DECEMBER GUEST BLOG – LILI WILKINSON

Lili Wilkinson is our lovely December guest and we are very lucky to get to watch as she enters the world of writing picture books for the first time. Lili wrote us this beautiful post about her experiences writing her first picture book, That Christmas Feeling, and how the opportunity came about!

lili wilkinson 3

Writing a picture book is really, really different to writing a novel. I was
approached to write this book by my editor friend Susannah, who knows how
much I love Christmas. She wanted a sweet, heartwarming Christmas story that
wasn’t religious, and she thought I was the right person to write it.

I am VERY into Christmas. It starts in November when I make the Christmas
puddings with my mum and my son Banjo. The tree goes up on December 1
(never before), and Christmas is on. I have a massive playlist of Christmas music
that I love listening to, and one of my favourite nights is when we visit a family
friend’s house for a carol-singing party. Christmas Day itself is lovely, but really
it’s all about the lead-up to me – the Advent calendar, seeing wreaths on people’s
front doors, driving home and seeing twinkling lights. It’s the fizzy, exciting
feeling that Dottie talks about in the book.

LILI christmas tree
So I knew I wanted my Christmas book to be about family, because for me family
is a big part of Christmas. While I’m not religious, I’ve always been fond of the
Christmas story (with the baby Jesus and the manger and the wise men). For me,
the story is more moving if the religious element is removed – even though the
baby is born in such a humble place, to unimportant parents, he is still visited by
kings, because all new life is special and worthy of being celebrated.

that christmas feeling
So the story came out of those thoughts. It went through quite a few edits, and I
found this process really fascinating. Making big editorial changes to a novel is
like trying to turn around a massive cruise ship – you can’t really see what you’re
doing and it’s going to take a lot of time to do it right and make sure the whole
thing doesn’t sink. It’s incredibly difficult to keep it all in your head, and to figure
out how each little change affects the rest of the story. But with a picture book,
you can really see the whole thing at once. Wonder what it would be like in
present instead of past tense? Give me ten minutes and I’ll rewrite it. We were
making significant changes to the text the day before it went to print. That part of
it felt very dynamic and exciting.

lili illustrations
But of course the best thing about the process was seeing the story come to life
through Amanda Francey’s stunning illustrations. It’s an amazing thing seeing
them all for the first time – just like the fizzy, exciting Christmas feeling!
And the thing I didn’t quite realise when I started, is that you get to share the
creative load – I don’t have to tell the whole story by myself!
I’ve definitely caught the picture book bug – this won’t be the last one you see
from me!

– Lili Wilkinson

 

You can find out more about Lili Wilkinson and the books she’s written on her website or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.  Don’t forget to also join Lili and the @PictureBookbc team this Thursday 7th December at 8pm AEST for our December Twitter Chat!

‘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.

Florettecover

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!

‘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!).

damonyoung

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.

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.

picturebook-book-club

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.

enid

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.

damonyoung

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