Aura Parker is from Sydney, Australia, where she lives with her three children. Her background is in graphic design and illustration. Twig is her first book as both an author and illustrator. An absolutely charming book about a stick bug named Heidi’s first day at Bug School. Unfortunately she blends in so well that no one sees her. Many subjects are touched upon in this book including first day of school anxiety, making friends and overcoming shyness. The illustrations are so charming and detailed; children will find something new every time they open this gorgeous book.
MARMALADE BOOKS (MB): When did you know you wanted to be an author and an illustrator? Which came first?
AURA PARKER (AP): I always wanted to make kids books because I love stories. If you consume a diet of stories, as I did from a young age you will find they multiply, and before you know it they are growing out your ears! They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I always felt like I had a thousand pictures, and that means a lot of words to go with all the pictures! The art came first as I pursued a career in design and illustration, but I have equal love for both writing and drawing – and when they are combined I get completely carried away! From a young age I kept journals. When I was a teenager I did a lot of babysitting where I would tell the kids silly bedtime stories, making them up on the spot. I drew constantly as a kid and I just never stopped.
MB: Can you tell us a bit about the creation of Twig, from inspiration to publication?
AP: I wrote Twig in a big flurry of excitement and it draws on many threads of ideas knitted together, my surroundings, my kids, personal memories, and at the same time it is completely made up too. Twig is about Heidi the stick insect on her first day at Bug School and I wrote it when my son Saxon was about to start Kindy, a big transition where you have to negotiate many new things at once, fitting in, making friends. Entering the world of the schoolyard is new and exciting, but not without its own anxieties. When I was a kid I started a new school and I got off on the wrong foot on my first day. It stayed with me, that feeling, the feeling of wanting to belong that is at the heart of this story. Since the book came out lots of exciting things have happened and I have been out and about talking to kids about writing, illustration and creative confidence – I even have pet stick insects that come along with me.
MB: Did you spend time researching bugs for Twig? What was the most interesting thing you discovered?
AP: Stick insects have wings! Yes, they can fly! Not far, likely just far enough to get out of danger. And their wings are beautiful, like a butterfly. I do look at pictures of real insects for my illustrations, but more often I'll draw from my imagination. Bug School is an imaginary place, my insects walk, talk, drink tea and go to school – so much fun!
MB: What are the ages of your children? What do they think about having a Mom who is an author/illustrator?
AP: I have three kids aged 7, 9 and 11. They are proud of me and Twig is dedicated to my youngest son Saxon. ‘For Saxon, whose curiosity and love of insects inspired this book’. I am lucky to have them to bounce ideas off and we have lots of creative adventures together, building, making and inventing things.
MB: What would you like parents to share with their children when they read them this book?
AP: Books are a good catalyst for talking about feelings. There are a lot of ideas in Twig from friendship to belonging and inclusion. My advice is to enjoy your books for the sake of the story, snuggle up and let them simmer! See what comes, listen to your kids. I love it when you read a book and then find yourself thinking about it later, and I hope that is what happens with Twig.
MB: Have you ever been to Canada?
AP: We took a trip to Canada last year with my kids as we have family living over there. We visited Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec in September when the leaves were about to turn for fall. The green colour of the trees is refreshing, so different to Australia. In Toronto we went to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and the Aquarium and drank up the art galleries with our eyes! We went to Pink Lake and marveled at the colour of the water too. Canada is beautiful and I would love to visit again as we came back with heads and hearts full of wonderful memories.
AP: Thank you for having me on the blog. I was going to write something funny about marmalade, but I got into a jam! Ha! Aura xx
My thanks to Aura for this interview. I thoroughly enjoyed discovering her beautiful work and getting to know a little bit about her. Pat Oldroyd