Kim Kane tells us the story behind her new picture book - illustrated by Sara Acton - The Unexpected Crocodile.
Kim Kane with her (adorable) twin boys and an 'expected' crocodile.
Some of my storybook ideas brew for a number of years and others sweep to the page, fully formed. Fortunately, The Unexpected Visitor was one of the latter.
When my twins were babies, I emerged from a hazy breast-feeding stupor, to discover a series of newspaper articles on the Queensland floods. There was page after page of streetscapes with kids in boats and diving masks kicking about in the debris, and pictures of couches and DVD players floating down main streets. There is no doubt that these floods were horrible – there were so many lives lost and homes destroyed – but for all the destruction, there was picture after picture of Queensland kids just having reckless fun in the water and that mirth stuck with me.
While I was plowing through articles, I found an article on one family who had opened their front door to discover a crocodile on the veranda of their home. There was no dramatic end to the story, just the discovery (I imagined they shooed it away with a mop or enticed it back to the flood waters with a few pounds of chicken heads) but I had the nugget of a story and from there on The Unexpected Visitor took shape.
Kim's niece and inspiration for the character of Peggy.
The little girl in the story – Peggy – is based on my own niece who’s a three-year-old surrounded by far too many boisterous boys (including my own) whom she observes. With her little upturned nose and bobbed hair, my own Peggy is quite a bit like the Peggy in the book – with a few more petticoats and accessories. Both Peggys, however, share a dislike of blue gumboots…
One of the themes The Unexpected Crocodile explores is the culture of competitive parenting. By no means a new thing, it’s hard to be a parent and not notice that there’s always another parent at your elbow judging your kids for the amount of telly they watch while simultaneously whipping a little organic spatchcock out of the oven. While competitive parenting has no doubt been around since we wore togas, social media and blogs are giving this flavour parent a much bigger voice.
Like all my picture books, The Unexpected Crocodile would be nothing without its illustrations. Sara was a gift and there is not only a wonderful expressiveness in her illustrations, but also a comic timing, which I adore. In the tradition of Gorey and Dahl, this story is meant to be fun and ridiculous. Sara presents the family-guzzling croc in a most dignified and restrained manner – he is, if nothing else, a croc of some decorum. I think the illustrations also have a classic feel, which is fun and appropriate, and I love the subdued palate. I am very much looking forward to working with Sara on our next picture book, Esther’s Rainbow.
The Unexpected Crocodile is out now.