MEET THE AUTHOR
Peter Carnavas is an award-winning author-illustrator. You might have read some of his many picture books, such as The Children Who Loved Books, Last Tree in the City and A Quiet Girl. His novel The Elephant won a Queensland Literary Award and was shortlisted in four other national awards. Peter lives on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, with his wife, two daughters, a dog and a cat. Today we’re thrilled to have Peter Carnavas visiting to talk about his latest children’s novel, My Brother Ben.
From the publisher:
Luke and his big brother Ben spend the summer on the banks of Cabbage Tree Creek. Quiet Luke sketches birds, while Ben leaps off the Jumping Tree. The boys couldn’t be more different but they share the same dream: winning a boat so they can explore the creek properly. Then Ben starts high school and the boys drift apart. When Luke catches Ben sneaking out at night, he knows his brother’s up to something, but what?
When you were growing up did you have a big brother or sister?
I have two big brothers and one big sister. One of my brothers is just a few years older than me so we grew up doing everything together: playing backyard cricket and soccer, playing computer games and drawing silly pictures of each other.
In the book, Luke chooses soul birds for himself and considers soul birds for his various family members too. Which bird would you say was your soul bird?
I tend to do things slowly so I think I’d be a slow-moving water bird, like a white-faced heron. I’m not a very good swimmer so it suits me that these herons only go ankle-deep into the water.
How long did it take you to write My Brother Ben – from the start of the first draft to the final draft?
It probably took me about year from start to finish. Every time I thought I’d finished it, my editors pointed out ways to make the story even better, so I did many drafts. That’s the great thing about editors – it’s similar to the way teachers show you how to improve your stories. The illustrations didn’t take too long – probably only a few days to draw all the birds – because they are black and white pen drawings, and I didn’t have to paint them.
Do you have a tip for kids who might be interested in watching birds?
The main character, Luke, has an aunt who teaches him all about birdwatching. She tells him to keep still and let the birds come to him, and this is something I’ve discovered when birdwatching myself. I’ve found that if you walk through a bush track or a forest, you probably won’t see many birds straight away. But if you slow down and keep quiet for a while, you’ll notice small movements and sounds, and then you’ll notice more birds. Also, when you keep still, birds will be less afraid. Another tip is to start by looking for water birds in lagoons or ponds, as these birds keep quite still themselves, so they’re easier to watch and identify.
Could you nominate a children’s book you’ve recently read that you would recommend?
I have loved reading Sara Pennypacker’s books this year, particularly Pax and Here in the Real World. Pax is a wonderful story about a boy trying to reunite with the fox he once raised – great for upper primary students.
My Brother Ben is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookstore or local library.
Download the Teachers’ Notes for My Brother Ben