Friday, April 10, 2015

Children's eBook review and Author/Illustrator Interview: Aunty Arty and the Disquieting Muses, by Rowena Wiseman, Illustrated by Norelda Joy

Illustrations: 5.0 Stars 
Cover: 5.0 Stars
Storyline: 4.0 Stars
Total: 4.5 Stars

My Review: 
Frieda is a quiet girl in a family of ten who she gets to spend the night with her sister Mona at Aunty Arty's house. Aunty Arty is no ordinary Aunt who would take them to the movies or to eat chocolate. Instead, Aunty Art takes Frieda on an adventure custom made for her curious and accepting nature. Whiny, frustrated Mona spends most of the story as bored and still as a statue. But Frieda ends up meeting unusual characters and saving the day for a new friend. 

Illustrations: Colorful, professional, eye-catching. With a story loosely based on one of Giorgio de Chirico's Metaphysical paintings, the illustrations are modern and unusual in a children's book.

Storyline: While I don't like the favoritism Aunty Arty shows Frieda over Mona, I believe this story to be like the fairy tales that awards gifts to the kindest, gentlest character, who Frieda proves herself to be, and "punishments" to the complaining critical character (like Mona). This story will especially appeal to children who feel forgotten or left out, either with friends or in their family dynamics.

Author Interview with Rowena Wiseman

Valerie Harmon: Why did you write a book based on a painting?
Author Rowena Wiseman: I work at an art gallery and I'm always interested in what the story is in a painting. Often the artist doesn't tell us explicitly, so I thought it would be fun
to make up what could happen if we were to meet some characters in a work of art.

VH: Who is your favorite artist?
RW: So many! At the moment I've been researching street artists for a young adult book that I'm writing, so I like artists like Ghost Patrol from Melbourne or New York conceptual artist Barbara Kruger. I’m a big fan of South African artist William Kentridge. I also adore Chinese contemporary art. Yue Minjun is a massive favourite of mine - with his big smiley faces. I just dare people to look at his work and not feel happy!

Author Rowena Wiseman

VH: How did you connect with your illustrator?
RW: I found Narelda Joy on the Illustrators Australia website. I was really impressed with the level of detail and variety of skill in her work. I contacted her and sent her the manuscript for Aunty Arty. I already had a publisher - Jet Black Publishing. Luckily she liked the story and it’s been full steam ahead since then!

VH: Why do you write?
RW: I've always had a natural compulsion to write. Lately I've been sharing my young adult stories on Wattpad and discovered just how much I love connecting with an audience. It makes my day when someone tells me they can relate to one of my characters.

VH: What advice do you have for authors who'd like to write children's books?
RW: Write what the child in you is curious about.

VH: What would you tell children who read your book?
RW: I'd like them to think about a work of art that they would like to enter! What would their story be?

VH: Do you have any funny stories of how you got to where you are?
RW: The idea for the Aunty Arty series came to me while I was changing my son's nappy. I have no idea what that means ...

VH: What are three favorite books?
RW: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz.

VH: What are three favorite children's books?
RW: I love, love, love:

Iggy Peck the Architect by Andrea Beaty, such great rhyming text and the illustrations are sublime. It's a book that I genuinely enjoy reading with my kids. 

As a child I loved Enid Blyton

Shaun Tan is an amazing storyteller and artist, I have a small collection of his books; The Lost Thing and
The Arrival are my favourites.

VH: Who influences your writing?
RW: I love Tatyana Tolstaya for her creative style of writing, Emile Zola for his insight into human behaviour and Raymond Carver for his well-crafted simplicity.

VH: What do you do if you get writer's block?
RW: I've recently discovered the joy of wholefood cooking. I spend a lot of time on a computer, either at work, or at home in the early mornings or late evenings writing, so I find cooking is a good way to clear my mind! Good thoughts come when I’m least expecting it, like when I’m grating carrots or washing dishes. If I'm at my desk and I've got writer's block, I'll probably start watching some School of Life videos on YouTube. Love this new-age way of exploring meaning in our lives.

For more information on author Rowena Wiseman, check out her author website, Twitter account and Wattpad account, on Facebook, Aunty Arty on Goodreads, and the Aunty Arty website.

Illustrator Interview with Narelda Joy

VH: Narelda, who is your favorite artist?
NJ: Do I have to choose just one artist? There’s Claude Monet, Gustav Kilmt, William Turner, Pierre-August Renoir

VH: How did you get into illustration?
NJ: I have always been artistic and experimented with many creative areas since I was a young girl, however a number of years ago I was feeling unfulfilled in my job, and made the brave decision to leave work and return to full time study. I chose to pursue a career in Design and Illustration and I have never looked back! I have always loved Children’s Books and collect them for my own enjoyment. I can often be found sitting in the children’s section at the local library or bookstore! There is something magical about a book – being transported into another world through words and pictures. It is pure escapism.

VH: What else do you create?
NJ: Apart from my unique textural illustrations and collage, I produce 3D illustrations and bespoke 3D constructions such as scenes, characters, models, theatrical hats and puppets, in textiles, paper and other mediums. I love sculpting anything but I particularly enjoy using textiles. 

VH: What advice do you have for kids who want to be illustrators?
NJ: My advice to aspiring illustrators is to keep practising your art, draw everyday, and pay attention to the wonderful things around you, large and small – inspiration is everywhere. Always carry a sketchbook and camera. Follow your heart and soul and believe in your ability to create. Studying is a great way to meet like minded creative people who will support you on your journey.

VH: What are three favorite books?
NJ: Some of my favorites are:

A Journey of the Imagination by James Christensen,  

Lost and Found by Shaun Tan, 


Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book by Brian Froud and Terry Jones

VH: What are three favorite children's books?
NJ: Three favorites are:
 Her Mother’s Face by Roddy Doyle and Freya Blackwood,
                              Remember Me by Margaret Wild and Dee Huxley

and The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett

VH: What do you do if you aren't feeling creative?
NJ: If I’m not feeling creative then I know I’m too stressed! The cure for this is to meditate, go for a walk surrounded by beautiful nature, visit the dog park which always makes me smile, go for a drive to somewhere new, look through my favourite books in my bookcase, or talk to a creative friend.

For more information on illustrator Narelda Joy, check out her website

~written by Valerie Harmon

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