Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Liz Ledden!

It is with huge pleasure to have the wonderful Liz Ledden on the blog to share all of her ‘tentacular’ secrets behind her latest picture book, Everyone Wants an Octopus Book! Yes, this is a book that everyone wants because it is, well, tentacular, but also an important and timely tale of finding and embracing one’s selves on the shelves! A gorgeously told story of diversity and representation, with stunning, bright and fun illustrations by animator, Makoto Koji, you’ll want to swim to the nearest bookshop to add this to your own bookshelf!

Thanks so much, Liz! 🙂

About the Author

Liz Ledden is a Sydney-based kids’ book author of quirky, fun and warm-hearted stories. She lives and writes on Gadigal land.

Liz’s latest release is Everyone Wants an Octopus Book!, published by Hardie Grant’s Bright Light imprint. Her other published picture books are Walking Your Human and Tulip and Brutus, and she co-hosted kids’ book podcast One More Page.

Liz has also had short stories for kids featured in The School Magazine and Youkie magazine.

Please find Liz Ledden at her website: www.lizledden.com and on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter/X.

Please find Makoto Koji’s portfolio at her website: Paper Rabbits and Makoto Koji :: Behance and on Instagram.

Everyone Wants an Octopus Book! is available for purchase via Hardie Grant Children’s Books, online and in bookstores.

WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?

Everyone Wants an Octopus Book! is a picture book written by me (Liz Ledden), illustrated by Makoto Koji, an Adelaide-based animator and talented illustrator, and published by Hardie Grant Children’s Books. It falls under their Bright Light imprint, which aims to shine a spotlight on essential conversations.

WHAT is it about?

Everyone Wants an Octopus Book! is about representation and everyone deserving to see themselves in the stories they read. It stars an octopus named Inky who can’t find a book with any characters like them. Their friend Quack the duck tries to help, but all they find are books with ducks, dogs, and more ducks! Quack encourages Inky to share their unique qualities (so some fun octopus facts are woven in!), and Inky is inspired to write and star in their own story. However, they need to decide who their sidekick might be! It’s a heartwarming friendship story but importantly, a conversation-starter about representation. Reflecting the conversational nature of the topic, it’s actually written in all-dialogue too, so it’s a fun early introduction to this style of storytelling.

What is your favourite part of this book?

It’s immensely hard to pick a favourite scene or spread!! I love the cover, the cute endpapers, and the author and illustrator notes we were able to share about the meaning behind the story. But for a part I really love, it’s a wordless spread at the end where we see Inky’s book being celebrated and shared by other octopuses, ducks and friends – a full circle, meta moment!

WHEN did you begin writing this book?

I first started playing around with a new manuscript idea about a dejected animal who couldn’t find themselves in any books back in 2018. I then developed and rewrote the story many times until signing a contract with Hardie Grant in 2021.

When is its release / launch date?

It was released on 20 March 2024.

WHERE did the inspiration for this book come from?

The book stemmed from the idea of not everyone being able to find themselves in stories. While I initially played around with the animal characters who are more or less likely found as main characters in picture books, it mirrored real life, and kids often feeling the same way. It was a story that grew from the zeitgeist, a place of empathy, and an idea for a conversation starter on an important topic (that could still be conveyed in a fun way!).

WHY is this book meaningful to you?

Everyone Wants an Octopus Book! is a meaningful story to me in that I’d love to see more diverse bookshelves and therefore empowered readers. We are increasingly seeing both diverse characters and creators celebrated, but it’s essential that kids don’t feel discouraged or alienated by what they find lacking in stories. I also believe that those who are commonly found in books aren’t just reading about ‘themselves’ either. It’s so important to foster empathy, understanding and knowledge by reading about those who are different to you, too.

Why would its message resonate with readers?

I think many readers would resonate with the idea of not feeling seen in stories. Kids could feel this way for a multitude of reasons, and it’s a topic that’s had more coverage in the last few years with the #weneeddiversebooks movement on social media. If readers identify with Inky about not finding themselves represented in books, the story will hopeful inspire them to celebrate and share their unique qualities. And for the readers that feel more like Quack and are easily found in stories, it might encourage them to uplift and champion others, as Quack does with Inky!

HOW do you feel about the illustrations / cover design? How do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?

I absolutely adore the illustrations by Makoto Koji, and the design by Pooja Desai. Makoto has given each character a signature fashion accessory which I love – Inky wears a hot pink beret, while Quack wears a yellow scarf. Also, the cover even has a few sparkly bits, yay! It all looks so vibrant, cute and fun, and conveys the accessibility of the story – it does cover a deeper topic, but does so in an engaging way with a lightness of touch.

How have you promoted this book and how can we find it?

I celebrated release day with an online storytime hosted by the State Library of NSW, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with more kids at some upcoming Book Week visits. Around release time, I was the guest author in Picture Book Book Club’s monthly Twitter chat with creators and teacher librarians, about representation in kids’ books. You can find this or join future chats searching #picbookbc on Twitter/X. I’ve also been lucky enough to feature on some great kids’ book podcasts recently – you can hear an ‘in conversation’ style of podcast episode on Words and Nerds, a takeover ep where I chat to fellow Hardie Grant/Bright Light authors Sandhya Parappukkaran and Dr Zewlan Moor. We discuss how we’ve woven messages into our stories in kid-centric, non-didactic ways and much more. Then I had a fun chat with Ken Williams on Reading with a Chance of Tacos podcast all about the book and general writing life. I’m also chatting about Everyone Wants an Octopus Book! on an upcoming episode of the Endless Shelf podcast, too, sharing more octo book insights!

Thanks so much, Liz, for sharing your special, sparkly octo-story with us! 🙂

#thequicksixinterview #everyonewantsanoctopusbook # #diversity #picturebooks #justkidslit

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