Many years ago I was given the job of illustrating a story Margaret Mahy had written. Her agent at the time, the late Vanessa Hamilton, was at J.M. Dent and had published my first picture book not long before. Both she and Margaret weren’t sure that the story would work as a picture book and wondered what I could make of it as it seemed rather repetitive and bit strange. It sounded like it might have been about to be shelved. It was about a boy who looked like a shark. . .
I wasn’t really sure about it at first but I didn’t really know what does or doesn’t make a good picture book as I was just starting out pretty much fresh from Art School. I liked the idea of making a boy look like a shark, that was right up my street, so I played around with it, did some drawings and sent them off to Vanessa. They met with approval from her and from Margaret, and that was how ‘The Great White Man Eating Shark’ came about.
I mention this because I got a nice package in the post today. Margaret sadly died last year, and the New Zealand post office are issuing a set of commemorative stamps to recognise her genius and her importance to Children’s Books and to New Zealand and World literature. The Great White Man-Eating Shark is the $2.40 stamp! With Norvin, the boy who looked like a shark rampaging across it. Norvin also got major billing on the First Day Cover envelope. Needless to say I am pleased and proud.
I illustrated four books in all for Margaret over the years, ‘The Great White Man-Eating Shark’, my favourite, ‘The Three-Legged Cat’, ‘Beaten By a Balloon’, and ‘Simply Delicious!’
There was a really excellent animation made of ‘Shark’ directed by Euan Frizzell, who also sadly died last year. Have a look, it’s great. it won a prize at the Ottawa Animation festival back in the day.