Get to Know Kaye BaillieMay 1st, 2020
Boo Loves Books is the brilliant new picture book from author Kaye Baillie and illustrator Tracie Grimwood. We spoke to Kaye about the book, her influences and the writing process.
How did the inspiration for Boo Love Books come about?
As a children’s author, I’m always looking for inspirational true stories to write about; something that makes me sit up and take notice and something that sticks with me. One day I read in the Huffington Post about a Book Buddies program where primary school students read to homeless cats at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Pennsylvania. What captured my attention was the transformation of a boy who took part in the program and his loving attitude towards the cats.
What sort of books did you like to read as a child?
I didn’t grow up surrounded by books, but the books I had I loved and am grateful that someone chose so well. My favourite books were The Famous Five, The Magic Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair books by Enid Blyton. I wanted to live inside each world Enid created. I also had The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Suess and my favourite story in that book was What Was I Scared Of. I loved the spooky pair of pants, the original language and the night-time setting. The story made me want to pick a peck of Snide.
What was the experience of writing Boo Loves Books like?
I was so impressed with the boy in the original article and how programs exist where kids can read to animals, that the story already had themes and a structure that I knew would work well in a book. Every time I looked at pictures of the boy reading to the cats, I felt so inspired. I created the main character of Phoebe and knew there would be lots of kids who would relate to her experiences.
How did it differ from your experience working on other books?
The experience of taking a true event and working a story around it was similar to when I worked on my first picture book, Message In A Sock set during WW1 and The Friendly Games set during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
One of my picture books which is different to Boo Loves Books is called When The Waterhole Dries Up, due 2021. It’s a humorous cumulative tale. I found writing this book to be a different experience because it is similar in style to the old classic, The House That Jack Built and has native Australian animals who want to have a bath! This was loads of fun to write and because it’s from my imagination, I had total control of the content. Although I did have to look up which types of animals might live near a waterhole in outback Australia.
Another picture book due out in 2021 which was different to Boo, is a story about a female engineer who works for a railway in the US. It’s called Olive’s Fast Train. This is non-fiction so it required a lot more research and I had to be careful to represent actual dialogue and events and timeline. I also had to create a bibliography and an author’s note.
Have you always wanted to write for children?
I always liked writing stories and doing illustrations when I was young. I still have some of my homemade books. Many years later I realised that the types of stories that made me happy were fun, imaginative stories where anything can happen. I don’t have the desire to write for adults. I’d much rather write about an anxious girl who makes friends with a rescue dog or animals who want to invade a bath! Children’s stories hold themes that are as rich, diverse and powerful as any novel. Maybe more so. I love wrangling words and I also love the illustrations that bring picture books to life.
How has your background and location shaped your work?
Where I live in Victoria, Australia, I have had access to courses and networks that have enabled me to grow and learn as a writer. There are so many organisations, conferences and webinars to take part in. I also love going to our local library. I’m there all the time. These things coupled with my natural curiosity, love of creating words that conjure imagery, desire to share stories and that sense of magic when an idea turns into a book shape my work.
Do you have a particular writing process or routine?
I write in my purpose-built studio in the back yard. It’s filled with books and ornaments, and I can concentrate there. I am not very good at sticking to a routine. I write whenever I can which is anywhere between two to four hours a day. I prefer the morning though. When I wake up each day, I think about what writing or associated tasks I need to work on. I generally take my breakfast out to the studio and find that two hours has passed. I will usually stop and go about family/household chores, while wishing I could just stay in the studio. But I always try to get back there as soon as I can.
Boo Loves BooksSome dogs are shy and anxious, and so are some children. Can Boo and Phoebe turn their fears into a positive experience? A book that celebrates the joy of reading
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