TAKING 5 WITH MATT COSGROVE (author & illustrator of Macca the Alpaca)
1/ How did you come up with the idea for MACCA THE ALPACA?
A few years ago we were at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. I was fascinated by the alpacas and llamas in the animal pavilions but I didn’t actually know very much about them. When we got home I did some Googling!
Turns out alpacas and llamas are cousins, but quite distinct. Alpacas are smaller and generally more placid, while llamas are bigger and typically more aggressive.
These characteristics, teamed with their physical appearance (alpacas looked cute and fluffy, while the llamas seemed more severe, with their curved ears evoking devil horns) immediately suggested the personalities for Macca and Harmer. From there, the story of a sweet, little alpaca versus a big, bully llama flowed really easily.
2/ Have you ever met a Harmer the Llama in real life?
I think everyone has had a run in with a Harmer the Llama at some stage in their life! Yikes!!
3/ What would be your dream children’s book project (be it a collaboration, topic, theme, etc)?
I feel like I’m already living my dream as an author and illustrator of children’s books. I just hope I get to continue doing it for a long time because I’ve got so many ideas, stories and characters zooming around in my head (and my towering piles of sketchbooks).
4/ What was your motivation to write a children's book about bullying? (thank you by the way)
As a Dad, watching my children grow up and head out into the big, bad world, I was really conscious of that time in a child’s life where they leave the safety of their parents’ embrace. Suddenly they’re on their own and surrounded by kids who are bigger than them. Whether that’s the playground, daycare or school, I think that can be a pretty intimidating situation. If the bigger kids are a bit rough or insensitive, even more so.
With Macca The Alpaca I just wanted to reinforce the idea that even though you might be smaller, you’re still important and entitled to be treated fairly.
I was actually a bit nervous about the theme of bullying because it’s such an important but complex issue, while my book is quite simple. I was very conscious of the fact that I’m not qualified as an expert in the field and how Macca engages with his bully wouldn’t be considered the recommended text book response! However, I hoped by using humour and creating an entertaining David-and-Goliath style story, it might raise the issue of bullying in an engaging way that would allow kids, parents and teachers to discuss the theme further.
Most importantly to me, Macca, as the hero, always meets the aggression he encounters with calmness, rationality and ultimately, kindness. By portraying Harmer as an ineffectual buffoon, I’m hoping kids will recognise how silly it is to be a bully.
5/ What’s your all-time-favourite, children’s book (from the early childhood / picture book sector)?
It’s impossible for me to name just one! I could honestly write a list of favourites a mile long. In terms of work that shows how meaningful and impactful a picture book can be (as well as having jaw dropping artwork), I love The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan and Where The Forest Meets The Sea by Jeannie Baker. As for fun picture books you can lose yourself in for hours amongst the details and humour of the illustrations, my all time favourites are Bamboozled by David Legge and Animaliaby Graeme Base.
But I could go on and on and on!
Matt Cosgrove is the Sydney based author and illustrator of the exciting new book series Epic Fail Tales published by Scholastic. These totally disgusting, yet completely awesome, retellings of classic fairy tales with a twist include Snow Man and the Seven Ninjas, Attack of the Giant Robot Zombie Mermaid and Little Stunt Riding Hood. Guaranteed no sloppy kissing, no handsome princes and no happily ever after!
In a long and varied career, Matt has been the Creative Director of Australia’s number one fashion magazine, marie claire, Lecturer in Comic Art at Western Sydney University and one of the guys who drew the catchphrases for the tv show Burgo’s CatchPhrase (really!). He has illustrated many, many picture books, collaborating with industry legends such as Jackie French and Glenda Millard. Matt has also campaigned tirelessly for the inclusion of Pictionary as an Olympic Sport (not really - but he definitely should).