There are no words in this picture book — the pictures tell the story. There’s a big sister and a little sister and they have a red wheelbarrow to sit in and eat lollies. One has a blanket and one has pigtails. They love each other but there is some fighting because the little sister wants another lolly but the big sister won’t give her another one. There are some chickens watching nearby.
I’d love to have a wheelbarrow I could play in — I could put a pillow in it and drag it into my room and sleep in it. It would be so relaxing to have a bed on wheels.
There’s a photo at the end of the book which shows you that the book is really about when Briony and her sister used to sit in a wheelbarrow when they were kids.
I think little sisters and big sisters will like this book. (It teaches them not to be selfish to the little sister, or not to have a tantrum if the big sister is being selfish.)
The Red Wheelbarrow would be good for 3 to 7 year olds.
Yesterday was Family Day at the Perth Writers Festival and we had a brilliant time wandering about the grounds of UWA listening to free talks and bumping into authors and illustrators of our favourite books.
Here’s a photo of other people who were also wandering about enjoying the literary goodness of the day. ———————————————————————->
We started the day in the tropical grove listening to Cristy Burne talking about school camping trips and Japanese horror stories (it turns out there’s not much difference). James Roywas giving out some good writing tips to keen young writers in his audience. Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac had their audience roaring with laughter, stamping feet … and throwing plastic fruit … as they performed the story of The Greatest Liar on Earth—their new picture book. There were also baby animals to help launch Karen Blair‘s book Baby Animal Farm (and cupcakes, too). And heaps of other author and illustrators talks which we didn’t get to because we were so interested in each session we kept forgetting to duck out halfway through to check out the others that were running at the same time. (OOPS—did you go to any others? Let us know what you thought in the comments!)
Here’s a photo of Briony Stewart, author of the Kumiko and the Dragon series.
(She looks like she’s singing opera in this shot, but actually she’s talking about the bravery of the characters in her story.)
And a shot of author and comedian Oliver Phommavanh signing a copy of Thai-riffic! for us.
And we just had to take a photo of this art installation by Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa. It is called Breathing Flower and it was floating on the reflection pond at Whitfield Court. It’s HUGE and amazing to look at. And it’s there for the Festival of Perth (not just the Writers Festival) but we reckon it makes a good writing prompt for a story or poem …
If you’re in Perth, did you go to Family Day this year? Who were your favourite speakers? (Was there anyone else you wish was a speaker?)
In every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine we interview an author or illustrator. The trouble is, we can only fit some of their answers in the magazine. So we print the full interviews on the blog—we wouldn’t want you to miss out!
In issue 12 we talked to Briony Stewart, author & illustrator of Kumiko and the Dragon, Kumiko and the Dragon’s Secret, and Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers.
Where do you live?
In a house! But I wish it were a tree house.
What do you love about being a writer-illustrator?
I’ve always enjoyed being “away with the fairies,” (as my mum used to call it,) I love daydreaming! Imagining things, solving problems and inventing are some of my favourite things to do. When the things I dream up make other people happy, make them laugh or have a good think, then it makes me happy too.
Was it easy to get your first book published?
Hmm … a tricky question … Can I say yes and no?
Yes, because I was lucky enough to have a book editor ask to publish my first book before I had even started to try to find someone to publish it! That doesn’t happen very often—even J.K Rowling was rejected a few times to start out with …
But I’ll also say no, because the truth is, even though I ended up in the right place at the right time, I had done a ton of work to get there in the first place. I studied fine art and writing at university, and I wrote and drew every day from the age of fifteen because I decided I wanted to publish a book one day.
I used to say I got lucky, but then someone said “you make your own luck,” and I think that’s kind of true too.
What do you like to do when you are not writing or illustrating?
I love movies, especially but perhaps not surprisingly, kids movies, sci-fi and adventure films. I also like making things—anything. Right now I am trying to make a hexagrammic antiprism lampshade out of cardboard for the kitchen. I also like long chats over a cup of tea, cycling (lazy cycling that involves scenery, short distances, and ice cream), pottering about in my kitchen cooking with music turned up loud enough to sing along to, or sitting on the back steps patting my rabbit Winston, whilst quietly observing the garden.
What made you become a writer-illustrator?
These three things:
1. Other people’s books and stories. I wanted to live in their worlds forever, so I started extending and exploring their stories in my head. For instance, I would take myself on walks through Misselthwaite Manor as though I was Mary from The Secret Garden. Soon I started coming up with my own stories and worlds too.
2. When I was 15 I started catching the train to school. It took half an hour and it was boring, so I started writing journals (and dreaming) to pass the time.
3. My English teacher started reading my journals, then the English department, then my friends. I liked having readers to write for. My teacher told me I should publish a book, which was great because I secretly wanted to anyway. Having people who believed in me helped me decide to do it.
Where do you get your ideas?
Mostly I come up with ideas from things I see or hear or feel in everyday life. Sometimes they morph with some of the daydreams that have been floating around my head for a while, and mutate into a story. I have always been inspired by old stories, myths and folktales too, I’m not sure why. Anything that sounds mysterious and possibly real gets me pretty excited.
Do you have any advice for young writers and artists?
Keep practising, and trying new things all the time. Art and writing is something that for the most part, you have to teach yourself because unlike a lot of other subjects it’s individual. Collect authors and artists that you really like, and study the things you like most about their work. Keep making your own stuff and stick at it. If it really means a lot to you, there’s no way you won’t get really good at it.
Are you working on a book at the moment?
Well, I have just finished my last Kumiko and the Dragon book, and have just begun a new novel for teenagers. It’s about growing up, and graffiti. There’s another novel I am working on too, its for upper primary school students and it is to do with time travel. I think it’s going to be awesome … so awesome that I can’t say any more!
Are there any writers/illustrators who influence your writing/artwork?
Shaun Tan showed me that illustration and art are the same thing, and I admire that. I love fine art illustrators, like CM Barker, Mucha, Searl, Rackham and Dulac. I like the animated work of Miyazaki and the written work of Tim Winton and poet Robert Frost. But songs and scientific drawings—even beautiful packaging—influence me! I find something to love in the work of most authors and illustrators.
When you were working on the Kumiko books, which came first—the artwork or the story text?
Kumiko definitely started out as a story that I wrote down, but for me images and writing are closely linked. I see the events of a story vividly as I write—almost like watching a movie. I would have loved to have painted all the scenes from Kumiko and the Dragon but the story was too long to be a picture book. Because I knew there would only be 20 black and white pictures, I actually turned many of the images into description instead! So the story is more vivid because I absorbed a lot of what would have made great pictures into the writing. Also, as I am writing I often draw the scenes and characters as references while I’m writing. So the text and art in this book really grew together at the same time, though the text was completed before the final illustrations were done.
What materials do you prefer to use in your artwork?
I am more of a drawer, so pen and pencil are my main tools. But I like using gouache and watercolour paints too, and have started using them more.
Does the story influence your choice of materials?
Of course! Kumiko and the Dragon had to be black and white, but I chose the style and materials because they reminded me a bit of traditional Japanese wood block prints, and Manga, which are both inherently Japanese. But I would equally use soft, watercolour washes for a gentle story, or bright bold, gouache for an action packed adventure!
Do you mostly write in a paper journal, or on a computer?
Time wise I mostly work on the computer, but paper journals are special. I like making covers for new journals, and collecting them. They remind me that I am working towards a book, not a blog or email. They also keep better records of all my more random thoughts (from the doodles in the margins to the shopping list in the top corner). I use my journal for all the real creative work, and only use the computer to pull all the little pieces together, to begin the long process of editing.
For more information about Briony and her books, check out her website.
Here are two book launches coming up in June and July!
1. JUNE 2011 BOOK LAUNCH for picture book, The Last Viking
written by Norman Jorgensen, illustrated by James Foley
When: Friday 24 June 2011, 6:30pm Where: Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre (Old Freo Prison hospital), cnr Hampton and Knutsford Rd, Fremantle WA RSVP for numbers to Fremantle Press: (08) 9430 6331 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Young Josh is very brave. He’s not afraid of anyone or anything—except maybe the dark. Pirates worry him a bit, of course, and so do boy-eating dinosaurs, and monsters under the bed. He’s also just a little afraid of dragons and vampires. But other than those few things, Josh is as brave as a lion.
When Josh comes face to face with real-life trouble, he begins to find out how brave he really is …
2. JULY 2011 BOOK LAUNCH forKumiko and the Shadow Catchers
written and illustrated by Briony Stewart
When: Sunday 10 July 2011, 1.30pm–4.30pm Where: Town of Vincent Library, 99 Loftus St, Perth WA.
Short reading, book sales, signing, sale of original illustrations and prints from the book.
Light refreshments and a chance for kids to win book prizes and colour in a giant dragon!
Kumiko is used to having a dragon guarding her night and day, but what she doesn’t quite know is why she needs one …
Since discovering the secret of the Shadow Catchers, a group of powerful sorcerers determined to steal magic at any cost, Kumiko knows it’s only a matter of time before her family’s link to dragons puts them all in grave danger. Is there a way to stop the Shadow Catchers once and for all and will Kumiko take the risk?
Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers follows Kumiko’s last and most exciting adventure as she travels through a world of shadows and dark magic in order to find freedom for herself and the kingdom of dragons.
Do you know about any upcoming book launches? (Let us know!)
Kumiko and the Dragon, by Briony Stewart, University of Queensland Press, ISBN 9798 0 7022 3619 8
Kumiko is afraid of going to bed. She is afraid because of the dragon who waits outside her bedroom window every night. One day, she decides to write the dragon a letter asking him to go away. But even this doesn’t make her feel braver.
“And when I am supposed to be doing my schoolwork all that fills my head is: Oh I am to be eaten for sure!”
What happens to Kumiko next is thrilling—in one night she learns a great deal more about dragons, her family, and being brave. Will the dragon eat her, or is this the beginning of a great adventure?
This book was an exciting read, and I loved Briony Stewart’s illustrations scattered throughout the chapters.