Guest Blog – Jessica Walton

Many people would agree that kids need to see themselves reflected in the books they read. Many would also agree that kids need to see the diversity of the world reflected in the books they read. Unfortunately, parents sometimes only think to act on the first of these statements; they seek out picture books that will reflect their own child’s life and experience and family. It’s only natural. I certainly sought out books for my kids that had two mums in them, just like they do. I looked for books with disabled characters because they have a disabled mum. I wrote a book with a transgender character because they have a transgender grandmother.

I’ve already observed the effect on my son and his peers, seeing no families like ours on TV or in books; my son asks why none of the kids on telly have two mummies like him, and he recently came home from childcare asking why some of the other children were insisting he had a mummy and a daddy.

So yes, making sure they see themselves and their family was my first concern, but it wasn’t my only one. For one thing, there are aspects of our childrens’ identities that we may not be aware of until they’re a bit older. I became disabled aged nine, and I had seen no positive depictions – no depictions at all – of disability in the books I’d read. I think it would have helped me to know that disabled people exist, that a disability is nothing to be ashamed or worried about, and that in fact it is an identity that a lot of people feel very proud of, and happy with.

My parents didn’t know I was bisexual when I was little, and my dad’s parents didn’t know she was trans. So reading books with LGBTI people, showing that they exist and are living happy lives as part of families and communities? That would have been helpful to both of us, as children. And to the parents reading to us too, perhaps.

Children shouldn’t only get that information in the form of an “issues book” when parents first become aware, or miss out entirely on seeing themselves in books until they’re adults. It should be woven into the stories they’re surrounded by as they grow up.

And most importantly perhaps, reading diverse picture books to all children, no matter who they are or may turn out to be, helps those children to live more happily and peacefully in diverse communities, and in a diverse world. It’s as simple as that. A lot of bigotry and bullying comes from a lack of understanding, and picture books are a great way to increase understanding. The ideas and values in the books we read as children stay with us throughout our lives. They become a part of us, and some books even become precious gifts that we pass on to our own children.

It gives me great joy to think that maybe my children, or other children out there reading diverse picture books, will feel a little less isolated and confused because the right books existed, and were placed in their hands as children. It gives me even more joy to think of those books being passed on to future generations.

Picture books are a way to introduce a love of reading, a way to improve literacy during childhood, and a way to entertain and bond with our children. They are also stories about the world, and by leaving things out of those stories, we send our children messages about what is and isn’t acceptable in our eyes. If we want our children to know that we are openminded, accepting people and that we want them to be too, thinking about the stories we choose to tell them matters. It really does.

I can’t wait to publish a story about a happy little girl with one leg, and read it to my kids. I’ll be writing it for them, and for a scared child who was about to have her leg amputated twenty-three years ago. I wish I could send it back in time.

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OCTOBER #PICBOOKBC QUESTIONS

Rejoice fellow picture book lovers! It is only 2 sleeps until our awesome October chat! This month we are celebrating ‘Disability and Diversity’ in picture books with the wonderful Jessica Whalton.

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Jessica is the author of the groundbreaking picture book ‘Introducing Teddy’. The inspiration for this book began when she started searching for books that she could read to her young son that reflected the diversity in her family. She wanted books that encouraged children to be themselves, and to be accepting of others.

In Jessica’s picture book week meet the very loveable Teddy. This bear knows in her heart that she is a girl , not a boy……but will her friends understand? Will they call her Tilly instead of Thomas? A beautiful book about being yourself and being a good friend.

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Jess is also a cancer survivor, amputee, queer, daughter of a trans parent, feminist and teacher. As well as picture books, Jess writes about disability, LGBTI issues, and the intersections between her disabled and queer experiences. She has also just been announced as a Write-ability fellowship winner!! Congratulations Jess! You can read more about Jess and her work on her website.

Here are the chat questions for Thursday night…so get your thinking caps on!!!

Q1. Share your favourite picture book that features disability or diversity (Show a pic!)

Q2. Why do you think it’s important that we have diverse children’s books?

Q3. How can we ensure that those who need to see themselves represented in books can find them in our collections?

Q.4 If you were writing a diverse picture book, describe your main character.

There will also be plenty of time at the end to ask the super talented Jessica Whalton your questions !

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday night at 8pm for another #Picbookbc Twitter chat!

If you haven’t joined one of our chats before and wondering how it works head on over to our Welcome to the #picbookbc Twitter chat post!

Also don’t forget Aussies, we are now on daylight savings time! Here is a reminder for the chat times around the country!

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Nicola 🙂

September wrap up!

 

Last Thursday we packed the bucket and spade…put on our floppy hat and sunscreen..grabbed our beach bag with our favourite ‘beach’ themed picture books…. collected Kylie Howarth on the way….and had a grand ol party #picbookbc style.

We quickly discovered that ‘beach’ themed picture books are super popular.These books often remind us of holidays, families, swimming, relaxation, fun, adventure….and magic.
These are some of our favourites that we put in our beach bags…

 

What makes an ‘Aussie’ picture book unique? What distinctive characteristics set them apart from ones set in other countries? We agreed that picture books about beaches and sea creatures are so universal, have no race, so are relatable to many cultures.

However we have noticed that Aussie books have an element of sun safety. They often reflect our culture of swimming , family holidays, surf living saving,  and being safe in the water. These are often not present in ‘beach’ themed picture books by authors in other countries. The ‘term’ seaside is a very good way to spot at ‘beach’ book from the UK! 🙂

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We also discovered that to ‘teach’ about the Australian ‘beach’ life we would choose books with elements of sun/water safety, seagulls, rock pooling , sea creatures and summer family holidays.

 

After having great discussions about the themes that run through ‘beach’ themed books , we were able to ask Kylie questions about her work….and the one we all wanted the answer for….will there be another book with adventures of our favourite seagull ‘Chip’?!

We also discovered her inspirations around her writing and a sneak peak of her next project!

We had such a great time chatting at our  beach party. Thank you to everyone who joined us and our special guest Kylie Howarth!

To check out the whole chat head over to storify-

Our next chat will be Thursday 5th October  at 8pm AEST. 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!

Party with us and help us celebrate the awesomeness of Picture Books 🙂

– Nicola 🙂

SEPTEMBER #PICBOOKBC QUESTIONS

 

It’s only 3 sleeps until we are off to the beach for our Spetember #picbookbc chat! We are very lucky to have Kylie Howarth as our special guest this month!

She has published 3 amazing ocean themed picture books: Fish Jam, Chip and 1, 2 Pirate Stew. Many of you will have come across the amazing cheeky seagull ‘Chip’ as Kylie’s beautiful book was shortlisted for a CBCA 2017 book award..

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Kylie Howarth is an author and illustrator from Perth. She is an animal lover and was raised in the country. She shared her childhood with a dog, sheep, several orphaned kangaroos and one very cheeky echidna!

Have a close look at her illustrations as the  textures are created during her backyard art sessions with her two young sons!

Here are the chat questions for Thursday night…so get your thinking caps on!!!…or should that be swimming cap 😉

Q1. Which beach themed picture book would you put in your beach bag?! (Share a photo)

Q2. Do beach stories differ depending on the country? What makes an Aussie beach story?

Q3. Which picture books would you recommend for teaching about beach life?

Q.4 What similar themes have you noticed in ‘beach’ picture books?

There will also be plenty of time at the end to ask the super amazing Kylie Howarth your questions !

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday night at 8pm for another #Picbookbc Twitter chat! Grab your beach chair, floppy hat and don’t forget to Slip Slop Slap! 😉

If you haven’t joined one of our chats before and wondering how it works head on over to our Welcome to the #picbookbc Twitter chat post!

Nicola 🙂

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AUGUST #PICBOOKBC CHAT QUESTIONS

It’s time to get excited because it’s almost time for the August #picbookbc chat party! This month it’s all about Picture Books that celebrate Friendships and what a perfect match our guest author Gus Gordon is!

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We are chatting about Picture Books that Celebrate Friendship with Guest Gus Gordon on Thursday 3rd August at 8pm!

Gus Gordon is both author and illustrator of some of our favourite picture books including his newest book Somewhere Else which follows George a rather unconventional bird who doesn’t go anywhere but with help from his friends that all might change! If you want to know what happens though you’ll just have to grab a friend and read it to find out what George gets up to and what adventures he goes on (or doesn’t!).

Gus Gordon is also author/illustrator of Herman and Rosie, which is one of my personal favourite  picture books at the moment as it combines a beautiful story of friendship, music and illustration to tell a story of how even in a big city you can find friends who sing your song and help you to share your passion with the world.

 

Now here are the chat questions to help you get ready!

Q1.What’s your favourite picture book/s that celebrate friendship? (Share a photo!)

Q2. What is unique about the way picture books communicate different types of friendships?

Q3. Do you think friendship picture books help encourage diversity positively? Why?

Q4. If you could choose a picture book character to be you BFF who would it be and why?

There will also be plenty of time at the end to ask Gus Gordon questions so come prepared!

 

If you haven’t joined one of our chats before and wondering how it works head on over to our Welcome to the #picbookbc Twitter chat post!

 

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday night at 8pm for another #Picbookbc Twitter chat!

-Ashleigh

 

JULY #PICBOOKBC CHAT QUESTIONS!

Not long now until our July #picbookbc chat party! This month we are celebrating NAIDOC week with the theme ‘Indigenous Picture Books’ and are honoured to have Dub Leffler as our special guest!

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We are celebrating by chatting Indigenous Picture Books Thursday 6th July at 8pm!

Dub Leffler is an Indigenous author/illustrator descended from the Bigambul and Mandandanji people of south-west Queensland. His first Picture Book Once There was a Boy “is a poignant, universal story of friendship, temptation and reconciliation.” He is also the Illustrator for a number of other picture books including Frog Finds a Place. If you haven’t read them yet, be sure to check them out!

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Here are the chat questions, to help get you prepared!

Q1.What is one of your favourite Indigenous picture books? (Share a photo!)

Q2.How can we better promote Indigenous picture books and their importance?

Q3.Share with us an illustration from a favourite Indigenous Picture Book. What is the context of the story?

Q4.How can we use storytime/picture books to partner with Indigenous communities?

There will also be ample time at the end to ask Dub Leffler questions so come prepared!

 

If you haven’t joined one of our chats before and wondering how it works head on over to our Welcome to the #picbookbc Twitter chat post!

 

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday night at 8pm for another #Picbookbc Twitter chat!

-Ashleigh

 

 

 

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 .

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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.

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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)

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      ‘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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JUNE #PICBOOKBC CHAT QUESTIONS!

The countdown is on until our June #picbookbc chat party! This month we are celebrating ‘Animals in Picture Books’ and are very lucky to have Katherine Battersby as our special guest.

animals in picture books

Katherine is the critically acclaimed author and illustrator of picture books published around the world, including Little Wing and the Squish Rabbit series. Her books have  been shortlisted for numerous awards. She also has a gorgeous new series of picture books being publishing in June with Shelly Unwin. The ‘You’re Five’ series are ‘sweet rhyming picture books that celebrate early childhood in all of its wonder and curiosity.’ She lives in Ottawa (Canada) with her super cute puppy Frank, her husband and many imaginary rabbits . Lucky for us Aussies she does frequently visit Australia to visit festivals/schools and libraries.

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Here are the chat questions, to help get you prepared!

Q1.Who are some of your favourite animal characters in picture books and why? (share a photo!)

Q2.Why do you thinks animals populate so many picture books?

Q3.What are the advantages of using animals with human characteristics in picture books?

Q4.You are writing a picture book! What animal/s would you choose for the star of your story and why?

You will then have time to ask our guest Katherine Battersby questions! So put your thinking cap on!

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

We are also running a competition this month!!! (yippppiiieee!) All you have to do to be a winner is join in with this months chat! The winner will receive a copy of Katherine Battersby’s gorgeous book ‘Little Wing’ and a limited edition ‘Picture book’ book club tote bag! Just when you thought the prize couldn’t get any more amazing….Katherine is going to put a personalised message in the book just for you! (yes total awesomeness!) . This comp is open to worldwide participants.

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Kath Batt and your amazing prize! ‘Little Wing’ 🙂

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Personalisation of ‘Little Wing’ from Kath Batt!

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Amazeballs #picbookbc tote!

See you on Thursday evening over on our @picbookbc twitter account at 8pm! Will you be partying/tweeting on the roof and eating cake like our friend the Hippopotamus?!

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See you in the twittersphere party people!!! #picbookbc

MAY #PICBOOKBC CHAT QUESTIONS!

In just a few days we will be having another #picbookbc chat party! This month we are celebrating National Simultaneous Storytime and are super lucky to have the author of this years book joining us. The Cow Tripped Over the Moon is the delightful picture book written by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Laura Wood that will be celebrated across the country on 24th May 2017 for NSS2017!

Here are the chat questions, to help get you prepared!

Q1. What are some advantages of being involved and participating in #NSS2017?

Q2. What are some ways you can use this years book to create a fun and vibrant storytime?

Q3. What book would you choose for #NSS2017? What are some reasons for this choice?

Q4. Is your local community participating in #NSS2017? How are they celebrating?

And we’ll wrap it all up with question time with Tony Wilson, 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 4 of May!

Hope to see you there!

‘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 ~