''If I was a farmer, I would plant the moon in the middle of my field so you could watch it crack the earth as it grew.
If I was a snail, I would take the moon for my shell and give you a ride across the night sky...''
So begins I Would Dangle the Moon, an imaginative and playful story about all the wonderful things a mother would do with the moon for her child if she could do anything in the world.
Lyrical and poetic, this unique and beautifully illustrated story evokes the love and warmth between a parent and child. It would also make a good starting point for creative learning experiences in the classroom.
Originally from Dunedin, Amber is now based in Western Australia and is an experienced teacher and strong advocate for arts education. We asked Amber some questions about this special picture book.
Kia ora Amber, please tell us about your new book, I Would Dangle the Moon.
I Would Dangle the Moon is a picture book that explores imagination and encourages readers to ask their own “What if… ?” questions about the world around them.
What draws you to writing and illustrating?
I have always been drawn to storytelling and have experimented with a few different forms over the years. When I finished school I studied English at university and then later completed a Fine Arts degree in Painting. Being able to combine both the verbal and visual in the form of picture books is very satisfying for me. I like the way the text can be short, almost like a poem, and how the images can add another layer of meaning.
The story (and artwork) in I Would Dangle the Moon evokes the love and warmth between a parent and child. How important is this to you, when it comes to producing a book? What is it that you hope readers will get from your work?
As a parent and an educator, I do hope that my books spark ideas for both the adults and children reading. I would love I Would Dangle the Moon to be a starting point for some imaginative and adventurous conversations. I have fond memories of being read to as a child, and if my work can support childhood reading in any way then I will be happy.
You’re from NZ, but live in Australia. What is the children’s book writing scene there like, and are you involved with any local writing organisations?
The children’s literature scene in Australia is very supportive, and there is lots of interesting work going on.I live in Perth, Western Australia and we are lucky to have a very active branch of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I am a member of SCBWI and also of the Australian Society of Authors (ASA). Although I live in Australia currently, it’s very important to me to maintain my connection with home, and the Dunedin children’s literature community has been an amazing resource too.
What New Zealand or Australian kids’ books are among your favourites, and which picture books inspire you?
One of my favourites since childhood is Margaret Mahy’s The Lion in the Meadow. I think that I Would Dangle the Moon was probably influenced by this story in the way it explores the concept of shared imagination between a parent and child. I love Peter Gossage’s Maui picture books and his use of colour and composition has definitely inspired aspects of my illustration. I also really admire the illustrations of David Elliot, Robyn Belton, Ron Brooks and Frané Lessac. Fox, by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks is probably my favourite Australian picture book.
What medium did you work in to create the illustrations for I Would Dangle the Moon?
For this book I worked in primarily in acrylic paint but there is a little bit of collage in there too. I scanned my paintings so I could compose and adjust the spreads digitally – it was quite a long process in the end.
What does ‘Read NZ’ mean to you – how important is it that we read local books?
To me ‘Read NZ’ means reading New Zealand writing, in all its diversity. Being able to read work that has been produced in your place in the world is so important in terms of understanding and connection. I love to read international work too, but New Zealand writing explores aspects of my identity that other work can’t. I think this is even more critical for children to see their lives and experiences reflected in story, so New Zealand children’s literature plays a particularly vital role.
Which New Zealand booksor writers have been special to you in your life?
Maurice Gee’s children’s books and adult novels have been very important to me. Under the Mountain and The Burning Boy are particular favourites. I love New Zealand poetry, especially that of Fleur Adcock and Hone Tuwhare. The writers in my family, Ted (O.E.) Middleton and Ian Middleton were also a great inspiration to me.
What’s next in store for you?
I have a few more picture book projects in development and I am also working on a young adult novel.
For more information about this book, and to buy it, click here.