It’s Quite True!, an illustrated rewriting of a Hans Christian Andersen tale about the dangers of rumours, by Lis Mathiasen (authror) and Judith Price (illustrator) was launched at Paper Bird Books & Arts, Fremantle on Saturday 25 February 2017 by celebrated children’s author Norman Jorgensen. The following is an excerpt from his launch presentation.
I am a honoured to be launching It’s Quite True, written by Lis Mathiasen and illustrated by Judith Price, and based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen.
Now, I am the worst person to be launching this book and, might I say, the most suitable of all. Worst, because I normally hate children’s books about talking animals. And considering my life’s work has been about kids’ books, that is pretty sad and makes me in the minority. The fact that this one, and about half the books inside here at Paper Bird, would be about birds and animals that can talk tells me I am totally wrong.
I am also the very best person to launch it because, would you believe, Hans Christian Andersen’s half-sister was Karen Marie Jorgensen, an illegitimate child fathered by travelling potter Daniel Jørgensen—a known womaniser. He had several other illegitimate children that he did not care about either.
Hans Andersen’s father, a shoemaker, died aged thirty-three in 1816, leaving his widow Anne Marie Andersdatter penniless and working as a washerwoman. In 1818 she re-married another freelance shoemaker, called, coincidently, Niels Jørgensen, who also died young. The rough life as a washerwoman made her turn to drink.
In a letter home to his mother, Andersen begged, Please do not unscrew the cork too often, dear mother. In 1825 she was placed in a mental hospital until her death in 1833. Cause of death: Delirium Tremens. Alcoholism. That explains quite a lot.
Now the problem with many book launches is that the launcher talks about themselves too much, just as I have done, and not about the books, the real reason we are all here.
I love picture books. They are usually such beautiful objects. There was no four-colour printing when I was a kid, so hardly any good looking picture books were produced, so I came to them as an adult in the 1980s, a supposedly golden age for children’s literature. They were becoming sophisticated and on several levels. I worked as a bookseller so started selling them into high schools as well. I love how they use a mixture of both words and illustrations to tell the complete story. You need both. With one element missing they make no sense.
As a writer I’m that not so keen. But the illustrators often have better pictures in their heads than I do. As Liz would have found working with Judith. Her paintings are amazing. I love the expressions of the chooks’ faces as well as the colours, the backgrounds and the overall style of it. Well done, Judith.
I was a bit worried about Lis killing off five chooks and upsetting delicate gentle readers, but then remembered what Has Christian did to the little match girl. Handle that and you can handle anything. And handle it well is what she has done. It is such a difficult task, writing. It is about making constant choices and getting across your message, the atmosphere , the characterisations, the setting, plot developments and all the while keeping the reader mesmerised and wanting to continue reading—in as few words as possible. Congratulations on achieving that, Lis.
Those other qualities I admire, other than great artistic and writing talent, are perseverance and courage. With all three elements, you can’t help but have a brilliant career ahead. You two have certainly shown those, as writing, illustrating and publishing a book is a very great endeavour. Many, many people say to me they are going to write a book one day, but very few actually sit down, day after tedious day, and actually do it. Even fewer finish, as I suspect, deep down, they are worried about being criticised. You do normally need a pretty thick skin as well if you put your work out there in public, but in the case of It’s Quite Right I am certain you won’t need to be worried. The critics will like it as much as I do.
So Lis, the author, Judith, the artist and illustrator, and my friend Kevin, the publisher, on behalf of the ghost of my illustrious, hopefully, probable ancestor, Hans Christian, who I know would be proud of the three of you, I commend your work to everyone in the world, and it is my deep honour and privilege to hereby launch your marvellous book onto an unsuspecting world.