Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Author Focus: Aaron Blabey

As my last post on the 2008 Children's Book Council Awards indicated, the book Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley, written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey, won the prize for best Early Childhood book. Now this is a remarkable achievement for a number of reasons. It was Aaron Blabey's first book. As well, he is a self-taught and successful artist. But that's not all; he was already a successful actor before deciding he'd become a writer and illustrator. Blabey won the 1995 AFI Best Actor Award for his performance in the title role of The Damnation of Harvey McHugh. In 2000 he was nominated for an AFI Best Actor Award for his role in Stingers and has appeared in Through My Eyes - The True Story of Lindy Chamberlain, Crashburn, All Saints, Wildside and Phoenix, and movies including Mullet and The Human Touch. After winning acclaim first as an actor, he began to win acclaim for his unique paintings of the female form. His paintings were inspired by his experience in film, TV and theatre where was appalled by its concept of body image and the stress it placed on his female co-actors. You can read a review of his art here.

Now, in just 12 months he has published two delightful picture books - 'Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley' & 'Sunday Chutney' (Penguin/ Viking 2007 & 2008).

Both books share the same qualities. They use simple language and simple illustrations and focus on children and their relationships.

"Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley are friends.
Really great friends.

However, people often ask,
'Why are Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley friends?
They are just so different!'
And they are different.
Different in almost every way.
You see, while Pearl Barley is very loud,
Charlie Parsley is very quiet...

In his first book Blabey tells the story of two different and unlikely friends. His second book, Sunday Chutney, is a simple first person narrative about an unusual girl who leads an unusual life. Moving from school to school due to her Dad's work, she faces many challenges; especially with other kids. Sunday Chutney knows what she likes, and doesn't like, and has great inner strength and imagination that gets her through.

"I'm Sunday Chutney....
....and I'm a bit unusual..."

Sunday Chutney is always the new kid.

"And everyone always thinks the new kid is a bit weird. But guess what? I don't care. I enjoy my own company... and I have an excellent imagination."

Blabey has written and illustrated two wonderful books that children will love to listen to (if they are young) and read themselves as beginning readers. Aaron Blabey would seem to have a bright future ahead of him as a children's author and illustrator.

You can hear Aaron Blabey talking about his first two books here.

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