Thursday, February 10, 2011

Back in the office.

Always a strange feeling to have finished something, especialy something that has taken so long. The Cat and the Fiddle began years ago and then turned into The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems.
Although I enjoyed working on Classic Poems I still wanted to go back to nursery rhymes. Their strange, anarchic rhythm and rhyme appealed so much and gave such a freedom that I just wanted to play. But not just play. So many very young picture books are simple, strong  bold images. I wanted to do something with more detail, more complexity. From my own experience of reading picture books when my children were young they just loved books where the pages were packed with detail and pattern, stories in the pictures. And the time we spent in the company of books like The Little House By the Sea by Benedict Blathwaite were precious hours. Always more to see each time.


Finished now.

For about four years now I have had a story lurking. Ever since I painted the small dragon in Tell Me a Dragon, hatching from his egg, he has been stomping around inside my head demanding attention. A few times I have tried, eventualy caught the idea for a story, the shape of it, but try as I might I couldn't catch the words. Next week I am going to Norfolk for the Norfolk Children's Book Award, very much looking forward to meeting Kazuno Kohara.
 I was hoping to catch the words for Little Dragon Small and the Search for Story before I went so that I could try it out on the children in Norfolk. 
I finished the last bit of painting on the cuckoo and headed for the door with a notebook, a pen, three dogs and Elmo. Up to the top of the hill where the sun shone and there was space to let go. A pair of ravens flew by close as we sat on the hill. On the way up something had clicked, a small dragon hatched, a character was dropped, things went like the cogs in a watch and each piece turned so that while I sat and ravens flew in tumbling flight the words fell onto the paper.
It was cold. Elmo snuggled up and pushed his way inside my sweater like a ginger hot waterbottle with purrs. The ravens flipped in courtship, tumbling for the sheer pleasure of flight.

The story had been struggling to hatch out for days now and just needed time for the rhymes to be cleared away. 


Back home and back to the computer and email came in with the most amazing review from Judith Philo at IBBY.

The Ice Bear
Jackie Morris, London: Francis Lincoln Children’s Books, 978 1 8450 7968 0, £11.99,
2010, 32pp.
The portrait of the ice bear on the front cover, in close up, seizes the attention of the reader, inspiring a shiver of awe. On the back cover a dark-eyed boy, brown hair covered by a fur hood, studies us. These two figures direct us into the book inviting us to see the world through their eyes.
Themes of birth, loss, separation, restitution and new beginnings shape a dramatic narrative of mythic dimensions, set in the vast open space of the Arctic region. This landscape of far horizons contrasts with representations, in close up, of the principal
characters: the ice bear and her offspring, the hunter and his family. There is also the dark brooding presence of the raven. She acts in ways that are catalytic to the bears and the humans and to the child who is bound to them both. When a choice has to be made, this child declares that he will live with the bears during the winter and spend the summer months with his human family. In this way the relationship between and the
understanding of the two worlds will be strengthened.
This is a beautiful, painterly book. The unframed pages place the reader at the scene at each turn of the page. Small children will be engrossed by the close-up nature of the pictorial representations. For older readers, the visual power of the illustrations is amplified by the poetic sensibility of the narrative text. Jackie Morris reminds us that we are caretakers of the natural world, especially that far-off region where bears and hunters inhabit the earth and the sky. Such mindfulness for the outer world will also enrich our inner world.
Judith Philo

 I wrote The Ice Bear on the hill, on a blue sky day while ravens flew in the sky. I always think of Raven as the heroine of the story. In some ways it seemed as if the ravens told me the story because it was theirs.

Yesterday I finally got round to sending a biog to the Kids Need to Read Foundation, a wonderful organisation who aim to get books into the hands of children, through libraries in the USA. A few weeks back they asked if I would like to be on their advisory council. I had given them a couple of ideas for fund raising, hopefully good ideas. What could I say except, "Yes please". Made my day!


  1. I wish i could have written you a review like that. It's everything I would have wished to say. Good luck to Little Dragon Small on his adventures.

  2. Oh I am glad you finished well(I have been keeping you in my thoughts while you were doing the deadline countdown!) and a story was able to push to the front and fall out of your pen into the page.
    I will look out for the dragon when it comes.
    all the best in the dance with Dragon Small.
    Sandy in Bracknell

  3. that is an excellent review :0)

    The Ravens here keep making their presence felt..squabbling, chatting, bustling and bossing always up to something and always with strong opinions!

  4. What a fantastic review and so well earned...
    I think yours is the very best kind of 'office'. I used to love sitting up on hilltops with a little notebook or with one in my pocket as I walked woods and fields. It seems like a very long time indeed since I had the space in my life to do that and I really do miss it, it leaves a gap...
    Enjoy chasing your dragon...

  5. Sometimes I think stories are like cats. Often as not, they stubbornly refuse to come when you call them, but if you're busy doing something else and not paying attention, they come and crawl in your lap when you least expect them. Now I'm all excited to learn about Little Dragon Small and who he/she sees upon hatching that makes its tailtip curl into a heart shape.

  6. What WOL said.

    Love the picture of Elmo. Looks like one of your paintings. I miss the others, though. I first began reading your ginger cats blog when they all walked with you.

  7. They are still here, at the moment. MAurice is looking a little thin and won't last long, maybe a few months with his injections and it is awful to watch such a wonderful companion dying. He is one in a million,. And Pixie too, though she just has a permanent cold, poor immune system.
    Yesterday Kath looked at Floss who has something wrong with her back legs. She is in pain, and now that I think of it I did notice that her behaviour has changed over the past few months. She is a strange dog, not right in her head wiring, but lovely. Anyway, she is booked in now for an op when I get back and on pain killers and even after only one she has really perked up.
    She might have one thing, can't remember the name, that is expensive, or she might have bone cancer, a name easyto remember, which would be amputation or death.
    So, finished a book, relaxed for a moment, but not a happy evening.

  8. Dear Jackie,
    So glad to hear all this, of your wonderfully inspiring walk and the new story evolving within sight of the ravens! And such a brilliant review of your book too.
    But so sad too to hear of Maurice, Pixie and now Floss, my heart goes out to you as we lost dear Henry and then Georgie last year, we think of them daily.

    Hugs Jane

  9. You are so blessed to have this as your inspiration space...I was in St. Davids last summer and sat up there and even now it nearly brings me to tears remembering how magical it was. I can't wait to see how your dragon story unfolds.