Last year on the katswhiskers blog, we got a bit catty, with Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie, for the launch of their picture book, A Year With Marmalade. (You can click back and read it here; CattyPost.) Today I welcome Alison and Heath back to the blog, with The Littlest Bushranger – the brave and imaginative main character in their newest picture book collaboration. And … we have a MONSTER competition for YOU!
I also welcome the Busy Bees - a class of Year 1/2 students who enjoyed a sneak-peek at The Littlest Bushranger. They had these fantastic questions (and observations) for Alison and Heath.
Thank you Busy Bees. Fantastic questions!
Alison, we loved your descriptive language. It made it more interesting and made the story stand out in our minds. You have very clever alliteration.
Why did you choose a bushranger as your main character, rather than a pirate, or a cowboy?
The publisher, The Five Mile Press, wanted a picture book about bushrangers and asked me to write one. I really liked writing about a bushranger as they are very Australian.
Aah. *sighs wistfully* What a beautiful position to be in, Alison. They obviously recognise you for the talented writer that you are! And you’ve woven it into a wonderfully entertaining story that will delight kids the world over.
Did you have the idea of the hose for the slithery snake, and the crow for the villain, or were they Heath’s idea?
When I was little I used to pretend the hose was a snake, or a river or lots of different things. Before I wrote the book I watched a bird hopping near our little dog and thought “What if” and in my imagination the bird turned into a villain. It was interesting to see Heath’s illustrations. He used his imagination to come up with his own ideas, and created illustrations that I love!
Did you know that the illustrations would show that Jack was in his back yard – and that the adventure was in his imagination?
I set the story in Jack’s back yard as I used to spend a lot of time in my back yard when I was Jack’s age. I also really like thinking that a day can turn into an extraordinary day with lots of adventure.
By using his imagination, Heath turned the rescue of Lil’s telescope into a wild, rollicking adventure!
He thought of lots of clever things! I love seeing what he transformed into what.
I did too! But each time I read the book I discover new things. I love that!
Did you talk with Heath to plan the story before you wrote it – or did you write the story and then Heath had is own ideas for the illustrations?
I didn’t talk to Heath before I wrote the story. I wrote the story and suggested illustrations. But on the spread where you first see the outlaw I wrote, “Heath, go wild”. I trusted him to come up with an amazing creation, which he did. For the spread that shows the fight, I wrote “fight sequence” and couldn’t wait to see what Heath did.
What is your favourite page spread – and why?
I love the whole book, but if I had to choose I think the spread of Jack galloping after the villain and the last page with the bike leaning against the fence.
My children like the spread with the bunyip best.
Heath, we think you’re a talented illustrator. We thought it was very clever that the dog bowl became the villainous crow’s eye. And we noticed that the bike got hungry at the end of the story!
Where did the idea for the pencil squiggles (we even called them ‘scribbles’) come from?
They are scribbles! They came from the roughs I did. They gave a good sense of looseness and motion to the roughs so wanted to keep that feeling in the final art – hence the scribbles featuring!
I love reading this Q&A, because you definitely achieved that, with your scribbles.
Why did you choose such a mean colour and shape for the horse’s eyes – especially on the cover photo? Weren’t you worried little children might be scared?
I guess I wasn’t going for ‘mean’ in the eyes and more ‘serious and determined’! This is a horse of action, charging into battle, afterall!
I chose the eye colour because that’s what colour horses’ eyes are!
Why isn’t there a streamer on the bike, like a horse’s tail?
I guess just because I’ve never seen a bike with a streamer at the back like a tail! We didn’t want to give away that the back was imagined into a horse later in the story so kept things as subtle as possible.
When the crow was perched on the tower, was it on the clothesline? Or the yellow umbrella? We just aren’t sure!
The clothesline! As the umbrella was the sun.
It looks like the clothesline, in a sinister, imaginative way, and it makes a fantastic tower. Clever!
Were the bunyips based on toys in the pool… or frogs?
As the horse gallops through the wading pool toward the very end of the story, you’ll see on the ground a flowerpot with some tennis balls sitting on it and a few weeds growing out through some cracks…
What is your favourite page spread – and why?
The billabong one! I like the action and the bunyips!
Charlotte, Sydney, Hayden and Ethan shared these ‘favourite things’ about The Littlest Bushranger.
Charlotte: I like how Alison has used big words because it makes the text stand out a bit more.
One of the best things is how Jack uses his imagination – how he was pretending his bike was his horse. I want to ask, why did Heath use the horse’s shadow on the bike – and feed the bike hay?
It’s really just some grass that got caught in the front of the bike as Jack wildly chased the outlaw round the backyard.
Or is it?
Is it, indeed. I for one am not convinced it isn’t hay…
Sydney: I like the picture when Lil said, ‘You’re too little to go to school.’ I like that she is looking after him nicely.
Hayden: I like when they hurdled the slithery tiger snake. I like snakes – and it looks scary.
Ethan: I like the words because they were telling us where he was going. They were interesting words. The pictures matched up with the words and helped us imagine new things.
Thank-you to the Busy Bees for the awesome help. You are obviously great little readers, and it was wonderful to read your observations, and learn from your questions. Also a huge thank-you to Alison and Heath for dropping by my blog again. Always a pleasure to have you both!
There are a couple of monsters in The Littlest Bushranger. One’s a bunyip, and the other an outlaw/monster who steals Lil’s telescope.
What sort of monster do you like? Send along a painting/drawing/model of a monster and you could win a piece of Heath McKenzie’s amazing artwork for The Littlest Bushranger.
Upload your own best monster to https://www.facebook.com/alison.reynolds.524 or email it as a low res jpeg file to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll upload it. If you don’t have a scanner, take a photo on a smart phone and email that!
Two categories. Under 12 and 12 plus including grown-ups. Entries close 25th June!
Saddle up for The Littlest Bushranger blog tour.
June 11 Kat Apel http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/blog/
June 12 Chris Bell http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com/
June 13 Angela Sunde http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au/
June 14 Boomerang Books Blog http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell
June 17 Ask the Sales Rep. Interview with Melinda Beaumont www.alisonreynolds.com.au
June 18 Dee White http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/
June 19 Kids Book Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com/
June 20 Ask the Editor. Interview with Melissa Keil. www.alisonreynolds.com.au
June 21 Heath & Alison interviewed by Juliet Chan, Marketing & Publicity Executive. www.fivemilepress.com.au
Watch out for PRIZES including; a piece of Heath McKenzie’s artwork from The Littlest Bushranger, a picture book assessment by Alison Reynolds, 2 free passes direct to an editor’s desk (you get to skip the slush pile), and copies of The Littlest Bushranger.