Ideas that end up in a book

Let’s Go baby-o! – The Setting
This story started as a moment in time, and grew into a book.

Let’s Go Baby-o! Janet and Andrew McLean, 2011, Allen and Unwin
–  a book sharing 

          The seed

One day in 2008, our newly-born grandson, Rory, lay on the floor in the back room of our house surrounded by the people and animals he would be growing up with. There was his mum and dad, his auntie, two dogs – Rupert and Bella, a cat – Norah, and his Janna and Pa (that’s us, Janet and Andrew). Outside a pair of blackbirds was building a nest in the ornamental grapevine that stretches across the back verandah. Three years later, in 2011, Let’s Go Baby-o! was published. Now it’s 2018 and Rory has just turned ten. He is one of The Brothers whose stories are told elsewhere on Packing for the Journey!

          Our place

Our own place was the perfect setting for this book. Baby-o and Cuz could be inside the house playing together, and every now and then stop to look out the window and watch what was happening in the garden.

          The garden

Our garden has led us down may different paths since we first moved here thirty-two years ago. The patch of concrete that was big enough for a usable handball court is long gone, paved over with bricks salvaged from elsewhere in the garden. The bamboo forest along the south side fence that took so long to remove has been replaced with wild salvias, a cherry tree, a lemon and a lime. The crabapple tree that appears in Let’s Go Baby-o! has been replaced by a weeping cherry that, so far, seems to be holding its own.

The ever-changing garden

While the garden is too small to call rambling, it has become an intriguing place for children, grown-ups, dogs, cats, birds, possums, spiders and insects, and slugs, snails and skinks. Children follow paths and climb, cats stalk, dogs chase, mosquitoes bite, spiderwebs trap, and birds fill up on ripe fruit and scrabble for worms – and all of them find secret places to hide.

Everyday life in the backyard

For thirty years the garden has also been a bone orchard for two cats, Dinah and Norah, and four dogs, Maggie, Kipper, Rupert and Bella. Every one of these animals has made their way into our books (There’ll be more about Dinah, Maggie and Kipper, and the books they turned up in, in a later post). Norah, Rupert and Bella are characters in Let’s Go Baby–o!

Our Skye-boy terriers, Callan and Danny, are still waiting to be in a book.

IMG_1885 On the day Bella was buried
Callan, for a few moments
settled himself over
her grave

         

          Where the birds nest.

Nesting just outside the window

One of the preferred spots for the birds to nest is in the ornamental grapevine that stretches across the back verandah. The brown female and and the black male fly from tree to vine, from creeper to bush, sussing out the best place to build their nest. Once they have chosen the right spot the brown one scavenges in the garden for leaves and grasses, and the odd bit of plastic. She binds these together with mud to make a scrappy, cup-shaped nest, and lines it with soft grasses and tufts of dog hair from whichever of our dogs is around at the time.

IMG_5584The vine where the blackbirds nested again this summer

This year we  found a nest just three feet off the ground in the Rosa Perle D’or. It was filled with half-eaten, dried out quinces. I like to think of the brown, the black, and the fledgelings filling up on these before taking off.

IMG_5918 (1)
A nest of quinces

            From inside the house

The windows and doors in the back room of our house overlooks the backyard – perfect for seeing what’s happening out there.

Inside looking out

So, we had our setting, and some of the characters.

COMING SOON:
1. Let’s go Baby-o! – The characters.
2. Re-imaginging setting and characters to make a book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mandala

Otto’s ‘MAdLLN’ – to his Mum with love

imgOtto's mandala20180318
by Otto, aged 7 years

The last drawing in the Red Book
The mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the Self. This circular image represents the wholeness of the psychic ground or, to put it in mythic terms, the divinity incarnate in man.”

Carl JungMemories, Dreams and Reflections
Pages 334-335

 

Two more Mother’s Day drawings

Palimpsest 4

Otto's Janna portrait
Portrait of Janna

When Otto had finished his portrait of Andy
he put his pen to his lips and murmured
Hmm… what will I do now?
Half sitting on my lap
he looked at me and said
Want me to draw you?
I nodded, Yes.
He pointed to the chair
where Andy had been sitting
and said, 
Sit over there.
He set me in a pose
one hand on a hip
the other leaning on the table.
Like this, he said
showing me how.
Then drew me
in a standing pose and asked
is it  okay to put you in an Essendon jumper?
(That’s the team I barrack for
His team is St Kilda).
As he started to add more objects
he hesitated
and asked
Do you want  me to draw you 
here?
(at his house)
or at your house?
Before I could answer
he decided
to put me in my house.
In the big room. 

Dining table and chairs
a rug on the floor
a sideboard with
a bowl of round
wooden balls
and a jar of
pens and pencils
a lamp with
a plugged in cord
Fraser’s high chair
two shaggy dogs
one black
called Callan
one white
that’s Danny
a cat called Norah
a light overhead
a rocking chair
two couches with
people
a window
with  a 
puppet doll
hanging from the latch
a vine outside
an overhead light.

And a palimpsest
of an upside down
faded cat

showing through
from the back.

Palimpsest 5

Otto's bird
A bird

The dots
surrounding the bird are
from an earlier drawing
on another piece of paper.
They have bled through
onto this drawing.

palimpsest
ˈpalɪm(p)sɛst/
noun
– a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.

– something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

Superheroes on the wall

Visual storytelling unlocks the images (children have) stored up from
cartoons, movies and video games and helps them make more sense of the 
media-transmitted stories that fill their environments.

Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters – why children need fantasy, superheroes, and make-believe violence. p.9

On this day in March 2015 when R and O came over, they raided the stack of recycle A4 paper, found the markers and began drawing. O began drawing his favourite superhero characters. He told me who they were and I wrote down the names. When we began to display them on the wall R decided he would draw some too.  O was 5yo and R was 7yo when they drew these pictures. R’s drawings were more detailed, and he wrote his own labels.When we ran out of space in this corner of the gallery R took all of his down and moved them to another wall. As well as doing his own drawings O asked for a copy of a black line master  to colour in – hence the lifelike Spiderman.

Gallery CornerR&O's superheroes1

Facing wallR&O's superheros5

L. to R: Top row: Wonder Woman, Hawk Guy, Green Gremlin
Bottom row:Poison Ivy (makes superheroes ticklish with her powers), Batman, Mr Beast

Side wallR&O' superheroes6

L – R: Top row: Captain America, Spiderman, Thor, Hulk, Spiderman
Bottom row: Gaston (He flies around the world), Asgard, Captain America, Superman,
Iron man

Palindromes and Drawings

One day O, aged 5 years, drew our house, wrote some palindromes, and had a drawing lesson.

The first drawing O did was a picture of our dog, Callan, sitting down. He showed it to Andy who did a little drawing in the corner of a sitting dog, then O had another go at grounding the feet.
os-drawing-lesson

callan-sitting-thinking

On the other side of the paper O drew a detailed picture of our house – with pitched roof, chimney, front door with transom window, decorated glass side panels, a number 2, and himself standing in the doorway. There are shrubs in the garden. The dotted line at the bottom of the page depicts the street, the solid line separates the footpath from the road, and there’s a path leading to the front door. Our car is parked in the driveway next to the house and, from the top of the gable a bird is pooping SPLAT! on the windscreen.

O signed his name and Andy told him it was a palindrome, then he wrote ‘pop’ and ‘poop’

otto-j-as-house

O carefully cut out a plain piece of paper from his drawing and, with Andy, wrote some more palindromes

os-palindromesjpg

Caricatures

Something The Brothers always do when they come over to Our House is to draw or paint. One day R (aged 8 years) whipped up these cartoon characters. I’m not sure if he was thinking of anyone on particular, but there was some discussion about the US elections happening around that time.

rs-red-caricature

caricatureˈkærəkətʃʊə/ (say ‘karuhkuhchoouh)

noun1.  a picture, description, etc., ludicrously exaggerating the peculiarities or defects of persons or things

2.  the art or process of making such pictures, etc.
3.  any imitation or copy so inferior as to be ludicrous:
verb (t) (caricaturedcaricaturing)

4.  to make a caricature of; represent in caricature.

[French, from Italian caricatura, from caricare (over)load, exaggerate. 
caricaturistnoun

 

rs-blue-caricaturers-purple-caricature

 

The lost footy jumper

Sunday night. Just settling down to watch TV when the iPad started buzzing.

Hello?

         Hello, Janna?

Oh! Hello Rory

         Hello Janna. Is my Essendon footy jumper at your place? 

Ahh, well, I think it might be. Let me go and look.

Hang on. It might take me a minute or two to find it.

Okay.

I went to the cupboard where I stash the clothes that get left behind for me to wash when the brothers come over. I pull out five pairs of trakkie daks – two Size 8s, two Size 6s, and one with a flying bat on each knee that looked about a size 4.

Then out tumbled five T-shirts.

  • One black, long-sleeved, size 18-24 months emblazoned with a Superman logo, and the words My Daddy is Superman.
  • One plain grey, size 8.
  • One black, size 6.
  • One white, size 8, with long blue sleeves, and a huge lion’s head wearing a stars and stripes helmet.
  • One red, size 6, with a picture of a bear holding a skate board and gazing pensively off to the right.
  • Another grey, size 6, with a bear wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and an orange T-shirt.

There’s also a bag of too-small nappies, two packets of baby wipes, four bibs, one pair of pajama pants, nine pairs of socks, and any number of odd socks, and…

…an Essendon footy jumper.

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-9-39-02-am

Rory, are you there?

         Yes.

I think I’ve found it. Is it sleeveless?

         Umm…

Does it have KIA logo on the back?

         Urr. It’s…

I think this is it. Do you need it straight away?

         Yes

What do you need it for?

         Tomorrow is hot dog day at school and we are allowed to wear our colours.

What are your colours?

         Our footy team.

Oh, okay.

         So, how are we going to do this?

You need it tomorrow do you?

         Yes

I could bring it over in the morning before you go to school.

         Oh, okay. What time?

What time do you leave for school?

         We leave at 8.30.

Okay, I’ll be over there by 8.30.

         Thanks, ‘bye.

         ‘Bye.

 A few minutes later the iPad dinged with a message.

“Hi it’s Rory thank you so much for finding my jumper see you tomorrow I don’t know how to thank you send us another message to tell us what you want me to do.”         

I messaged him back.

I’m happy to bring the jumper over – If you want to do something for me maybe you could do a drawing of the Queen Fairy to go with this story. See you tomorrow at 8.30. xx

This is the story I sent. It is one of many that I have collected over many years of teaching in a story-sharing preschool.

THE QUEEN FAIRY

By: Anon. Aged 5 years

She is wearing a crown.

She has golden teeth

In one hand she is holding her wand, and juggling water

With her other hand she is juggling the whole moon, which she has picked out of the sky

She changed the moon into the world because she didn’t want it to be light at night

All of the people wanted to be scared so they told her to do that

Then she took the sun out of the sky, so every night and day it was dark

The snake in the grass bit her because she took the moon away

It was a good snake and if you did something bad it bit you

 It wasn’t long before the iPad dinged again. It was Rory sending a photo of his drawing…

…with the message:

is this ok for you                                                                                                  

Perfect – thanks Rory

(The snake says, ‘You took the moon’).

the-queen-fairy-rory