Peter Millett has published over 100 books worldwide, including bestsellers The Anzac Puppy and My Old Man, He Played Rugby, the prequel to his latest project with Oratia Books, Hickory Dickory Kick. Peter loves writing fun stories for children from five years and up. He lives with his family in Auckland. (See petermillettbooks.com.)
Illustrator Bob Darroch has written and illustrated numerous children’s books over a long career as an artist and cartoonist, including the bestselling Little Kiwi series, as well as The Longdrop and Captain Cat for Oratia Books.
Peter talks to NZ Booklovers.
Tell us a little about Hickory Dickory Kick.
Hickory Dickory Kick is Mother Goose and rugby finally teaming up together! This book is made for footy supporters and their grandkids or kids so they can share some cheeky rugby rhyming fun together.
What inspired you to write this book?
Dock rhymes with sock, and hick rhymes with kick. It was obvious this rhyme was secretly a footy rhyme that no one had discovered before. And as for ‘the mouse ran up the clock’, well, when you’re protecting a tight lead in a game of rugger the captain often orders the team to ‘run down the clock’ to protect the lead and win. Can it be more obvious that this is the perfect footy rhyme story?
Another picture book you’ve written—My Old Man, He Played Rugby—came out in 2018. What made you want to write a sequel?
My Old Man He Played Rugby stemmed from a very simple combination of a joining a popular counting rhyme with the visualisation of the numbers on the back of player’s shirt. The best ideas are the simple ones. I walked around for a couple of years humming the verses of Hickory Dickory Kick until I found that perfect simple combination idea again. I think the sequel is funnier than the first book, but I’m biased so I’ll let readers decide that one for themselves.
What research was involved? There seems to be some connection between the dog, Old Buck, and Wayne “Buck” Shelford.
There was at least 40 years of research completed prior to the release of the book. Most of the research was done on the couch with some hot chips, a pie in one hand and watching the All Blacks on TV. And yes, there is a direct reference to the infamous period in time when the public demanded that Buck Shelford should be returned as the All Black captain. This reference is an Easter egg for all those 80s footy fans out there!
What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?
This book was a lot harder to write than the first one and I enjoyed the mental challenge of the extra degree of difficulty. (No pain - no gain!) I also greatly enjoyed watching Bob Darroch bring his comedy skills to the story and make it look better than it was written via his visual concepts.
You worked with much-loved illustrator and cartoonist Bob Darroch on this latest project. How do you feel he captured the essence of your characters?
Superbly. Bob has created this mad, slapstick little footy universe inside 32 pages. Kids will love all the things he’s got going on in the background. The last scene in the book is absolute genius drawing. He really is a master of his craft.
What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
Making it funny enough so that kids will want to read it again and again. I believe that we have achieved that via the comical sporty scene set ups and Bob’s hilarious artwork.
What are some of the best reactions you’ve gotten to the first rhyming rugby book, My Old Man, He Played Rugby?
A mum brought her toddler along to a book event and she said that he hummed ‘My Old Man’ endlessly until someone would stop and read him the book again.
What is the best children’s book you have read so far this year and why?
Probably Leonora Bolt: Secret Inventor by Lucy Brandt. It reminded me of some of the gadgetry used in my Johnny Danger books. I also appreciated how the author steered away from using toilet jokes and layered the story with dry, subtle humour instead.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I always have something on the go. It will hopefully be another kid’s book, but it might be another kid’s book animated video project as well. Let’s see!