This talented author/illustrator shares the inspiration for his new picture book, The Lost Library, and his passion for the wonders of libraries and literature.

Tell us about your earliest, or your favourite, book-related memory.

My earliest memories of books all involve reading with other people. I have very fond memories of Graeme Base and Alison Lester books sprawled across the lounge room floor in an effort to pick which one to read next.

I remember my Grandma neatly catalogued all of the clues in Graeme Base’s The Eleventh Hour and put them in an envelope stuck to the endpapers.

If you could choose any book-world to escape to, where would you choose?

The hardest question! The beauty of books is that you can choose which world to visit depending on how you feel. At the moment I’ve loved visiting different places around the world, just because lots of us are stuck at home.

What do you find most inspiring about your work with Museums Victoria?

The wealth of knowledge at Museums Victoria is amazing.

While there are thousands of precious objects, to me it’s the people who work there that I find most interesting. To have a conversation with someone who’s dedicated their whole career to studying sea barnacles or insects is quite an experience.

What is it about creating picture books that you most enjoy, and what do you find the most challenging?

There are so many parts to creating a picture book that I enjoy, and they’re all so different!

I love finding the initial seed of an idea and growing it into a story— first scribbles, then thumbnails, then words and sketches.

I also love the collaboration that comes from working with a team of people who all want the strongest book possible.

In terms of challenges, picking which idea to work on next can be quite daunting, but I know that’s a good problem to have.

How has your experience designing other authors’ books influenced your own?

I spent a few years in the U.K. designing English Classics covers for Oxford University Press (OUP). It was a great experience to dive into classic literature and find a way to visually represent them for a contemporary school classroom.

Working at OUP was also a great way to see a side of the publishing world that an author normally wouldn’t.

What is your process for creating picture books? Do the illustrations or the words come first?

I spend a lot of time in my sketchbook just playing. Often a character sketch will come first, and then a setting, and then some words.

The real magic comes when the words and the pictures meet for the first time. Often, it’s taking things out rather than putting them in which creates the richest story.

Your debut picture book, Fly, was shortlisted in both the World Illustration and CBCA Book of the Year awards. How does that feel?

It’s a lovely recognition to see Fly on a few shortlists. I try to take awards with a grain of salt because the real reward is seeing people read the story.

What inspired you to write your latest book, The Lost Library?

Growing up in country Victoria, libraries had always been quite small, intimate places. But when I moved to Oxford in the U.K. for a few years, I discovered a totally different type of library—the dark, ancient library full of musty tomes and hidden secrets. I wanted to write a book that included both, because I’m sure they’re filled with the same magic.

You like to include hidden details the reader can keep finding after they’ve finished the first read. What can we look out for in The Lost Library?

Dragons! There’s one hidden on every spread.

Fly has an Australian setting, while your new board book Colin Collects Colours is set all over the world. Did you set The Lost Library in a particular place?

Certainly some of the architecture of the old libraries I visited in the U.K inspired this book, but I didn’t want to make anything too location specific.

You can, after all, get into the Lost Library from any library at all.

The real magic comes when the words and the pictures meet for the first time...

The Lost Library explores themes of isolation, friendship, and the magic of books. What drew you to focus on those themes?

The characters in The Lost Library read for different reasons. For Oliver, it’s a way to escape a new situation he finds himself in. For Rosie, it’s all about learning new things.

I was interested in the different reasons we read and how books can bring us together.

Are there any messages you would like to impart to educators?

Less of a message and more of a thanks. I’m fortunate to know lots of teachers and educators (including my partner, who teaches history) and I know how hard they work with often little recognition.

Thank you for everything you do. It’s the most important job in the world.

What are you working on at the moment?

Dinosaurs! I’m not sure if I can say any more than that.

Are you available for virtual school visits, and if so, how should educators contact you?

Yes! You can reach me through my website, www.drawthemoon. com.