There’s a certain magic that is created by a children’s picture book. When you open it, it draws you in; the story and the illustrations have the ability to create so many emotions and can take you to so many places. I’ve often wondered how this magic comes to be, ideas from the mind of an author and illustrator, and onto the page to be loved by many.
I was lucky to interview Peter Carnavas and ask him the questions I wanted to know as a parent and an avid collector of children’s picture books. Not only did I find out just how the magic is made, I found out about Peter’s involvement with the Sunshine Coast’s popular Story Seats.
It started out as a bit of a hobby actually. I was a primary school teacher and was introduced to beautiful picture books. Problem was, I spent more time reading picture books instead of teaching fractions!
When I realised my passion for books and wanting to write my own, I spent time testing out the do’s and don’ts of writing for children and sent a dummy of ‘Jessica’s Box’ to a publisher. I was shocked that the first publisher I sent it to, published it! As with illustrating, I’ve always mucked around with drawing, practising and burying myself in books, studying different illustrations, use of colour and how the illustrations tell a story.
I think picture books and books for children can be loved by everyone because they are something we can share. It’s important that we have things we can share as families. To open a book, you have to be physically next to a person, sharing space and sharing thoughts.
The Elephant is my favourite. Of all my books, I feel like it was the hardest but it turned out how I wanted. The Elephant got shortlisted with the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year awards in the Younger Readers category (ages 8-12).
I never really go searching for ideas, I just notice things and let them grow over time. Stories tend to come from things I can’t stop thinking about. With ‘The Elephant’, those characters were in my head for about five years.
Ooh, that’s a hard one. I don’t prefer either. Perhaps writing but it changes.
My hero would have to be Quentin Blake. I studied his technique quite closely, and although my style isn’t similar, I learnt a lot from him. I also admire Bob Graham – reading his books has taught me a lot about writing.
Karen Gawen of Sunshine Coast Libraries contacted me with her story seat idea and told me she wanted to do a trial seat at the Maroochydore Library. Karen asked for my input on the seats, and after a few design changes, here we are today with 10 story seats, 10 stories in 10 parks. The trial seat at Maroochydore Library is still there, very well used and wrapped with a graphic of the story seat map which shows all the books and story seats across the region. There’d be some very disappointed families if the trial seat were ever removed!
Of the 10 story seats, I have contributed two titles - The Children Who Loved Books is located at Russell Family Park, Montville and Jump and Shout! by Mike Dumbleton ill. Peter Carnavas is located at Brightwater Community Lake Park, Brightwater.
Try to make books a really common part of daily life, read every day and have books lying around. Model reading behaviour to children. When children see parents reading for their own pleasure, they realise that it’s not something you have to do, it’s something to enjoy.
Do yourself a favour and visit one of your local Sunshine Coast Libraries so you can borrow some books written and illustrated by Peter. You can find a list of these books on Peter’s website here.
This post is sponsored by Sunshine Coast Libraries