Images Courtesy of Maria Parenti-Baldey, Tina Maria Clarke and June Perkins
On the weekend BookLink member, and Magic Fish Dreaming Illustrator Helene Magisson and author Janine M Fraser launched a courageous book about peace and respect of others’ cultural and interfaith stories, Sarah’s Two Nativities at the Where the Wild Things Are Bookshop.
There were visitors from Canberra and Victoria in attendance as well as many locals, from many cultures and faiths. At least 80 people gathered, with a quarter of them being children.
Sarah’s Two Nativities is a story of a young girl who loves listening to both her grandmothers’ nativity stories – one from the Koran and one from the Bible. Young Sarah is concerned at first about which story is true because they’re so similar. She realises however, her family’s unity will never force her to choose between the two stories, but accept both.
Tina Marie Clark, CYA coordinator, launched the book as it was CYA which launched Helene’s illustrator career. She warmly endorsed the themes of the book and shared some of her experience as a South African familiar with the celebration of many religious festivals with friends and family.
Janine Fraser, the author, told the story of the background to her motivation for writing the book. Sharing that she had a challenging upbringing in a restricted spiritual environment, which later led her to leave that environment and become an ardent student of comparative religions. During her lifelong journey she observed many instances of multifaith families. She explained how she sees all religions as sharing the message of love and the question of the ‘mystery.’
Janine gave thanks to her family, especially her grandchildren and to Maryanne Ballantyne who championed the book as well as to the wonderful Helene for her illustrations which exceeded all her expecatations.
Janine read from the book in a gentle and softly spoken voice, with small musical interludes throughout provided by Marie Baguelin from France who played the guitar and Azadeh Shamee from Iran who performed the Oud (Arabic for wood). They brought a sense of both cultures at the event through their inspiring performances.
Helene shared journey to understand the background of the book more, and work on a sensitive way to illustrate it, respectful of both the Koran and the Bible. She did this through extensive research, with the goal of honouring both.
Helene thanked June Perkins, for being her creative sister and both June and Renee Hills who contacted other faith communities to invite them to the launch as well as the community, friends, neighbours and family present and the musicians at the event. She warmly thanked Janine for her inspiring story and invited us all to an exhibition of the art works on October 9th, which will include her work alongside other talented illstrators. There were a few original art works from the book available for people to view. Helene also gave a big thank you to the Where The Wild Things Are event coordinator Genevieve Kruysse.
Everyone was invited to craft their angels, with the assistance of Helene’s lovely daughter, and partake of koftas and delicious cupcakes. Many people decided to buy additional copies for their schools, libraries and friends.
(c) Hélène Magisson: This artwork summarises the whole message of Sarah’s Two Nativities ‘Because family together in peace is the greatest blessing of all’.
Interview by June Perkins.
Today the Magic Fish Dreaming blog welcomes back Hélène Magisson, for a delightful interview about her latest illustration work for Janine Fraser’s text Sarah’s Two Nativities.
Illustrator: Hélène Magisson began her artistic career as a painting restorer in Paris, where she was also trained in the art of medieval illumination. She has lived all over the world, including Africa, France and India. She loves to discover other cultures through their arts and customs. She now calls Australia home and has begun a new career of illustrating picture books, some of which have been CBCA Notables. Sarah’s Two Nativities (written by Janine M Fraser) is her first book with Black Dog Books.
1.Hélène began our interview by explaining the significance of the book.
The book, beautifully written by Janine Fraser, has a strong multicultural message that I immediately loved. For me, the story is a bridge between Muslims and Christians, and more globally an interfaith dialogue and bridge builder between diverse communities. It is all about peace and harmony. A beautiful and needed message.
2. Helene, as an illustrator are you often involved in the launch of books you have worked on for other authors?
I have always tried my best to be involved in the launches of the books I have illustrated. It is always a wonderful opportunity to meet the author and celebrate the result of a long and demanding collaboration.
3.Why are you involved in organising this launch?
There are two reasons why I am very much involved in this launch.
The first is that I am strongly, deeply committed to the message of Sarah’s Two Nativities, and I would love this launch to be an opportunity for people from diverse cultural backgrounds and faiths to get together.
The second reason is the opportunity to meet Janine Fraser, the author, for the first time, as I am very much looking forward to hearing in person all about how she came to write this beautiful story, and how she developed it.
Janine M Fraser lives on Phillip Island in Victoria for most of the year, and three months of the year in Manhattan, New York. She loves books, writing and travel and looks for stories wherever she goes. Her previous books have been short-listed for the CBCA awards, the NSW Premier’s Award and the WA Premier’s Award. Janine is also a published poet. Sarah’s Two Nativities is her first book with Black Dog Books.
4.What will be happening? What are you planning?
For the book launch, there will be book reading, book signing by both the author and the illustrator, but what will make this book launch also a bit special, is that we are planning to bring to the event a sense of both cultures.
There will be an Oud performance by Azadeh Shamee, a guitar performance by Marie Baguelin as well, cupcakes and koftas.
5.Can you tell us about the exhibition? Give us details of the launch and how people can RSVP
The book is launching September 21st 2pm, at Where the Wild Things are. People can RSVP directly to the bookshop. BOOK LAUNCH RSVP LINK
There will be an exhibition in Philip Island from December to late January including the different versions of the text as the story developed and all the original illustrations of the book with some ‘behind the scene’ illustrations as well.
And in the meantime there will be an exhibition at Richard Randall Studio in Brisbane organised by Book Links from 8-13 October (official launch on 9 October) with some illustrations from Lucia Masciullo and Paul O’Sullivan as well.
There will be some originals from Sarah’s Two Nativities and some artworks from my other new picture book Little Puggle’s Song written by Vikki Conley.
More on this later, stay tuned and save the date.
6.What were your inspirations when working on the illustrations?
I have a Christian background and I realised that unfortunately I didn’t know much about the Nativity, and the place of Mary and Jesus in the Koran. So, I listened and read many speeches from historians and religious representatives from both sides. It was fascinating and absolutely necessary.
I tried to be inside Sarah’s heart, loving her two grandmothers, being the one child of two different faiths. And from there, I could ‘hear’ the story of the Nativity from the Koran and the Bible perspectives and they are both absolutely beautiful.
Also, we have been working very cautiously with my publisher and art director Donna Rawlins from Black Dog Books (imprint of Walker Books) to make sure that both religions were well represented.
We decided not to illustrate the Nativity itself but instead, we chose to show, in the simplest way, Sarah imagining from a distance, the place where this incredible story happened.
And for sure, travelling and living in different countries, meeting people and having friends from different faiths and cultures helped me really deeply.
7. Who do you think this book will appeal to?
I hope it will appeal to many people from diverse backgrounds. I believe Muslims and Christians can be interested in this book, but more than that, all people who are committed to interfaith dialogue and multiculturalism in general. There are always bridges to build between us and this book is one of them thanks to Janine Fraser.
8. Publication details of book and cost
Sarah loves her two grandmas – Grandmother Azar and Grandmother Maria. Grandmother Azar tells Sarah stories from the Holy Koran, while Grandmother Maria tells her stories from the Bible. At Christmas time, Sarah snuggles in each of her grandmothers’ laps and listens to two nativities stories about the birth of baby Jesus. They are the same in some ways, and different in others … but both can be Sarah’s favourite. Visit Walker Books
ISBN: 9781925381795 Imprint: Black Dog Books Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS Binding: Hardback Release Date: September 1, 2019 Dimensions: 245 x 270mm, 32pp Australian RRP: $26.99 New Zealand RRP: $28.99
June: Thanks so much for this wonderful sharing Hélène and wishing you the very best for the launch.
Listed above are titles of works accepted to two wonderful new anthologies for children aged 6-12 years.
Both are due for release in October 2019.
Amongst these selections are two poems, a meditation and two short stories.
My first comissioned short story for a magazine will be out in September too, but more details on that when it’s released!
Last year Share Your Story accepted my first ever published short story for children to It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas and I had a short story for middle grade short listed by Scribbles. What a wonderful encouragement, and it turns out a sign of things to come, those two breakthroughs were. Thank you to Michelle Worthington, of Share Your Story, and Jen Storer of Scribbles for all the work you do mentoring other writers.
I am delighted to have been developing my short story writing craft and finding homes for my work outside of my own independent publishing press.
And in other news the first draft of my first novel will be completed this week. I have been working in a Share Your Story mentorship for the last 6 months to fulfil this long cherished goal!
I am currently working on a poetry chapbook, Illuminations, for release in November this year. This ones for teenagers and grown ups and two wonderfully talented sisters, Ruha and Minaira Fifita, are creating art to be included with the poems and one story. I am working with the same designer as for Magic Fish Dreaming, Heidi Den Ronden. Many of my writing friends from Write Links as well as Baha’i poets have beta read Illuminations and I am so grateful for their invaluable feedback.
My dear friend Helene Magisson, illustrator of Magic Fish Dreaming, has a number of wonderful new children’s books out and I will update you on those soon in a post.
We still meet regularlly for catch ups, and will forever remain friends. She is truly like a sister, and an especially creative person whose friendship I treasure.
One day we would dearly love to do a follow up book to Magic Fish Dreaming if we get the opportunity.
I’ll share details of any launches here and on my social media sites.
Best wishes to all, better get back to writing!
If you want to find out more about Share Your Story and Scribbles here are the links!
Beyond the title page is the dedication page, and the following words stopped me in my tracks …
All my ancestors who sing and dance the stories
And the ones who listen
“When you read a dedication that gives you goose-bumps, you know you are in for a treat, and the fact that Magic Fish Dreaming won several Royal Dragonfly Book Awards, only reinforces the feeling that this stunning book of poetry is one that will capture your heart.
Magic Fish Dreaming is written by talented and compassionate author, Dr June Perkins. Her PhD was on the subject of writing empowerment.
When you open the book, you’ll discover that Magic Fish Dreaming is in two parts.
Part 1 – Hunting for Giggle Poems
Hunting for Giggle Poems is touching, spiritual, and enjoyable. The poetic words will reach out and wrap their words around you, creating a special bond to the earth, making you feel like you must be a protector of all that we have been given. You’ll also find yourself smiling and trailing after the children with their net as they go to capture poems full of giggles.
Part 2 – Magic Fish Dreaming
It’s flowing, soothing, and caressing, with people and spirituality. There’s chats between a father and son, a mother and children, a cassowary and children. There’s magic and wishes and the wonder of creation. There’s fun with the storm dancers, a bottle lost at sea, and a geckos dance, plus many more.
June Perkins has teamed up with talented artist, Helene Magisson, who imbues June’s poetic words with the gift of visual art. Besides enjoying the words of the poems, the reader will spend an age meandering in each of the illustrations, lost in the magical colours, the action, and the flowing peace that leaps off the pages. Helene’s art style is enchanting, making your heart sing.
If you are fishing for a beautifully written and inspiring book of poetry, Magic Fish Dreaming must be on your ‘to purchase list’. If you could ever fall in love with a poetry book, it would be this one.
I highly recommend Magic Fish Dreaming. It will make you feel like the world is a beautiful, wondrous place as the author weaves her gift of words on the page. When you finally close the book, you will be left with a feeling of peacefulness.
June Perkins is right. Writing is empowering: for the author, and the reader.
Purchase a copy: Magic Fish Dreaming
Title: Magic Fish Dreaming by: June Perkins illustrated by: Helene Magisson ISBN: 9780980731187 Category: Poetry Publisher: Gumbootspearlz Press 17 poems, 48 pages
These works were created in a two hour workshop with June Perkins and Helene Magisson for the Summer of Reading Program with the Brisbane libraries, held January 2018. The host libraries were Chermside and Toowong.
The above photographs are shared with consent of artist/writers and taken by Helene Magisson.
A big thank you to the staff at both libraries who assisted with the set up of the room and other practicalities as well as giving us warm introductions.
Thanks also to the wonderful children.
The following three photographs of the workshop in action are courtesy of the Brisbane libraries.
Online sales portals are on their way to make it easier to order this book from anywhere in Australia.
In January Helene Magisson and June Perkins will be conducting some more library workshops, more on this soon!
If you live in FNQ and are looking for a special Christmas present this year the book is now available in more places in Far North Queensland thanks to the Local Authors Network
Gift Shop Botanical Gardens – Cairns
Cairns Crystal Ball Bookshop
Cook Town Botanical Gardens – Gift Shop
If any store is out of stock, just let me or the Local Authors network know.
Helene Magisson has recently colaunched the beautiful Slowly Slowly by T.M Clarke.
It was a delight to be at the launch for this book recently, and both author and illustrator together have a number of events popping up around Brisbane, including at Riverbend books this weekend (this ones sold out!).
June will be presenting her ‘unique story’ in a panel for the Sandcliffe Writers Festival.
April 29th 9am-10.30 Bracken Ridge Library
The panel is Unique Journeys:
Join authors June Perkins, Duncan Richardson and Michael Aird’ as they talk about their inspiration and ideas and what compels them on their creative journey, where they are today, and where they hope to be in the future.’
For more information about the festival (lots of other great events, all free except for the literary dinner with Matthew Condon) contact Adele Moy, email@example.com
There will also be a poetry writing workshop with Angela Peita, on the same day at 1.30-3.30 pm. For bookings contact the Bracken Ridge Library, 32691102
Some of the presenters at the Sandcliffe Festival
June Perkins, Lauren Daniels, Leisa Raven, Michael Aird, Jacqueline Henry
Queensland Writers Centre, recently featured June in their Queensland Writer’s Life series. June says,’It is a great honour to be included amongst some great Queensland Writers, such as Jackie French! Nick Earls and more!’
Helene is doing fantastically. You can find her six picture books, that’s right six picture books, listed in her biography for this site. We welcome her to recently becoming an Australian citizen with her whole family! How lucky is Australia!
Helene loves all the books she is involved with creating and is an absolute inspiration. The Velveteen Rabbit has just been translated into Chinese!
Some fantastic news is that Helene and June have some workshops coming up at libraries in Brisbane in the June holidays. We hope to create more fans for poetry and art in combination for children’s books! We will be collaborating on these workshops and we’re so happy that we get to work together again! We’d love to see more artistic poetry books in the world.
Suppliers and Bookshops
We hope to very soon announce school/tafe, childcare suppliers and more book stores OUTSIDE of Brisbane stocking Magic Fish Dreaming! (maybe Tasmania!) We are working super hard to ensure the book makes it into more libraries! Please send us your very positive energy as we embark on broadening the reach of Magic Fish Dreaming and start field tripping.
We are working to connect with any community that loves caring for nature, supporting diversity and poetry and of course Queensland. We think our book is a great tool for encouraging mindfulness and have a psychologist let us know she is using it with her clients. How wonderful!
We will be back when we have more to share! But thank you to everyone who keeps helping us spread the word about the book.
Special thanks to some of the students and staff at the Keystones unit, at QUT, who are taking the news about the book to their children’s schools. That is just so special!
From the Tweet-sphere
The author of the Outlander Series, left this message, after my proud mother-in-law tweeted her about Magic Fish Dreaming. Thanks Helen Perkins for sharing the news about the book and how lovely that Diana Gabaldon replied!