Archive for the 'Squish Rabbit' Category

New Year, New Adventure

2014 has brought some big changes. Big, but exciting.
The short story is … I’m going to be dividing my time between Australia and Canada. But that’s a bit too short.
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Our snowy house

The long story is this: The only regret I’ve ever carried in life is that I’ve never lived overseas. Growing up, my head was filled with travel tales told by my mum, who shifted around the globe through her 20s and 30s. My parents met in Africa, travelled across Europe, got married in England and I was conceived in Oman, all before they settled in Australia to raise my brother and I. As a family we did many overseas trips to visit relatives and friends. When I left home I always intended to move overseas after uni, but life kind of got in the way. Fifteen years later and, well, it’s about time.
I was considering England when the opportunity to spend some time in Canada came up. I spent all of December over there, having myself a white Christmas and exploring Ottawa and the surrounds (which is where I’ll be based). There’s much to love about Canada – so much about the country and the people that have stolen my heart. It’s already left an imprint on my creative mind: I’m currently working on a new picture book about a big brown bear and a small wild girl. Plus I have a sudden urge to end my sentences in ‘eh?’ and I’m getting insatiable cravings for maple syrup.
While I’m hoping to spend more time over there than not (starting early March), I’ll actually continue to divide my time between Canada and Australia. It’s really important to me to keep in touch with my Australian readership and to continue to develop links with local schools and festivals (not to mention visiting family and friends!). I’ll be back in Australia over July and August for a packed two months of speaking engagements, however I still have days free in both months so contact my speaker’s agents if you’re interested in a visit from me or Squish Rabbit (links on the right).

Based on the photos, I keep getting told I look as though I was born in Canada. I think it’s the fair skin and pale eyes. I’m really excited about the change and love the idea of being closer to all sorts of other unique travel experiences. We already have two trips planned, first to Cuba and then in summer to the Moraine Lake Lodge in the Rocky Mountains. But instead of trying to convince you as to why I’m setting out on this adventure, how about some photos so you can see for yourself?
Ottawa city and its frozen canal (perfect for iceskating)

Ottawa city and its frozen canal (perfect for iceskating)

Amazing museums and art galleries (I love this sculpture by Bill Reid)

Amazing museums and art galleries (I love this sculpture in the Museum of Civilisation by Bill Reid)

Lots of time to read and eat French pastries (in the inner city industrial style cafe 'Art Is In')

Weekends reading and eating French pastries (in the inner city industrial style cafe ‘Art Is In’)

Writing by the fire

Writing by the fire

Gorgeous outdoor installations (this lonely wolf haunts my dreams)

Outdoor art installations (this lonely wolf still haunts my dreams)

And another, this time in Montreal (called 'Light Therapy')

And another, this time in Montreal (called ‘Light Therapy’)

Did I mention the food?

Did I mention the food?

And the salmon (I could live on smoked atlantic salmon)

And the salmon (I could live on smoked atlantic salmon)

Loving the graffiti art (snow makes the bunnies a little mad)

Loving the graffiti art (turns out snow makes the bunnies kinda crazy)

An Aussie style barbecue (clearly)

An Aussie style barbecue (clearly)

Icicles taller than me

Icicles taller than me

REAL christmas trees (and all decorations I collected locally)

REAL christmas trees (and all decorations I collected locally)

Christmas morning sunrise from a cabin in the woods

Christmas morning sunrise from a cabin in the woods

Finally, I was lured to Ottawa with the promise of divine hot chocolate. And they didn't disappoint...

Finally, I was lured to Ottawa with the promise of divine hot chocolate. And they didn’t disappoint…

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…

Ink (or literary tattoos)

Rabbit - floatAs an illustrator I work in ink every day. I’m very familiar with it as a medium. And while my canvas tends to be paper, some artists use skin.

I haven’t got a tattoo myself, but I’ve long admired them as an art form. And being a bookish type, I particularly like literary tattoos. There are some amazing tats out there, based on work by some of my favourite illustrators. You only have to google about to find them. There are lots of Shaun Tan tattoos, based on images from his beautiful and often melancholy books. Also Oliver Jeffers, with his ‘boy’ and ‘penguin’ characters popping up regularly.

In a way, someone choosing your character as a tattoo always seemed like the highest form of compliment – that someone could so connect with something you have created that they would get it permanently etched onto their skin. I always said that I’d know I’d ‘made it’ as an artist when this happened to me. But I imagined if it ever did it would be 10 years or so down the track. But earlier this year I got an email.

From Ben. This is what he had to say:

I am currently studying Primary Education, and intend to specialise in ESL (English as Second Language) work. As a part time job I provide teacher’s-aide support at a local primary school. Last year I had a magnificent experience with the first Squish Rabbit book. I was tutoring a South American boy in year 6 and we used his interest in art to render his own edition of your picture book (which was played on a power point as he read it to the class). Since then, the boy came out of his shell, started socialising and developed so much confidence that he is almost fluent. This experience was immensely rewarding and confidence building in terms of my own professional development.

Thank you sincerely for your book. It brought great joy to my life and at least one other child’s. In the future, I also aspire to write books for children with such fundamentally simple yet such eloquently expressed messages. I think the message in Squish Rabbit bridges all cultural gaps (it certainly won my heart).

Based on this experience he decided to get a tattoo. The pictures below are evidence of the first Squish Rabbit tattoo out there in the world…

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It was truly an amazing message to receive. Quite overwhelming to be honest. I’m constantly in awe of the work teachers do with kids, and feel honoured to have been a part of that in any small way.

But as to whether I feel like I’ve now made it as an artist? Well, no. But it does feel pretty awesome.

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.

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 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…

Launching Brave Squish Rabbit (Part 2)

As promised, here’s the second launch in all its rabbity glory:

Melbourne Launch

Held at The Little Bookroom in Carlton North, on not just any day but the store’s 52nd birthday! It was incredibly special to be a part of their celebrations. Believe it or not, they are the world’s oldest children’s bookstore, and in my opinion one of the most warm and beautifully designed stores. They also did a lovely post about the day over on their blog. It was a surprisingly chilly Spring day in Melbourne, but that didn’t stop the little rabbits coming out of the woodwork…

A brave and squishy window display

Look at those decorations!

A very special rabbit hopped along to help us celebrate

The brilliant and cheeky man of children’s lit, Andy Griffiths, launched my brave little rabbit

In a demonstration of what it means to be brave, Andy unleashed a crawling hand into the little audience (and they were brave indeed!)

Pretending I can stil fit in a mini children’s chair…

Book signing (no spelling mistakes this time)

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A ‘secret treehouse’ image the kids and I created together – click to see a larger version (see if you can spot Andy’s signature ‘bum’)

A final callout to my wonderful man. He manages to love and support the strange lady that is behind Squish Rabbit, help put together these launches (ie. arrange the whole thing) and somehow still be smiling by the end of it all. You are truly inspirational.

Launching Brave Squish Rabbit (Part 1)

It seems like only yesterday I was playing around in my art room, finishing the first ever full colour image of my wee rabbit. But that was back in 2009. Now it’s nearing the end of 2012 and little Squish Rabbit has two books out in the world. I have to pinch myself sometimes.

Squish’s second title, Brave Squish Rabbit, was lucky enough to have not one but two lovely launches, in Brisbane and Melbourne. Thank you to all those who made them such special days – to the bookstores and writing community and family and friends and little readers and especially to all those wearing rabbit ears. Squish and I had a ball, as you can see from the photos below…

Brisbane Launch

Held at the delightful Black Cat Books in Paddington, on a bright September morning out on their back deck.

How to prepare for a starry night book launch: glittery cardboard, star stencil, scissors and (40 stars later) tenacity

How to prepare for a rabbity book launch: carrots, thread and a precise hand

The wall of Squish (and someone in the way)

My two favourite bunnies

The lovely Steph from Black Cat, getting serious about books!

Chris Bongers, teen novelist extraordinaire, did a beautiful job of launching my little rabbit out into the world of books

Those pesky chickens (Richard Grantham understands, who is playing his wonderfully moody sound track behind)

Some floppy eared bunnies – even rabbits feel sad sometimes (although one looks a little cranky)

Glittery cupcakes to cheer up the bunnies!

Skye Staniford did a beautiful set of songs for the little-uns while I signed books

With my lovely smiley publishers, Cathy and Kristina from UQP

My pup couldn’t come, but we still celebrated with him when we got home

Keep an eye out for my next post, where I’ll put up all the photos from the Melbourne launch…

The New York Times (.com)

There are many things I could be blogging about right now. In fact I seem to have spent the last month collecting things to blog about but lacking the time to do it. I’m experiencing a bit of bloggers guilt, as I haven’t yet posted about book week, Brisbane Writers Festival, my new project, the two Brave Squish Rabbit launches or any of the amazing schools I’ve visited recently … and I will get to all those things (I promise). But I’ve had a little news that kind of cuts through the normal scheduling.

While I may occasionally whinge (a little) about the intrusiveness of the blooming digital age, on Thursday I decided I quite liked it. Because a little bird (possibly a tweet) popped up from a New York Times editor with the following:

Click through and you’ll find a lovely article she wrote for NYTimes.com called ‘Be Brave, Little One’, where she reviews Brave Squish Rabbit (as well as another Australian picture book that sounds fascinating – check it out). With the approach of Halloween, she is celebrating books that “pay tribute to those little ones who manage to be braver than you might expect”. She gets right to the heart of the two stories, and she writes this about Brave Squish Rabbit:

The story Battersby tells is deceptively simple, but it conveys valuable ideas — for instance, that distraction, companionship and resourcefulness can help us to combat fearfulness. And acting brave even when you don’t feel brave makes a difference too.

They also include this spread as the feature image:

I’m thrilled they enjoyed my little rabbit, and Squish has been doing a happy dance (called a binky) ever since we read the article. Pamela also did a beautiful print review in the New York Times of Squish’s first story in their Sunday Book Review last year.

Now, as promised, I’ll be back next post with some book launch photos…


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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