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Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Whale of a Tale

Last night when I got home, I found something new in my letterbox. It was a parcel I had been expecting but it was wonderful to open up and take the book out, as well as the handmade ceramic whale tail pendant. Edwina Harvey's novel The Whale's Tale has been coming for a long time. Looking at the book, I remembered when the cover artist, young Eleanor Clarke, was born. She is the daughter of my friend Susan Batho, whom I have known for years, and has grown up into a beautiful, talented young woman who can produce amazing art. As well as the gorgeous cover painting of a whale diving into the ocean, she designed the delightful logo for the new publishing imprint, Peggy Bright Books, a clothes peg clasping a star.

I remembered when Edwina started writing for children and young adults. She had been a penpal, back in the days before email, and never realised that her whimsical over-the-top style was just right for kids. Then she started entering the Mary Grant Bruce Award for Children's Literature and got a Highly Commended, twice.

The second time it was for the original short story on which this novel is based, "Restitution." I was the judge that year. I read the stories "blind", but the style was unmistakable. When Adrian Penniston-Bird, the head of the Victorian Fellowship of Australian Writers, told me the story was by "Edwina -" I was able to finish it. "Edwina Harvey, right?"

Well, it deserved the prize. I actually gave the short list to children to read, and they decided on the order.

Then Edwina turned it into a novel. It was the novel of her heart and she was determined to see it in print. I read the original MS and had some suggestions to make about it, but on a flip-through, I think the problems have been fixed. I'll do a proper review a bit later, with the cover image. At the time, I also handed the MS to a young reader, Samantha Wilson, who loved it.

It's a joyous piece of writing. I think I will love it too.

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