Sally Sutton talks to NZ Booklovers about her book, Crane Guy.
Tell us a little about your book.
Crane Guy is ‘a game of I Spy from up high’ with bright, beautiful illustrations by Sarah Wilkins. Although it looks like a book for kids to practise their letters with, by the end we realise there is something more personal going on: Crane Guy climbs down from his crane to pick up his small daughter from preschool. It’s all about changing perspectives; from the impersonal bird’s-eye view of sky and sea and the city way up high, right back down to earth, and the things that matter most to us. The message: the world is huge, but it’s the people we love who help us find our place in it.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was fascinated by the massive crane used to build the new skyscraper on the site of the old Downtown mall in Auckland’s CBD. Whenever I drove past, I would hope for a red light so I could stop and gaze. I’d crane my neck out the car window… get honked at because the light had turned green… I started looking at a crane building a rest home close by. Someone told me it took the guy who worked this crane six minutes to climb up. I thought what a cool job that would be! The things you could see from up there! And so Crane Guy was born.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
Most of my picture books start with a fragment of rhyme or a catchy rhythm, a little like a snatch of song in my head. I came up with: ‘Crane Guy, up so high, building towers in the sky…’ What rhymes with ‘sky’? ‘Spy!’ Perfect! And I went from there. The father-daughter relationship is there to give the story a heart, to bring the impersonal back to the personal.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?
I always enjoy playing around with words and sounds, and this book was no different. I also had a little more input than usual into the illustrations, trying to come up with things for Sarah to draw that started with ‘s’, or ‘g’, or ‘p’… so that was fun too!
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
Started the next one. No rest for the wicked!
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I absolutely adore Gavin Bishop’s Atua: Māori Gods and Heroes. It must be the most beautiful children’s book ever produced in New Zealand! And the stories are told in such a clear, orderly way. It’s genius.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’ve just finished a new junior fiction series for Penguin Random: Lulu and the Dance Detectives, so I can’t wait for the first book to come out! I’m also working on an exciting new project with a dancer friend: Hī Hā StoryDance offers movement-based stories, plays and Māori myths for tamariki (www.hiha.co.nz) Turns out it’s super-fun thinking up ways to make stories move – and it keeps me (literally) on my toes!
Penguin Random House