I chose Ark in the Park for the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop (scroll down to the post below) for a few reasons. In some ways it’s my favourite of my own books, because the writing of it seemed to be a gift of love. The publishing was another matter – 14 rejections, I think, and about five years: two of submissions, and three of production – something like that. It was the first book of mine to be illustrated by Kerry Millard, who became a friend during the process. And then it won the CBCA book of the year for junior readers, which was simply, mindblowingly, wonderful. So those are a few reasons for it to be a favourite, but I chose it for this giveaway also because it’s about being a migrant, as so many Australians are – including me, and touches on that longing for family which never quite goes away when you leave your extended family on the other side of the world.
This is how I described its creation at the time:
My first thought for Ark was an image for a picture book, of a small crowded pet store – a warm, dark cave of a room. I’m not quite sure how that grew into a ship in full sail, filling two city blocks!
Even once the ark appeared, I thought that it was going to be a story about a child coming to terms with never being allowed a pet of her own. But when I finished the first draft and read back the description of the Noahs, I realised where the rest of the story came from. There, stylised but recognisable, were the Gunthers, who rented us their little house in the French village when I was five, but came out every weekend from their city apartment to tend the huge garden, and in the process, adopted my sister and me as grandchildren. All the same, it took me a while longer to understand that the story was more about a child’s longing for grandparents than pets.
After the book was published, I got an email from my friend Jacqueline, who still lives in that village, asking if I’d named Sophie after her youngest daughter, who was born shortly before I wrote it. I suspect I had, though I’d never thought of it till then.Stories, after all, are born from the subconscious.
By the way, the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop doesn’t end till midnight tonight, so if you’d like a chance to win a copy of this book (Australian edition), scroll down to the next post, and when you’ve finished, check out some of the other great prizes on offer at the 50 participating blogs.
(If you don’t win and would like to own it, apart from still being in print in Spain and France, and possibly Japan, you can buy it directly from my website or ask your local Australian bookstore about print on demand – I’m not sure about in the US and Canada.