The Lost Thing: Looking for a place to belong

I went to Melbourne recently and it was a bad idea going in the winter, it was freezing! Despite that, I had a great time and the Shaun Tan exhibition totally made up for the shivering!  The exhibition, which is still on, is about adapting his picture book “The Lost Thing” into a short film.

The Lost Thing Exhibition
“The Lost Thing” Exhibition
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

It might be a small exhibition but it was fantastic. There were a number of stations to listen to the process the team went through, from sound, to animation to capturing  the quirkiness of the protagonist. There were some really interesting sound bites and short interviews concentrating on the process of creating the animation.

I love the layout of the illustrations, there is so much to take in when  reading this book.
I love the layout of the illustrations, there is so much to take in when reading this book.

The short film is a fantastic adaptation (in my opinion!), and it some how makes the story all the more magical. It’s distinctly Australian; the narrator’s voice, the sounds of the trams and even some of the cityscapes placed me in an Australian city, but at the same time, there was still that air of mystery so that I couldn’t feel completely sure of my surroundings, or know exactly where I was. I don’t know how intentional that was, but I really liked that aspect of the production. It’s like mixing elements of the familiar with the unfamiliar just enough to throw the viewer slightly off balance.

Look at all the detail surrounding the text and main illustration.
Look at all the detail surrounding the text and main illustration.

One of the things I love about Shaun Tan’s stories and characters is that he is always looking at this idea of belonging. I love that in doing so, he often takes objects and things that are unfamiliar to  the reader as a way to explore the issue.  The layout of the pages also add to the theme of belonging or not belonging, as is the case with this story. The layers of detail on every page, is easy to miss when you first flick through the book but it doesn’t take long to realise that each page is filled with interesting information. It’s as though the text and illustrations have been stuck on to a text book or department handbook.

The Department of Odds and Ends
The Department of Odds and Ends- Perhaps this is where the missing teaspoons go and the odd sock….

The story is about a boy who finds a lost thing, a strange object that doesn’t fit in to society. He takes it home and tries to figure out what to do with it. We end up following him on his journey to help this object. We go to the Department of Odds and Ends in the hope that they will know what to do, but like all government agencies there are many forms to fill in and hoops to jump through! In the end the lost thing finds a place to belong, which reinforces that everyone needs to feel a sense of belonging.

I now wonder, if it’s the same for objects, all those everyday items that seem to go missing… Maybe my sock isn’t missing after all, maybe it went in search of something…maybe there’s an entirely different world that we don’t know about, just like in “The Lost Thing”, a place where misplaced objects can be free and happy. If only my teaspoons would leave a note before they left….


The Story of Rockin’ Gardener

It’s summer and I’m home. Home is a funny word. Being a TCK, I consider many places to be my home, so to clarify I’m in Perth (Western Australia). It’s where I have boxes of stuff, lots of boxes filled with many a forgotten object. Today I made a start going through the boxes, I knew it would be fun and that I would find hidden treasures- books from my childhood, old photos, trinkets and letters and I did find all of those. It has been an afternoon of meandering down memory lane.

So far the most exciting find has been my very first published book! I still can’t believe that I kept it (so, thank you mum for making me keep it and telling me it was really, really good!)

When I was eight years old I wrote a book as part of a school project and the teacher made them into little books, using those plastic spines that slip over pages.

The cover of my very first book.
The cover of my very first book.
The blurb....complete with typos!
The blurb….complete with typos!

You’ll also notice that this was typed on a computer, but judging by the print out…it was an old one! And, the blurb, at times sounds slightly creepy…but who cares! I was eight and I remember absolutely loving this project.

All in all there are seven chapters to this potentially prize-winning book, although it might need some minor alterations first…

Chapter One: Rockin Gardener's Beginning
Chapter One: Rockin Gardener’s Beginning
Chapter 3: Rockin Escapes!
Chapter 3: Rockin Escapes!
Still my favourite illustration from my book.
Still my favourite illustration from my book.

and, not forgetting the all important  last page about the author, or authoress…

About the Author
About me.

Reading this info page makes me laugh. I hate math, always have, so not sure why I said that I like it! This is also not my third book, but I feel there may be a story in “The Fruit Bird”.   What is clear from this is that my literary journey began a lot earlier than I had thought, and it’s funny that I still feel a sense of pride when I flick through this piece of work. I guess some things never change.

Now, I wonder what other treasures I’ll find tomorrow?

My Friend in the Desert (Part 1)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. One of the drawbacks to living in the desert is the lack of bookshops. There are the occasional trips to Dubai, where the sole purpose is to visit Kinokuniya- an oasis. My oasis in the desert. I don’t go as often as I’d like so, Amazon is my regular go to in the desert. My latest order arrived the other week, and I’m still super excited about my purchases!


Who is Harris Burdick?
Who is Harris Burdick?

It was an unexpected pleasure receiving my copy of ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’,  it definitely was not what I had expected at all. Having never seen the book before, I had expected the standard picture book format, seeing as it’s listed in the picture book section of the website.  What I got however was this:  One fat book!

The book.

I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between words and pictures, especially in this instance where the book is essentially half prose and half picture book.

I haven’t read it yet, I just keep flicking through it. I’ll get over this soon, and when I do, I know I will savour every image and word upon the page. I love that the illustrations are in pencil and I feel like I’m flicking through someone’s notebook. I will no doubt talk about this book again once I’ve read it!

My other purchase, ‘The Chronicles of Harris Burdick’, was bought because I often use the images for imaginative writing exercises in class. And, as I’ve said before, I love to read my books aloud….so having this particular copy that has stories by a range of fantastic authors means I can totally justify reading it aloud to my class!

Mr. Burns
“Excellent” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And again, it’s all about the relationship between word and image. Give someone an image and ask them to write a story and the possibilities are endless. I discovered this with my Yr 10 class. I gave them the image and caption and asked them to write. The variety of different ideas was astounding. It was a really good exercise, that I think I’ll do it myself. It will be just one of the many projects I set myself for the holidays.

The other book I bought is ‘The City’ by Armin Greder. I’ve saved this for my post on show-tell-banner

It is another unexpected book…

The Nature of Australia*


In a recent post I spoke about bookshops being one of the joys of coming home . Being, as I call it, starved of books in the middle of the sandpit, I do end up spending most of my time in bookshops when I return home, and as a result I’m collecting a nice little pile.

These are the latest additions to the pile, both are Australian writers and what I love about these books is the use of native wildlife.  I tend to use nature  in a lot of my own writing, and birds are my current obsession.  So, my reasoning for buying these two books was of course research. Every good writer (aspiring or otherwise) needs to research, or at least that’s what I keep reading. So, naturally I have jumped right in and I have to say, I’m rather enjoying it!

This research business is reminding me of my Uni days when I used to write for the Uni newspaper. Well, when I say write for the paper, I certainly wasn’t a journalist, no, I was a book reviewer. What a great way to save some money, getting books for free, the only catch was I had to write about them; but as an English major it wasn’t hard and I loved it and, now it seems I miss it.

As I was writing a post for Show & Tell, and thinking about the book as a product got me reminiscing about the reviews I used to write. I would always choose the crime/ mystery books as a break from my studies and it seems this may be the reason I am becoming so absorbed in picture books, it’s not the books I generally spend my days with (or rather, I don’t spend as much time with this genre as I want to). During term time I am teaching anything and everything, but rarely picture books, which in my opinion is a shame. After finding, buying and reading “The Shaggy Gully Times” I am now seriously thinking about using it in the classroom when teaching newspapers ( really, it’s any excuse! ), it will certainly grab their imagination and well, if I’m honest, it will give me an opportunity to read aloud to my class ( something I don’t get to do with high schoolers)!

Now, I’m going to make a cup of tea and investigate the world of the internet and see what other books I can find….

*Please visit Show & Tell for a longer post on these two books.


Picture Book: Finished, Illustrated, Submitted. Now, We Wait….

I may have mentioned before  that I have been working on a children’s picture book.  It involves the stubborn Colonel, who is afraid to make new friends.  This will hopefully, be the first in a series of picture books based on birds. This one is about a Pigeon, I also have one about a Seagull and another brewing in the back of my mind about a Falcon. 

My friend Mel  (click her name to see lots of cool things, including some sneak previews of the images) has been working hard on the illustrations. I am not sure exactly how long it has taken to get this finished, but I would not be exaggerating if I said years.

We have a full mock up with sample illustrations as well as the complete text. Today we submitted it to a publishing house, and now I am feeling really anxious!  I have only ever submitted work ( rather unsuccessfully) to literary magazines, this is the first time I have actually submitted work to a publishing house.  

This is real, reality is a scary place to be, but I’m brave! I think!

Stay tuned for updates about the progress……      These illustrations are courtesy of  Mel 

I’ve Started, So I’ll Finish….or that’s the plan if The Colonel will let me.

In my new determination to kick myself into gear I have been going through my notebooks and files to see what scribbles I have. It turns out I have a lot of unfinished pieces floating around. Am I surprised? No not really. It’s as I suspected.  I am going to get two of them finished this month, the plan is to finish the one about the Colonel and the one about Frank.  I know even as I sat there typing that sentence, that it is going to be an impossible task. I accept the challenge!

The Colonel story is almost done, it just needs tweaking which is easier said than done. He is quite annoying and I find it difficult to maintain my ‘relationship’ with some of the characters ( they keep flying away), this is probably because I have reached the point of almost finishing and haven’t looked at it for MONTHS!  This HAS to be finished first it has been going on now for over a year now.

Frank is a different matter all together. Frank is personal. Frank stole my ice cream. I was so shocked by this act that the seagull in question became my inspiration for the story! This one is proving to be very fun to write. It is in it’s early stages but here is a small sample:

Their attack was meticulous, controlled and fast. They would swoop down and attack when their victims least expected it. They were the mafia of the pier, and they had control of the whole boardwalk. 

Frank had been on the job for years, he was renowned for taking a young one under his wing. Today was a lesson in the duck and dive.

The first attempt failed, his beak only dipped into the creamy white peak of the ice cream. “Argh!” Squawked Frank. He had miscalculated. His beak merely sank into the gentle folds with nothing for him to hold.  Rosie was caught completely off guard, she never even saw him coming, only saw the imprint he had left on her ice cream that was melting quickly.