The Illustrated World of Graeme Base

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Animalia, released in 1987, was my daughter’s favourite book for some time. Indeed, it is difficult to find a person who is not familiar with the clever illustrations and alliterative descriptions of this beautiful text.

During the recent school holidays, I visited Canberra to attend the national conference of the Australian Literacy Educators Association (ALEA) and the Australian Association for Teachers of English (AATE). On Sunday, July 7, I enjoyed breakfast at the National Museum of Australia and sat captivated as Graeme Base discussed his career from his childhood drawing passion to current work.

Engaging and inspirational, Graeme amused his audience on a rather cool, foggy morning where the occasional rowers appearing through the mist of Lake Burley Griffin caused only a momentary distraction. He mentioned that

  • passion, perserverence and persistence are needed to be successful in the publishing world
  • encourage kids to follow their interests and passions – his parents never discouraged his early suggestions that he wanted to be an artist
  • he gets to colour in – regularly! Very relaxing skill quite the vogue as a ‘mindful’ activity
  • he favours alliteration for the musicality of the words and  thinks ‘relentlessly rhyming’. While Sign of the Sea Horse has four to five verses per page, he has reduced this level of rhyme by now limiting written text to two verses per page in the Eleventh Hour.
  • when discussing Animalia with US publishers, there were concerns about whether children would understand the complete text, particularly the letters V and I. He defended his use of words such as ‘vociferous’ and ‘verbosity’ by suggesting that children could learn something new and the book remained unchanged – luckily, many of us woudl suggest
  • an avid traveller, he is inspired by the small or little things in life: an ornate curving wall lamp in a French hotel lead to several snail sketches … The Legend of the Golden Snail

Listen to an interview with Graeme from the ABC’s Rollercoaster

Learn more at graemebase.com

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