The-Croc-and-the-Platypus-COV-webToday 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.

The-Croc-and-the-Platypus-Web-22-23Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 10.03.43 amMARJORIE’S INSPIRATION AND TIPS FOR THE ILLUSTRATIONS

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.

Ute-webFive Illustration Tips Relating to The Croc and the Platypus:

  1. Read lots of Picture Books, they can be inspirational in unexpected ways.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. If you use a heavy watercolour paper you don’t need to stretch the paper.
  5. 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.

Aug 11 – Aussie Reviews
Aug 12 – DeeScribewriting Blog
Aug 13 – Write and Read with Dale
Aug 14 – Children’s Books Daily
Aug 15 – Stories are light
Aug 16 – Kids’ book Book Review
Aug 17 – Pass it on

Marjorie Crosby Fairall on Facebook | | Jackie Hosking on Facebook

Please note that Stephen Whiteside’s profile and tips have now been rescheduled for next Tuesday 19th August.


Writing is hard. There are more rejections than acceptances…there are times when you wonder whether you can do this…whether to keep going…whether it’s all worth it.

For me, it definitely is. There is nothing more rewarding than having someone love/be moved by/relate to what you have written.

Today I want to celebrate the success of three talented people who are very dear to me, who have worked so hard at their writing – and never given up.

Kat Apel and Karen Collum at the 2010 CYA Conference


My wonderful writerly friend, Kat Apel has had some setbacks in her writing recently so it was thrilling to see her take out the published author first place in this year’s CYA competition.

Kat has an inspiring post up at her blog about what this win means to her. She is a talented author who writes from the heart and her work deserves to be read. I hope she finds a publisher soon for her fabulous winning verse novel, Bully on the Bus.

Writing friendships are so important to keep us on track and motivated – and Kat and Karen Collum are two of the best friends a write could have.

Karen is also someone who works hard at her writing, looking after four young children at the same time …and often going without sleep.

Congratulations Karen on coming second in the CYA comp. I was very excited to come third in this category and stand on the ‘virtual podium’ alongside these two amazing ladies.


Many of you will know Jackie as the editor of PIO…a fabulous resource for kid’s writers in Australia. Jackie is also a wonderful poet. (You can find out more about her at her blog)

Jackie has kept writing and entertaining kids and adults with her hilarious poetry for years so it’s wonderful to be able to congratulate her on having her first picture book accepted by Walker Books. I can’t wait to read it.

Jackie has written a fabulous post, Never Give Up. Read her inspiring story here


Proud Mum alert warning here!

The third writer whose success I wanted to celebrate is my son, Nick who also placed in the CYA competition (Hatchlings) with his comedy adventure novel, Family Issues.

Now 13, Nick started this novel when he was 11 and is currently on his fourth rewrite. I am so proud of his persistence and I love the honest and lively way he writes.


I’m so proud and honoured to know these fabulous writers and I know that their success is a combination of talent and sheer hard work.

Here are some tips to help you when the going gets tough:

  1. Realise that you are not alone…every writer goes through ‘low points’. These are what make the ‘high points’ so special.
  2. Accept that writing is hard and subjective and just because your work gets rejected, that’s one person’s opinion and someone else may love it.
  3. Keep writing
  4. Keep writing
  5. Keep writing
  6. Find a writing buddy or group (real or virtual) that you can share your disappointments and successes with. It really helps to both vent and to celebrate
  7. If the words aren’t coming, start something new. Work on something you are excited about.
  8. Don’t expect overnight success but know that talent, hard work and persistence does pay off.
  9. Go to conferences and writing workshops where you will find yourself being inspired by other writers.
  10. Measure your success by creating something you are happy with. Don’t base your feelings of self-worth on the opinions of other people.

Happy writing and wishing you much writerly success:)