'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Blog Tour: The Creation of a Picture Book - The Littlest Bushranger

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author Alison Reynolds, who is stopping by as part of the blog tour for her latest picture book, The Littlest Bushranger. Read on for Alison's explanation of the process of creating her wonderful new book and make sure you check out the giveaway details at the end of the post - there are some great prizes on offer!

The Littlest Bushranger arose from the publisher asking me to create a picture book about a bushranger.

I suspect that the publisher expected a very different book with a stereotypical bushranger robbing stage coaches and hiding out from the police.

Instead, I submitted a book that is very much from the viewpoint of the child. It’s set solely in Jack’s backyard, which transforms through the use of his imagination into a rainforest, desert and billabong. I sought to recapture the sense of your backyard being your entire world when you’re little. I wanted to empower Jack to be his own hero in his own world.

I knew from the outset that Heath McKenzie was the illustrator, which was a huge bonus. I worked with Heath on my previous picture book, A Year with Marmalade (KBR review here), and know how talented he is. I trusted him to not only illustrate the text, but also create his own world within the book. With this in mind, I kept any illustration suggestions very brief and loose. I couldn’t wait to see what Heath would produce.

In my mind I always imagined Hector the dog to resemble Molly, our dog.


Instead, he turned Hector into a schnauzer, which I love.


 I don’t feel as if the illustrations have to replicate what is inside my head, instead they should create an entirely new world. That is what I think happens in the best author/illustrator relationships.

The villain presented me with a challenge. I knew I didn’t want him or her to be too threatening to the child, yet he needed to represent a threat and allow Jack to be a hero, using his bushranging skills. As I find the sense of the unknown danger is often more menacing, I chose to have the outlaw first appear as a shadow. Actually, the outlaw first appears as a crow hippity hopping close by, but the reader doesn’t realise that this is a foreshadowing until reading the entire book.

When Jack first encounters the villain, I didn’t describe the outlaw. I wanted Heath to create something himself. This is where complete trust in the skill of an illustrator is a marvellous thing! I was careful not to call the villain a monster throughout the book, as I didn’t want to reference the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are, which is one of my favourite books.

I wanted the whole book to have blurry line between what is reality and what is imaginary. On the last page, my illustration brief said:
They are all smiling. A bird sits on the fence. Hector runs to Lil. The bike has some grass on its handlebars as if it’s been eating or even a carrot?
Heath’s illustration shows no carrot.


Instead, you see the bike with tufts of grass with a shadow of a horse. I love this image as it creates the perfect sense of “did that really happen”.

The whole process of producing The Littlest Bushranger has been a wonderful experience. Our editor was supportive and empathetic. I look forward to more collaborations with Heath McKenzie.

You can visit Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie's websites to find out more about The Littlest Bushranger and their other work. 

Stay tuned for our review of The Littlest Bushranger later today and make sure you visit check out all of Alison's blog tour posts. Watch out for prizes along the ride 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. Just comment on the posts (including this post). Blog links and competition details below.

Saddle up for  The Littlest Bushranger blog tour
You can read more about Alison, Heath and The Little Bushranger at the following blogs:
June 11 Kat Apel
June 12 Chris Bell
June 13 Angela Sunde
June 14 Boomerang Books Blog
June 18 Dee White
June 19 Kids Book Review - That's us!
June 20 Alison Reynolds: Ask the Editor. Interview with Melissa Keil.
June 21 Alison Reynolds: Ask the Sales Rep. Interview with Melinda Beaumont

Jump the slush pile and win a free pass to the adult non-fiction commissioning editor’s desk.
Just comment on this blog or any other blog during the blog tour and add NF. The more times you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Jump the slush pile and win a free pass to a children’s editor’s desk. 
Just comment on this blog or any other blog during the blog tour and add CB. The more times you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Monster Competition. 
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 alrey@msn.com.au 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!

32 comments:

  1. I can't wait to get a copy of this book, such a brilliant concept. The explanation of the last illustration is fascinating. (Would love to win the free pass to the children's editor's desk).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post:) I love that the illustrations add another dimension and interest to the text rather than just copying it.

    Dee

    ReplyDelete
  3. Every blog about the book teaches something new! Another great interview! Cb

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ramona - You'll love The Littlest Bushranger. I love the explanations of the illustrations too. It makes reading the book even more enjoyable.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dee - The best picture books seem to have text and illustrations that complement each other, don't they, each adding to the story. It's so wonderful to see an author and illustrator coming together who seem to be on the same wavelength with the ideas they want to communicate through the story.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Kelly - I'm having a wonderful time following the blog tour around as well. As you said, learning something new at each stop. It's great to get so much insight into the story behind the book and the creative process of both the author and illustrator.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post, thank you. With the examples, I can really see how Alison trusted Heath and Heath brought a greater dimension to the story. (1+1) X trust is always > 2. (CB)

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have this on order and can't wait to read to my students at school. Love the great visual literacy cues - a true picture book where the illustrations enhance the text perfectly. Love Alison's final illustration notes and Heath's own interpretation.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Whoops! forgot to add CB, please to my comment!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Cherri - I love your equation. It's true. When the author and illustrator work together with the common goal of telling a wonderful story, the whole really does become greater than the sum of the parts.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sharon - I'm sure your students will love The Littlest Bushranger. It's such a great celebration of imagination. Hopefully you've gained some extra insights from the blog tour that you will be able to share with your students as well.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love that last image too, Alison. The bike chewing some grass and throwing a shadow of a horse; it's the perfect finish.

    CB

    ReplyDelete
  13. Kat - I agree. It is just the perfect finish to the book, tying everything together. Love it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Tagging along from Zambia and I am glad I did. It is amazing what you can learn from blogs and the ensuing comments. The blog tour opens up a whole new angle that I don't believe just reading the book would accord one. Not much of a publishing industry in my corner of the world so would be great to score an appraisal or miss the slush pile and have work on an editor's desk. The trio(book, illustrations and blog tour) is much appreciated. Takes a wealth of information and ties it in a neat little bow. Perfect. And this Heath guy, is a god in my book. Such creativity and amazing use of color. nmn.

    CB.

    ReplyDelete
  15. ProjectEducate - I agree. The blog tour posts add so much to the enjoyment of the book, which was already very enjoyable on its own! I love the insights into the creative process and the thoughts and inspiration behind the story.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is my first tour and I am enjoying the journey; looking at the blogs and seeing the inside of this beautiful story. CB

    ReplyDelete
  17. What a wonderful insight into how Alison approached the author/illustrator relationship. I will be keeping that in mind in the future. Thank you. CB

    ReplyDelete
  18. The Hills are Alive... - Blog tours are a great way to find out about favourite authors and the story behind new release books. It's also a great way to discover some interesting book-related blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Angela - I loved the sense of give and take in the author/illustrator relationship for this book. Both Alison and Heath seem focused on working together to tell a great story.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Loved this post. Fabulous how the writing and illustrating process workedtogether to form a picture book.
    I liked the way Alison gave Heath a creative license
    ... Karen :) CB

    ReplyDelete
  21. Karen - I agree. I love that Alison was confident enough to trust Heath to share his own interpretation of the story.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Susan, if you've heard a rattling and a banging it was me.
    I've finally got in via new account. Why I didn't think of that before...
    Lovely to be here!
    Alison

    ReplyDelete
  23. So nice to meet you here, Ramona.
    I loved getting a surprise when I saw Heath's vision for the last page. I did a reading yesterday, and one little girl yelled out the bike has a horse shadow as soon as I turned the page. So hits a spot for children as well.
    Alison

    ReplyDelete
  24. I agree with you Dee and Susan.
    I firmly believe that both the writer and illustrator should add something of their own to the story to create something unique as a combination of two minds.
    Alison

    ReplyDelete
  25. Kelly and Susan, It's great to read that you've both got something out of the tour. That's something I've really strived to do. I know how much I appreciate blogs that both entertain and inform.
    Alison

    ReplyDelete
  26. Oh Cherri,
    I love your equation too!
    It really is true. That was the beauty of working with an illustrator who I trust, just letting go of control and waiting to see what he created.
    Alison

    ReplyDelete
  27. Sharon, it's so lovely to get your feedback.
    I'm fascinated by the overlap between words and illustrations and how something very unique can grow there.
    Alison

    ReplyDelete
  28. Kat and Susan, I'm quite in love with that image too.
    And think it's one that children really like.
    I love ending the book on a bit of an ambivalent tone.
    Alison

    ReplyDelete
  29. Project Education,
    I think Heath is an amazing illustrator too.
    I'll be sure to let him know that he has a fan in Zambia.
    I wrote a Ranger in Danger book set in Africa and can't wait to travel to your continent one day.
    I hope your writing is going well.
    Alison

    ReplyDelete
  30. Glad to hear you've enjoyed the tour, The Hills are alive. ( your name got me singing a song from a certain musical straightaway)
    I feel very privileged and fortunate to visit Susan's KBR blog and all the other wonderful blogs along the way.
    I was thinking the other day that you never need be bored now. Always something to read!
    Alison

    ReplyDelete
  31. Nice to see you, Angela! I absolutely love thinking of Heath as a co-creator of The Littlest Bushranger. It makes the journey much more exciting!
    Alison

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi Karen. Happy you enjoyed the post.
    Susan, it is so true what you write. I was confident enough to trust Heath to share his own interpretation of the story.
    Thank you so very much for hosting me. KBR is an absolutely terrific place to visit.
    Alison

    ReplyDelete

We value your comments, however, please note that all comments are moderated and need to be approved before publication, so spammers ... don't waste your time. Your comments will never be published.