I have to start with Glenda Millard because I was a little star struck meeting her. In person she was beautiful—gently spoken, dressed in bold colours. Two of her picture books in particular have been treasured favourites in our house--Heart of the Tiger, which always makes me want to weep, and Kaito’s Cloth which was Miss Ten’s favourite book for the longest time and still sits on her bookshelf despite the fact that she says she is far too old for picture books. Kaito’s Cloth was also important to me after I was told by both a publisher and an agent that they couldn’t sell Megumi and the Bear ‘because of its snowy setting’. At the time we were reading Kaito’s Cloth daily; it has snow on every page. If Glenda can do it, I thought, so can I. Thankfully the incomparable Walker Books agreed. I was too shy to tell Glenda how much she has inspired me at the conference, but maybe next time.
During one plenary session Glenda and Stephen Michael King spoke about their collaborative process. I adore Stephen’s work—seriously ADORE!—and they clearly have a very special relationship. Glenda explained how when she is writing a book and thinking about the illustrations she has ‘no idea what I’m desiring, I just know that they’re Stephen’s’. Their latest picture book, The Duck and the Darklings, is extraordinary—for adults as much as children.
For Freya my pick is going to be The Terrible Suitcase. All her illustrations are to-die-for but this is Emma Allen’s (incredible) debut book and I met Emma for the first time this weekend, having no idea that she was a local girl. Like me she has young children and is juggling lots of balls. I can’t wait to see what she creates next.
Julie Vivas spoke candidly about developing her illustrations and about how she is ‘always disappointed in herself’ when she finishes a book because she can see where she could have done better. Freya Blackwood related, revealing that she thinks some of her books are terrible and she’s glad people haven’t noticed. I can’t imagine which books Freya could possibly consider terrible, but I understand the mindset, as I’m sure all creative people do. Freya believes she has only created one perfect book, Amy and Louis (with Libby Gleeson). Vivas named Possum Magic as her most successful achievement.
I’m not going to pick one Bob Graham book (a seriously impossible task) but instead encourage you to go to a mind-blowing retrospective of his work at CMaG. The conference crew went along to opening night and I’m going to go again with my kids. The exhibition is on until August and I would encourage you all to visit. I particularly loved the recreation of Bob’s working space, complete with paints, pencils and post-it notes.
Michael Gerard Bauer is beloved by Master Seven. When he found out that I had met Michael he immediately sat down and wrote him a card (complete with illustrations). I was given strict instructions to deliver it the following day. Michael subsequently wrote Master Seven some lovely messages on one of his Eric Vale books and a laminated cover proof of the next yet-to-be-released Secret Agent Derek ‘Danger’ Dale book. Needless to say Master Seven was beside himself. He spent the evening copying the cover and then, in the absence of Michael’s story, wrote his own!
Another of Master Seven’s idols, Andy Griffiths presented on humour in children’s books and how adults often don’t ‘get’ the things kids find funny. By way of example he mentioned Barky the Barking Dog from the treehouse books. All three of my kids think Barky is utterly hilarious and having just been to the 13 Storey Treehouse at the Playhouse, that very night they were telling my parents all about Barky. As if to prove Andy’s point, my dad was utterly baffled: ‘Why is this funny?’ and yet my three kids (aged three to ten) kept dissolving into fits of giggles trying to explain what Barky does (barks at things, of course). The treehouse series has captivated kids everywhere, and we are counting down until 52 Storey comes out.
I haven’t even mentioned Jackie French, Morris Gleitzman, Barry Jonsberg, Brownyn Bancroft, Belinda Murrell, Sally Murphy or my panel posse (Tania McCartney, Tracey Hawkins and Stephanie Owen Reader) to name just a few of our most glittering treasures, but here I must end (for now—ramblings on our Motherhood and Mayhem session to come). In short, it was a glorious weekend and massive congratulations must go to the team who pulled together such an inspiring event.