Alan Bagnall is one of New Zealand’s most illustrious writers of children’s fiction and poetry. His latest book, The Sam & Lucy Fables, shares the adventures of two clever pigs, Sam and Lucy, who encounter many a troubled human friend with peculiar predicaments. From fixing magic carpets to teaching fish to read, Sam and Lucy solve each conundrum with some common sense and a lot of patience. Each fable reminds us to be kind, curious and a little bit adventurous.
We caught up with Alan to learn more about the book, his writing process and his predicament with modern technology.
How did The Sam & Lucy Fables come about?
I was sitting on a seat under a gum tree on a hot afternoon at Patons Rock in Golden Bay. Just as I was pondering on what foolish, stupid creatures we humans are, Sam and Lucy pushed out from under a tangle of ferns right beside me. They both stopped and looked me up and down, and then Sam said, ‘Silly man, why have you got your shoes on the wrong feet?’
Which is your favourite fable from the book?
‘The Magic Carpet’ is my favourite. When I wrote it and shared it at school (during writing time), I was delighted when phrases like ‘Your carpet’s gone flat!’ just fitted the subject. Also, when I first shared ‘Learning to Read’ with the class, an enthusiastic child called out, ‘And that’s why fish swim in schools!’ That wasn’t my idea.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Firstly, writing down wild ideas. Good stories always have good ideas. Ideas are so important. Secondly, seeing the finished story after editors and illustrators have brought it to life. I am absolutely delighted with Sarah’s illustrations for The Sam & Lucy Fables. Thirdly, when I write a story I do like to imagine it being read by lots of other people.
What is Sam and Lucy’s advice to someone who doesn’t like reading?
Sam and Lucy are storytellers. They would never force anyone to read. Lucy suggests that you make up your own stories in your head and then draw your own pictures to fit. You will probably attract a friend like Grace who will help you to write your stories down. (You can always ask for help with this.) Then it may be difficult not to try reading them yourself.
Is there anything that you need Sam and Lucy’s help with at the moment?
Yes. I am a millennium behind with modern technology. I mastered the pencil early, but as a child I was scared of the new telephone monster. It was a great wooden chest fastened high on the wall. It had a crank handle, and there were always people talking and listening on the line – just like Facebook today. I can now manage the telephone, but I definitely need Sam and Lucy’s help with other technology.