Andy Geppert writes about his new book, Australian Backyard Birdies:
I thought I loved birds more than anyone else…. until my daughter Harri came along, that was. Harri was an early bird herself. She used to wake up before most roosters and our daily ritual was to go straight outside onto our small back deck and search for birdies.
We did this together for many months until one day, she rubbed her sleepy little eyes, pointed to the neighbour’s roof, and said her first (ridiculously cute) audible word: “BIRDIE.” Hearts melted everywhere that day. Well, mine did, and an idea was born that quickly grew into my latest picture book titled Australian Backyard Birdies.
During the next little while, we experienced some COVID restrictions and we spent many days out on that deck. It was a welcome delight when the birdies came. I began attaching personalities and traits to each of them to try and make us laugh. We once spotted a pigeon spinning around on a whirlybird (a metal vent that spins on roofs to let the heat out). The pigeon was riding on this thing like a merry-go-round while five other pigeons sat there watching on. I bet they were jealous!
This hilarious moment reaffirmed my approach, and the ‘roof chicken’ was instantly a must-have inclusion. As my scribbles turned into double pages, elements like a feather stuck down with sticky tape, splotches of colour, and the birds’ height measured by a plastic bucket started to turn empty pages into a picture book. A somewhat factual my first field guide to Australian Backyards Birdies was taking shape.
The somewhat factual element of this book has allowed me to base the book mostly on facts while still giving me the freedom to turn the humour dial right up. My end goal was to make the writing almost as funny as the birds staring out at the little readers as they turn each page.
Australian Backyard Birdies is out now and proudly sits in a unique space fluttering somewhere between nonfiction and fiction – where children and parents alike can learn a little and laugh a lot. I hope I have captured the absolute joy and privilege that it has been to create Backyard Birdies. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
I hope it brings some joy to your family too.
A special thank you to my team at Hachette AU for their incredible support and guidance.
Andy Geppert’s other books are Little Big Tree, which won the CBCA Crichton Award for new illustrators in 2010 and Meep, which was a CBCA Notable Book picture book. I would also like to mention his book, Joy.