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There are places you cannot go, except by bear.

Here is the story of my journey into Terra Incognita.  

I found myself at my desk with a handful of old childhood photos.

It is was an effort to recall the details shown in these pictures, of my parents’ first home on Salisbury Road in suburban Sydney.

What I do remember are isolated yet strong vignettes, beyond which lies Terra Incognita; the suppositions of a short-sighted three year old girl.

I can recall my mothers’ face as she tells me a scary bedtime story, about a creature which will get me if I venture out after dark. In my mind I can see it; just over the back fence waits The Nacht Geger —cue creepy music— here comes — The Night Rooster! It’s legs are scaly; with claws that scrape and clack as the massive hunched shape moves behind the fence palings. I now know that The Nacht Geger is in fact a vampire, however my mother softened the story somewhat by turning the monster inexplicably into a rooster. The melodrama makes me smile now, but the feeling behind my fears remains, fixed like some prehistoric insect encased in a coffin of amber. Salisbury road was a place of wonder, and terror, and magic. Beyond the fence were monsters and sitting upon my mother’s dresser lay a jar filled with bubbles, suspended miraculously in goo; her pink hair gel was both mystical and beyond my comprehension.

Surrounded by these memories, I am transported to that house in spirit, if not body, to my old bedroom. I begin to draw the room and soon, the child I was, finds a place into the drawing. The room is indistinct but the sensation of the place carries the drawing forward. The image of the room falls away as something new begins to take shape, a beast, with a coat that’s rough and limbs that are heavy. I am a cartographer, journeying off the edge of the map; the edge of the photographs, into my memories of monsters. I sit back and look at the girl in alarm… for she has climbed onto the beasts’ back; the back of a bear. But her face is so distant and so composed that I am less worried by this turn of events. Plainly, she knows something that I do not.

The bear looks this way and that, as I scrape away at the oil paint. Suddenly, a moment of recognition flashes across its’ face, as it turns and regards me. A salutary beast has arrived from the land behind the back fence. I now understand the meaning of the drawing; that the fearful mien of the Nacht Geger came out of the same place as did the bear. Forty seven years late perhaps, but a rescue is at hand. Perhaps there is an upside to the fact that I was able to scare the living wits out of myself as a child; Terra Incognita has monsters, but also helpful creatures alike. What I have found, is a curious sense of underlying rationale in the creation of images such as this. It gives me courage to go over the back fence in art and in story, and it gives me courage in life too.

This bear eats Night Roosters on toast.

Maya and Cat

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Walker Books Classroom ideas – click here

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The story behind Maya and Cat – click here

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Teachers pay Teachers Worksheet – click here

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Awards

CBCA Notable 2019
NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2019 shortlist

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Walker Books Australia

ISBN 9781921977282

 in February 2019.
ISBN 9781406383959
The international launch was held at one of London’s
most popular commercial art galleries;
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To be published by
 in May 2019.
ISBN 9781536204230

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Maya and Cat reviews

The Times UK Magerl’s illustrations look like the offspring of Maurice Sendak and Ronald Searle. This delicious and lyrical picturebook … Nicolette Jones _____________________________________________________ Storylinksau Maya & Cat A new picture book by local artist and writer Caroline Magerl is always an event. Maya & Catis a quirky imaginative tale about a girl who sees a cat sitting on a roof opposite her window. When she tries to entice it to come down and it does so only to immediately go up on a roof again. Maya sets out to find cat’s home. She asks various people, travelling through the town on her bicycle until she finally finds out where cat lives. There is a little twist to the ending which is charming, heart-warming and ultimately very satisfying. This simple story is written in careful rhythmic prose, with great attention to the sounds of words. A picture book is memorable when it combines excellent prose with quality illustrations. Here the allusive prose is complemented by Magerl’s signature delicate artwork. The whole is captivating and gently humourous. The illustrations are wistful and delicate in a style that is original and haunting. Maya does a lot of looking through windows, standing in doorways, all thresholds to imaginative other worlds, all empowering young minds to go beyond the ordinary into challenging other spaces. Young readers will adore the adventures of Maya and her cat. It is one of those books that linger in the memory long after its first reading. Mia Macrossan _____________________________________________________ Red Reading Maya & Cat I’m not sure whether it’s the words or pictures of Caroline Magerl’s moggy story that I love better; both are absolute delight. Through gorgeous poetic language and wonderfully whimsical watercolour and ink illustrations, the author/illustrator conveys the tale of Maya and what happens then she hears Cat ‘rumbling a rumbly purr’ out on the wet roof and decides it needs rescuing. Having lured it down with a fishy treat, with Cat following behind her, she sets out to discover the whereabouts of its home. Jill R Bennett _____________________________________________________ Rebecca Newman Favourite picture book read in the last 6 months Maya and Cat by Caroline Magerl A gentle story with divine illustrations. The text is like poetry and there are themes of friendship and resilience. This book is good for your soul. ______________________________________________________ The Bottom Shelf      http://thebottomshelf.edublogs.org/2018/08/03/ On a roof, as wet as a seal, as grey as a puddle, Cat was rumbling, a rumbly purr.  Through the window from the warmth of her bedroom, Maya spots Cat and tries to entice her inside, safe from the wet and wild outdoors. But feather boas, pink shoelaces and a pompom on a stick are not what Cat wants.  And although a can of sardines placed at the back door brings her hungry tummy down, Cat returns to her perch on the roof, wet and forlorn. Determined that one of the windows shining its warm light on the bleakness, Maya is determined to  find Cat’s home but every door she knocks on is not the one. Until she finds Cat in her bicycle basket as though it is saying, “Let me show you…” This is a stunning story of a little girl’s determination to help reunite a pet with its owners and the beautiful reward she is offered. The heartache of separation for both humans and pets is  a familiar one as anyone with a Facebook feed would know and so it will resonate with so many readers, adult and child alike.  The language is poetic, the ink and watercolour illustrations are exquisite with the one where Maya is cycling along the jetty taking me straight back to my 1950s childhood favourites in Edward Ardizzone’s  series about Tim. Having seen hundreds of thousands of illustrations over my time as a teacher, one that instantly brings back such warm memories means the book is an instant winner for me! The subtlety of the palette, the blend of colours, the intricacy of the linework, the detail in every illustration not only bring the words to life but offer so much to see as it is read again and again, providing a stark contrast to the bright, bold computer-generated works that our students are so familiar with.  This is a series of lessons about visual literacy and the need to look deep within, the purpose of picture books and the connections between text and graphics, author, illustrator and reader all wrapped up in one engaging, enthralling story. This is more than just a story about a girl and a lost cat – it’s a celebration of words and pictures that is likely to become an enduring childhood memory for many. Barbara Braxton

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Losang Zopa https://losangzopa.wordpress.com/2018/08/04/maya-cat-caroline-magerl/ Throughout our college and certainly in my library at present we are having a great focus on kindness and empathy. With my little people I am using a range of picture books which offer this theme that also feature animals as this meshes with their classroom unit. Author/illustrator Caroline Magerl’s new picture book, launched this week, is a perfect fit for this very unit with its themes of resilience and friendship along with the very essence of kindness. Maya follows her empathic instincts to coax Cat down from on high and thereafter tries to find her rightful home. When she does so, her sadness at leaving Cat with her own family is assuaged by an unexpected surprise, one which fills her with absolute delight. This text features some absolutely scrumptious figurative language which would be inspirational for encouraging children to attempt their own evocative writing. “On a roof, wet as a seal, grey as a puddle, Cat was rumbling a rumbly purr.” The stunning artwork perfectly captures the mood of the text and the endpapers are just sensational! (My kidlets all know about my predilection for gorgeous endpapers!) If you are searching for more wonderful books that will assist with growing empathy in children, this will make a super addition to your collection. I highly recommend it to you for readers from around Prep upwards. Sue Warren

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Kids Book Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2018/08/review-maya-and-cat.html From the moment I opened the cover and saw an array of gorgeous cats staring at me on the end papers, I knew I would like this book. When Maya sees a cat out in the rain, on a roof, as wet as a seal, as grey as a puddle, she decides to rescue it. Maya attempts to entice Cat down from the roof, out of the rain, with a feather boa, a shoe lace and even a can of sardines. Cat eventually comes down and Maya attempts to help Cat find his home. Maya and Cat is a delightful story about a girl who is determined to help a lost cat find his home and is then rewarded with a wonderful surprise…but I won’t spoil the surprise. You’ll have to read it for yourself. Caroline Magerl’s illustrations are full of character. I adore her style and children will love the detail on each page. The simple use of onomatopoeia throughout the story will also be a hit with young children as they read along with the story. There is so much to love about this book. Maya and Cat is a gorgeous book and highly recommended for anyone who has ever cared for a cat, or any animal for that matter. Coral Vass 

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Books and Publishing https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2018/05/31/108600/maya-and-cat-caroline-magerl-walker-books/ Caroline Magerl has a very distinctive style of illustration and this book does not disappoint. It’s full of cats. ‘On a roof, as wet as a seal, as grey as a puddle, Cat was rumbling, a rumbly purr.’ Looking out the window at the rain, Maya discovers Cat on a neighbouring rooftop. She tries to coax him in, with toys that might appeal and food. But Cat is aloof and refuses to respond to these overtures of friendship. When Maya puts a new tin of cat food in her pocket, Cat follows her, and the two set out to find Cat’s home, visiting several unlikely places. The journey through the town, with Maya giving Cat a lift on her bicycle, takes them through streets, a park and finally to the seashore. It’s raining for most of the book and Magerl’s illustrations are evocative and reflect the mood. The palette is soft and atmospheric. The simple text, set out clearly in large type, is poetic and rhythmic and the endpapers feature a crowd of cats who look curious and appealing. This satisfying and charming read is recommended to share with young readers aged five and up. Margaret Hamilton

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Readings Bookshop Review https://www.readings.com.au/products/25125318/maya-and-cat In exquisite poetic language, author and illustrator Caroline Magerl tells the story of a girl who finds a shivering wet stray cat on the roof, befriends it with sardines and then kindly tries to find where it belongs. Maya visits many homes that feature rabbits, dogs and other cats in their multitudes while Cat looks on somewhat perplexed. Cat eventually leads the way and Maya is given a wonderful surprise when she finally discovers Cat’s true home. Maya is a quirky character trailing her feather boa and wearing a hat that looks remarkably like the ears of Cat. The ink and watercolour drawings are just beautiful and the faces on the characters so expressive and humorous. This is a delightful picture book for all animal lovers that will be pored over by children aged three and up. Angela Crocombe.

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Boomerang Books https://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/big-cats-and-small-cats-picture-book-reviews/2018/07 The gentlest of the lot, Maya and Cat is evocative, heartwarming and heavenly. Caroline Magerl transcends beyond beauty with her poetic language and mesmerisingly enchanting illustrations in amongst a gripping tale of friendship, responsibility and trust. The fine line and watercolour paintings in a style so charismatic aptly portray the dramatic moodiness and intense atmosphere of a lost cat drenched with rain and anguish. It is with her determination and good will that Maya searches for its rightful owners. Long, yellow scarf blazing behind her, Maya eventually follows Cat’s nose to an unexpected fate; where a long, yellow windsock atop a rocky boat leads Cat home and Maya a treasured reward. Intriguing, beguiling and warming for the cockles of your heart, this loveable tale between Maya and Cat will be welcomed into your home with an outpouring of love and affection many times over. Beautiful for ages four and up. Romi Sharp

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Word Press https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2018/08/03/book-review-maya-cat-by-caroline-magrel/ Cat does not want feather boas, nor pink shoelaces or a pompom on a stick and although she ate every oily silver morsel of fish, Cat is searching for something much more precious. So Maya sets out with Cat in tow to knock on doors to see if one holds what Cat is seeking. Maya & Cat is a heart-warming story that follows a little girl and a cat as they seek out the thing that Cat is missing most and the thing that Maya discovers she is missing too; companionship. A perfect story to read together; young children will enjoy the gentle, poetic language. Caroline Magrel’s adorably quirky watercolour illustrations take us through the wet and gloomy, lamp-lit streets of a seaside town. They leave you with that sense of peace and tranquility you feel when you’re warm and cosy indoors while a storm rages outside your windows. This unique feel-good picture book written and illustrated by Caroline Magrel would make a wonderful addition to any young child’s bookshelf. Maya & Cat makes for a pleasant and comforting read – the perfect bed time story! Alana Bird

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One More Page Podcast https://www.onemorepagepodcast.com/episode-12/ Liz got all excited about Maya and Cat by Caroline Magerl and published by Walker Books Australia . She even picked it as a possible award contender for next year! Liz Ledden

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Pass it On https://jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/pass-it-on/jackies-quick-picture-book-overview/ This is the story of a little girl who helps a lost cat find her way home. This is exquisitely done – Mageral’s poetic text and stunning illustrations are absolutely delightful to read and gaze upon. And wait for the surprise at the end. Just lovely. Jackie Hosking

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Good Reads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40732381-maya-cat?ac=1&from_search=true  Elegant, whimsical and sweet—Caroline Magerl achieves the trifecta of picture book perfection through a simple story with her lush illustrations. The story – Maya finds Cat. Or perhaps Cat finds Maya. They share a quietly quirky adventure that seems fated to end sadly. The art – Gorgeous watercolour and pen drawings convey movement, emotion and potentiality. For me, there are faint echoes of Sendak but with more whimsy and elegance and a brighter palette. In sum, it’s a joy to read and a treasure to hold. Alison Stegert 

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Read Plus https://www.readplus.com.au/blog_detail.php?id=9058 Highly Recommended. This beautifully presented story of reciprocal love and friendship will resonate with readers as they see Maya struggling to take a cat back to its rightful home. On a wet and windy night, Maya spies the cat sitting on the roof opposite her house. It is very wet and bedraggled, and nothing she can do to attracts its attention works. She flutters her boa at it, throws out her pompom on string and even her pink shoelaces. But when she opens a can of fish and floats it off in the rain, the cat eagerly eats it up. Maya then leads the cat around a number of houses in her suburb, and although she stops at some interesting places, she cannot find its owner. But placed in the basket on her bike, she leads Maya back home, where a surprise waits in store. This compassionate story of the love between a child and a stray cat, of Maya looking out for a lost animal she spies on the roof, of going to some lengths to help it back home, will speak volumes to children as they may look further at the plight of many lost people around the world, waiting for someone to care. The brilliant watercolour illustrations depicting an array of cats throughout the story but particularly on the endpapers, will delight and enthrall all readers as they pore over the pages. The wet and wintry conditions add a deeper level of concern and urgency to Maya’s quest. What she finds at the end of the pier is simply charming, and readers will inspect the house and its occupants with glee. Australian freelance illustrator, Magerl has illustrated stories for others, and Maya and cat, both written and illustrated by her is a wonderful nuanced story full of levels of meaning for readers to ponder. The illustrations are designed to draw the reader into the reality of the weather and its effects, the swirling leaves, the driving rain, the tossing seas making each page sing with movement. Fran Knight

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Booksellers New Zealand https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2018/08/03/book-review-maya-cat-by-caroline-magrel/ Cat does not want feather boas, nor pink shoelaces or a pompom on a stick and although she ate every oily silver morsel of fish, Cat is searching for something much more precious. So Maya sets out with Cat in tow to knock on doors to see if one holds what Cat is seeking. Maya & Cat is a heart-warming story that follows a little girl and a cat as they seek out the thing that Cat is missing most and the thing that Maya discovers she is missing too; companionship. A perfect story to read together; young children will enjoy the gentle, poetic language. Caroline Magrel’s adorably quirky watercolour illustrations take us through the wet and gloomy, lamp-lit streets of a seaside town. They leave you with that sense of peace and tranquility you feel when you’re warm and cosy indoors while a storm rages outside your windows. This unique feel-good picture book written and illustrated by Caroline Magrel would make a wonderful addition to any young child’s bookshelf. Maya & Cat makes for a pleasant and comforting read – the perfect bed time story! Alana Bird

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One More Page https://www.onemorepagepodcast.com/episode-12/ Starts at 26:00 Liz Ledden

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My Child Magazine http://www.mychildmagazine.com.au/book-reviews-august-2018/ Maya lures a lost cat off a nearby roof, and sets about trying to find its home. After door-knocking unsuccessfully around her neighbourhood, Maya and Cat cycle through town until they finally find Cat’s quirky owners. As Maya prepares to say a sad farewell to her new furry friend, Cat gives her a gift to ensure she never forgets their adventure. This is a beautifully illustrated tale of friendship and determination, for cat-lovers aged 3-7.

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The golden adventures of a very dark horse. http://verydarkhorse.blogspot.com/ Maya & Cat is a pretty nice accompaniment to We’re Getting a Cat, though this one is all fantasy.  The ink and watercolour illustrations are evocative (especially the wild, grey ocean and sweet little house boat < LOVE).  This is the ultimate cosy tale.  A story of courage and friendship, set in a wild and stormy cityscape.  Expressive and moody illustrations, gorgeous poetic language, and an ending that is just too sweet. Stella

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Blog of Dad http://blogofdad.com/august-2018-picture-book-roundup/

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Eric Carle Museum – Massachusetts USA

Massachusetts The next morning, I was delighted to watch snow fall while eating breakfast. The locals seemed less enthusiastic. By lunch, the snow had become much heavier as did the local mood.

One of the first impressions I had of the Eric Carle Museum was that it presents as a destination. The fact that the building was designed and purpose built on a beautiful site undoubtedly helps create that impact, but in this case, it all comes together and succeeds very handsomely. I could not wait to get indoors, and not just because of the icicles forming on the end of my nose. As I entered, the space opened upwards and the view was along the length of the building. The gallery spaces full of original illustrations lead off to the left and the well stocked bookshop is on the right. Net to this was the art room where I was to spend the next couple of happy hours.

It was such a pleasure to work in a space as lovely as this, with large windows looking over an apple orchard which was still being dusted by new snow. I was pretty excited about the snow but the locals plainly viewed this reprise of winter weather the way you feel when you can’t quite shake a cold… Therefore, I was very happy that the effort had been made to come along to the event, and the turnout was wonderful. We set to with a plentiful array of crayons, pencils and paint, and for the umpteenth time I experienced that noise that is both busy and quiet, children drawing. I am always pleased to see how many adults share their passion for children’s books. It pleased me no end when Sussanah Richards (Sussing out books) Professor of Education at Eastern Connecticut State University showed her support by dropping in. I would have loved more time to speak with her, but I suspect there is ever enough time with all her energy. The one thing I saw over and over on this trip was parents bringing their children along for the express purpose of engaging them in picture books and in art and language. It is a very heartening thing to be part of, and that the Eric Carle Museum supports the artform of picture books and its rich history with style and generosity.

I even scored a signed copy. My first introduction to the Eric Carle Museum was courtesy of Dr Belle Alderman of the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature. I understand that Belle is, as always, investigating ways to promote Australian Children’s Literature and for mine, we need such museums as the Eric Carle and Mazza in Australia. I was a late comer to social media. As a card carrying Luddite, I have a natural suspicion towards any form of technology. However, I admit to a slight conversion. I am someone who needs my own private space when working, but equally it has been enjoyable to get out of the studio and chat occasionally even if it is in a cyberspace kind of way.

On the morning before we left the Amherst area, I posted a diary sketch of the nearby town of Northampton.

Before I knew it, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting author, Stephanie Greene a FB friend who lives there. A couple of mugs of coffee later and I soon realized this was another of those conversations which could have gone on for days. You know that you are having fun when Americans turn around to see who the loud Australian is. Not for the first time, I was struck by the generosity of those working in the children’s book industry. There is no doubt that times are tough, but rather than hide their knowledge, they freely share a wealth of experience and so it was with Stephanie. Book marketing was discussed; I only added this to show it wasn’t all fun.

Mazza Museum – Ohio USA

At the end of my speech came a question: “What comes first, the writing or the pictures?”

Presenting at the beautiful Mazza Museum surrounded by illustrations and very grateful for the large attendance!

I believe picture books, like all art, are a vehicle not a destination. They were a minor miracle to me as a child, and now for many reasons remain so. My book Rose and the Wish Thing may have started out as old trouser material made into a soft toy, but its journey has produced so much more. Each picture book is something immensely valuable; a unique lived experience that is condensed and made relatable. The world of a book seems to continue expanding, in so many ways … many of which are not planned.

Findlay University

Last week I found myself at the Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio (Findlay University), surrounded by numerous original works from many of the world’s best children’s book illustrators. The gallery illustrations are mounted low so that children don’t have to crane their necks to see. They are accompanied by a copy of the related book, in position and ready for reading. Expertly guided by Terry Willems Olthouse and Dan Chudzinski, I moved from illustration to illustration, scanning each through an illustrator’s eyes; identifying technique, colour, subject matter, layout… when I came across an illustration of Frog by Max Velthuijs. All of a sudden, I was no longer looking through the eyes of someone in the ‘industry’, but from a personal experience. Years ago my daughter, Jen and I read that book of the frog’s story and together we shared his broken heart. This was an intimate moment as we discussed his love for Duck [Ed.: one of Velthuijs’ characters], in the quiet moments that our reading time at home provided. And that is what I mean by the world of a book expanding; they are not a finite solution but a question to be explored. An experience shared in the reading then discussed and pondered for long after. They provide an ongoing dialogue,that helps bond people through shared human experience. These books and their illustrations have a value that is impossible to put a price on. By collecting and sharing these works the Mazza Museum confirms their value in its collection and by extension ensures an understanding of it.

Dan standing in front of the 10,000 plus works in the vault.

The museum is wonderful and I had the good fortune to see much of it. But this is no stuffy museum, this is its own community working towards the same goal. My first contact there was Terry Willems Olthouse, who made me feel welcome before I left Australia, but her reception in person was even warmer. Terry and curator Dan Chudzinski spent hours guiding me through the museum, all the while providing expert commentary. We talked for hours, discussing illustrator’s stories, conservation techniques, display methods and most importantly; how they go about engaging with their younger visitors. Dan, who I can only describe as the industry professional equivalent of a Swiss army knife because of his many talents, took me to tour of some of the hidden treasures of the museum. One treasure is the vault, where many of the works are meticulously stored. Dan went on to explain his vision for the changing face of the entrance and explained how the museum provides for travelling exhibitions. The docents are equally impressive. Most come from a teaching background and bring years of knowledge and experience. What struck me was the enthusiasm of each as they described how they related to the art works and then relayed this on to their audience. These people animate the museum and its contents.

Dan, myself and Ben

Over lunch I came to see this group as a family with each person bringing their own particular talent. Managing this is Ben Sapp who I found to be warm, professional, and in an understated way, a very strong driver of the vision that this collective embodies. The Mazza Museum highlights all that the book community has to offer, by being a generous, inclusive and an inspiring community in itself.

Exploring

I took some time off to stroll through a local park and came upon a wildlife information center. It was a beautiful building and I quickly noticed a lady seated quietly in front of a large window facing the forest. She was one of the staff counting the various birds which came to the feeders outside. I walked up to the window and was delighted to see the blue jays and red cardinals amongst the bare branches.
In the leaf litter beneath the window scurried a chipmunk. They are incredibly cute and I expressed a desire to take one home, puffy cheeks, furry tail and all. At this the lady counting birds turned towards me and instructed that they are wild animals and not at all cuddly. In fact they would most likely bite me if I tried to touch them. Living in Australia, I have become accustomed to people detailing the many venomous and dangerous animals which inhabit my country. It was a nice change to have an American try to scare me with tales of the dread chipmunk. Who would have thought? Somehow that makes them even cuter.
I love travelling but must admit to having motel anxiety. After arriving at each new room, I enter with a certain amount of hesitation. Inevitably inside is neat and tidy … however I know my suitcase will soon open and explode its contents all over. On this trip I have encountered an added layer of anxiety, as it appears American staff are trained in fabric origami. Each towel, wash cloth, even toilet roll end is crafted into a folded piece of art. On this trip I have often felt conflicted between increasing hay fever and the hesitancy of ripping out that first tissue in the box.

Boomerang Books with Romi Sharp

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Caroline Magerl – A Journey of the Heart An interview at Boomerang Books Blog By Romi Sharp I am so honoured to have had the opportunity to learn more about the talented illustrator and author, Caroline Magerl, and to be able to share her rich and fascinating past, and present, with our readers. We also focus on her latest book, ‘Hasel and Rose’, also known as ‘Rose and the Wish Thing’; a story of hope, adventure, connection, magic, depth, and of love – these all intricately weaved into an exquisite story with powerful images that perfectly sums up some of Caroline’s most significant earlier years. You’ve had such an interesting and rich history in terms of your upbringing and how you ventured into the illustrative and writing world. Can you tell us a bit about your journey from your beginnings to now? As a young child, my family were migrants to Australia. My parents had come from the broken world of post war Germany. They arrived with an overbearing sense of grief, on many different levels. These impressions became a permanent presence that was not openly discussed. The old world had come along with us, baggage, as it were. Our new home was in the dry fringes of suburban Sydney and it was fair to say we were not keyed into the new culture. My aunt tried to raise geraniums on the shady side of the house, despite the redback spiders. My father planted a pine tree dead centre in the front yard; as homage to our homeland. My parents began building a 45 foot steel yacht in the back yard which did little to aid our integration into the neighborhood; the escape pod…we were strangers and this was to be our new home. It was ironic to come to a new country just to find a way to float at a distance from its shores. Occasionally packages would arrive in brown boxes, sent by my grandmother from behind the Iron Curtain. Oddly these packages (the tired brown box in the story of Rose) contained marvelous East German picture books, the pages of which showed a very different side of Germany. They were enchanting and saturated with an atmosphere and colour that I loved at first sight. It was incongruous to me that something so beautiful could originate from a land my imagination held as bleak. Importantly, they provided a different view of the culture we had come from. Here was a direct example of the impact books can have. At some level, I was asking questions. Books eventually provided a vehicle for me to understand my past and explore my future. Around the age of seven, I began reading the works of Australian authors. I had lived in the country long enough to recognize their great love of the landscape in the words, the engagement with indigenous stories, the personality of the bush. When Patricia Wrightson wrote of small creatures up in the eucalypts stirring and rustling the leaves as if it were the wind, throwing down sticks on unsuspecting heads, I knew in my bones this was all true. Or that there would be a trickster in froglike shape who watches children from limpid green ponds, speaking with them when it chose to, or tricking them as the mood took. It was no odder than the actual wildlife and wilderness of Australia. What I was reading really clicked with my experience of places like Kuring-Gai Chase. Australian authors invited me into the place I lived, enriched my experience and led me further into relating to my new home and the people around me. Nothing could have prepared us for Australia, but these books were a path to relating to this place. Looking back, I now understand that these works taught me how effectively and elegantly picture books communicate a world of ideas and emotions. This was something that could be made, built with paper and paint and was tremendously appealing. I remember observing this in practice when I saw the faith my daughter had in the structural qualities of sticky tape. Sticky tape and sheer will, could do all. My youth was spent living aboard my family yacht sailing up and down the east coast. This lifestyle afforded little space for possessions but books were my constant companions. There were literally weeks of nothing more than the three of us aboard. No TV, sometimes very few people or none at all as we travelled. The East coast was a lonelier place then. Reading gave me somewhere else to be. I spoke about the two impressions of where my family had come from. The grey and grief stricken realities of my parent’s world were real, it was something I felt. I was also impelled to re-imagine my world and picture books showed me this could be done. Art and storytelling teach us to know that there are other ways to see things and if that is so, it encourages us to see for ourselves. That sustains like nothing I know. What learning experiences and/or feedback have really helped you to practice and improve your craft? I had wanted to illustrate picture books from those early days. Initially my interest lay in being a picture book illustrator and I must admit that I was not immediately successful in this endeavour. Even though, I had worked as a cartoonist and feature’s illustrator for magazines, newspapers, educational publishers, and had even started to sell my art through galleries, none of this seemed to sway the picture book publishers. All this occurred at a very different time when emails and internet were new, personal approach was still best. I was a long distance from the centers of publishing so I began sending sample art in lightly fragranced envelopes to every publisher in Australia and waited, and waited, wondering why I was not immediately embraced into the fold. Thinking I was suited to the job was not nearly enough. It was many years before I got my first break. An editor, who I had met years earlier, paired my watercolour style with a text by Libby Hathorn to re illustrate and publish in Australia. As I floated down the corridor with my first brief in hand, another editor stuck his head round the door and beckoned me into his office. So after years of frustration, I landed my first two jobs in one day. The first book won me the Crichton award for best new picture book illustrator. Immediately after this I told myself that I was done with scented envelopes. I got on the phone to a highly respected Melbourne publishing house and boldly asked to speak with the art editor. I announced myself as Caroline Magerl, the artist who had just won the Crichton Award, and waited in expectation of a sharp intake of breath. Listening intently, I overheard the secretary announce me as ‘a Mrs Crichton on the line’, to the editor. I was getting used to how things were going to go. I now realize those years of working as an illustrator in other fields helped me to hone my work. There is no substitute for practice. Determination is also important. For most, success it is a long time coming and you have to just keep going. Most of your books have been published as a joint collaboration between you, as the illustrator, and a fellow author. How does this process compare with that of a project you have written and illustrated alone, such as ‘Hasel and Rose’? Is one way more challenging than the other? The working life of an illustrator differs from that of a writer. Unlike authors, I was not tied to any particular publishing house, and my useful life extended only as far as the timeframe of each particular illustration job. I could float from one publisher to another, and back again. Even though I provided what I considered to be a vital part of a book, its pictures, the prime mover was the author. All the wrangling was already done by the time I received a text to illustrate. Again and again, I noted the marked difference between the operating styles of the producers of imagery, who tended to be quiet, poor self promoters living in hollowed out trees, as opposed to the far more vocal and able negotiators, the authors, not to mention the publishers themselves. That was how I perceived it as I contemplated never owning a hollowed out log of my own. A number of years ago, I happened to be on a small yacht on a charming waterway near Sydney. On board was an author, a publisher and myself. The wind was blowing directly against us, from the direction of an island that we were heading for. I was at the helm, tacking toward the island as the wind was directly against us. Bear in mind, I had lived on yachts for 25 years had some ten thousand plus sea miles behind me. After some general banter about how illustrators are at the very tail end in the production of picture books, the publisher turned to me, irritated at my lack of direct progress toward the target, then pointed firmly at the island and announced, “That way!”  Irritating as this day sail was for me, with its abundant metaphors….what I took from this was that ‘the me’ who paints was not a great negotiator or business person. I could do worse than learn from the others on the boat that day. How did the story of ‘Hasel and Rose’ unfold? What was your process in bringing this book to life? My creative method as an illustrator is to lie down. My best work is done that way. The text literally lives under my pillow for weeks with sketches completed at all hours. If I have to leave the hollowed log, the text goes with me. In a sense, my life is grafted onto and channeled into the story at hand.  A good example of this was when I was illustrating a book titled Castles for the aforementioned author and publisher.  I had decided to feature a sandcastle on the cover and had gone to the beach to build one, and then draw the result. As I beavered away, I had drawn the compassionate attention of an elder gentleman who offered to help me build my sandcastle. I scowled at his intrusion, did he not recognize a professional going about her business? He did not … and went away confirmed in his view that there are some very odd people about. This is perhaps why some creative people may seem a little unplugged from the here and now. It is down to your energy being diverted into Narnia, or wherever. Bear with us, we’ll be back with you shortly. ‘Hasel and Rose’ had rumbled along beside me for ten years, beginning with two sentences I had written in a journal. I wrote these quite spontaneously, and after reading them back to myself, I realized I had stumbled onto something that mattered deeply to me. I was stuck. Initially I approached an editor of a major publisher, and presented a journal in which the story was drawn in images, a storyboard if you like.  The editor showed great interest at the first meeting and offered a contract on the spot. Before I had left that office she had begun to suggest changes, and sadly I must admit that I wasn’t confident enough of my writing to defend my work, it was too personal … I was at a fork in the road. If I accepted the offer of help, the contract and the book would have come out much sooner. Obviously, I did not follow that path and it cost me ten years. However what I learnt over those ten years was not so much how to write, but how I write and‘Hasel and Rose’ is the end result. As an illustrator my starting point was to draw, however all the pictures in the world could not bring me the right words. Trust I drew a boxful of pictures. It was excruciating as my brain noticed my frustration and immediately fell back to my default, ‘Oh, you have a problem, draw a picture’. Doing something else, anything else, can be the only way forward at a time like this. I joined a Ju-Jitsu dojo. You won’t believe how much throwing grown men over your shoulders can provide creative solutions. When I was ready, I was grateful that my editor at Penguin, Michelle Madden paid out a lot of rope as I painfully inched toward something like a narrative. Her patience was invaluable. At one point I tried writing in German, my native language, in an effort to find my voice. I noticed I expressed myself differently in German, and that told me to keep digging, it was there … somewhere. I had many pictures and many fragments of poetic text, the story was written twice. It was there but it took the form of a collage. I had a story in pictures, a wish thing endlessly travelling toward Rose. At the same time, I had also written a little tale on the side, about a lost toy which was quirky and had some humour, and better still a structure. Michelle put one and one together; here were the parallel stories. I almost heard the cry of ‘This Way!’ It made perfect sense. The experience of writing the story and the story itself became one and the same, and the stalemate was over. May I also add that Michelle did this over her Christmas break. I often hear of people in the publishing business going above and beyond, so I would especially like to thank Michelle and Lisa Riley (Publisher) for their help and guidance with Hasel and Rose. With reference back to ‘Hasel and Rose’, this beautiful story of displacement and friendship emerged out of great significance to your own past experiences. Can you tell us how this book is meaningful to you and what you hope readers will gain from it? As I was writing this story, I remembered how as a child I drew much strength when holding a particular toy. It had somehow been nominated to provide protection and courage. This is something I have seen many other children do and is heart-warming to watch, but also deeply intriguing. It occurred to me that there is something significant to be learnt from these fleeting relationships. During the years of writing Rose and the Wish Thing, I happened to see a boy tenderly carry a kitten in the hood of his jacket. We were on a Melbourne tram and he kept his composure by gently stroking the whiskered face at his shoulder, all the while under slander from other boys sitting nearby. This incident was instrumental in shaping a part of the story, that of Rose carrying the Wish Thing in her hood. Finding the Wish Thing was just the start for Rose, her courage was there all along, but now it was engaged. The world outside her door is after all the object and desirable end to the tale of finding the Wish Thing. It is the friendship that happens once a Rose finds her place in the world, which is the less obvious but true focus of this story. ‘Hasel and Rose’ is soon to be released in the U.S. with the title ‘Rose and the Wish Thing’. Congratulations! How did this publication come about? How much input did you have in this international release? Besides the titles do the books differ at all? Thanks. The good people at Penguin Australia took ‘Hasel and Rose’ to the Bologna Book fair before it was released. While there a publisher at Double Day (Random House) noticed it and bought the North American rights. It was somewhat surreal to have an overseas contract signed before the book was printed.  They requested a small number of changes such as the title. Double Day felt that changing Hasel into ‘the wish thing’ clarified the intention and had the added purpose of being less gender specific. Over the years I have come to appreciate that published works are a collaboration of editors, publishers, marketing, art editors, designers and the list goes on. Most have years of experience and genuinely want to add to the success of the book. As the creator I will always fight for the intregity of my work but equally I would be foolish not to acknowledge professional direction when offered. All of this is an art more than science or perhaps it is better described as an awkward dance. I will be travelling to America when the book is released in March to present at places such as the Mazza Museum, Eric Carle Museum and a selected number of bookshops. I must also mention Dr Belle Alderman of the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature. Belle was kind enough to introduce my work to the Eric Carle Museum staff recently during her vacation in America. Once again, I find myself personally indebted and very grateful to know there are people such as Belle, in the Australian Children’s book industry freely giving so much of their time, effort and expertise. Your illustrations are so gorgeously fluid and energetic, soulful and emotive. Do you have a favourite image from ‘Rose and the Wish Thing’? What was your creative thought process while illustrating the book? How does the watercolour medium reflect the story’s underlying themes? I don’t have a favourite image as such. Each has a specific reason for existing. For example, if I start at the beginning; Rose was a new face in a new street; her feet are not on the ground, she is in a space that is not hers. You are looking up at her in a large building… in a sense she is hanging onto the window sill, a floating feeling between a window in and a window out. There she hangs onto something, but it is not what she needs. To give the impression of loneliness, of being somewhere that was not home, I had a strong intuition to create a vignette as a floating image; a window into the story. It’s fleeting and you aren’t meant to dwell, its intention is to lead you in. Watercolour was the obvious choice of medium. It was the first medium I saw in books as a child. I was fascinated by the simultaneous impression of overall harmony, and yet it was plain to see that that the image was built up in films and layers of colour. It had the ability to be evocative and loose, but also describe things in minute details. I didn’t know how it was done, only that it could be done and that there was great skill in doing so. I became obsessed with it and eventually taught myself. This picture as with the rest of the story has a consistent palette which helped to maintain an underlying harmony. A very pale yellow was applied beneath all the images, which provided a sense of warmth throughout. The yellow is a very clear colour which manages to glow through the many layers which were laid over. I had great delight in floating the opaque bricks in mid air against the wall, where they sit almost magically against the building. The blue sky and red bricks are reminiscent of my early impressions of Sydney, where as a child; I was a new face in a new street. Leaving Europe where the sky covered as a blanket over the world, my new town appeared with a sense of blue immensity. For me, red and blue are emotionally charged colours. Part of the visual narrative in this picture is the distant streetscape. This created a neighborhood atmosphere which is a major part of the story; there was something to be gained out there, something for Rose to gain, a promise of something. It wasn’t just Rose in a window; it was also an overlay of meaning and an unspoken agenda. Pictures have a very powerful role in telling the unspoken aspects of a story. Its language is in the colour, tonal value, perspective, proportions, expression, and in this case an understated yet obvious element, ‘a new street’. Loose line work creates a spontaneous joy. There is a sense of exploration as the strokes create new vegetation, random birds, etc. They spring forward in the most charming way, but do come with the enormous risk of irreversibility. Line work reads beautifully and you can feel the energy of the person who drew it. Equally but differently; Through a glass. Some of the images in the story were defined as much from my frustration at not being able to pin the story down as the narrative itself. In this image with views through Rose’s cardboard telescope, there is a series of tantalizing views before Rose sees the wish thing arriving in a box. This was engendered by a memory of watching the Sydney harbor pass by in a dizzying smudge, through the porthole of the yacht that was my childhood home. Nothing was still as the vessel swung on its mooring, things endlessly slipped by. These memories underpinned much of the illustration and in this case even the design. Getting around your own habitual thinking is one of the hardest things in trying to create something new. I now use cardboard telescopes as a matter of course. Are there any artists or other people in your life that have been your greatest influences in becoming the successful author / illustrator you are today? In 2013 I was giving a presentation of my fine art at Debut Contemporary in Notting Hill, London.  I took time out to visit some of the wonderful establishments around London. One in particular was Chris Beetles gallery, a highly prestigious private gallery featuring illustrators past and present; Sir Quentin Blake, Arthur Rackham to name just a couple, so it was a definite must see for me. When I arrived the gallery’s large and somewhat impressive door was shut.  I contemplated knocking and at that moment it swung open for a lady with an appointment (unlike me) breezed in. I sort of rode her slipstream through the entry. It really is a jaw dropping place with so many extraordinary framed illustrations. To see some of the original works that I have loved since childhood, neatly stacked on the floor and crowding the walls was just unforgettable. I didn’t have time to take it all in, when in a slightly dazed moment Chris Beetles himself pleasantly materialized before me. After a short and somewhat nervous conversation, I found myself showing him some diary drawings from my yet to be published book, Hasel and Rose. To my great delight, he suggested that I send the gallery a copy of the published work. In time, it came to pass that the originals of Hasel and Rose featured in the gallery’s 2014 ‘The Illustrators’ exhibition and I had the good fortune to attend the opening night. It was magical to walk down the alleys of St James in the evening gloom and then turn the corner to see my illustrations brightly lit through the gallery window. A sort of Harry Potter comes true moment. It was a wonderful night where I met some fabulous artists and well known figures such as author Lord Jeffery Archer. I still consider this to be the most outlandish and wonderful good fortune to find my work in this exceptional gallery. What projects are you currently working on? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future? I am happy to say that I have signed with an agent, Ronnie Herman who is now touting my latest texts to American publishers. The hope and aim is to have a book with simultaneous release in Australia and America, but as you can image that is easier said than done. I have my fingers and toes crossed at the moment. All the best with what sounds to be an exciting year ahead! Thank you so much, Caroline for this wonderful opportunity to get to know more about you and your fascinating work! It was my pleasure and many thanks for reading.

PUBLISHED BY

Romi Sharp

Romi Sharp is a primary teacher, children’s writer, picture book reviewer, blogger, mother of two young girls… and a child at heart! So being surrounded by a world of kids’ books feels perfectly natural. She enjoys networking with professionals, sharing ideas and learning about current trends in education and the literary industry. Romi is passionate about sparking children’s creativity and global awareness through a range of learning experiences

   

The art of the chart.

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Out over the saw toothed ocean upon which the ships balance perilously, the world tips toward the peripheral and the uncharted. Mermen and bushy tailed whales populate the fringes of the known world in the way weeds grow in a vacant lot. Apart from finding these sea beasts adorable in their naïve monstrosity, it also poses an intriguing thought; that of our relationship to the unknown and to the potential of empty space. We gazed out and quailed at the nothingness. Oh  look! … there’s a sea pig. I once had a conversation with a trawler-man about being at sea. The bulk of his working life was spent on the water, prawning alone for four or five nights in a row.  As we talked, he tentatively asked if I had ever heard music while sailing at night. He went on to say he heard whole symphonies while trawling the bay. Tempting as it was to think of the Queensland Symphony orchestra moonlighting on the cape, we pondered various other possibilities such stray radio waves among others. I asked him to hum the tune … unsuccessfully … however he really heard music at night and this caused him concern. I found his embarrassment disarming.     My own experience of being at sea was that it had a raw quality. The tiny world of the boat, its practicality and stuffy diesel smells, the slow spread of salt and damp over everything you possess, the sense of knowing everything onboard so intimately that you could move around blindfolded. This stood in contrast to the enormity of what was out there, the moment I stuck my head above deck; vaporous air, churning water, day after day and week after week of endlessly changing sameness. The featurelessness, the slow progress and uncertainty of long sea journeys had a certain dissipating effect, which called something out of me. While the eye actively looked for life, for birds or any other thing to fix upon, something else arrived. For me it was a stream of imagery, an internal landscape which I drew off and which continues to be a presence in my life. It was something to stack against the intangible world beyond the confines of the boat. For mine, sea charts are so populated and peopled by strange things, because when faced with something we can’t grasp; boundlessness, we cannot help but to parcel it up, put a face to it, relate to it in some way. The sea monsters, grotesque and nefarious beasts of all sorts, are better than the un-guessable and fearful emptiness. Sea charts are a zoo of the weird.