Bernadette Green on writing her debut picture book

Who’s Your Real Mum? is a fantastic new Australian picture book that celebrates nontraditional families and captures exactly what lies at the heart of family life – love. We chatted to author Bernadette Green about how her debut picture book came to life.

You wrote Who’s Your Real Mum? to help smooth the path for kids of same-sex parents. What were the kinds of pressures you were hoping to relieve with this book?

When my children were in primary school, they were asked which one of their mums was their real mum. It can be a confronting question and I hope this book takes some of the pressure off kids from same-sex parented families who may feel they need to justify their family. At the same time, I want the book to be entertaining and enjoyable for children who are curious about a family different to their own.

Your book uses lots of humour and a light touch – was this a conscious choice, or are you just naturally a funny person?

My kids tell me that I’m only funny when I’m not trying. But even though I did try with this story, the question I was trying to answer opened up the possibility for lots of playfulness and humour.

What was it like working with the illustrator to bring your words to life?

Publisher, Miriam Rosenbloom matched illustrator Anna Zobel and I together and I always felt the story was in good hands.

Once Anna came on board, I was sent some early sketches and asked for my opinion along the way. It was very exciting to open those emails and see Anna’s take on the story. At first it seemed strange commenting on a medium I knew nothing about, but of course I wasn’t commenting on Anna’s art but on how I thought it represented the story.

The setting Anna created changed over time, at one point the story was in an amusement park and another time it was at a campsite. The final setting is perfect, it’s sweetly domestic with lots of magic. I couldn’t be happier with the images. Anna created the sort of book that I would have been drawn to pick up and read to my kids, before even knowing what the story was about.

What is your advice to someone looking to write and publish their first picture book? What were the things that helped you?

I benefitted from enrolling in a class in picture book writing, offered as part of RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing program. Writing picture books is very different to other fiction writing; you’re essentially writing half a story and then waiting for the illustrator to draw the second half.

Aside from that, I think it’s helpful to read lots of picture books to see what moves you, and try to remember what you liked as a child.

Other than your own book of course, what are some of the books you have enjoyed reading together with your family?

  • Scarface Claw by Lynley Dodd was so much fun to read aloud to the kids. Best read in a very scary cat voice.
  • My youngest child memorised all the lines of the child in The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. I’d be the narrator and my daughter would be the Gruffalo’s child, she even had a tail that she’d wear.
  • Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole was a good counterbalance to the traditional princess story.
  • Fiona the Pig by Leigh Hobbs was adorable.
  • The kids loved all the hairstyles in Pete the Sheep by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley.
  • At bedtime my kids loved Goodnight, written by Claire Masurel and illustrated by Marie H. Henry.
Who's Your Real Mum?

Who’s Your Real Mum?

Bernadette Green, Anna Zobel

$24.99Buy now

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