Archive for the 'Brave Squish Rabbit' Category

Every Idea is Different (or how to make life hard for yourself)

It’s not possible to get overconfident as an artist. Because every time I feel a little like I know what I’m doing – every time I get the inkling that I may have something of this whole storytelling palaver figured out – an idea comes along that makes me a beginner again.

This is no coincidence. If I truly knew what I was doing, then the project would hold no challenge for me. It would mean I wasn’t learning, and such a project wouldn’t be able hold my attention. New ideas fascinate us because we have unanswered questions that float around them – things we don’t yet understand that we attempt to grasp by carrying the project through to its conclusion.

With Squish Rabbit, it was the first time my voice and visual style really started coming together, which was such a thrill. Of note is the fact that a significant feature of my illustration style is white space. Then along came Brave Squish Rabbit … which is set at night. So much for white space. I suddenly had to create spreads using full bleed colour – deep blues and blacks, which was a real challenge.

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Next comes my latest project. It’s about a little bird on an isolated island. It has a single character (the bird) and a single setting (the island). Not a lot to work with in terms of creating a rich visual world with variety enough to carry an entire book.

I’ve spent the last few weeks storyboarding it out, and it’s certainly tested my creative problem solving. I’ve used more playful perspective, point of view and colour schemes than in any of my books yet. It’s been challenging and mind contorting and wonderful, and I certainly feel like a better storyteller for it.

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Not that this will help me with my next project. Which, judging by my track record, will likely be about a limbless lion who lives in a tree…

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European Rabbits

I promised you some European rabbits, and here they are. I didn’t have to look very hard while overseas. Everywhere I turned there were rabbits. Big ones, titchy ones, blue ones, fashionista ones, paranoid ones, even chocolate ones. I was starting to think Europe was particularly bunny obsessed, until I clued onto the fact that it was nearly easter (the chocolate bunnies gave me my first hint – I know, I’m a genius).

Either way, Squish Rabbit was proud that his European brethren were so prolific. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Berlin Bunny:

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Luckily this big guy was friendly (I wouldn’t have taken him in a fight, even in that flowy shirt)

Bookstore Bunnies:

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Can you spot them?

St Andrews, Scotland:

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Who would have guessed it was nearly Easter?

Big Brother bunny, Venice:

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Yes, Winston is watching you. Ignore at your own risk.

Frightened Rabbit, Edinburgh:

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The lead singer from Frightened Rabbit played a solo set at a poetry type gig we went to. Intimate and awesome.

I might have also been given a Frightened Rabbit album:

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Photo-bombed by the gift giver…

Austrian bunnies:

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I kinda wanted to be friends with these guys. They look like they’d make polite conversation.

Old etching bunny, St Andrews:

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I thought it was a good omen to have found this bunny in our St Andrews room, but it didn’t stave off the strange dreams we had (we were overlooking the scores where the ‘witches’ were drowned).

Surprised bunnies:

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I think he was in more shock that I was

Real bunny! In the Tiergarten, Berlin:

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Can you see it? Neither can I. The single live bunny I saw on the entire trip scooted under the tree to the right the moment it heard us.

And my favourites, graffiti bunnies. These were all found in central Berlin:

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Demon bunny

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Love this guy

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Shy blue bunny

If you want to see the bunnies I spotted on my last trip, hop on over to my post on the Year of the Rabbit.

A Stampede of Books (or Bologna Children’s Book Fair)

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I’ve been wanting to attend the Bologna Children’s Book Fair for several years now. It’s the biggest annual event in children’s books, making it an incredibly exciting place for a writer / illustrator. Now I knew it was a massive event, but this was purely an intellectual concept. It’s a bit like being told about a stampede, as opposed to standing in the middle of one. A glorious stampede, mind you. A stampede of colourful stuff from a child’s imagination.

The fair is “the most important international event dedicated to the children’s publishing industry”, and includes authors, illustrators, literary agents, licensors, packagers, distributors, printers, booksellers and librarians, all meeting up to sell and buy and meet and produce and discover all things to do with kids books. Sound exciting? It was.

There were 1200 exhibitors. From 66 countries. With 5000 professional trade representatives. And the exhibition covered over 20,000 square meters of floor space. Plus the fair was celebrating its 50th year. Now I may specialise in words, but those numbers sound pretty impressive to me. Here’s the sight I walked in on – this is one fifth of one side of one hall out of four, on the first and quietest morning:

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I spent three inspiring days wandering around the fair and being involved in all its amazing busy-ness. I got to meet up with the head of my American publishing house (Viking / Penguin) who was passionate and humble and funny and charming and all things you would want from a publisher. I also had an amazing meeting with my American agent, talking picture books and characters and lots of ideas for new projects to come. I got to spend time with the incredible ladies from Books Illustrated, Ann James and Ann Haddon, who are super supportive of Australia children’s book creators and who ran the stand that became my home for fair. They ran a live illustration table where I made art alongside some very talented Aussie artists (Alison Lester, Isobelle Carmody, Briony Stewart and of course Ann James). While illustrating I got to meet passers by who stopped to chat – other artists and publishers from all over the world. But none of this quite captures the spirit of the fair. No, that is best done with photos.

Here’s my US publisher’s stand. It was full of books and well-dressed-important-types and take away coffee cups. This was a quiet moment captured on the first morning of an otherwise bustling stand:

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Here is the Books Illustrated stand, and the two awesome Anns setting it up. See if you can spot the Brave Squish Rabbit cover and the feature illustration from the book:

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Doing live illustrations (with my terrible paintbrush grip – such a lefty):

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More live illustrating, using papers I’d collected on the trip so far (you can just see a couple of the drawings I’d already done in front):

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One of my favourite stands, a European publisher called Edelvives who make gorgeous books:

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There were quite literally hundreds of different publisher stands. So many books! Some funny:

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Some sad:

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But mostly just awesome. Lots and lots of awesome books:

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And more:

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And more. How cute are these guys?:

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But it wasn’t all just a bunch of people standing around talking about books. Sometimes it was a bunch of people standing around drinking and talking about books. Here we’re preparing for the Australian Publisher’s Association party (while Boori gets in some sneaky self promotion):

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And here we might be at the Irish Publisher’s Association party drinking whisky (all in the name of being culturally appropriate and warming the winter chest plate):

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I’d heard about the famous ‘illustrator wall’, where you can pin an illustration that people peruse throughout the fair. All up there were actually about eight walls. Here is one on the very first morning:

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And here it is again on day three:

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And this is what an author looks like after three days of wandering halls, reading, illustrating, meetings, being inspired and overwhelmed and just generally feeling like a very small fish in a big pond:

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Luckily, we were in Italy, so there was always good food at the end of the day. Salute!

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Squish Rabbit Bookplates (and kids say the darndest things)

Meeting readers is such a cool thing, and along the way I get to hear funny stories about how kids relate to my books. One little girl told me (referring to Squish Rabbit) that sometimes she feels lonely too, but her family makes her feel better and that maybe Squish should find his family too. One mum told me that (in Brave Squish Rabbit) her little girl is obsessed with the tiny pair of scissors in the bottom corner of one page. Another family said their daughter asked about my author photo, so they explained that I was the lady who made Squish, and ever since she has been calling me Squish’s mum.

Because my books are out in the US, I often get e-mails asking when I’ll be stopping through the various states for book signings. And oh how I would love to come and meet my American readers. But this is tougher than it sounds, considering I live in Australia. So while I wont be there in person any time soon, luckily there are some clever people about who organised some lovely bookplates for me to sign, which is almost the next best thing. If you can get your hands on one of these, they can be stuck in the front of your Squish Rabbit books…

My publisher, Viking / Penguin, sent a stack of these for me to sign for some special fans:

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I was really touched when an amazing bookstore in the Mississippi Delta, TurnRow Books Co, got in touch to say they had listed Brave Squish Rabbit as a favourite Fall read. They then went to the effort of creating some specially made bookplates for me to sign, and sent them along with some books for special customers:

A close-up of the unsigned bookplates. Get in touch with TurnRow if you’re interested in purchasing a Squish Rabbit book with one of these original signed bookplates (while stocks last):

Squish Does Japan (part 2)

Last post I revealed that Squish had snuck into a travelling suitcase and headed off to the land of sushi and Hello Kitty. Find the rest of his photos and scribblings below…

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Luckily, Brave Squish Rabbit managed to escape the scary city of Nara.

He was so excited to visit Miyajima that he climbed up and danced on top of one of Japan’s most sacred Torii gates. Fortunately, he managed to elude police when he finally came down. Naughty Squish Rabbit!

Brave Squish Rabbit very quickly developed an addiction to Taito Station, a Japanese games arcade. In particular, he couldn’t get enough of the “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” drumming game. Best fun you can have for 400 yen!

And now, in his bravest move yet – yes, braver than facing chickens or going back to Nara – Squish Rabbit will head to Tokyo!

[a few days later I received…]

The Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) building in Tokyo was under attack! Without thinking twice, Brave Squish Rabbit joined forces with 009 to come to the rescue…

… but, unfortunately, he got distracted.

Squish Rabbit’s trip to Japan had been WONDERFUL! He did NOT want to go home.

But then he remembered the toilets. And Nara. So he crawled into his futon (“It’s on the ground, but it’s not a burrow,” he said. “It’s not a bed either, but it’s goooood!”) and got a good night’s sleep before his trip back home. “Sayonara,” he said.

And then Brave Squish Rabbit made it all the way home before his bladder burst.

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Ah, Squish. Can I say how jealous I am? I’ve been wanting (desperately) to go to Japan for years, as I’ve had a long time love affair with all things Japanese. Their food, their culture and mindful traditions, their wonderfully finicky politeness, their clean design aesthetic, their animation (I want to live in the worlds of Miyazaki), their writings (oh to create characters like Murakami) and their art (Yoshitomo Nara does the best angry children).

And now my own character has made it over to Japan before I have. Clearly it’s time to get planning and scheming…

Squish Does Japan (part 1)

Very few know this, but Brave Squish Rabbit actually had a third launch. A secret launch. A tricksy wily sneaky launch … in Japan.

Yes, my little rabbit snuck into the suitcase of notorious children’s writer Julie Nickerson while she wasn’t looking. She was too busy preparing to set off on a long deserved holiday with her family to the land of cherry blossoms and anime. Once they were over there my clever little rabbit hacked Julie’s e-mail account and sent me the following trail of evidence as to his whereabouts. The images and words are transcribed exactly as I received them.

It seems he’s braver than I ever imagined…

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Brave Squish Rabbit packed his suitcase…

… and went to Japan!

Brave Squish Rabbit had to go to the toilet. “I’m not THAT brave,” he said. So he crossed his little legs and held on.

Brave Squish Rabbit had a moment of quiet reflection in Kyoto and contemplated life. And chickens.

Brave Squish Rabbit went to the beautiful ancient city of Nara.

Unfortunately, there were things there that were even scarier than chickens…

[We interrupt our regular broadcast to bring you an important community service announcement.] Squish Rabbit says “NO” to Nara.

Brave Squish Rabbit was launched today. ‘This is WAY better than Jetstar,’ he said.

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What a cheeky little rabbit! Stay tuned, as next post I’ll put up the rest of the photos from his trip…

Travel and Other Stuff

Apart from blogging recently about my book launches, I’ve been mostly absent from this blog since about August. And believe me, I’ve been experiencing some blogger’s guilt. So please see this post as a kind of peace offering. Or an apology. Or even a series of visual excuses as to why I haven’t had much time for blogging lately…

Book Week

A week all about celebrating children’s books, which started in Australia with the CBCA in 1945. This year the theme was ‘Champions Read’, and I got to visit some delightful schools in Brisbane and Toowoomba. These schools put on book fairs and parades and school wide decorations which must have taken weeks to put together. They went all out in showing their love of books, and they made Squish and I feel very welcome.

Look at all those Squish Rabbits! This school created a whole wall of amazing Squish creations in preparation for my visit

These are some of my favourites. There are ghostly Squish Rabbits, cranky ones and plenty of whimsical pondering ones

At this school all teachers and students dressed up as their favourite character from a book. This mother and son team are Squish and Twitch! (so cute)

One teacher discovered I liked stripes, and donated this hat from her book week costume. Think I’ll wear it at Woodford this year…

Cairns Trip

Not an official work trip for me, as I was just tagging along with my partner. But who wouldn’t find an excuse to escape to tropical Cairns? I took the chance to make it a bit of a writing retreat, and got several thousand words written on my latest work in progress (a young adult novel). After the work was done we were also lucky enough to score a trip out to Green Island…

We all live in a yellow submarine

Brisbane Writers Festival

It was my first year speaking at this amazing festival. I did a bunch of talks with grades 4-6 and a few writing and illustration workshops too. I had a ball, and got to meet so many amazing authors and illustrators.

Brisbane Writers Festival loves books

Write Around QLD / Cairns Writers Festival

Back to Cairns again, this time with Write Around QLD, a BWF initiative that takes authors and illustrators out to regional and remote schools in North Queensland. I was thrilled to be involved, however it didn’t quite go to plan … I may have gotten an awful tummy bug and spent most of the week in the hotel room … but I did get out to a few schools in the end. Next came the Cairns Tropical Writers Fest, where I spoke on a few panels and taught a picture book masterclass, as well as had the chance to meet many budding local writers. I love Cairns – it’s beautifully laid back and oh-so-friendly.

With Katrina Germain, a lovely and talented picture book author

David and I spent a funny night with Tim Ferguson, who was also on the festival bill (he’s not only a talented comic, but also really warm and generous)

Hurrah!

Not work related but worthy of a mention because … my little brother got married! We spent a stunning few days in Mt Tambourine and I got to be involved in the reception as the MC. As you can probably imagine, it was a suitably serious affair with no shenanigans what-so-ever…

Me and my little bro

Not sure who these clowns are…

Goondiwindi

David and I were invited out to Gundy (as the locals call it) to be involved in a festival through one of the schools. This was no small event – they had a massive assembly performance where all teachers and senior students performed skits, there was music and craft stalls and several days where artists were brought in to run talks and workshops. The whole shebang finished with a starlit night of poetry, where the kids performed the work they’d produced with David.

We knew we were getting close when massive cacti started cropping up along the road

We took pup with us and walked along the river each day

The kids and I created a Julia Gillard monster (their idea, not mine!)

Our wacky burger. When the kids had me adding all the farmyard animals, I decided it was necessary to add to the farmer too…

Kumon

I’d never heard of this amazing organisation until they contacted me. Kumon began in Japan but is now worldwide, and is a method of learning where kids are encouraged to advance their skills beyond what they’re learning at their schools. Some of the most exciting young minds in Australia are involved in Kumon, and each year they hold an awards ceremony for their highest achievers. I was invited as keynote speaker for their Brisbane conference and loved meeting all the enthusiastic learners.

They even provided me with a corsage – cute!

Talking about imagination and literacy

Home

But even with all the events and trips I’ve done and the amazing people I’ve met, the best thing about travel is arriving back home again…


About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:

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