PIC­TURE THIS

An­i­ma­tor, mu­si­cian, dad, and award-win­ning au­thor of has just pub­lished an­other fan­tas­tic book – Did You Hear a Mon­ster? We were lucky enough to get to chat to him about his work. What did you want to be when you grew up? How do you come up with the char

Parenting - - Snippets -

Start a Christ­mas tra­di­tion of tak­ing silly fam­ily pho­tos. You could turn them into Christ­mas cards, frame them each year, or put them in the fam­ily al­bum. Here are a few ideas –

Every­one pull a face (sur­prised, over­joyed, shocked, cheesy) and make up a funny cap­tion.

Ar­range every­one by height – you’ll be sur­prised at how this changes ev­ery year.

Make a hu­man pyra­mid, a cho­rus line, or strike your best pose.

Dress up and re-en­act the na­tiv­ity scene.

Love-bomb a stranger with home­made bis­cuits and in­clude them in the photo.

Gift bak­ing to lo­cal hos­pi­tal staff, fire­men, or po­lice and Face­book a photo with them.

It's Not a Mon­ster, It's Me, Ray­mond Mc­grath,

A sci­en­tist of al­most any kind. When I was very young I wanted to dig up bones. As I got older I wanted to be a vet, and then a hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist. I am still fas­ci­nated by bi­ol­ogy and nat­u­ral his­tory. I hon­estly don't know how to an­swer this one. It's dif­fer­ent for all my sto­ries. Some­times the char­ac­ters are the cat­a­lysts for a story, and I write the story for, and around, them. Other times I come up with a sit­u­a­tion that I in­sert char­ac­ters into. Ul­ti­mately, the process is very or­ganic.

I find I don't worry as much about how a char­ac­ter looks at the out­set be­cause I'm more con­cerned about its char­ac­ter traits. Some­times this is visual – but some­times it's not. Most often I find that it's less about their ap­pear­ance and more about how they act, feel, and re­act to the story and the other char­ac­ters around them. I was at a birth­day party for a friend’s young daugh­ter. The two sis­ters were play­ing on a bunk bed – the el­dest on the top and the youngest un­der­neath. The el­dest was pok­ing her head over the edge of the bunk and roar­ing like a dragon. The youngest was un­der­neath and gig­gling her head off. Then, the el­dest ac­ci­den­tally roared a lit­tle too loud and ap­peared a lit­tle too sud­denly that it fright­ened her sis­ter, and she be­gan to cry. The el­dest was very con­cerned and tried to con­sole her. "Don't worry," she said. “It’s not a mon­ster, it’s just me."

Ini­tially I thought the story would be about two girls play­ing make be­lieve. But then I be­gan think­ing about how peo­ple can be quick to judge on looks, be­fore find­ing out who some­one re­ally is. Peo­ple can sur­prise (and some­times not sur­prise) you with who they re­ally are. And that’s how the book un­folded.

Do you get your kids to cri­tique your books?

Yes, some­times. My chil­dren are tricky as crit­ics be­cause if they're not in the mood, they'll com­pletely switch off. By the same to­ken, if they love something – they love it. I tend to show them what I've done and see what hap­pens, but they can be bru­tally hon­est and I have to be pre­pared for the worst! If they had their way, I'd only be al­lowed to make pink books about uni­corns and princesses. Often though, I am very sur­prised at what they no­tice and how they re­act. Ul­ti­mately, I am try­ing to in­tro­duce them to new ideas, not ones they are al­ready fa­mil­iar with – in the hope I might make a new favourite for them.

Why kids' books?

I don't write kids’ books specif­i­cally – I sim­ply cre­ate things I like to make. I love words, pic­tures, char­ac­ters, sto­ries and ideas – not nec­es­sar­ily one more than the oth­ers. I love how they can work to­gether to give depth and per­son­al­ity to each other and how they can be sim­ple yet com­plex. It just so hap­pens that there are things called pic­ture books, and that's a per­fect fit for some of my creative whims. My songs are the same. I write songs that I like the melodies of, and it just so hap­pens that my chil­dren, and oth­ers, seem to like them too.

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