Title: Zelda’s Big Adventure
Author: Marie Alafaci
Illustrator: Shane McG
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genre: Picture book
Age Group: 3 and up
Please tell us a bit of what your book is about.
Zelda has a plan – she wants to be the first chook in space, so she knuckles down and plans her experiments, builds her space ship and trains for space walks. There’s a small hitch when her friends aren’t willing to help her, but Zelda is a plucky chook, so goes ahead and does it all on her own.
What kinds of themes / issues are raised in this story?
The sky is never the limit! Perseverance, resilience, girls (and everyone) can do anything, friendship, kindness, forgiveness.
How are these important to you in raising awareness to your readers?
Hmm. I don’t write to raise awareness. I write to make fun stories, but if my readers are a little kinder to each other, try a bit harder or have confidence in themselves, then that’s a great bonus.
Who or what inspired you to write this story?
When we first got chickens in our backyard, one of them (who was called ‘Angel’) was always exploring – often she would spend the night in next door’s cubby or in the front garden, or up a tree. One day after I’d brought her back to our place I wondered what on earth was making her seek out new places and where she really wanted to go. For some reason, the idea of a chook going into space just came to me and Zelda’s story was born.
What is your favourite part of the book?
I love the beginning, because I think it shows you just what kind of a book it’s going to be – a bit funny and a bit out there. That said, Shane’s illustrations are just the most amazing things you could ever hope for – they made the story even better. He has hidden little jokes in the pictures that fit perfectly with the feel of the text.
How would you describe the publishing process? Were they supportive? How long did it take?
The publishing process was a dream after years of working on the text – probably five years all up. Then it was a stroke of luck that got it noticed. I pitched the work at an Australian Society of Authors masterclass and the guest publisher (Erica Wagner from Allen & Unwin) loved it and asked me to send it to her. After a couple of months (the acquisition process takes quite a bit of time) they came back with a contract. They were so wonderful to work with – so enthusiastic and proactive. They made me feel that my dear little hen Zelda was in good hands. All in all it was around 2 years between that pitch and publication.
What was the collaboration like between author and illustrator? Juicy gossip, please!
Shane is a genius and his ideas are just great. We didn’t actually meet until the launch, but A&U sent me his rough ideas, asked what I thought about them and gave him feedback. I didn’t really have much to give feedback on, because his work was so wonderful. As for juicy gossip, for a coffee and a cake, I’ll tell you what his whole name is.
What has the feedback / audience response been like so far?
The feedback has been great – kids I’ve read it to love the idea of chickens in space and think it’s funny, which is all I could ever hope for. Parents like it too because it’s funny and has an Australian feel (she’s a ‘chook’, not a ‘chicken’ or ‘hen’) and they like the idea that children can do anything if they work hard and put their minds to it.
Amazingly, the book was a ‘Notable Book’ in the CBCA awards and read by the amazing Leigh Sales (from the 7.30 report) on ABC TV’s special book week program ‘Story Time’ (you can see it on iView until 2024!). It’s also been sold to the USA to a publisher whose mother used to work at NASA, so that’s really special.
What teaching and learning ideas would you suggest to complement this book?
You could use it as a guide to how to write a story, or perhaps to show that persistence is worth the effort.
Any details on your book launch you’d like to tell us about?
The book has already been launched, but you can watch Leigh Sales, the terrific ABC journalist, reading it on ABCTV’s Story Time which is available on iView. There are five other amazing books being read by celebrities, and each is fabulous. There are also short interviews with the celebrities about their favourite books and what they love about reading.
Please let us know where we can find more on you and your book.
Thank you for sharing Zelda with us! She’s a star! 🐓 ⭐️ 🚀
You’re very welcome.
Marie Alafaci is an author and writing teacher. She has publications in biography, environmental science and speculative fiction; taught Professional Writing & Editing at TAFE; worked for the Australian Society of Authors; reviewed books; written features; and co-runs a manuscript assessment service – Bedlam Books
As a young girl she watched the Apollo moon landings on television and has wanted to go to space ever since. She never got to be an astronaut herself but is delighted that Zelda has managed it. Zelda’s Big Adventure is her first picture book.