I know I still haven’t got around to putting up the pictures of my own book launch for Raven’s Mountain, but on Friday night I was lucky enough to launch Song of the Dove, by Errol Broome and illustrated by Sonia Kretschmar. It was a great night, and lovely to be able to stand back and enjoy friends’ success.
Here’s an edited version of my speech:
I first met Errol Broome at a joint book launch nearly 18 years ago, and ever since that first reading of her work, I’ve believed that, with her exceptional perception and delicacy of touch, Errol is one of Australia’s finest children’s writers –I was very happy when that was recognised in the CBC Shortlist a few years ago. She is also one of the most careful and painstaking.
However, eventually, the author has to finish polishing and hand her story over to an editor, with hope and faith – and this is where the magic begins. The editor’s skill is in matching two creators, who each bring their stories, beliefs and symbols, as well as their talent, to create a whole that’s more than a sum of its parts. I know that for myself, seeing the pictures that bring a story to life always feels like an extraordinary gift, as the artist brings out aspects that the author didn’t even know were there. It’s not just a matter of skill and style, because it’s much more than simply illustrating the author’s words.
The best picture books are those where the words let the artist find their own passion about the story. And this book is certainly one of those marriages between award winning creators – just have a look at this first page. As well as the dove motif, I love the mermaid, symbolising Bellini’s muse, and perhaps also echoing the Little Mermaid’s selfless love, and the restricted lives of women of this period. But of course she is imaginary – so if you look carefully, you can see that she’s translucent.
Although this is her first picture book, Sonia Kretschmar has illustrated covers for several notable books, as well as illustrating for Australian and international magazines as diverse as the Big Issue and the Law Society Journal. I first encountered her work on the cover of Cassandra Golds’ Museum of Mary Child. As well as feeling that it had beautifully captured the spirit of that weird and wonderful book, I loved the painting itself. And it seems that the Archibald Prize judges agree with me about Sonia’s talent.
Probably the only time in my life I’ll be announcing anything to do with the Archibald Prize! (for portrait painting).