Meet Tania McCartney

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Tania McCartney answers some questions about her latest book Ivy Bird. Thanks to Tania, Windy Hollow Books, and Reading Time reviewer Julie Murphy for this interview.

How did this book come about? (I.e., the idea, the collaboration with Jess and acquiring a publisher.)  

Jess and I were keen to create a new picture book for Windy Hollow, and the idea for Ivy Bird came about from my adoration of birds and my love of sharing nature with kids. This idea morphed into themes of imaginative play (a timely topic!), and grew to include addendum pages with information on the birds included in the book. I don’t think kids are too young to learn about our beautiful flora and fauna – and the facts provided are age-appropriate. I had hopes to inspire children to learn more about birds and connect with them more deeply. Thankfully, Jess loves birds as much as I do, so it was an inspired topic to team up on. Jess’s kids are also quite young, and her daughter Ivy drew bird pictures for use in the book (the endpapers also feature her work). She was 6 at the time.

Did you include any illustration notes, did you discuss ideas and themes with Jess, or are all the ideas in the illustrations Jess’s?  

I don’t provide specific illustration notes because I don’t believe in them. I feel illustrators need to be free to bring their own ideas and visual narrative to the story. The only ‘guidance’ I gave Jess was narrative-based, as I feel great picture books feature visual narrative as strongly as text narrative, if not more so. I wanted to include themes of family and freedom, and my aversion to birds in cages, so I outlined the pet canary being freed from the cage and finding a partner to nest with, just as Ivy settles into her nest at the end of the story. It was also important to the narrative that Ivy either dress like or mimic birds through the story, as this was the whole point of the book and its imaginative play/connection with nature themes. Otherwise, all else was left up to Jess and she did an amazing job adding a superb visual narrative and all those delicious extra visual elements. Jess came up with the dog, the family, the twins and other warm, family-oriented elements, which add depth and beauty to the story. 

Was it a collaboration from the start? Did you write it with Jess Racklyeft in mind as illustrator? 

Yes, I wrote it so I could work with Jess again, and I knew her illustration style was perfect for the story. Jess actually tried a slightly new illustration style for this book and I adore it – it’s cool, modern and ‘different’—all elements I strive for in my books and book collabs. 

Read Julie Murphy’s review of Ivy Bird

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