And may God bless all who shelter under her!
The beginning of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Children’s Book Week seemed a good time to launch my new picture book, Underneath a Cow, and I wouldn’t have launched it anywhere else but in my home town. Kate and John Reed at The Southern Swan Homeopathic Pharmacy and Bookshop, Mary Street, are becoming renowned for their hosting of book events and it was the perfect venue for Madge the cow and friends to make their debut.
Madge’s story began about four years ago. I was walking along a county road, looking at cows, as you do. It was pouring with rain at the time, but that didn’t seem to be an issue for the cows. They just stood there in the paddock while everything around them got soaked. It occurred to me that even allowing for the dangly bits, there was quite a lot of space underneath a cow. So I went home and wrote a story about the day of The Great Big Terrible Awful Storm and how quite a few small creatures found shelter and safety underneath dear, brave kindly Madge.
I sent the story to my publisher, Omnibus Books, and they liked it. But anyone who has written a book knows that when the author thinks that the story is finished, the publisher knows that it has only just begun. Months and months of cutting, editing, tweaking and then rewriting the whole thing again, was followed by the question of who would do the illustrations. Here I got very lucky. Ben Wood is a New South Wales-based illustrator with not only a great artistic talent, but an hilarious sense of humour. Ben’s pictures turned what I hoped was a humorous children’s story into an absolute hoot for all ages!
For the launch I couldn’t have had more enthusiastic and helpful hosts than Kate and John, who went to a great deal of effort and creative inspiration to turn their shop into an animal-themed, kid-friendly, adult-friendly, warm and welcoming venue. Nor could I have asked for better friends than children’s author Anne Morgan and CBCA member Jessie Mahjouri, who did a brilliant job of entertaining some dozen or so children, most of them under five, with a treasure hunt and story-reading. Paul Martin, Brad Madigan and Malcolm Martin provided a lively little musical trio for a kindy-style singalong. Suzy Manigian worked her usual magic with an extremely elegant tea table, all bone china and silver teapots, and there were cakes – lots of exquisite cakes, in truly Cygnet high-tea fashion.
We had a great fun and Madge and her friends were successfully launched. I can only say thank you to everyone who helped and everyone who came along.
A special thanks goes to Kate and John, who gave the afternoon’s profits to me to donate to causes I support. Half went to advocacy for asylum-seeker children in detention centres and the other half to educational resources for aboriginal children in remote communities. Thank you John and Kate, thank you everyone!
Should you decide that a funny picture book is just the gift for someone you know, then head into The Southern Swan, where there are still copies of Underneath a Cow to be had.