Monday, May 31, 2010

Meeting Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

I love my job! When I am not doing it, reading or thinking about ways of making the wealth of kids and youth books accessible to kids, youth and parents, I get to go and meet some great people who really make books that inspire me in storytelling.

Recently I went to the Sydney Writers Festival on the Sunday, pouring rain, tired as I was, but wanting to meet Jackie and Bruce. The dynamic duo have written so many picture books together and separately. Jackie is the ideas person and Bruce transforms her vision of the story into the wonderful characters that we all know in such books as Diary of a Wombat, The flying emu.

Jackie started the session at 10am with a full room, making sounds of her wombat scratching on her door wanting attention and food. It is easy to see that she lives in a world of the stories she tells and she brings us all in as she makes the sounds of her "children". There was a reading of "Pete the Sheep" complete with all the parts of the various dog groups being acted by very excited children and their shy parents.

Bruce delighted us with his illustrating style and explained how he creates all the characters and how easy it is to make subtle changes to expressions with a slight change to a mouth or an eye. He "receives" Jackie's script that comes with notes, but as he explained, he does not read the notes until after he looks at the story so he can form his own immediate impressions. Jackie has an amazing ability for storytelling and detail and Bruce acknowledges this as a major factor in their successful partnership.

Jackie is a prolific writer and she would be one of the most popular authors of books that span preschool to adult. In the hour that I was there I was able to learn some different "angles" on storytelling style and able to ask about how storytellers can present typically Australian content to bilingual children and adults. Bruce explained that a great visual presence and presenting the characters with enthusiasm was essential. I kept this in mind as Sophie and I were presenting "Little white dogs can't jump" for National Simultaneous Storytime last Wednesday as a bilingual event, a first for our library.

To finish, Jackie read their new book Queen Victoria's underpants. and as always leaving us wanting more, a fitting end to a great session. Kids day at Sydney Writers Festival is a wonderful day for them to meet the authors that write the books they love to read and have read to them.

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