Smile Cry – A Beginner’s Book of Feelings

Smile Cry written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft is a wonderful book to introduce  discussions about feelings.

smilecryfullcover-smallYoung children find that a cry can quickly turn into a smile and vice versa so it’s an ideal blend to have these two feelings showcased in the same book.

Our society often has a negative response to tears so it’s refreshing to see this emotion presented to children as a ‘normal and acceptable’ way to feel.

The way these emotions have been introduced allow the reader to empathise with others and learn that everyone has feelings.

Smile Cry presents the concept that we feel things for a reason.

The simple and powerful text and emotive illustrations make this book relatable and relevant for young children.

The gorgeous pictures represent feelings in a fun, non-threatening way – providing reassurance to young readers.

piglet bunny cat double picFeaturing a very cute pig, rabbit and cat, the emotions of the characters are simply yet strikingly depicted in the illustrations.

Smile Cry is a ‘flip about’ book, symbolic of how emotions and feelings can flip. ‘Smile’ starts from one end and ‘Cry’ from the other, and the feelings meet in the middle.

Smile Cry is an important book, introducing young readers to the complicated world of feelings in a compassionate and memorable way.

Published by EK Books, Smile Cry is currently available in Australia, the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada.

If you’re looking for the ideal Christmas present for the youngest readers in your life, this could be it.

Writing & Illustrating a Picture Book – With Tania McCartney

Today my very good author/illustrator friend, Tania McCartney is joining me on the virtual deck for a cup of tea and a chat about how to write and illustrate a picture book. At the end of this post, she’s also offering readers the chance to win some great prizes.

Check out Tania’s great writing and illustrating tips at the end of this post. image011

Tania, tell us about Australia Illustrated.

Australia Illustrated is the very first picture book I’ve both written and illustrated and it was an incredible learning experience. The process was unusual in that I had pretty much carte blanche (with a pre-approved outline from publisher, EK Books). You may already know that in publishing, this is highly unusual.

Having this freedom was a real gift. Having written, edited, laid out, designed, collected, studied, read and enjoyed picture books for two or three decades now, I had zero experience in the actual process required to combine my own writing with my own illustration. In fact, to give you an idea of up how-ended my process was, I did the book cover first!

With this lack of experience, it would have been almost impossible for me to take the ‘roughs, storyboards, mock-ups, colour-palettes, character studies’ route that most picture book illustrators undergo. I didn’t have the know-how or skill, and given that Australia Illustrated is 96 pages and I had scant idea of what I was going to include in the book, having to do all that would have been my undoing!

Thankfully, I muddled my way through, and the end result is something pretty unusual—and something I’m actually proud of.

DEE’S REVIEW OF AUSTRALIA ILLUSTRATED

If I could think of one word to describe Australia Illustrated … it’s joy.

T00a-cover-pastelhis book exudes joy on every page.

It’s clear that Tania enjoyed creating Australia Illustrated … and this book reflects her joy in being Australian.

Each page is full of vibrant, active illustrations that reflect well thought out and researched text.

Each state and territory of Australia is featured along with the food, flora, fauna, sport, customs people and places that make them unique … oh and did I mention food? There’s a lot of food in this book.

From the First People to washing lines and crocodiles, football and sunshine, koalas and akubras, skyscrapers and beaches that squeak, this 96-page picture book is a glorious tribute to this wide brown land and its rich and varied multicultural communities. Vibrantly illustrated with watercolour, ink and mono-printing, Australia: Illustrated not only celebrates the more ‘typical’ Australian flora, fauna and landmarks, it also showcases the everyday quirks and idiosyncrasies that make Australia unique: the many types of rain, Greek street food, Sydney ferries, cattle breeds, the plants of the Daintree. Even the quokka selfie epidemic is featured! 

One of the things readers will love most about this book is that it’s so relateable. For adults it will conjure up childhood memories, for young readers it will inspire them to create them.

Australia Illustrated is beautifully produced by EK Books. It comes in a hard cover and with 96 pages will provide hours of entertainment and joy for readers of all ages in the classroom and home.

TANIA’S WRITING & ILLUSTRATING TIPS
What I Learned During My Picture Book Muddle.

  1. I learned that the best way to illustrate a book is to have courage and not think about it too much. There were moments on this journey when I was filled with absolute terror over how my images would be perceived—in terms of skill, style, content.

au-diverse-kid-girl-japaneseI also began questioning how things were unfolding and if I was on the ‘right track’. Whenever this happened, I had to shut this thought down, otherwise, I probably would have given up. And how did I shut the thought down? I told myself what ALL creators should be telling themselves—that I’m creating this book for me first, others second.

Many creators will tell you that they write for the reader but we HAVE to write for ourselves first. If we don’t, we wouldn’t enjoy the process (sorry, but I don’t want to write about boy superheros who live on the moon, even though millions of kids might love that!). We have to write and draw what WE personally love—to give us creative satisfaction and to do our best work. Then, as a massive side-bonus, if kids or adults or monkeys fall into our stories or our images and have a wonderful time there—that is what makes it doubly worthwhile. In fact, they say that once a book is published, it ceases to be yours—it becomes the reader’s. So I say make it yours while you can, then let it go!

  1. I learned that a creative process should be an organic process, and that while having a plan or outline is important, allowing story and images to unfold has an intense magic in it. Good publishers know this. They know that stories can morph over time, and picture ideas can change and grow. The very best books come from trusting that organic process, and not stripping it of its essence with over-editing and over-thinking—or bowing down to what other people want or might expect.
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  1. I learned that illustrating books is an immense emotional, mental, physical and time investment (arguable even more so than writing one). You cannot be in this for the money. A hundred-thousand dollars probably wouldn’t cover the hours I put into Australia Illustrated, but the creative satisfaction and joy its creation brought me is priceless. It can’t be about money. If you make it about money, it will crush you with the fiscal unfairness of it all.
  1. I learned that children’s book illustrations really do need to be highly professional and beautiful. I mean, I knew that already, but I learned it all over again on a deeply personal level. I have only just rekindled my love for illustration these past few years. My skills were rusted over, and I’ve had to relearn so very much. During the twelve months it took to create Australia Illustrated, my skills, naturally, bettered themselves, and I found myself looking back at my first images with some disdain. Luckily, I had also developed digital art skills during that year, and I was able to touch up first images to the standard I knew the book needed.
  1. I learned that you Just Have To Throw Yourself In. During my [many] moments of self-doubt or angst of fear, I found the only way out was through. Just do it. When you do that, things unblock and flow. It worked for me every single time.034-vic-mel-icons
  1. Dee asked me for five points, but I can’t resist one more—sorry, Dee! I learned that I want to do things differently next time. There are some splendid illustrators who keep the same style of art their entire career long—and it works beautifully for them. For me, I think creating in the same style forever would send me to the loony bin. I still love the style I’ve done in Australia Illustrated, but I’m ready to try something new for my next book (in fact, I’m currently creating several fully-digital works) and I can’t wait to see what style that will be. I have some ideas but I’ve not settled on something yet. Perhaps I’ll just let it unfold—pretty much like Australia Illustrated.

act-arboretum-boy-3See more of Tania’s work at www.taniamccartney.com or follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @taniamccartney

Australia Illustrated is published by EK Books and will be on sale 1 November in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, with a release date of 28 November in the UK. Hardcover, clothbound, 96 pages, AU$29.99, ISBN: 9781925335217 www.ekbooks.org

WIN GREAT PRIZES

  • WIN a copy of the book (There three to give away, thanks to EK Books)
  • WIN an original watercolour image from the book (two to give away)
  • the chance to name some of Tania’s book characters!

Enter here at Tania’s Blog

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Life in Other States – A Texas Year and A New York Year

It’s clear that meticulous research and care have gone into Tania McCartney‘s and Tina Snerling‘s colourful fun books, A Texas Year and A New York Year.

These well produced picture books cover a year in the life of kids living in Texas and New York.

One of the things I love most about them is their theme of diversity – the way they reflect the lives and cultures of the people living in these states.

A texas yearA Texas Year and A New York Year feature ethnically and culturally diverse characters and diverse experiences.

The lively text and illustrations make these books a fun read for anyone with an interest in finding out about Texas or New York.

A Texas Year and A New York Year are full of information about the lifestyles and aspirations of kids living in these locations.

Readers will enjoy poring over the text and illustrations, taking in the fascinating detail.

They will be taken through a month by month account of what it means to be a kid living in New York or Texas, learning about special occasions and customs.

There’s everything from food, sport and school, to dancing, language, holidays and special occasions.

A New York Year - Front coverA Texas Year and A New York Year present great opportunities for discussions in the classroom or home about cultural diversity.

Each book has a location map with information about the state including its nickname, state flower, song, animals, and popular foods found there.

The content in both books has been produced in consultation with native advisors from the state including teachers and children.

A Texas Year and A New York Year offer young readers a fun and entertaining way to explore their own environment and the world around them.

 

8 Amazing Picture Books for Christmas

There are so many wonderful picture books being published at the moment, but I’ve selected a variety to review that would make great Christmas presents.

BOOKS FROM ACROSS THE SEA

THE LION AND THE BIRD

Unknown The Lion and The Bird by international bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc is the tender story of the unlikely friendship between a lion dressed in denim and a bird with a broken wing.

One autumn day, a lion finds a wounded bird in his garden. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Then one day spring arrives, and so too do the other birds. Will Lion and Bird have to say goodbye to the friendship for the summer?

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 7.34.23 amThis moving story is so relevant in today’s times when the world is full of vulnerable people like refugees who have been damaged by circumstances, and are looking for a safe haven and a new life.

As well as compelling text, this book is beautifully presented in hardback with the pictures left to tell the story on some pages.

It’s no wonder that The Lion and The Bird has been published in 15 countries across the world.

It’s a beautiful book that can be shared at leisure, and it features themes of friendship, waiting and change.

The Lion and The Bird is published in Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland by Book Island.

UnknownAZIZI AND THE LITTLE BLUE BIRD

In this contemporary fairytale, a young boy and escaped blue bird free their country from the rule of tyrannical despots.

This picture book for children aged five-years plus, explores ideas of freedom and justice and meets the demand for more culturally diverse picture books in an increasingly multicultural society.

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Every illustration by Mattias De Leeuw is a work of art in this book.

It compliments the lyrical text by Laila Koubaa.

At the door, he breathed in the sweet smell of Jasmine. The front of the house was like one big flower. 

The richness in both the text and illustrations make this book an enticing read. It is beautifully translated into English by David Colmer.

Azizi and the Little Blue Bird is another wonderful book for opening young minds to the world around them. It is also published by Book Island.

FOR FAMILIES AND CLASSROOMS

UnknownAUSTRALIAN KIDS THROUGH THE YEARS

Australian Kids through the Years is a wonderful book written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Andrew Joyner.

It takes readers on a leisurely tour through history starting with Australia’s first children, through the 1800s, 1900s and into modern times.

There are so many fascinating facts in here about things like the way children lived, how they dressed, how they did their hair, what they ate, what they did for fun and what they read.

This book is a feast of fabulous illustrations and easy to follow text with interesting language and information that young readers can pore over for hours.

Unknown-1At the back is a summary of the years, and National Library references for all the illustrations.

Adult readers will also be able to reminisce as they meander through history in these colourful and lively snapshots of Australia’s past.

Australian Kids through the Years is a great way to bring history into both the family and the classroom.

Australian Kids through the Years is published by the National Library of Australia.

PICKLE AND BREE’S GUIDES TO GOOD DEEDS

9781760067229_COVERI’ll admit upfront that I’m biased about these beautiful books because they were written by my crit buddy, Alison Reynolds, and I have watched their progress from initial idea to finished product.

But right from the start, I was drawn to the two compelling characters and their special friendship. Bree is a feisty little girl who likes to get her own way, but who has a good heart and is able to recognise her own faults. Pickle is a gentle, slow moving and very large bear who admires those qualities in his friend that he doesn’t possess himself.

In The Decorating Disaster, all about teamwork, Pickle and Bree have very different ideas about how the home they share should be decorated, and this leads to humour and disaster, but also some important revelations.

Even though they are the very best of friends, Pickle and Bree are very different, but they soon realise that some jobs like hanging wallpaper and painting, just aren’t supposed to be done alone.

At the end of this adventure are some tips on teamwork that both teachers and parents/guardians will find helpful to share with young readers.

In The Birthday Party Cake, all about welcoming differences, it’s Jason’s Birthday and Pickle is planning a special bear surprise for his friend. But when Bree decides to lend a hand, her idea of a perfect party is not what Pickle had in mind. But can Pickle and Bree find a way to save Jason’s birthday?

This adventure carries tips at the back for welcoming differences and considering the feelings and wishes of others.

9781760067236_COVERPickle & Bree’s Guides to Good Deeds are wonderfully illustrated by Mikki Butterley whose humorous pictures are a perfect match for the rollicking text.

They are great for reading in schools and homes to introduce children to concepts like sharing, accepting others and getting along.

Two more Pickle & Bree’s Guides to Good Deeds are coming soon.

They are published by The Five Mile Press.

WHERE’S JESSIE?

Bertie Bear was going on a long journey. He didn’t realise it would be on a camel! And he never imagined he would be having adventures of his own, far away from Jessie.

UnknownThis delightful story of a real bear’s outback camel and train journey has been cleverly woven into a work of fiction by Janeen Brian.

The rhythmic text along with Anne Spudvilas‘ stunning illustrations introduce young readers to the vibrant colours of the outback and its characters.

I also like the way the story is told from the lost toy’s point of view.

This is a work of fiction, but the real Bertie makes a ‘star appearance’ at the back of the book.

Where’s Jessie? is published by the National Library of Australia.

FOR FUN

REMARKABLY REXY

UnknownI love Craig Smith‘s work so I was so excited when I heard a picture book was about to be released that he had both written and illustrated – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Remarkably Rexy also just happens to feature one of my favourite animals, a cat.

Rexy is a typical cat, but he’s also a bit of a dancer, and quite proud of himself because he’s always being praised for his good looks and talent.

But his perfect existence is shattered when Towser the barking dog next door escapes.

Unknown-1The text is hilarious and Craig’s vibrant illustrations are beautiful.

Remarkably Rexy is so much fun for cat lovers of all ages. It also has a link to a free audio reading.

Remarkably Rexy is published by Allen & Unwin.

TIME FOR BED, DADDY

This hilarious book written and illustrated by Dave Hackett (Cartoon Dave) is one of my favourite picture books this year because it’s so relatable.

“Come on Daddy. It’s time for bed.”

“But I’m not tired,” says Daddy.

How can a little girl put her daddy to bed when he doesn’t want to go?

imagesTime for Bed Daddy is so funny because it’s a complete role reversal, and so much fun at bedtime.

I remember how hard it was to get my kids to bed when they were small, and how tensions often rose.

This book is a great tool for turning bedtime into a playful occasion that’s fun for everyone.

Time for Bed Daddy  is published by University of Queensland Press.

 

 

Peas in A Pod – Picture Book Collaboration

Peas in a Pod is the latest quirky offering from talented writer/illustrator team, Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling.

Tania and Tina have created a harmony of colour and words, and they’re visiting today with their great tips on Picture Book Collaboration.

ABOUT PEAS IN A POD

Pippa, Pia, Poppy, Polly and Peg are very cute little quintuplets who do everything the same … eat, sleep, cry and sit … everything.  But one day the girls decide that they don’t like being the same.

FINAL COVERPeas in a Pod is a beautiful story that incorporates the closeness of siblings with the need to be an individual within that relationship.

It’s about finding your place in the world, and even though well meaning people (parents in this case) might encourage you to conform in order to fit in, it’s okay to be different. People are not the same, even when they look quite similar as in the case of Pippa, Pia, Poppy, Polly and Peg.

We are generally encouraged to conform because it suits someone else, but it’s not always the best thing for us as individuals, and that’s one of the reasons why I can see adults really loving Peas in a Pod too.

I love the gentle humour in the text and the way the vibrant illustrations lead young readers through the story, encouraging them make a stand, to be who they are, to be who they want to be.

I like the way the text doesn’t talk down to the reader, and the author uses some more complex words that add interest and inspire the reader to explore vocabulary. The illustrator’s use of colour and action tell a story that wonderfully complements the text.

Peas in a Pod is for readers aged 3-7. It is published by EK Books, and Teachers Notes are available.

Tania McCartney’s Five Tips on Collaborating with an Illustrator 

Authors and illustrators don’t always have the opportunity to work in close collaboration, so I feel really fortunate to be able to work with Tina directly on our books. I think it brings a seamlessness, a cohesion and that extra special something to the work we produce. If you’re going to have the privilege of working closely with an illustrator, lucky you! Here are my tips on how to make the collaboration shine.

  1. Tania headshot IBe willing to give your illustrator creative licence. Don’t be too precious about your text or how things should look. I’ve many times changed my text to suit the creative ideas of an illustrator—and the book has been all the better for it. I’ve also been more than delighted with illustrator interpretation—which is almost always even better than what I had in my head.
  2. Ensure open communication. While creative licence is good, illustrations also need to reflect story meaning and nuance. Most of the time, an illustrator will reflect text really well but occasionally something might be missed or misinterpreted. Or, as in my point above, it might even be improved upon! So communicate openly and well—and don’t be afraid to speak up if something needs tweaking.
  3. Tweaking, especially if illustrations are hand-rendered, is no mean feat. It can take hours or even days to redo something, so this is why keeping on top of communications is key and why you should only insist on changes if they’re absolutely central to the story. You could also ask your illustrator to show you images as they go along, to save on the possibility of any changes down the track. Once illos are complete, changing things at whim or for personal preference is just not on—it’s too much to ask of any illustrator.
  4. If you haven’t worked with this illustrator before, consider asking them for drafts so you can agree on a certain characterisation or scene. As you work with them more and as the book unfolds, you’ll more than likely find no need for any type of draft. Things become sort of organic.
  5. Give feedback and encouragement. It’s difficult for an illustrator to know they’re on track or that you’re liking their work if you say nothing. All illustrators want their authors to love their work! so giving feedback is a great way to open the dialogue and encourage a wonderful collaborative experience.

Tina Snerling’s Five Tips on Collaborating with an Author

Tina Snerling 360px1. Communication, communication, communication. This is key to a smooth and enjoyable collaboration. I understand many other illustrators communicate directly with their Editor/Publisher, but my daily communication is with the Author until our Editor becomes involved once drafts are completed. Tania and I can email up to 50 times a day discussing illustrations for a page!
2. Be open to feedback. This is a given for any Illustrator, but also an important point to remember when working with an Author as they may not always agree with your interpretation.
3. Understand your Authors own style. Having worked with Tania on numerous collaborations, I understand her style, and what my illustrations can do to enhance her words. If you are embarking on a new Author/Illustrator relationship, research the Author and understand their style to ensure your illustrations represent the Authors work in a way you both love.
4. Get a comprehensive understanding of the Authors intentions. As an Illustrator, it is my responsibility to portray the unwritten word, by discussing the manuscript in detail first with the Author, you can gain a deeper understanding of their words – this in turn ensures you represent the book cohesively.
5. Don’t be afraid to add your own flair. I love to take Tania’s words and add my own personal touches. Sometimes I can interpret the Author’s words in a way the Author may not have imagined, but they love it all the same – that is the magic of working in a collaboration!

OTHER BOOKS BY TANIA AND TINA

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This is Captain Cook

I’m fascinated by the past so when I see a picture book like This is Captain Cook that encourages a love of history in the very young, I can’t help but be excited about it.

Cover Capt Cook FINALThis is Captain Cook is the creation of the very talented Tania McCartney (author) and amazing illustrator, Christina Booth. It’s not just a recount of history, it takes us into the world of Captain Cook and brings him alive to the reader as a person we might be interested to know.

This is Captain Cook tells about the life and times of Captain James Cook through a school play performed by Miss Batt’s Class.

This is such a unique and innovative idea that ensures this book works on a number of different levels. It can be read, or even acted out.

imagesThe text is full of facts, but it’s lively and fun. James loved running amok on the family farm with his brothers and sisters and goats and chickens.

images-1The illustrations are beautiful, full of little gems to enthral young book enthusiasts, and make adult readers smile.

The text and illustrations are rich with threads that weave throughout the book making it something that kids can pore over for hours. It’s also a book that’s great in the classroom to appeal to different learning styles.

images-2I have never seen history presented for young children in such an entertaining and appealing way.

The is Captain Cook is published by the National Library of Australia for readers aged 3+

Tania’s Picture Book Collaboration Tips – Celebrating Tottie and Dot

image031Today I’m so excited to welcome my very dear writer/illustrator and all round amazing creator friend, Tania McCartney who’s visiting to celebrate the release of Tottie and Dot, her new picture book collaboration with Tina Snerling.

Tottie and Dot is an important story about friendship and how to fix it when things go wrong.

Tottie and Dot live side by side. They drink marshmallow tea in the morning. Side-by-side. They water blooms in the afternoon garden. Side-by-side. They make speckled eggs for tea. Side-by-side. All is calm and peaceful until, one day, things change between Tottie and Dot. Who can create the prettiest, the bestest, the coolest house? And at what cost?

If you want to know more about Tottie and Dot you can read my review here.

Today, Tania is generously sharing some great tips about the collaboration process and how to make it work.

Tania’s Five Writing Tips – Author/Illustrator Collaboration

Tina Snerling and I are lucky creators. We get to work very closely together when we produce our books, and—to me—there is nothing more rewarding in the book production journey. Working in collaboration enhances any work, especially when both parties are willing to open their hearts and minds to collaborative possibility. Two minds are always better than one—and working with Tina so closely has allowed me to shift and change and grow my text, with new ideas, concepts and elements that might not have occurred had we put this book together ‘blind’.

Tina and TaniaWorking collaboratively absolutely makes for a more seamless book creation, where that delicate author/illustrator dance comes together in a truly cohesive way. Here are my top tips for a rewarding collaboration:

  1. image029Try not to be precious when you begin collaborating. Accept that the other party may have something really special to offer—some humour, a quirky addition, a plot twist, a new perspective. It’s not about who’s right or wrong—it’s about creating a new entity that takes seed in both image and text, but grows into its own creation. Allow the process to be organic. I have regularly changed text to suit Tina’s illustration ideas, and vice versa.
  2. If you are the author, let go of being the ‘primary’ creator. The books I write become as much Tina’s as they are mine. The nuance and meaning her illustrations add to the text are priceless.
  3. Set up a google doc spreadsheet and keep track of how the book unfolds. Tina and I put illustration notes in the columns and discuss the process as we go along. Listing the pages down the left hand side (including cover, inside cover, endpapers, half title, title, imprint, etc) really helps keep tabs on how the book is flowing, and if text needs to be moved to another page or if page imagery needs to be broken up in some way. You can also keep several versions of the spreadsheet so you can look back and see how things changed over time. Fascinating!
  4. image030I can’t imagine things turning sour (and you rarely hear of this happening), but if they do, it’s probably due to a battle of wills. For the sake of the book, agree to put the disagreements behind you, be prepared to compromise and if things are really bad, call on your editor or publisher to make the final choices/decisions.
  5. Keep communications open and strong and clear. This will minimise any drama, confusion, misinterpretation of text (rare) and—most importantly—the reworking of images, which can be immensely frustrating and time-consuming. Remember some illustrators like to storyboard, some like to create full mock ups, some create in full draft or go straight to final (exponentially easier if the illustrations are digital, like Tina’s, or the images can be manipulated digitally). If you spend time discussing imagery before it’s created, you minimise these issues. Of course, once the discussion occurs, you also need to let go of expectation and remember the illustrator may well throw out your illustration notes and—gasp!—create something better than you ever dreamed.

(Sep 2014, EK Books, $24.99, hard cover, 9781921966491)

Thanks for the tips, Tania. We look forward to seeing more wonderful books from you and Tina:)

Dee