Claire Saxby’s THERE WAS AN OLD SAILOR won the Australia / New Zealand Region SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. Congratulations, Claire!When I think of Australia, I think of my lifelong wish to visit Australia and my childhood dream of living on a sheep farm. And then I found out Claire did live on a sheep farm for a while! Read on….Q: Sheep farm? You really grew up on a sheep farm? I’m so envious! Can you tell us a little about that, and which of your books we can read to learn more?Claire: I didn’t grow up on a sheep farm but lived on one for several years. Ours was a mixed farm. We had thousands of sheep, but we also grew wheat, barley and peas. There was always plenty to do. In addition, we had about 40-50 hens (which we call chooks), up to 25 pigs, 3 dogs, four cats, two large vegetable gardens and an orchard with enough fruit to keep us going all year round. I loved the smell of the shearing shed, and I loved being a rouseabout for the shearers. A rouseabout takes the shorn fleece, throws it across a special table, ‘skirts’ it (takes off the dirty edges), and bundles it into a baler. They also sweep, fetch and do just about anything the shearer wants!
My time on the farm has generated several books. One, Runaround Rowdy, tells the story of our two sheep dogs and how Rowdy had a very different way of working, that nearly cost him his job! A Nest For Kora is about a hen laying her first egg. Our hens often ignored their beautiful, straw-lined nests to lay their eggs in the wildest of places. (In a drawer, under the cubby house, in a hose coil … the list goes on!) I’ve written a story (Jaba River Rock and Roll) that mixes my time at the farm with my time on Bougainville Island (Papua New Guinea) – I relocated a river and its shallow rapids to the golden summer bush!
Q: Why do you think SAILOR is so appealing to children (and adults!)?
Claire: I think people of all ages respond to the absurdity of Sailor’s story. Clearly it’s nonsense, but ticklish, chuckling nonsense. And there is a sort of sense which helps to give the book extra life. There’s an info page with facts about the animals who feature in ‘There Was an Old Sailor’ but there’s also the notion of the food chain (although only loosely). It is based on the ‘Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly’ and the cumulative nature of the rhyme sneaks up and makes you join in! I find in schools that by the end, most students have joined in.
And now to get to know Claire even better:
Q: Tea or coffee? Flavor? Milk or sugar?
Claire: Love coffee, particularly the smell, but drink more tea. Has to be black.
Q: Favorite comfort food?
Claire: Ooh, only one comfort food? Hard to beat chocolate, although fresh still warm cake is a close second.
Q: Favorite musical instrument?
Claire: Piano, if only because it’s about the only one I can make produce sound. (note I didn’t say music?)
Q: Favorite board, card, or computer game?
Claire: SCRABBLE of course! Are there other games?
Q: Ideal evening?
Claire: Ideal evening is when all my children are home and we linger over dinner and share. It doesn’t happen often enough.
Q: Some favorite books?
Claire: I have so many favourite books I hate to single out only a few. But here goes. As a child I loved Heidi by Johanna Spyri. I also devoured fairy tales. Over and over. As an adult, my favourite children’s book creators include William Steig, Eric Carle, Margaret Mahy, Quentin Blake and many many more. Some favourite Australian creators include Margaret Wild, Julie Vivas, Graeme Base, Glenda Millard.
Thanks, Claire! And here’s Claire’s blog and website for more info: