Bushland Lullaby – Who’s in? Who’s Out? How did Sally Odgers decide?

Today, I’m very pleased to welcome to From Hook to Book prolific author Sally Odgers in celebration of the release of her beautiful new picture book Bushland Lullaby, illustrated by the very talented Lisa Stewart.

Sally is the awe-inspiring author of 300+ books and co-author (along with her husband Darrel) of the very popular Jack Russell: Dog Detective and Pet Vet series. Sally published her first book at nineteen and has kept busy ever since writing picture books, poetry, novels and multiple series.

Since one of the major themes of this blog is research, I invited Sally to write her guest post about her research in finding and selecting the animals for Bushland Lullaby. I wanted to know what type of research is needed for a shorter book? And how she decided what to put in and what to leave out?

Welcome, Sally, and congratulations on your gorgeous new book baby.

Hi, Chris and thanks for having me.

Writing Bushland Lullaby was a joy, as it allowed me to use three of my favourite things; metrical verse, animals, the bush and word-play. Well, that’s four, but never mind.

I wanted to include a lot of animals in the text and the choice was difficult. I knew I had to use iconic Australians like the platypus, wombat, koala and emu, but I wanted to use less-expected creatures too.

In the end, I went for an eclectic mix of the very familiar and some others that might not immediately spring to mind. The first is the bandicoot. I am fond of “hannahoots” (that’s family-speak) so I had to have one of those. Next comes the possum, with which I have a strange relationship. I love our native ringies, but wish the brushies would NOT kill my plants and tantalise the dogs.

Crocs and goannas may not be to everyone’s taste, but they are true-blue Aussies, and remind me of trips to the far north.  The seagull and penguin chicks are possibly less obvious choices, but I wanted birds. I would usually have included a cockatoo, but this time I didn’t because they’re not restful! I went for a wallaby rather than a kangaroo because they are cosier somehow, and I often see them when walking in the bush. The fruit bat and dingo round out the slightly-unexpected because I have fond memories of the bats hanging like abandoned umbrellas in northern trees and I thought the dingo pups should be there as a salute to the newcomer-Aussies.

There were so many others I’d love to have included, such as quolls, betongs, bilbies, dolphins, sugar gliders, and echidnas, but length is always a consideration in picture books and the text had to fit the traditional format.

Another concern was for the illustrator. Lisa was the perfect choice for the pictures, but I didn’t  know who would be illustrating the text when I wrote it. I did, however, know that illustrators need something to grab hold of, and so I wanted the pictures to be sufficiently different. That meant I couldn’t include too many look-alike creatures. I did slip up a bit in the last verse though – I never thought to wonder how on earth THAT could be illustrated. Lisa worked out a wonderful way, though.

As for wording, I tried not to go for the expected words and rhymes. I don’t care for too-simplistic verse. One of my favourite stanza must serve as an illustration here;

In the wild red desert where the sun’s alight

Or the sky flings stars in a winter’s night

In the shade of a rock pile’s ancient calm

Little dingo’s safe from harm

And yes, choosing an aa/bb rhyme scheme possibly wasn’t the easiest idea I could have had!

Thank you, Sally, for sharing how and why you chose your bushland babies. It gives great insight into the collaborative relationship between author and illustrator, even with no discussion or meeting between them. Congratulations on providing such great scope for diversity of animals and habitats that reflects in Lisa’s wonderful illustrations. Children will love these bush babies and your gentle rhyme and gorgeous lyricism.

Congratulations on this gorgeous new picture book.


Comment to WIN: Sally is generously offering anyone who comments on this post an entry into a draw to win one of  her three PDF writing e-books. Simply state your title preference when commenting to win one of the following:

  • Writing a Picture Book Text
  • Finding Farholt
  • Writing Metrical Verse

Bushland Lullaby is published by Scholastic Australia 2012 ISBN: 9781742831770

To celebrate the release Sally will be touring the blogosphere. To follow her tour and learn more about her writing tips and this gorgeous new picture book, click on the links below.

Spinning Pearls – Sally Odgers

1st September 2012

Writing for Children – Peter Taylor

3rd September 2012

From Hook to Book – Chris Bell

7th September 2012

 Kids’ Book Review – Tania McCartney

8th September 2012

Reading and Writing with Dale Harcombe

12th September 2012

School Magazine with Jackie Hosking

18th September 2012

Robyn Opie Parnell

23rd September 2012

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alison reynolds" alt="alison reynolds">

alison reynolds

Fascinating post, Chris and Sally.
I loved reading why you chose the animals you did, Sally.
And the illustrations look beautiful.


September 7, 2012 at 9:59 am
Sheryl Gwyther" alt="Sheryl Gwyther">

Sheryl Gwyther

Fascinating information, Sally and Chris – thanks for this interesting post on the new book. Congratulations, Sally – it will delight many a young reader (and the person reading it to him/her too!) 🙂

September 7, 2012 at 9:34 pm
Sally Odgers" alt="Sally Odgers">

Sally Odgers

Thanks, Sheryl. You’re right- it’s handy if the reader likes a book as well as the readee liking it.

September 8, 2012 at 9:55 am
Dale Harcombe" alt="Dale Harcombe">

Dale Harcombe

Great to read the ins and outs of why some animals and birds were chosen and I agree cockatoos are anything but quiet.

September 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm
Corinne Fenton" alt="Corinne Fenton">

Corinne Fenton

Thank you Chris for hosting Sally. It was great to get some more background on her as she’ll be our guest speaker at the next SCBWI Gathering which will be held in Launceston on October 6.

September 12, 2012 at 7:30 am
Robyn Opie Parnell" alt="Robyn Opie Parnell">

Robyn Opie Parnell

Thank you, Sally and Chris, for the wonderful interview. I was fascinated as I read through Sally’s choices about animals to include and the ones to leave out. There are so many fantastic animals. This could have been a very long book. Thank you for the insights into writing your beautiful book, Sally, and thank you for an interesting blog, Chris. I wish you success with Bushland Lullaby and your next 300+ books, Sally.
Love and Light,

September 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm
    christinemareebell" alt="christinemareebell">


    Thanks, Robyn, and great to have you drop by.

    I think you’re right that BL could have been a very long book. So many wonderful animals to choose from with their own peculiarities and special abodes. When I read Bushland Lullaby it seems to me that Sally has picked the exact right animals and the perfect way to evoke each environ. I could read her lyrical rhyming prose for hours.


    September 12, 2012 at 9:14 pm

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