Sunday, September 02, 2012

Bushland Lullaby: The back- story

It is my great pleasure to welcome the exceptionally talented Sally Odgers as she tours with her new and delightful picture book, ‘Bushland Lullaby’, which has been beautifully and warmly illustrated by Lisa Stewart and published by Scholastic Australia for children aged 2-5 years old ...and adult readers.

I’ve known Sally for a number of years in a Yahoo network and from her mega-helpful advice and insights provided through her services. And then there are, of course her books – but I’m afraid I haven’t read them all, Sally. How many is it now? Nearly 300 titles? For the benefit of my international readers, am I right in thinking that your ‘Jack Russell: Dog Detective’ and ‘Pet Vet’ series, written with your husband, Darrel, have been your most popular recent titles – I believe they’re sold in just about every country?

Thanks, Peter! I'm delighted to be here. And yes - the Jack books have been popular. They're available in audiobook, and also in French Canadian as well as US, Canadian and UK publishers.

I hope 'Bushland Lullaby' is also an international hit as it introduces readers to a wide variety of Australian wildlife, with an appropriate gentle and lyrical verse for each. Congratulations to you, Lisa and all the Scholastic team on its publication. Your words are a delight to read out loud and I know children will just love it.

Yes- Scholastic really pushed the boat out for 'Bushland Lullaby'. It’s a lovely book to handle and the design is a nice mix of charm and artistic flair.

Can you tell us about your writing process, please? Was compiling the list of animals the first stage?

Getting the “feel” of the verse was the first stage. I wrote one stanza and polished that and then thought about other animals to include. I went for a mix of iconic Aussies and the slightly less expected so as to cover both readers who want the familiar and those who like novelty.

Writing in verse is never as easy as one imagines from reading the final version in which all rhymes seem so natural.

Do you have any favourite resources or working methods that you use to find the perfect word for each place?

I was blessed with a talent for rhyme and rhythm. It is my legacy from my parents, who were both musical. Dad, at almost 91, still has a fine bass baritone voice and Mum had a sweet mezzo soprano. Dad can sing natural harmony. My sister can do that, too. I inherited volume and timing from my parents, but missed out on tune and harmony. I have some tone, but not enough. Having a partial talent is disappointing, especially when it’s so strong in the other immediate family members, but I have finally realised I did get the talent after all. I just have a different version of it. Mine is an ear for metrical beat and assonance. As for rhyme, I never insist on perfect rhyme – I’d much rather use assonance or consonance and get just the right image than use something banal just because it was perfect-rhyme. Sometimes I look at a rhyming dictionary though – or a thesaurus- just to make sure I haven’t missed that perfect word.

I’m sure you must have found some stanzas easier to compose than others. How long have you worked on this text? Were there many alternatives that you considered for some lines? Was your editor able to make helpful suggestions?

I wrote a few different versions of some of the stanzas, but this is quite close to the original. My editor worked with me over one line in particular –

This stanza:

On a shivering island clad with snow

Where the ocean kisses icy floes

In a stony nest with her mother close

Little penguin may safely doze.

...was originally like this:

On a shivering island clad with snow

Where the ocean kisses chill ice floes

In a stony nest with her mother close

Little penguin may safely doze.

The main shift though, was in the ordering of the stanzas. I had them quite differently arranged, but Ana, my editor, pointed out that with a bit of re-ordering we could go through a day from dawn to starlight.

All books of mine have been much improved through interaction with the editor and art director.

Everyone in a publishing house will think of this as ‘my book’ – even the printer. And I know Lisa will feel the same way. Did you and Lisa know each other prior to this book? Was it a traditional collaboration in which Scholastic chose Lisa to illustrate it without your input, and no contact between you until its completion?

Lisa and I had no contact before 'Bushland Lullaby'. I was visiting the Scholastic offices a while ago with Darrel (my husband and co-writer of the Jack series) and Ana showed me a lovely book with Lisa’s illustrations and told me she was going to do 'Bushland Lullaby'. I was very happy :-) I didn’t have any contact with her, though, beyond asking for (and getting) her email address so I could tell her how pleased I was.

I hope that you’ll be together at an award ceremony! I know ‘Bushland Lullaby’ will be much enjoyed and treasured - and it’s available right now from ‘all good bookstores’. I wish you enormous sales and every success with it!

We are hoping it will be successful and we’d love to work together again one day.

Please share a website address with us.

My website is at

Lisa can be found at  If you click on BOOKS you’ll see Bushland Lullaby among her other works.

Thanks so much, Peter! And I'd also like to offer the following prizes in a contest:

Everyone who comments goes in the draw to win one of three PDF e-books.

Please state your preference when commenting:

Writing a Picture Book Text
Finding Farholt
Writing Metrical Verse

'Bushland Lullaby' is published in hardback by Scholastic Australia
ISBN-10:  174283177X
ISBN-13:  9781742831770

Very many thanks, Sally! I always find the back-story to books fascinating.

Peter Taylor
Writing for Children

You'll discover more about 'Bushland Lullaby' as Sally visits other blogs:

Spinning Pearls 1/09/2012

From Hook to Book with Chris Bell 7/09/2012

Kids' Book Reviews with Tania McCartney 8/09/2012

Reading and Writing with Dale Harcombe 12/09/2012

School Magazine with Jackie Hosking 18/09/2012