Over the next thirteen years, I’ve had a few of these Eureka Moments. The writing of a picture book may be less exhausting or time intensive than other types of fiction, but the ideas clamber around in the ether, refusing to be pinned down. It’s an almost visceral triumph when you grab one. I was at the lights in Swan Street when I had the idea for The Minister for Traffic Lights inventing a mauve traffic light as a cure for road rage (when the lights turn mauve, you have to jump out and hug your fellow motorists). I was in my back yard, watering the garden under one of those faint, early evening, crescent moons when I decided to write a book about the Cowolympics, and the main event there, the open age moon jump.

That book became ‘The Cow Tripped Over the Moon’. Not immediately. First I had a crack at a middle grade fiction, a bovine sporting adventure story to reflect my love for a childhood favourite ‘The 27th Annual African Hippopotamus Race’, but I couldn’t make my story soar. It was only when I was singing nursery rhymes to my son, Jack, that I realised I was missing the glorious essence of hey Diddle Diddle — it’s perfect rhythm, rhyme, and romance. It’s stand-alone place in all literature for involving cutlery and crockery as a romantic subplot. I scrapped my Cowolympics, and sat down to write alternative verses, ones where the Cow doesn’t succeed with her moon jumps. It was suddenly enormously fun to write. It seems a moon clearance, takes great perseverance. Probably the best line I’ve ever written.

It’s an enormous thrill to be a contributor to children’s literature, to call myself an author. Like most authors, I feel books built me into the person I am. My parents read to us every night, and the picture books that seeded my love for story include The Story of Ping, Caps for Sale, The Giant  Jam Sandwich, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Are You My Mother, all the Dr Seuss Books.

I get almost misty eyed when I read a great picture book to my own kids. Gus Gordon’s ‘Herman & Rosie’ gives me that feeling, and also many of Julia Donaldson’s. I place Tiddler, The Gruffalo and Stick Man in a three way tie. She’s the best rhymer and story builder since Dr Seuss. My kids love the funny ones. I remember exactly which bookstore I was standing in when I first read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The Book With No Pictures still makes my kids roar, even at the fiftieth reading. Then there is a jaw dropper like Margaret Wild ‘Fox’, which the kids are so-so on, but leaves me weeping.

It’s a beautiful world to be associated with. On May 24th, I get my moment in the moonshine, when The Cow Trips Over the Moon is read all around the country. Half a million kids, jumping with my Cow! Or should that be Laura Wood’s Cow? (let’s not forget the perfect illustrations). Or should that be Mother Goose’s Cow (let’s not forget the person who is too long dead to launch a copyright claim).

Thirteen years, eight picture books. It’ll be the highlight of my creative life.

It seems a moon clearance, takes great perseverance.

~ Tony Wilson ~

April #picbookbc chat Questions!

Only a few days till our next #picbookbc chat, oh my! We’re certainly excited and hope you are too! In case you’ve missed it, this month’s theme is Illustrations in Picture Books. We’ll also be joined by our delightful guest, illustrator and story teller Anna Walker!

Here are the questions, to help get you prepared! We apologise for the delay in the upload of the questions as they normally go up on the Monday before the chat, oops! We’re going to blame the extreme weather we’ve been having for this one!

Q1. Who are your favourite picture book illustrators and why? What do you love about their illustrating style?

Q2. In a picture book, do you think illustrations are just as important as text? Why?

Q3. When collaborating with an author, do you think that illustrators can get overlooked?

Q4. In your experience, how have picture book illustrations changed over the years? How do you see them evolving in the future?

And we’ll wrap it all up with question time with Anna Walker, so come prepared!

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If you’re unfamiliar with how the chat works head on over to our welcome post!

Join in on the fun at 8pm (AEST) on Thursday the 6 of April!

Hope to see you there!

-Ashleigh

 

‘The Possibilities of Picture Books’

Anna Walker is a name synonymous with picture books in Australia. She is known for her charming, thoughtful and beautiful illustrations all of which are inspired by the tiny details in the world around her. Anna is an award winning author and illustrator and we are most delighted to have her as our guest at the April #picbookbc Twitter chat/party on Thursday 6 April to discuss illustrations in picture books!

Florette‘ is the latest release by Anna Walker and is a sheer delight for readers of all ages.

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Thank you Anna for sharing your own picture book story with us!

The Possibilities of Picture Books

Anna Walker

Imagine a huge room full of magnificent books. A child wanders through the aisles carefully looking for the right book, when she hears a faint sound. Past the towering shelves, through the novels full of adventure, the sound grows louder. Eventually she reaches the far corner of the room to be greeted by a wonderful chorus of chirps, growls and joyful elephant trumpets! It is the children’s book section. The sun streams in the window and as if discovering treasure, the child picks up a book.

Sitting in that sunbeam of light, lost in another world is where I belong. I have always loved books, but picture books are my true love. It has been this way ever since I can remember.

Mum tells the story of me as a baby sitting in my cot with a stack of books. Apparently I would look carefully through each book, ceremoniously tip it on to the floor and then pick up the next one. I am not sure whether my love of books was inspired by this story or whether this story came from my love of books. Either way stories give our life meaning, provide connection and identity. The stories we listen to as a child, the stories we tell as children form part of who we are.

The possibilities picture books provide are not limited to helping us understand the world around us, they are a gateway to the imagination. Words hardly do this concept justice. I wish I could illustrate this paragraph! The chance to escape on an adventure to a place you have never dreamt of, to take part in a tea party with a lion or run with a rabbit in golden shoes is pure joy.

As a child I was sometimes reluctant to voice my thoughts by speaking up. Creating images and writing though, was a way of expressing my ideas and helped me gain confidence. I am passionate about children being given the chance to not only experience diverse picture books but to explore telling stories, and express ideas in different mediums.

One of the privileges of being an illustrator is doing workshops with children – the wonderful creative beings that they are! In some classes we create bird characters. It is with delight that I see all those individual expressions of birds using only paper and a pencil, each of them with their individual character. It gives me particular pleasure to see the child who exclaims ‘I can’t draw’ proudly holding up their creation and telling the class about a world they have envisaged.

If it was up to me all children would have the chance to explore different art mediums along with reading and writing – all the way through primary school and beyond! I would love to see further exploration of creativity as part of the curriculum. Paper clay, animation, sand sculpture, split pin creatures, dioramas, cardboard cities, mono-printing, chalk drawings, shadow puppets, ink blobs, stick construction, watercolour, screen printing, fabric painting, abstract work, collage and more! This desire is not because I want all children to become artists, it is seeking the chance for them to discover new ways of seeing things. I think it is great to use different mediums for problem solving and finding interesting solutions to express an idea. And an added bonus is the child weaving their own stories around this creativity.

We are fortunate to be in an era in which there are sooooooo many wonderful picture books! To see a child connect with a story or delight in the world of imagination is a precious thing. And the possibility that a story might inspire a child to express their own unique voice is one of the many reasons I love the world of picture books!

March Wrap up!

Last Thursday night was the launch of our first #picbookbc chat on twitter and what a chat it was! We were blown away by your support and excitement and loved sharing the experience of our first chat with so many passionate picture book lovers and hearing all your insightful comments on Aussie picture books. I’m sure those who took part will agree that their list of picture books to read has grown thanks to the chat! For those that missed it, our first chat was on the theme ‘Aussie’ picture books and featured our guest author Damon Young , author of ‘My Brother is a Beast’.

We shared our earliest memories of Australian picture books and the authors that stood out in our memory from our childhood. Lots of fond memories of stories read with parents and time spent pouring over picture books from the library and our own collections. Popular choices were books by Mem Fox – Possum Magic, May Gibbs – Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and Alison Lester – Magic Beach. Other popular choices were the classic Little Golden Books and Blinky Bill books by Dorothy Wall.

It was a struggle to narrow down our favourite authors and picture books as we all realised that we’re certainly blessed with a diverse range of Australian picture books that not only capture the Australian way of life but also our unique flora, fauna and style. What we loved about our favourites were their different styles of illustrations such as Jeannie Baker’s use of mix-media collages, the way they told their stories, the way they made us feel and the rhyme & rhythm of the words. These were also the elements we believed made up a good picture book. How surprising, right?

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But what makes an Australian picture book unique? According to our participants, it’s about our people, fauna, flora, indigenous culture, humour and world view among other things. Our land and culture gives us a unique view point and landscape to share and this is evident in the illustrations and stories of our picture books whether it’s directly about Australia or not.

Although people often talk about what the future of the physical book being bleak and if it’ll be taken over by technology and electronic versions, the #picbookbc community feels strongly that the Australian picture book industry is here to stay whilst embracing the advantages of technology. The sharing of a physical picture book creates a tangible connection and experience for users that can’t be replicated with technology. However as highlighted in the chat, technology can be used to share these experiences with those we previously couldn’t. Technology allow us to share and read picture books over video chat or interact with stories through things like Tumble Book Library. It is also changing the diversity of content of our picture books.

The last part of our chat was question time with Damon Young! It’s certainly an interesting and rewarding experience learning about how illustrators and authors meet, why they write and where the ideas for their picture books come from. The inspiration for Damon’s book ‘My Sister is a Superhero‘ came from his desire to share superhero stories with his daughter but found these were few and far between for younger audiences, so he decided to write his own!

This was just a snap up of the chat and the great ideas shared on the theme. I encourage you to check out the rest of the chat particularly the question time with Damon Young as it was impossible to share all the great questions and answers we had! For the full chat check out Storify: https://storify.com/picturebookbc/aussie-picture-books-picbookbc

Our next chat will be Thursday 6th April at 8pm AEST. If you haven’t already read our welcome post on how the chat works so you can join in on the fun next time! Stay tuned for details of our next theme and guest by subscribing to the blog and following us on Twitter at @picturebookbc!

We look forward to seeing you then!

– Ashleigh

twitter @Ashleigh_CM

‘The rich dessert of Australian Picture Books’

I feel like this blog post doesn’t need much of an introduction. All you really need to know is it is written by the exceptional Peter Carnavas. He is the illustrator of the newly released ‘My Brother is a Beast’ , which he created with Damon Young (yes our amazing guest author at our #picbookbc chat /party Thursday night!).

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He has also many picture books to his name and if you haven’t come across any of his beauties….where have you been?! Check them out here…quick sticks! You will thank me.

Thank you Peter for this awesomeness .

We have a ‘Picture book’ party VIP hat with your name on it.

                                 

The Rich Dessert of Australian Picture Books

Peter Carnavas

Great picture books are like great pop songs. Undeniably charming, universally appealing. They can cover the grandest of themes – or the silliest – and they initially take just a few minutes to consume. In these storytelling forms, tales of love and loneliness sit comfortably alongside works that seem to have no meaning at all, but simply exist for the fun of it. Both are (usually) bound by a tight structure that has little to do with the art itself: a pop song fits into three minutes for radio airplay; a picture book must fit into thirty-two pages because that’s good for printing. Nobody seems to complain about it, though. Pop songs worm into our heads, set up camp, and stay there for years. So do the best picture books.

Dive into the picture book section of any library or bookshop and you’ll be embraced by the imaginings of the warmest, most caring storytellers. As you flick through the pages and lose yourself in that magic picture book quality – the marriage of words and pictures – you know you’re in the hands of people who care deeply about the world. There aren’t many art forms that speak directly to children and grown-ups at the same time, and in such a wonderful way. We all know the importance of sharing picture books for language development, but the greatest benefit is the way in which picture books bring people together – a parent and a child, or a teacher and twenty-five children. They are designed to be shared, but, of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sensible grown-ups poring over picture books for hours, alone (no matter how many strange looks we get).

The best picture books reflect the best parts of ourselves, and the adventures we all travel, big or small. Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood depict the most beautiful relationships with just a few lines and a small sequence of illustrations, whether it’s the friendship between two children or between a dog and a chook. Gus Gordon’s picture books feature slightly eccentric loners trying to find their way in the world, as in Herman and Rosie, the tale of a crocodile and a deer eluding and finally finding each other in New York. Reading Tohby Riddle’s books, such as Great Escape From City Zoo or Milo A Moving Story, is like watching a lovely old film. Leigh Hobbs charms us into caring about the most subversive, anarchic characters, like Old Tom and Mr Chicken. Damon Young’s picture book series celebrates the diversity of families through characters ordinary and absurd, the latest being My Brother is a Beast (all illustrated by me – blatant self promotion complete). And Bob Graham slows everything down and reminds us that we have more in common than we think, and that no matter where we live, the same sun falls on every one of us.

I have only picked out a few delightful crumbs from the rich dessert that is the world of Australian picture books. If you have read this far, you are probably already a hopeless picture book addict. If you aren’t, then find a bookshop, order a coffee (they almost always sell coffee), and jump in. Into the picture books, not the coffee.

#picbookbc chat Questions!

Only 3 days to go until the first Picture Book Book Club chat! Lots of excitement here in the #picbookbc camp!

Here are the questions, to help get you prepared! The questions will be going up on the Monday before every chat, so keep your eyes peeled!

Q1. What are your earliest memories of Australian picture books?

Q2. What is your favourite Australian picture book/author and why?

Q3. In your opinion, what elements compromise a good picture book?

Q4. What do you think sets an Australian picture book apart from other picture books around the world?

Q5. With changing trends and technologies, what do you think the future will hold for the picture book industry in Australia?

You will then have time to ask our special guest, Damon Young some questions.

Join in on the fun at 8pm (AEST) on Thursday the 2nd of March!

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Welcome to the #picbookbc Twitter chat!

We love picture books and we know lots of you do too! When Nicola had an idea to join picture book lovers together in a monthly Twitter chat we knew it was a great idea. Picture books are a lot of fun for kids and adults alike so why wouldn’t we want a place to share our love for picture books and discuss their various benefits and uses?

So how does the Picture Book Book Club work? 

The first Thursday of every month is Picture Book party time! At 8pm (AEST) picture book lovers will gather for a facilitated Twitter chat around a different theme every month that includes a guest author, illustrator or awesome person. The Picture Book Book Club team will lead you through a series of questions designed to explore the theme and discuss the awesomeness of picture books! For those of you who like to be prepared, we will publish the questions on our blog a few days before each chat. We will also feature blog posts from our guests so stay tuned to our blog throughout the month!

How can you join the Picture Book party?

Join our first Picture Book Book Club chat on Thursday 2nd March 8pm AEST. Our theme for the month of March is ‘Aussie’ picture books .

We are super lucky to have the ultra talented Damon Young joining us to discuss picture book awesomeness. His fun new book ‘My Brother is a Beast’ which is illustrated by the very cool Peter Carnavas will hit shelves in late February.

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Tips for Twitter chat newbies!

    1. Check our blog for the questions a few days before each chat.
    2. Follow our Twitter account @picturebookbc. We will be facilitating each chat and posting each question from here.
    3. Follow the guest author for the month (they’ve got lots to share!)
    4. Follow the hashtag #picbookbc to see what everyone is tweeting
    5. Start each tweet with reference to the question you are answering e.g. Q1 is question 1, and A1 is answer 1.example-tweet
    6. Always use the #picbookbc hashtag on your tweets even when replying to a tweet.
    7. Keep an eye out for the next question tweeted by @picturebookbc so you don’t get left behind!
    8. If you missed the chat, don’t worry, we will create a Storify of each chat and post it to our blog.

Don’t let being a chat newbie stop you from following along and joining in, everyone was a beginner once and what better way to learn than with a group of people who love picture books?

We look forward to seeing you there and don’t forget to invite your friends!

Let’s celebrate Picture books!

I am lucky enough to work in a public library and I was asked recently (just as I admiring the awesome collection of picture books I had just borrowed)…’why on earth do you borrow so many picture books when you don’t have children?!’. The short answer…. they’re awesome.

This comment got me thinking….are there more ‘grown ups’ out there who share my enthusiasm for Picture books. .

  • People who appreciate their sheer greatness and agree they can enrich our lives at any age?!
  • Others like myself who will happily and excitedly attend a picture book launch so they can meet a favourite picture book author?!
  • Library staff who use picture books as an important tool and resource in their job?

I must track them down… and make them all members of a very awesome club …..’The Picture Book’ book club.

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I grew up surrounded by books, I was a real book worm from a young age. When I started working in a public library, story time sessions and sharing these wonderful books became a regular part of my job. I am reminded daily that picture books have something important to say and give to all ages. I thought that was worth celebrating.

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Join our first ‘Picture Book’ book club chat on Thursday 2nd March 8pm AEST. Our theme for the month of March is ‘Aussie’ picture books .

We are super lucky to have the ultra talented Damon Young joining us to discuss Picture book awesomeness. His fun new book ‘My Brother is a Beast’ which is illustrated by the very cool Peter Carnavas will hit shelves in late February.

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Keep an eye out for our next blog post for a run down on how the Book club will work and how you can join in and be part of this Picture book party!!

Nicola 🙂

twitter@mybookburrow / @Ms_NicolaMarie