I finally got the chance to visit The Mad Hatters Bookshop, which opened in May, on the shores of Manly in Brisbane.
A bookshop opening at a time where more bookshops seem to be closing than is already thrilling, but I was delighted when I walked through the doors and saw how charming it looked.
The Mad Hatters has that quaint romantic bookshop feel but in a modern jacket, at any stage you feel a young Hugh Grant could be stepping through the doors. The books are beautifully displayed, original artwork is exhibited on the walls and in the children’s section there is a gorgeous mural that has been created by Ann-Marie Finn and Angela Grzegrzolka.
The team behind the bookshop and Dragon Tales Publishing are the dynamic Kaylene Hobson and Ann-Marie Finn. The good friends are a great match, Kaylene has a background in finance and is a children’s writer and Ann-Marie is an artist and professional illustrator.
It is no wonder that there is a big focus on children’s books as Kaylene and Ann-Marie exclusively publish children's books. Like the books they publish there is a strong attention to detail and the design of the shop.
Adjoining the bookshop is a dedicated space where the Mad Hatters run regular creative workshops for children, often by guest artists and writers. It is also a great space where children can work on a drawing while parents have time to browse.
Next door is a coffee shop with a beautiful view of Manly harbour. What better place to enjoy your new books!
My picture book, Oliver’s Grumbles, published by Dragon Tales Publishing and illustrated by Giuseppe Poli will launch at the Mad Hatters in October this year. I couldn’t think of a better place.
Read on for an interview with The Mad Hatters owner, Kaylene Hobson.
A bookshop and a publishing company, obviously you have a great love of (children’s) literature, is this a dream come true?
In many ways yes. It is of course a lot of hard work but why not work doing something that you love?
I couldn't agree more. How did you decide on the name of the shop?
We knew we wanted a wonderland for the children's section, and between it being the 150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland and people telling us we were mad for opening a book shop - the name sort of chose itself.
Setting up and running a bookshop and a publishing company while both having a young family sounds like a juggling act. Were there many difficulties to overcome in getting the shop up and running?
Definitely. In addition to the obvious challenges, Ann-Marie and I both have autistic children so managing family and work is often very hard. Part of why we have done this is for the kids. This way, we can work for ourselves and have more flexibility for our families. We had the help of some amazing people in the community with everything from painting to promotion, we couldn't have done it without them.
What makes The Mad Hatters Bookshop unique?
We wanted somewhere that was welcoming and special but we also wanted people to feel that visiting the store was an experience in itself, a book can transport you to another world and we wanted our shop to do that too. We want people to be able to take home a piece of the magic that we are trying to create here.
Where can people find out more about the creative workshops?
By calling in, or phoning - 07 3393 5130. We also post information to Facebook - and are currently working on our website. www.themadhattersbookshop.com.au
What is your vision for the shop, what other plans have you got in store?
We have quite a number of books coming out via Dragon Tales Publishing so we have lots of events planned. We also hope to complete all of our renovations and get even more classes and activities up and running.
Thank you Kaylene for answering my questions, but most of all for creating an inviting place for readers, writers and artists in Brisbane.
At our last Write Links meeting, we had our first collaborative writing session with a specific purpose; to create two children's stories for The Big Draw to be illustrated by the children of Brisbane on Saturday the 22nd of August during Children's Book Week.
This This unique event is a collaboration itself between members of the Brisbane Illustrators Group, the State Library of Queensland, Book Links, Write Links and of course the QLD branch of the Children's Book Council Australia.
Most of us at Write Links were new to writing a collaborative story but were lucky to have among our group the talented Children's Writer Angela Sunde who helped us on our way.
Angela Sunde's team Prana Writers, won the open division National Award and Eastern States Award for the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day competition in 2011.
After several seemingly crazy warm-up exercises we formed two groups to create two stories, one for older children and one for younger children.
Thanks to Angela's warm-up and experience it was relatively easy to come up with the main character, problem and how the story would be resolved. As the stories are for children they had to be action-filled, fast-paced and with a fun topic and in a setting allowing for visual expression.
I was part of the story for younger children. A picture book has 32 pages of which 14 spreads (or 28 pages) will actually be used for the story and for our collaboration we had eight writers! Some of the pages were left purely for illustrations which meant we had one or two spreads each and only a short paragraph to write as word count was to be no more than 500 words. We also benefited from illustrator Anil Tortop perspective during the process ensuring there was enough room for an illustrator's perspective.
During The Big Draw the stories will be spread out along several long tables and children will be able to illustrate the story directly with the text with the help of Brisbane illustrators including the award winning illustrator Lucia Masciullo.
Using Dropbox for collaborative editing sessions Write Links created two fun stories lending themselves well to illustrations. I can't wait to see the result on the 22nd of August.
I hope to see you at The Big Draw, make sure you share the link to this free event!
I am proud to reveal the cover for my picture book Meet Sidney Nolan with Random House Australia illustrated by Sandra Eterovic. The illustrations are absolutely amazing, making this picture book a work of art! The official release date is October 1st, 2015, though it will be released a little earlier. Details on the launch and an exclusive interview with Sandra Eterovic will follow in the next few months.
For more information on Meet Sidney Nolan and the Meet ... series check out the Random House Australia website.
with Dr Robin Morrow
The inaugural Book Links Lecture in Children's Literature took place on Thursday the 25th of June, 2015 at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane.
Having thrown myself into children’s writing and illustrating over the last few years there is so much still to discover and learn. I absorbed Dr Morrow’s words as best as I could and share some of them with you here.
Dr Robin Morrow was introduced by Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright who highlighted Dr Morrow's many accomplishments and years of experience in children’s literature as well as her wit and wry sense of humour.
Dr Robin Morrow has dedicated her life to children’s books—she is the President of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Australia and Vice President of Aora Children’s Literature Research Centre NSW Inc. In 1971 she established the first specialist children’s bookshop at Beecroft, NSW. She is widely published on children’s literature, has spent 10 years as Children’s Literature Reviewer for The Weekend Australian and has been acknowledged for her service to children’s literature and to the writing and publishing profession with a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia in the 2014 Australia Day Honours.
Dr Morrow started her lecture reflecting on her experiences of the first years of opening and running her children’s bookshop in Beecroft 40 years ago. At that time there was only one very small section comprised of Australian children’s books between the many imported children’s books from London and New York. She also talked about the influence of colonial books on her own childhood.
Since then through the influence of the CBCA (Children’s Book Council Australia), teacher-librarians and booksellers this has changed to the many Australian children’s books available these days. She warns, however, not to close our minds to international books.
Dr Morrow talked about the importance of the work of Jella Lepman and her publication, A Bridge of Children’s Books, and the first exhibition of children’s illustrations and children’s books from 20 countries in Munich in 1946 (more on this fascinating story here).
She urged us to make a conscious effort in the present day to change our attitudes to international books and look for the best quality books for children, and most of all to recognise and advocate for the ‘right of every child to be a reader’.
She talked about the importance of children to have access to and read books with characters that represent them, in their own language and suitable to the child’s age and stage. She acknowledged the role that books have for children in building bridges to other lives in place, time and experience.
She shared many Australian books that represent children’s race, gender and disability during her talk. The loss of Indigenous languages in Australia was discussed. She also mentioned how the representation of girls has come a long way in Australia and how she is frustrated on the divide of the muscly blue and the sparkly pink sections in bookshops that is happening now. She highlighted the 2015 The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities. She feels Australian publishers have excelled in books on refugee experiences.
She said ‘Slowly and erratically our books are embracing other lands’ ... ‘books can break down barriers’ and in essence ‘help us know each other’.
She sees the big issue we are facing now in needing more books translated from other countries into English.
50% of books translated worldwide are translated from English where only 3% of books translated worldwide are translated into English.
‘Our job as adults is to broaden children’s horizons and offer different books.’
There was a shared feeling between Dr Morrow and the audience that perhaps there is a need for an award for the translation of books into English within our country (if this doesn’t already exists) combined with other strategies. There is an opportunity to translate children’s books from other languages here in Australia and to then export these to other English speaking countries.
The success of the evening was celebrated afterwards at the Queensland Writer's Centre.
As vice-president of Book Links and a passionate advocate and lover of children’s literature I am sure this was the first of many years of spectacular, thought provoking and contemporary lectures on children's literature.
Many thanks go to Jenny Stubbs (Book Links president) Mia Macrossan (former vice president of Book Links) and QWC for making this a fabulous, sold-out event.
The inaugural Book Links Lecture in Children’s Literature, presented by Book Links and Queensland Writers Centre, was designed to raise the profile and value of children’s literature and to stimulate discussion and disseminate the results of current research on children’s literature.
I did it! I found some time and managed to get an illustration ready for Susanna Hill's Children's Illustrator Contest. Who needs sleep right?! Somehow, I don't think this little ghost here does.
Check out the fun on Susanna's blog!
What a thrill and an honour to have my artwork displayed next to so many glorious 52-Week Illustrations.
52 shortlists were made up of selected works from each week's theme with the final artworks revealed on opening night on Monday.
The first week in the Challenge was 'Eggs' and that week I just happened to have bought myself some Copic Markers to experiment with and fell in love with the idea of a little family of speckled eggs tucked away in a cosy nest.
Those speckled eggs from a year ago turned out to be a finalist in the 52-Week Illustration Exhibition at Arts Brookfield in Perth last week.
Back then the Challenge had just started and no one knew what spectacular opportunities it would create for so many artists.
Tania McCartney, children's author and illustrator, and founder of the 52-week Illustration Challenge was surprised when the challenge she had started to fire up her own creativity took off like a rocket, with members now exceeding 3000!
Tania recently handed the reins over to children's author/ illustrator Nicky Johnston who is supported by a group of admin made up of Challenge members.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tania and Nicky at the Sydney SCBWI Conference last year, these ladies are not only hardworking and talented but also very supportive of other authors and illustrators. The Challenge attracted many opportunities for members, Jess Racklyeft was chosen by a publisher to illustrate Tania McCartney's upcoming picture book, and I had my book mark selected to feature as part of International Book Giving Day.
The exhibition is on until the 20th of March at Arts Brookfield in Perth.
For more information on the opening night: Opening Night Wrap-Up
Admire the 52 artworks on display: Exhibition Finalists
Nicky Johnston and Tania McCartney at the 52-Week Illustration Challenge at Arts Brookfield in Perth. All photos in this post are courtesy of Nicky and Tania.
Another year of Romancing the Stars and another fabulous night. The Terrace at the State Library of Queensland was the perfect place. The stars were sizzling. The weather behaved itself (Cyclone Marcia was making its way toward the coast). The wine flowed and the nibbles were hitting the spot.
Twenty children's writers and illustrators speed dated an eager audience of librarians, teachers, writers and lovers of children's books and in just a few short minutes shared their new releases, new projects, and revealed what had inspired their stories.
Not only was there a chance to mingle with these stars, there was a mass launch (see photo at the end) there was art work on display and for sale, there was entertainment by comedian and children's author Tristan Savage, quizzes and raffles were won and there was even a singalong courtesy of Peter Taylor author of Once a Creepy Crocodile and his daughter.
Many thanks again to Book Links (QLD) Inc. for putting on this amazing event every year and giving me a chance to mingle starry-eyed with some of my favourite authors and illustrators while trying not to appear overly star struck!
For more information and the full line-up of authors and illustrators check out the Book Links (QLD) Inc. website. To stay up to date with upcoming events why not become a member or 'like' their Facebook page.
Here are some of my photos of the night but for truly professional photo coverage of the event please check out these photos by Peter Allert!
Creature Name & Genus: Dave, the Deep Space Angler
Kidlit Creature Week is an illustrator collaboration displaying an online gallery of monsters, creatures & other imaginary beasts suitable for children's literature.
For a bit of fun I sent in this mischievous creature. He may look alluring, but watch out when he catches you!
Dave, the Deep Space Angler will be up on the Kidlit Facebook Group on January 26th, 2015.
Though I spent much of 2014 reading and writing reviews, finished many picture book drafts, got back into my junior fiction novel, and wrote short stories and poems for children, I did manage to create some time here and there for a few illustrations leading me to launch my Society6 shop as you'll see at the end of this post.
I was lucky to join the fabulous Tania McCartney with her 52 week illustration challenge as it started in January not realising what a huge following it would attract or what wonderful opportunities it would generate.
One of those opportunities involved a competition for bookmarks to be selected and be available for download on the website for International Book Giving Day 2015 on the 14th of February.
"International Book Giving Day takes place on 14th February each year. The aim? To get books into the hands of as many children as possible."
I had fun with this one, I came up with the concept and it pretty much turned out the way I had envisioned. I got to use my Prismacolour pencils and finalised the bookmark in Photoshop.
Then there was even bigger news, I was thrilled to find out that my illustration for Week 1 - Eggs was shortlisted for the upcoming 52 week challenge exhibition in Perth.
The final artworks will not be revealed until the Exhibition Opening on Monday 9 March, at Brookfield Place, Perth.
I sold this artwork to talented Nicky Johnston as part of the Creating a Welcome initiative– in support of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), a community organisation working directly with asylum seekers to provide basic necessities such as food, housing, healthcare and legal assistance.
I created my speckled eggs using Copic pens and pencil and it also was close to what I had envisioned.
Well, now that my chest is all puffed out and my ego stroked, I shall inflate it even further by launching my own little shop at Society 6.
TADAAA! Here it is!
I did a couple of test runs. The shirts come out well and don't fade or damage with repeated washing. The same with the mugs, I have run mine through the dish washer many times and it hasn't faded. I did receive one shirt that hadn't printed properly but customer service was great and immediately sent me a new item at no additional charge, no need to return. I would suggest you check with your country's mail system as my parents (The Netherlands) were charged some weird ceramic surcharge after ordering a few mugs. Society 6 often advertise free world wide shipping which I will post on my Facebook author page.
I will slowly work on adding more artwork throughout the year.
Here are some of my own models showing the latest in children's fashion!
These are NOT for children, I repeat, NOT for children. But they ARE picture books! These are parodies, have adult topics and humour, are rather dark and some have blood and gore but all will be appreciated by adults, well those with a slightly skewed way of looking at the world and a weakness for picture books (and possibly zombies).
For a child friendly list of picture books check out My (totally subjective) Best Picture Book Buying Guide Before Christmas 2014.
We're Going on a Bar Hunt
Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees
Illustrated by Gillan Johnson
Just one letter can make such a difference. My kids drove me silly by wanting to hear We're Going a BEAR Hunt again and again, close to the point of me needing a drink! That must be what these parents were feeling as they are on a night out hunting the bars for a good time and escaping the kids.
We're going on a bar hung.
We're going to find a cool one.
The babysitter's booked ...
We're not old!
Unfortunately the fact that I could relate to the sentiment behind the story, did make me feel quite old.
The Very Hungover Caterpillar
Josie Lloyd& Emlyn Rees
Illustrated by Gillan Johnson
Who hasn't read The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a child or to young children?
This story follows perfectly on We're Going on a Bar Hunt and illustrated what you would feel like the next morning, dealing with a hangover while having grown up responsibilities.
At 7 a.m., he has one paracetamol - but he is still hungover.
At 8 a.m., he has two cups of sweet tea and calls in sick - but he is still hungover.
Go the F*ck to Sleep
illustrated by Ricardo Cortes
This is quickly becoming a classic. All new parents will be able to relate and will have at least thought this if not actually said it.
There is a hilarious YouTube video of respectable Australian actress Noni Hazelhurst whom many will know from her many years on Play School.
A great gift for any new parents, give it a few weeks and they WILL appreciate it!
You Have to F*cking Eat
Illustrated by Owen Brozman
By the same author as Go the F*ck to Sleep. I haven't read this one yet, but I need to get a copy, with one child who has finally stopped vomiting when faced with any meat product or vegetables and the other one intent on copying anything his bigger brother does, this sounds like it could be a hilarious release from the frustrations of feeding toddlers.
Where The Wild Bums Are
Bums running wild! This a parody on Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. The author/ illustrator also has done a parody on Mem Fox's Possum Magic (Bum Magic) and Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar (The Very Hungry Bum).
Of course, this book has a lot of kid appeal and can definitely be shared with the little ones in your lives, especially if they are into poop and fart jokes.
A Brain is for Eating
Dan and Amelia Jacobs
Illustrated by Scott Brundage
Yes! Zombies! Zombie children! Zombie children looking for brains to eat!
These illustrations are awesome and beautiful in its goriness and so much fun.
Not for the fainthearted!
Ten Little Zomies: A Love Story
A count down story with a romantic twist.
Five little zombies scratching at my door.
Acid through the transom, now there are four.
Mostly black and white illustrations with just a touch of colour here and there. Short, sweet and dark.
The Runaway Mummy: A Petrifying Parody
This is a parody on The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown, sadly I have never read the original, but look at that cover, what fun.
A little mummy runs away from its mother and threatens to turn into all kinds of other monsters, until he threatens to turn into a little boy, and that is the one thing poor mummy Mummy can't handle, she'll have to do awful things such as take him piano lessons, the horror!
Another one to be appreciated by parents.
A parody on Goodnight Moon. I haven't read this one, but here is the link to a trailer. A picture book for the digital age!
So, children will enjoy this one as well, though perhaps not children who are easily scared. This is a gorgeous, almost wordless and elaborate fold-out book that I discovered by chance.
A little boy is looking for his mommy in a world full of mummies and monsters.
The Very Hungry Zombie: A Parody
Illustrated by Jon Apple
Here is another parody on The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This one is on my wish list! Zombie eats through a variety of foods, including astronauts, rock stars, fingers, and brains.
The Gashlycrumb Tinies
26 children (one for each letter of the alphabet) meet their untimely deaths. The book is written in dactyls. (Thanks Renee LaTulippe for introducing me to them.)
Edward Gorey has written and illustrated many ghastly stories and is worth getting to know more about.
A is for Amy who fell down the stairs
B is for Basil assaulted by bears
These illustrations are to ... die for.
Dillweed's Revenge: A Deadly Dose of Magic
Florence Parry Heide
Illustrated by Carson Ellis
A story of deadly revenge by the same author of the Treehorn Trilogy (see below) and with art by one of my favourite illustrators.
This is one of my most loved picture books because of the story, the
irreverence, matter-of-factness and humour in the illustrations. And one that I am keeping away from my kids for a little while longer, though the main character of the boy does triumph in the story!
The Shrinking of Treehorn
Florence Parry Heide
Illustrated by Edward Gorey
This has the author of Dillweed's Revenge (see above) and the illustrative talent of Edward Gorey (see above that), so it has to be good!
This is dark, quirky, disturbing and there are three more in the trilogy.
All my friends are dead.
Avery Monsen and Jory John
This book tells it like it is, short, sharp to the point and oh so lonely. Simple illustrations emphasize the existential angst.
So what do you think? Did I leave any out any that need to be added? Which ones have your read and which ones are your favourites?
Children's Writer and Illustrator