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As a child, Tania McCartney would spend countless hours designing houses and making them as outlandish and magical as she could – thinking of everything from tennis courts to zoos.
Years later, this playful “obsession” formed the inspiration behind the Canberra author’s latest children’s book, Tottie and Dot, a gorgeously illustrated hard cover about two young girls who live side by side in two perfectly beautiful houses.
“They’re neighbours but not close friends, and go about their lives politely, while also eyeing off each other’s patch,” explains Tania.
“When one day Tottie paints her house Mauve, Dot reacts by painting hers pistachio. In response, Tottie adds awnings, so Dot pebbles her path (with gumballs), so Tottie scatters strawberries and Dot plonks in a lemon-drop tree. And so it goes, with each girl finding more and more outlandish ways to outdo each other—even adding a fair and a circus—with chaotic results.”
Although the book’s message is “a bit keeping up with the Joneses” in a way, Tania says it is more about friendship and living in your own unique way without peering over the neighbour’s fence to see how green their grass is.
“It’s also very much about simplicity and being grateful for what we already have—how too much materialism can become overwhelming and ruin our relationships,” she says.
“I hope kids come away from this book with an inherent understanding that love and friendship and cups of marshmallow tea and chatter are far more important than having the prettiest house.”
(It’s also a message which could be seen as very relevant in this era of social media and the often overwhelming feeling of competitiveness online.)
And while the book is aimed at children aged 3 to 8, Tania believes older kids and adults will get a kick out of it too.
”Given that the main characters are girls and are very girlie, it is aimed at those of the female persuasion, but boys would also find the action a lot of fun,” she says.
“My 11-year-old son read and loved it—he’s a macho footballer but is fine to be in touch with his feminine side! Many adults enjoy picture books—I think they’re pretty much ageless, most especially if there’s humour and great illustration. I think such books bring immense joy to people of any age.”
Tania describes the book’s illustrations, by talented Brisbane-based artist Tina Snerling, as “quirky, colourful and whimsical”. The duo worked together previously for another children’s book, the bestselling “An Aussie Year.”
“Tina is so utterly talented and it’s like Christmas every time she sends me new creations to view,” Tania says.
“Her styles are really diverse and I simply adore the puppet-like stylings of ‘Tottie and Dot’. Tina starts by drafting several different takes on my characters, we settle on one (though usually, her first idea is chosen on the spot because she’s so good!) and then she shifts to the colour palette. Like me, she really values the importance of colour in picture books, and she spends some time planning combinations that will work really well.”
‘Tottie and Dot’ will have its official launch and reading by Tania and Tina at Dymocks Canberra Centre on 7 September – complete with marshmallow tea, lemon drop lollies and even a visit from Tottie and Dot themselves. The launch will also coincide with a one-day ‘Blog Blast’, where people can post on a ‘Tottie and Dot’ themed blog.
“For ‘Tottie and Dot’, I wanted to do something different, so came up with the mega single day Blog Blast, where everyone posts [on the blog] and where the action is fast and furious and busy,” she says.
“It’s like one big mega, virtual party. It will be a lot of fun!”
What: Tottie and Dot launch
When: Sunday 7 September 2014
Where: Dymocks, Canberra Centre RSVP is essential.More information about the launch and Blog Blast is available on Tania’s website.
How much: Purchase a hardcover copy of Tottie and Dot for $24.99 from EK Books