GUEST BLOG: Award-winning author Bob Graham on Writing Books for Children

Award-winning children’s book author Bob Graham gives us a glimpse at his process for writing kids books in this exclusive Kids Month guest blog!

Most days I sit at my desk and draw pictures. I fit words around them. I shuffle little bits of paper around and sticky tape them all together. Sometimes I walk around with that tape still stuck to the elbows of my pullover.

I am rarely conscious that I might be “writing a book for children,” as many of these little jigsaw puzzles of words and pictures are relegated to my bottom drawer. But they may also be used for Spare Parts at some later date in some mysterious process which enables these pieces to come together again and a story to be found hidden there. I try not to question the workings of this, and am just thankful when it happens.

how-the-sun-got-to-coco-s-houseSo rather than “writing a book for children” I am just trying to uncover a story and the people that might inhabit that space, (usually about 32 pages for a picture book.) And if all continues to go well, then a story for children, and for their families or anyone else really is a happy by-product of my efforts over the working year.

So it was with How the Sun got to Coco’s House. I had previously worked for some time on a story of a small girl taking flights of fancy into her imagination, and it being offset against her daily and mundane surroundings. I was not doing it nearly so well as John Burningham, so it went into that bottom drawer. But there was one picture involving a polar bear and her cubs which interested me when I revisited it some years later.

So that is where I started shuffling those bits of paper again. I gave the bears a snowy environment. Then I gave them a winter sun, and I gave the sun a trajectory.

And I was away!

It was all quite exciting to see just where it might lead, as I had potentially the whole world on my drawing board, (well, the Northern hemisphere anyway.) Suddenly I didn’t have enough hours in the day – that is, until the dogs demanded their afternoon walk.

I loved making this book, drawing the pictures and especially writing the text. And now I see the finished, bound copies of it lying on the desk where it started.

Where does the time go?

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Click here for more magic from Bob Graham

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Major Prize Announcements!

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Critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling memoir Wild by Cheryl Strayed had such a significant literary impact that it made its way onto the big screen. Jean-Marc Vallée, famous for Dallas Buyers Club, directed the movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, who both went on to be nominated for an Academy Award. To promote the release of this powerfully moving film on DVD we gave 20 Booktopian’s the chance to win a copy. All you had to do to enter was order the film tie-in edition by June 30th.

…and the winners are:

K.Rankin, Seville, VIC,  B.O’Leary, Lake Illawarra, NSW, M.Edgar, Wollongong, NSW, B.Boehner, Marsden Park, NSW, L.Furney, Coniston, NSW, Z.Morrell, Petersham, NSW, E.Lockwood, Sellicks Beach, SA, J.Deane, Asquith, NSW, S.Kania, Newtown, VIC, T.Cemo,    Thornlands, QLD, C.Zhang, Melbourne, VIC, J.Dizdarevic, Ascot Vale, VIC, S.Laird, Tenambit, NSW
R.Torrisi, Stanthorpe, QLDU, D. Bates, Cordeaux Heights, NSW, K.Flanagan, Blackmans Bay, TAS, C.Okeefe, Corio, VIC, J.Craghill, Craigieburn, VIC, L.Guan, Sydney, NSW, R.Snape, Bunbury, WA

wildWild

A Journey from Lost to Found

by Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s rapid death from cancer, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America – from the Mojave Desert, through California and Oregon, and into Washington state – and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line on a map. But it held a promise – a promise of piecing together a life that lay in ruins at her feet.

Grab a copy of Wild here


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Because our little pink piggy friend is still number 1# rated kids show on ABC 2 I-View we thought we might give fans out there the chance to win a pack dedicated to the awesome Pig herself. All you had to do to enter was order any title from our Penguin Peppa Pig series by June 30th.

…and the winner is:

J.Annetts, Wahroonga, NSW

Check out the entire Penguin Peppa Pig series here


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After the runaway success of the film adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars another of his novels, Paper Towns, is about the hit the big screen. To celebrate this, we gave 2 Booktopian’s the chance to attend the Australian Premiere! All you had to do to enter was order our Paper Towns: Film Tie-in Edition by June 28th.

Are you feeling lucky, punk? Drumroll please…

I.Abbott, Woodford, NSW
M.Abrahams, Oakville, NSW

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Film Tie-in Edition

John Green

The stunning film tie-in edition of Paper Towns, from the award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars.

Quentin Jacobsen – Q to his friends – is eighteen and has always loved the edgy Margo Roth Spiegelman. As children, they’d discovered a dead body together. Now at high school, Q’s nerdy while Margo is uber-cool. One night, Q is basking in the predictable boringness of his life when Margo, dressed as a ninja, persuades him to partake in several hours of mayhem. then she vanishes.

While her family more…


Congratulations to the winners!
Missed out on the prize? Hey, turn that frown upside up, we’ve got so much more up for grabs, not to mention limited editions, signed copies and 2 for 1 offers!

Head to our Promotions and Competitions page!

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And the Week 4 winner of our March into Reading with Scholastic competition is….

John Staker, Dungog, NSW
CONGRATULATIONS!

Prize: Scholastic book pack, worth $200!


The prize pack includes:

Marvel The Avengers : Age of Ultron Activity Bag
Marvel The Avengers : Age of Ultron Activity Bag
Friends and Foes : Ready to Read Level 2
Hulk to the Rescue : Ready to Read Level 2
Little Barry Bilby Had a Fly Upon His Nose
We’re Going on an Egg Hunt
Anzac Biscuits
Gallipoli
Me and Moo
Alice in Wonderland
False Note : EJ12 Girl Hero
The Sin Eater’s Daughter
Shoes from Grandpa


Congratulations to the winner!
Not a winner? Don’t worry, we have more prizes to giveaway! You could win an awesome Mother’s Day gift. Check them out here.

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And the Week 3 winner of our March into Reading with Scholastic competition is….

T.Irlam, Blayney, NSW
CONGRATULATIONS!

Prize: Scholastic book pack, worth $200!


Order from our March into Reading with Scholastic collection by March 31st and you’ll not only get 30% off Scholastic’s news releases but go in the weekly draw to win a prize pack, worth $200! We have one more weekly prize pack to be won and will be announcing the winner of Week 4, April 2nd.

The prize pack includes:

Marvel The Avengers : Age of Ultron Activity Bag
Marvel The Avengers : Age of Ultron Activity Bag
Friends and Foes : Ready to Read Level 2
Hulk to the Rescue : Ready to Read Level 2
Little Barry Bilby Had a Fly Upon His Nose
We’re Going on an Egg Hunt
Anzac Biscuits
Gallipoli
Me and Moo
Alice in Wonderland
False Note : EJ12 Girl Hero
The Sin Eater’s Daughter
Shoes from Grandpa

Booktopia_Scholastic_FrontPageRotatingBannerClick here to check out our March into Reading with Scholastic collection

And the Week 2 winner of our March into Reading with Scholastic competition is….

M.Hamilton, Hewett, SA
CONGRATULATIONS!

Prize: Scholastic book pack, worth $200!


Order from our March into Reading with Scholastic collection by March 31st and you’ll not only get 30% off Scholastic’s news releases but go in the weekly draw to win a prize pack, worth $200! We have two more weekly prize packs to be won and will be announcing the winner of Week 3, March 26th.

The prize pack includes:

Marvel The Avengers : Age of Ultron Activity Bag
Marvel The Avengers : Age of Ultron Activity Bag
Friends and Foes : Ready to Read Level 2
Hulk to the Rescue : Ready to Read Level 2
Little Barry Bilby Had a Fly Upon His Nose
We’re Going on an Egg Hunt
Anzac Biscuits
Gallipoli
Me and Moo
Alice in Wonderland
False Note : EJ12 Girl Hero
The Sin Eater’s Daughter
Shoes from Grandpa

Booktopia_Scholastic_FrontPageRotatingBannerClick here to check out our March into Reading with Scholastic collection

And the Week 1 winner of our March into Reading with Scholastic competition is….

C. Philpott, Auburn, NSW
CONGRATULATIONS!

Prize: Scholastic book pack, worth $200!


Order from our March into Reading with Scholastic collection by March 31st and you’ll not only get 30% off Scholastic’s news releases but go in the weekly draw to win a prize pack, worth $200! We have three more weekly prize packs to be won and will be announcing the winner of Week 2, March 19th.

The prize pack includes:

Marvel The Avengers : Age of Ultron Activity Bag
Marvel The Avengers : Age of Ultron Activity Bag
Friends and Foes : Ready to Read Level 2
Hulk to the Rescue : Ready to Read Level 2
Little Barry Bilby Had a Fly Upon His Nose
We’re Going on an Egg Hunt
Anzac Biscuits
Gallipoli
Me and Moo
Alice in Wonderland
False Note : EJ12 Girl Hero
The Sin Eater’s Daughter
Shoes from Grandpa

Booktopia_Scholastic_FrontPageRotatingBannerClick here to check out our March into Reading with Scholastic collection

Frané Lessac, author of A is for Australia, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Frané Lessac

author of A is for Australia

Ten Terrifying Questions
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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in New Jersey and grew up in a small town outside of New York City. From my bedroom window, I could see the famous skyscraper skyline. As a child I spent weekends exploring museums and galleries. I had many pets including snakes, a monkey and a camel.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve, I wanted to be an artist. I explored New York’s Greenwich Village with my snakes entwined around my arm. I loved watching the painters wearing their black berets and the poets reciting verse with the audience snapping their fingers in approval.

At eighteen, I moved to California and lived in a beach house in Malibu while studying Ethnographic Film at UCLA. My aim was to make films about ‘primitive’ tribes before they were swamped by western culture.

At thirty, I was living on a small Caribbean island. I realized I could share stories about people from around the world with words and art. I began painting the lush scenery, flora and fauna, and the colonial architecture of the island. I approached numerous publishers before one accepted my first book – The Little Island

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Illustrator: Frané Lessac

At eighteen I believed in fate and now I believe we can influence our destiny.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Rousseau and Matisse. Gauguin’s island sojourn, Matisse’s intricate patterns, colour and composition and Rousseau’s primitives. Looking back, I feel blessed that I had access to seeing their originals in person:
Gauguin: The Seed of the Areoi
Matisse: The Goldfish
Rousseau: The Gypsy

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to visual artists, why did you choose to illustrate books?

I continue to create large-scale oil paintings based on my travels for exhibitions, but when I realised I could share stories about people from around the world with art, I was inspired to write and illustrate books for children.

6. Please tell us about your latest published work…

When I came to Australia over twenty-five years ago, I fell instantly in love with the country and way of life. I found the Australian light and landscape a brand-new challenge. What inspired me most was the freshness of the scenery, the unusual flora and fauna and colour – the red ochre of the earth and the uniquely blue sky. The love of our country is what ultimately drove me to create A is fore Australia – A fantastic tour.

Grab a copy of Frané’s new novel A is for Australia here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after viewing your work?

A is for Australia is a celebration of Australian places and culture. I hope people can explore and discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world. Perhaps become intrigued to visit some of the places in the book.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of art and why?

Children and their art as a whole, they just do it! They’re brave and they don’t doubt their talent.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

My main ambition is to inspire people to paint, read, think and dream.

10. What advice do you give aspiring illustrators?

First of all build up a portfolio showing a diversity of style and subject matter. Include animals, children, and anything else you love to draw.  Send out sample postcards and A4 tear sheets to publishers, editors and art directors. Update the images and resend at least once or twice a year. Research what’s appropriate for their publishing lists. Join organizations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It’s the best way to keep your finger on the children’s book publishing pulse.

Frané, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of A is for Australia


A is for Australia

by Frané Lessac

A factastic tour of Australia from A to Z with award-wining author and illustrator Frane Lessac.

What is the Fremantle Doctor? Where is Qui Qui? And why are some islands named after days of the week? You’ll uncover these exciting facts when you explore the A to Z of Australia – from Bondi to Kakadu and all the way to Taronga Zoo. Discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world!

About the Author

Frané Lessac is an author and illustrator of international renown, having over forty children’s books published throughout the world. She was born in the USA and lived on the Caribbean island of Montserrat and London before moving to Australia. Frane has contributed her distinctive paintings to many critically acclaimed children’s picture books, including My Little Island, a Reading Rainbow feature book. Also, On the Same Day in March was named a Top Ten Science Books by ALA Booklist.

 Grab a copy of A is for Australia

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