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It is with great delight to welcome back Shae Millward and Andy Fackrell to provide more insights into the making of their moving picture book, The Rabbit’s Magician! Thank you!
Shae and Andy, congratulations on the release of your heart-rending, yet heart-warmingly comforting picture book, The Rabbit’s Magician!
Where did the inspiration for this story come from, Shae?
Shae: The story was inspired by The Law of Conservation of Energy – a fundamental law of nature, which states: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can change from one form into another. I had long known of this scientific principle but had more recently come across a speech by Aaron Freeman about why you want a physicist to speak at your funeral. It was incredibly moving, the way the science-talk, which is often cold and clinical, radiated with warmth – a heart-warming warmth.
I never intentionally set out to write a story about loss – it was certainly not a subject I would have chosen to tackle. But an impression must have been made on my subconscious because a scene appeared in my mind of a rabbit looking up at the moon. I sensed he was waiting for something. The moon phases changed, and still, he waited. What are you waiting for? I wondered. And then, he told his tale. In a matter of moments, the whole story suddenly existed, like a neatly wrapped gift. No tackling involved.
Ziggy the Rabbit and his beloved magician, The Amazing Albertino, have a very special bond, even after he disappears. Why did you choose the perspective of loss from the rabbit, and how might this help those reading your book?
Shae: It was naturally occurring rather than planned. And it works beautifully because the rabbit has a sweet naivety about him, a child-like innocence. He does not comprehend what has happened or why his beloved magician has not come back/returned (we can struggle with this even as adults). His new friends are then able to help him understand and provide welcome comfort.
What was the collaborative process like for both of you in creating The Rabbit’s Magician? How did you initially feel upon seeing each other’s work, up until the end result?
Shae: Paul put Andy and I in contact from the start, he was happy for us to communicate back-and-forth freely, with him copied in on our emails. So we were able to bounce a lot of ideas around and make good progress. We shared the common goal of wanting the best outcome, so it was never about ‘whose idea was better,’ but rather ‘which idea was best for the project.’
When the first sketches came through and I saw that darling little rabbit staring up at the moon while his ears drooped down, I knew it was Ziggy! Those images captured the sense of his waiting and longing. Even though I was in the loop throughout the process, just as The Amazing Albertino surprised and delighted the audience in the story, the amazing Andy surprised and delighted me with each picture. There are some beautiful silhouette moments with the moon as a backdrop that speak of Alby and Ziggy’s close relationship. The spread of Ziggy with the stars, rainbow and flowers has a peaceful ambience in perfect alignment with the words.
Andy: I was blown away by how Shae’s story took on so many ideas, but was wrapped up so elegantly. The iconography and objects that Shae created – she’s a very visual thinker – all were pivotal to the story, and it was a case of keeping it simple enough to follow, but layered in its meaning. I showed Shae and Paul my thinking very early regarding colour and composition. The only thing we went back and forth on was how to convey Alby’s disappearance. Being more implied rather than shown ended up suiting the metaphorical nature of the story.
The Rabbit’s Magician is a deep, thoughtful story of love and loss, explored sensitively and beautifully. What other ideas or themes did you aim to elicit to readers through your story and pictures?
Shae: There are science and physics themes.
The Moon and its phases: In the opening scenes, when the rabbit is waiting, the changing phases are used to show the passing of time. In another part, the waning phases represent the magician’s life-force waning.
The magician describes the moon as a ‘master of illusion’ because of the ways in which it appears to change shape, but is actually always whole; appears to shine, but doesn’t really make any light of its own; is a dusty old rock, yet we see it as beautiful.
The first law of thermodynamics. Energy cannot be destroyed. Energy cannot die. It remains in the universe. Being reminded of this can bring about a feeling of continued connection.
Andy: Colour helped convey the emotional journey; the red earth implied rawness of emotion, the Prussian blue night reflected loneliness, but the time Alby and Ziggy spent together was brought to life with exuberant complimentary hues. With the page design; the moon’s four phases helped reflect the transformation of Alby. I chose the koala because of the moon shaped ears, the quokka because of the innocence and trust, and the echidna…well because of its spikes it would be tough to hug (but our quokka would still try.)
What do you most hope children, parents and educators will gain from reading The Rabbit’s Magician? Do you have helpful tips on dealing with loss?
Shae: The Rabbit’s Magician is a gentle story of love and loss. It offers comfort to anyone of any age who has lost a loved one – person or animal. There are other picture books about loss, but none from this angle that I know of. There’s no intention to oppose anyone’s beliefs. It’s simply another tool to help bring some solace to hearts. It offers a sense of comfort from the viewpoint and solidity of a sound principle of physics. It fosters a gentle shift in thought, from the total emptiness of loss to the presence of a continued energetic connection. It’s layered meaning and intertwining themes – including the universe, nature, the moon and its phases, reminders of loved ones, and the power of love – enables it to be interpreted in your own special way.
Tips? Hmmm, it can be quite personal, as some people want to hear from a religious perspective, some seek words of a spiritual nature, while others prefer something … other. So, I’ll simply say, we know that everything in the universe is made of energy, including us, and so, that which can no longer be touched by the hand can still be felt by the heart.
Andy: It’s okay to feel the pain of loss and express it in such a positive, ecological way.
What’s your favourite, most interesting moon or scientific fact?
Shae: I chose this one because it’s relevant to the creation of the book: People in the Northern and Southern hemispheres do not see the phases of the moon in the same way. The order of the phases (New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third or Last Quarter and Waning Crescent) is the same, but people in the Southern Hemisphere see the moon oriented differently to the people in the Northern Hemisphere (and vice-versa). In the Southern Hemisphere, people see the lit part of the moon grow and recede from left to right. In the Northern Hemisphere, they see it grow and recede from right to left. So, because The Rabbit’s Magician is set in Australia, we had to make sure the moon phases matched the Southern Hemisphere direction.
Andy: The moon was a lot closer to the earth billions of years ago, before we walked the earth. Can you imagine its size in the night sky?
What can your fans look forward to from you in the near future? Any projects you’re currently working on?
Shae: Well, I always have a bunch of ideas for picture book stories floating around, and my long-term work-in-progress is a middle-grade novel that I pick up between projects. I’m also creating a range of t-shirt designs. It’s a bit top secret at the moment, however, I can divulge that some designs are autism-championing and others are especially for writerly folk!
Andy: I have a film I’m making next year, so the next book is a while off. It’d be good to get a shortlist of ideas though, in between this other task.
Thanks so much for answering our questions, Shae and Andy! 😊
About the Author
Shae Millward is the author of picture books A Boy and a Dog, Koalas Like To and The Rabbit’s Magician. Her short story, The Vampire Roses, is published in Spooktacular Stories: Thrilling Tales for Brave Kids.
Shae is an enthusiastic advocate for literacy. She aims to inspire through a love of books, the joy of reading and writing, and the art of storytelling. Shae enjoys writing picture books, poetry, song lyrics, inspirational quotes, short stories and more.
About the Illustrator
Andy Fackrell is one of the most awarded and recognised multi-dimensional creatives in the world. A career in advertising earned him the highest honours, including the Cannes Grand Prix in film for his work for Nike. A true creative nomad, living and working in all continents — Antarctica excepted — he is now a film maker exploring documentaries on social and environmental issues. These days, Andy is splitting his time between Sydney and Amsterdam writing branded content films, documentaries, as well as writing and illustrating picture books, including his own ‘Group Hug!‘.
Andy Fackrell can be found at Andy Fackrell.
Visit Shae Millward at her website: shaemillward.com
Andy Fackrell can be found at Andy Fackrell.
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