There Was an Old Sailor Blog Tour

I’ll never be a romance writer. When kids ask me ‘what’s the deal between Kyoko and Niya?’ (two of the chracters in Samurai Kids) and ‘are you ever going to write the romantic bits?’ I always answer ‘yuk’ and the room erupts in giggles and guffaws.

So today, on Valentine’s Day, I’m celebrating fish. Seems appropriate to me, after all I do love sushi. But specifically I’m celebrating the launch of Claire Saxby’s beautiful new picture book, There Was an Old Sailor. The illustrations are glorious (yes, I just said glorious!) and the text is a rollicking-read-aloud.

Here’s what Claire had to tell me:

How did you choose which sea creatures to include? Was it primarily about the creature or the rhyme?

Caught out! I knew I wanted to start small and end with a whale, but the in betweens were trial and error. All, except for the jelly, are single syllable. That was necessary for the rhythm as well as the rhyme. Along the way, I discovered that jellies are not fish, and not all rays have stingers. That certainly helped! Have you ever tried to rhyme anything with ‘zoo plankton’? Not easy.

Were there creatures you thought of but discarded for a reason? My under-5 co-reviewer wants to know why there aren’t any eels!

I had a huge long list of sea creatures that I compiled at the beginning. Eels were there. But I REALLY wanted seals in there and I couldn’t have two that had the same rhyme. I do use the story as a base for a writing workshop and get to use some of the other animals on my list. It includes star (not a fish) crab, snake (as in banded sea snake like the one I nearly sat on when I was a child), and cow (dugong). But no eels. I do like eels though. Perhaps I’ll adjust my workshop.

Which is your favourite illustration?

I love the page where Old Sailor is eating the ray. The ray looks only mildly surprised, and very much like a wrong-coloured pizza. I also like that Old Sailor has to open wide and show all his teeth!

Were the fishy facts at the end part of your original manuscript proposal?

No, they weren’t. And my first attempt at the information was too ‘factual’ if that makes sense. Virginia, my editor, suggested I try to echo the humour of the text and these fishy facts emerged.

Do you have an aquarium at home?

No. We have had fish in the past. And chooks. And ferrets. And guinea pigs. And hermit crabs. And now we have a dog. I grew up in Papua New Guinea watching the most gorgeous tropical fish and other reef dwellers. I like free range fish much more than aquarium ones and will happily visit water anywhere to see them. I like watching other people’s aquariums too.

Do you have a favourite ‘fishy’ dinner?

Ooh, that’s too cruel – I love all my fishy creatures and couldn’t talk about them and about eating on the same page! Shhh! They might hear.

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7 responses to “There Was an Old Sailor Blog Tour”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for hosting me, Sandy. Feeling great this morning after a great celebration of book yesterday at Castlemaine’s Shearer’s Bookshop and an awesome review in this morning’s Age newspaper.
    🙂 Claire

  2. My pleasure. There was an Old Sailor is already a favourite with me and I’ve ordered a copy as a birthday gift for a small friend.

  3. Anonymous says:

    And I also learned yesterday that the shark image from the book is off to Bologna as part of an APA exhibition curated by Ann and Jess from Books Illustrated! Fantastico

  4. Seems only right that illos from There Was an Old Sailor should travel over the sea.

  5. Belka says:

    What a wonderful blog! Thank you Claire and Sandy, you made my day. No fish dinner for me tonight, either.

  6. Sally Murphy says:

    Great interview, Guys. Well done on the great review and the sharky trip to Bologna.

  7. Edie Mindell says:

    I love your interview with the book’s author. It’s very interesting and entertaining as well.:-) I would love to grab a copy of that book. I’m pretty sure my grandchildren will be thrilled to have that. They love to read books and are always in awe when in front of an aquarium watching sea creatures.:-)

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