Friday, March 31, 2017

North Melbourne Books April Newsletter - featuring Anna Walker

In the April edition of the North Melbourne Books newsletter we talk to writer and illustrator Anna Walker about her exquisitely beautiful new children's picture book, Florette.

It's the touching story of a young girl who longs to create a garden in her city apartment. With its lovely, delicate drawings and moving themes of renewal, Florette can by enjoyed by child and adult alike.

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North Melbourne Books talks to Anna Walker

North Melbourne Books: When Mae moves to a new home in an apartment block in the city she wants to bring her beloved garden with her. Mae misses the apple-tree birds and the butterflies in the wavy grass, but there is no room for these delights on the city's balconies and roof tops. Then, on a walk through the city with her mother, Mae comes across an apple-tree bird. She follows the bird and is led to what seems to be a leafy forest, but which is in fact a beautiful garden shop called Florette. Mae plants a stalk she finds near the shop and so starts a garden in her apartment. How did the idea for the story come to you?

Anna Walker: In 2015 I was travelling with my family in Europe, when one morning in Paris we came across a window filled with plants. The shop was on the other side of the street across the lanes of traffic. I stopped to look for a moment and then ran to catch up with the kids. It was only a few seconds, but when we returned home I kept thinking about the forest behind glass in the middle of the city.  This moment was the beginning of Florette.

NMB  Florette is a beautiful story about making gardens in unlikely environments and using your imagination. What message do you hope to convey to readers?

AW: When I travel I sometimes feel a bit anxious about leaving home. To feel more at ease I draw in my visual diary. In Florette I wanted to explore the idea of noticing tiny details in the world around us and using imagination to create a world in which we belong. For me a big part of childhood is the discovery of the tiny creatures in our environment and I hope all children can experience this.

NMB: Your book makes you want to go out and create a magical garden space. Are you a keen gardener yourself?

AW: We have a beautiful garden, mainly due to my clever husband. I enjoy spending time among the plants. In late Autumn I am looking forward to planting daffodil bulbs - they are in the fridge now preparing to be planted!

NMB: The city garden store depicted in Florette is wonderfully green and lush. Did you base it on any places you've been to yourself or visited as a child?

AW: My grandmother used to say that when I was very little I would take her by the hand and pull her out into our garden which apparently was a wild tangle of plants. I would point for her to sit down and then tell her a big story (even though I couldn't speak a clear word)! I don't remember this but the story has become part of who I am.  One of my favourite childhood books was The Secret Garden, I felt a connection with the characters and asked my mum for seeds so that I too could have my own 'bit of earth'. Florette in many ways is a celebration of the stories I loved as a child.

NMB: What books are you enjoying reading at the moment?

AW: I just finished reading Wormwood Mire by Judith Rossell which I highly recommend. I had been looking forward to further adventures of Stella ever since reading Withering-By-Sea. Both books are a wonderful mix of adventure and curious intrigue!

I feel a bit guilty that I am not reading an adult book at the moment. . . Instead I have just begun Pax by Sara Pennypacker Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Such superb illustrations.

And speaking of superb illustrations, I am also looking forward to getting my paws on Under The Love Umbrella by Davina Bell, illustrated by Allison Colpoys!

Florette, by Anna Walker. Published by Viking. RRP: $24.99