Something exciting happened. I went out. At night. A Friday night to be exact!
It was a book launch – one of my favourite things in the world – to mark the release of a picture book Chooks in Dinner Suits by my new writer friend Diane Jackson Hill. The book is about the Maremma program on Middle Island (near Warrnambool) where big fluffy white dogs guard little penguins from marauding foxes. The story is heart-warming and one of triumph over adversity where town local ‘Swampy’ Marsh suggests the idea and is initially shouted down. Swampy had been successfully using Maremmas as guard dogs at his chicken farm for years. Eventually, in desperation and after the penguin population was largely decimated, the townsfolk agree to try Swampy’s plan – and it works!
The launch at the Marine Discovery Centre was quite elaborate with speakers including Diane, the illustrator, Craig Smith, a spokeswoman from the penguin project, a professional storyteller and then – as a late special guest – Swampy himself. Swampy was a walking icon of rural Australia. He’d worn his checked shirt and overalls and looked exactly like the pictures in the book. (see above)
Swampy waxed lyrical about the irascible nature of the maremmas and told a great story about how he was being questioned by a local laws officer one day and one of the dogs just came and sat between them. No more was said but the officer made a hasty retreat.
After the official proceedings, we nibbled on wine and cheese and I put my humility in my handbag and told Craig Smith that I was a children’s author and that it was my dream that one day he would illustrate one of my books. He very kindly didn’t bat an eyelid and said to me ‘and so it shall be’.
I first noticed Craig’s work in Paul Jennings’ Cabbage Patch books but I also remembered him from that book you loved I hate Fridays by Rachel Flynn. Of course, he is prolific so you never know…