"Sir Alfred has a terrible secret. A secret that should never ever be kept. But who will poor little Sir Alfred tell? Who can he trust?
The startling theme of this book is the question, how would you teach a young child about sexual abuse? The text is unflinching – it directly shows that the danger is from someone known and trusted by the child, not a case of ‘stranger danger’. I saw my job as illustrator was to interpret the predatory relationship, and to picture it through the eyes of the young child.
The drawings are somewhat caricatured, but the body language is subtly menacing in places.
This was an interesting and challenging balance to achieve. "
I grew up in the Adelaide Hills, where my family ran two shoe shops. Paints and brushes were always around as my dad painted posters for the shops, copied from lettering and style manuals. I liked to copy comic characters but, really, was much more interested in making contraptions in the shed. My home town, Woodside, was close to an army barracks where soldiers were training for the Vietnam war. From inside our classroom, we heard the rattle of machine guns on the target range while Iroquois helicopters d-d-d overhead, practising fast landings and take-offs. Out of school, mates and I mucked around at the local rubbish dump, finding excellent stuff to use in our pretend combat-helmets, bits of uniform and rucksacks, ammo boxes, bullet-riddled targets, stretchers. It was hardly an artistic upbringing, but there was plenty of imagination and play. Lots of play. Oh, and lots of football. My sister, Maire - who had always been, even as a small kid, very skilled at drawing - left home to go to the South Australian School of Art. I later followed in her footsteps. I studied graphic design, and photography, but typography (lettering), was my main interest. We were also made to draw naked people, mainly women. I grew to like drawing. It was much funnier than typography. An assignment was to illustrate a story. It was a struggle. I submitted it to a publisher in Sydney. She rejected it, but encouragingly added in her letter, 'If you ever come to Sydney, drop by'. I hitchhiked up there almost immediately. This led to my first picture book, Christobel Mattingley's 'Black Dog'.
I have been a freelance illustrator since 1976. For some of the early years I had part-time jobs - dish washer in a restaurant, and scraping rust off the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And doing advertising illustration - groan! One interesting job was working as a nurse's aide in a hospital for the elderly. In that role I was able to observe the human body - something artists usually do in a life drawing session. This experience has stayed with me and has affected the characterisation of my work.
I live with Erica, in Melbourne. We have four grown-up children. And three little grandchildren.