Kiwi children’s author Donovan Bixley comes up with a topical picture book for all ages that contains one crucial difference…
Words, who needs ‘em? Not Donovan Bixley, who’s produced a book with no words at all (well, apart from “ding” “chugga” and “kaboom”). So illiterate preschoolers are likely to find it easier to “read” than their parents. And a close examination of the pictures is essential as Donovan likes to put in a lot of detail.
“I love sticking lots of different things in there – because if you don’t there’s no reason for kids to go back again and again, so each time they see something new,” says the Taupo-based author.
The Weather Machine is the story of a man (wearing a top hat and a giant onesie) who wants to control the weather so he builds a weather machine. All goes well until the mayhem starts…
There are shades of Dr Seuss in the illustrations so it’s no surprise to hear one of Donovan’s favourite children’s books is The Lorax.
“I want to make people curious about what’s going on in this book,” he says. “Some things in it are funny and silly and some are deep and meaningful about the environmental and industrialism. But hopefully it starts a conversation about what’s going on — I didn’t want to browbeat people — I want to get kids talking about it because the environment and climate will be a massive thing for them in the next 100 years.”
And consider this: a book with no words can be read in any language, by any culture and is likely to have an immediate appeal for boys who don’t like to “read”.
Donovan is now one of just a handful of book illustrators who works full-time as a writer and illustrator. He produced The Looky Book last year and has illustrated old favourites such as Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm.
But, like all writers and authors, he views with trepidation the decline in publishing which has seen Hachette closing its publishing arm in New Zealand and HarperCollins closing its distribution here. But fortunately children’s books are less affected by the move to e-books.
“Children’s books have been pretty much unaffected by the digital revolution – partly because they’re so big.”
And, as Donovan points out, doting grandparents will hardly want to hand over vouchers for Jimmy or Jennifer to go and buy an e-book online when there are beautiful picture books to unwrap at Christmas time in all their glossy glory.
The Weather Machine (Hodder Moa, RRP$19.99) is available in all good book shops around New Zealand.