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.
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.
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 email@example.com 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!