What Rot! (illustrated by Eric Lobbecke)
A Mark Macleod Book
Hodder Headline Australia, 1999
One morning the grasshopper looks at his lime green suit and his lean, long legs and decides that he is the most beautiful insect in the world. When the others disagree, an argument breaks out—and the only one who knows how to settle it is the old frog!
‘What Rot!’ was my first picture book and it began as a short play for children. The language is rich and ornate, perhaps reflecting its beginnings as a performance piece and the humour is very dark. It’s a rare thing for nearly all of the main characters to die on the second last page of a picture book—but then again these characters are incredibly vain! I did wonder if this would make it difficult to publish but Mark Macleod, the publisher who gave me my first break as a picture book writer, loved it. I can still remember pouring over the illustrations for the book on the floor at work, gasping in feverish astonishment that Eric Lobbecke could give insects such vividness and character.
Every book published goes through an extensive editing process, both of the text and the illustrations. It’s easy to forget this when the book is in your hands and the pages smell so deliciously bookish and crisp, and the text is flowing so elegantly and the illustrations are glimmering and glowing. But before there is ever a book, there is the back and forth wrestling with the text, character sketches, storyboards and roughs.
Here’s a tiny snippet of the edited manuscript of my first ever picture book What Rot!
I’m pleased to say my subsequent texts have never been quite so heavily edited…but the simultaneously infuriating and exhilarating truth about writing is that there is always something new to learn, every single day.
Notable Book 2000: Children’s Book Council Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year