Today The Croc and the Platypus is stopping at DeeScribe Writing on its tour through cyberspace. The Croc and the Platypus is a gorgeous new picture book written by rhyming poetry queen, Jackie Hosking and illustrated by the very talented Marjorie Crosby-Fairall.
They’re going to share some fabulous tips on how they created The Croc and the Platypus.
The seed was planted a long time ago. Not to necessarily write this book but to write a book for Walker. I like to tell the story of being in a small book shop and picking up The Dot by Peter H Reynolds. Much to my embarrassment, as I read the book my eyes began to fill with tears. It really is the most beautiful book. I turned it over to see who had published it and saw the bear carrying the candlestick. Candlewick Press is the American arm of Walker Books and so my journey began. That was over ten years ago.
Then, when a friend of mine, author Claire Saxby had her rewriting of There was an Old Lady who swallowed a Fly, (There was an Old Sailor) published by Walker, I thought AH HA! I’ll rewrite a rhyming classic too. I chose The Owl and the Pussycat because my grandmother used to sing it to me when I was small so it has always been a favourite.
1. Once I’d decided that I wanted to do an Aussie reimagining of the The Owl and the Pussycat, the first thing I did was find the words to the original poem by Edward Lear.
2. Then I read it over and over so as to better absorb the rhythm. So the first line, if you recall goes like this…
The OWL and the PUssycat WENT to SEA in a BEAUtiful PEA-green BOAT
The capitals denote the stressed syllables, the drum beat of the line. I needed to copy this beat exactly and so…
The CROC and the PLAtypus TRUNdled OFF in a RUSty old HOLden UTE
3. This process was then applied to the whole poem.
4. There’s another line that I borrowed, though I’d not realised it at the time, from a song called Gypsy Rover. The line in song goes like this…
He whistled and he sang ’til the greenwoods rang,
My line goes like this…
Platypus sang till the hubcaps rang.
This was not intentional. I used to sing this song at school and it showed up again just at the right time.
5. After I finished the text I was awarded a Maurice Saxby mentorship. One of my mentors was author Elizabeth Honey. She was instrumental in helping me improve what I thought was a pretty polished story. Writing buddies, critics and mentors are gold and I would recommend everyone to give their work to someone else to read before they submit to publishers. It’s just a sensible thing to do.
Inspiration for the illustrations can come from many places including an initial emotional response or even from unexpected sources. When I read the text for The Croc and the Platypus my first impressions was that it was ‘bouncy’ and ‘joyful’ so I wanted to reflect those emotions in the illustrations. This can be quite literal, like the Ute bouncing along a dirt track and the curved and bouncing type treatment—or it can be more understated, like the joyful dancing under the stars and the fluid curves of the landscape.
It is surprising the different paths you might wander down when you meet some unexpected inspiration. For example, the ‘rusty old Holden Ute’ features prominently in the text so it was important to get that image right. Unfortunately, I’m not really fond of cars, so I was not looking forward to drawing the Ute. However, once I started to delve into the research I fell in love with the 1950s Holden Ute. The Ute became another character and began to spark a number of other ideas for the book—I suddenly wanted to give a nod to the 1950s road trip. This became the jumping off point for several more elements including the fonts and even the colour palette.
- Read lots of Picture Books, they can be inspirational in unexpected ways.
- Study the painting process of other artists. I decided to use under paintings and drawings after researching Renaissance painting. It’s amazing what you can adapt to your own style!
- If you want to use pencil on top of the acrylics, you can try using gesso instead of white paint—it helps to create a ground for the pencil.
- If you use a heavy watercolour paper you don’t need to stretch the paper.
- You can use your final roughs as a value study.
The Croc and the Platypus is an Australian version of The Owl and the Pussycat, and I couldn’t decide what appealed to me most about this rollicking Australian picture book. There were so many things to like about it.
There’s a lilting quality to the rhyme that I just love, and who wouldn’t enjoy wrapping their tongue around words like hullabaloo?
The Croc and the Platypus is one of those books where you feel like the writer is sitting next to you telling her story, the author’s voice comes through strongly in a unique and engaging way.
But the text is only part of this entertaining story.
Marjorie Crosby-Fairall’s illustrations perfectly compliment the words. They take the humour to a whole new level, and the ochre’s, tans and greens of the truly Australian setting are captured so authentically.
The scenery is stunning and there is so much movement and life in Marjorie’s illustrations that you can picture yourself in the setting – perhaps even coming across these colourful characters along the road.
One of the other entertaining aspects of this book is the incongruous pairing of the Croc and the platypus – and this makes the tale even funnier.
For those who might struggle with the very Australian vernacular, there’s a glossary at the end of the book that provides translations.
Please note that Stephen Whiteside’s profile and tips have now been rescheduled for next Tuesday 19th August.