LIONEL AND ME Written by Corinne Fenton, Illustrated by Tracie Grimwood (published by New Frontier)
Inside the CBCA Shortlist
Lionel and Me is a beautiful, warm story for young children.
All dog lovers will adore it.
On Writing LIONEL AND ME
Guest author post by Corinne Fenton for Joy in Books at PaperbarkWords
Corinne Fenton writes:
When I began a Professional Writing and Editing Diploma at Box Hill TAFE, many years ago, one often-repeated phrase from our lecturer was ‘Write what you know.’
So, having spent the last 20 years, doing painstaking and often heartbreaking research for 21 non-fiction and fiction picture books – some books taking between two and ten years to create, often with upwards of 30 drafts and rewrites, I’m almost embarrassed to say that, Lionel and Me had, officially, four drafts!
Yes, of course the research was right before me – our extended family have known 12 year old Maverick (our son Wade’s dog) since he was a fluffy, cuddly, adorable puppy and we all fell in love with him. We have shared many family holidays and sleepovers through the years.
When Lionel arrived, 6 years ago, Maverick seemed enormous compared to this tiny black and tan midget, who very soon also scrambled his way into our hearts.
From the first moment though, Mavi was always gentle … except perhaps for the time he swung Lionel about on the end of a towel, Lionel gripping for his life and becoming airborne. It was both funny and terrifying to watch.
So, I guess what I’m saying here is that I’m a slow learner. I’m going to give up the detective work for a while and simply write what I know, it might be easier on us all, especially my husband.
Maverick’s voice, as the narrator, came naturally to me, once again, because I know Mavi so well. When Lionel arrived I began wondering about how Maverick was feeling. One day I began writing, thinking about how his life had changed and, at times, what he had to put up with.
Would there be enough love to go round? We were very careful, as a family, to make sure we always gave Maverick a pat and a cuddle first, but of course Lionel was so little and so cute.
Although the book was released in June last year, a July launch was postponed to November as the first print run was scooped up before it hit the shelves.
In exciting news, the book was named a Notable Book in the Early Childhood section of the CBCA Book of the Year Awards in February and a month later it became a Shortlisted book. Very exciting for the publisher, New Frontier Publishing, the illustrator, Tracie Grimwood and myself and the book is currently being reprinted again.
There are many themes and messages in Lionel and Me including friendship, inclusion, caring, belonging, family life, pets and love. Looking out for and loving animals and pets is a recurring theme in my books. Animals are so loyal and if we treat them with kindness they love us unconditionally. We’ve all seen the dog waiting outside the shop for his/her master, eyes never straying from the door, waiting almost breathless for them to reappear.
Maverick stays beside Wade whenever he is about and sits and waits for him to return if he’s not. And Lionel, is very definitely Bella’s dog, giving her all the love he can. He does however, dislike strangers, other dogs, buses, trucks and people generally.
Illustrator, Tracie Grimwood’s illustrations are superb. I loved them when I first sighted her black and white roughs and I believe Tracie has captured the personalities of both dogs perfectly in her illustrations.
If I had to choose a favourite illustration, it’s the one where Maverick is outside in his kennel, looking back at the house at Lionel peeping from the window. To me this is the essence of Maverick’s character, kindness.
‘The back garden was cold and lonely, but it gave me time to think.’
I feel privileged to be a writer of picture books and the two best moments for me are when a story idea has taken my heart and the writing races onto the page – and when I share that story with children and they step into the book with me.
The CBCA judges commented that:
‘Whilst this book is about a pet dog learning to accept a new puppy into the household, it would also provide a very useful tool in supporting discussions about a new family member, and the mixed feelings that come with this.’
Teeny Readers review’s comment was as follows:
‘Perfect for families with new babies, or any other new arrival too, it shows the challenges of adjusting to change but also how, with some kindness and patience, it can be the best thing ever.’
The book was featured in the latest CBCA Newsletter with a review and resource and activity sheet.
There’s also a lovely review at Kids Book Review
The book trailer is very cute:
There are some wonderful Teaching Notes on the New Frontier Publishing website
Thanks to Corinne Fenton for this wonderful picture book, for writing this piece and for supplying most of the photos,