Hip-Pocket Papa’ is my latest book to be published by Charlesbridge Publishing in the USA and my fourth for them with Sandra Markle, who writes beautiful, visual narratives about the natural world. It tells the story of a tiny Australian marsupial frog, a male frog no bigger than a thumbnail, which guards his mate’s egg cluster until the tadpoles emerge and then, because of the dry climate, carries the evolving froglets in pockets in his flanks until they are fully developed.
I suppose because there is a narrative my approach to these projects is very similar to a fiction title. Of course, there has to be a measure of accuracy in what I’m depicting, and you have to be wary of anthropomorphism, (love that word), but the work should still appeal to children and I’m looking for the same sense of drama and atmosphere as in a fiction title.
But you couldn’t make this up; this life stranger than fiction and drama on a tiny scale. In research I spent a morning rooting around the woods near my home; almost resisting the urge to be David Attenborough with an Aussie twang. Focusing on the jewel-like life in the leaf mould and zooming out to the more familiar world gave me a frog’s-eye perspective and the discovery that there’s a universe beneath our feet.