Elizabeth Pulsford touches on memories of her grandfather and Australian life and legacy in her new picture book, Boots.

What do you love about writing children's books?

Children’s books have always been my great love, and their tremendous worth is echoed in my own childhood experience. My parents read to me every night as a child. Dad recalls reading the horse racing picks to me the very first night in hospital – the local newspaper was the only reading material within reach! My brothers and I had weekly adventures to the library, where the friendly librarian always allowed us to exceed the maximum borrowing allowance. Children’s books offered me countless opportunities for adventure, escape, humour, learning, companionship, and perspective, and in writing my own, I hope I can gift my readers the same.

What inspired you to write Boots?

Boots is inspired by and pays tribute to my grandfather Roy Henderson and his family, and their colonial Australian roots. For most of his life, my grandfather owned the cattle and wheat property ‘Coolamon,’ located outside of the ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ township of Dulacca in rural Queensland. My grandfather’s life was rich and purposeful, and he was always the model of humility, resilience, gratitude and kindness. Boots aims to preserve my memories of him, and honour both his legacy, and the legacy of a generation of hardworking men and women, their humble lifestyles, and the unforgiving landscape they survived and thrived within.

Did you have any personal experiences that contributed to this new book?

Many of my happiest childhood memories were created in my grandparents’ home when my brothers and I would leave our sea-side home to spend school holidays with our extended family. I remember feeding cattle, hiding between hay bales, riding horses and four-wheelers, and playing ‘Chicken’ with the electric fence. I remember custard creams, and saying ‘Grace’ at dinner, solemn ANZAC services, and kindly visitors just ‘dropping in to say hello.’ But most clear in my memory, are my Grandpa’s boots – faithfully sitting by the back screen door.

How did the writing process for this book compare to your previous children’s book?

My first published picture book But Why? was written to an illustration stimulus as part of the Be Ethicool Competition in 2020. In writing Boots I felt a greater sense of freedom, but also responsibility, as I wanted to do my grandfather’s memory justice.

What do you hope your readers will take away from Boots?

While this story paints a gentle portrait of an ‘everyday hero’ I hope Boots will remind readers of the universal importance of making each moment of our own finite lives count. Equally, I hope it will provide opportunity for readers to consider what kind of ‘boot print’ they would like to leave behind.

What was it like to work with an illustrator on this story? Were there particular images or experiences that you were excited to see?

Contrary to most other manuscripts, the illustration notes in Boots were much denser than the actual text, given that this story is told largely through its pictures. Krista Brennan surpassed my every expectation in bringing this story to life. Her style and the colour pallet suit the atmospherics perfectly, and I am humbled by how much attention to detail she gave. I don’t have a favourite illustration – I am still affected by every page turn.

Do you have any other projects in the works?

Nothing right now. I’m on maternity leave with my second daughter following a hiatus from writing. I really struggled to maintain creativity and productivity after returning to work with my first. I’m hoping there may be a few more opportunities headed my way this year.