This week I'm excited to have Amelia Trompf on the blog chatting about her book, Who is Fitzy Fox?
"Who is Fitzy Fox? is about a furry animal who is feeling befuddled. He always thought he was a dog, but because everyone calls him ‘Foxy,’ he is a little confused. To solve this existential crisis, Fitzy sets out on an expedition that journeys from Melbourne to London to uncover the truth of his furry identity. Who is Fitzy Fox? centres on the uniqueness of each individual and being valued for who we are. It is about having the courage to identify and solve a problem as well as being willing to go to extraordinary lengths to do so."
Where did the idea for Fitzy Fox come from?
I was living in Scotland five years ago and was a little homesick for Melbourne. Wondering about my place in the world, I started writing about my home suburb of Fitzroy and, with alliteration in mind, I created the character Fitzy Fox. I felt there was a need for a picture book to be set in Melbourne as a celebration of our wonderful city and its character.
When we moved to Scotland for my husband’s job, I didn’t have a work visa. While at first I was excited about having some time off, I realised that I missed the structure of work, I missed having the daily feedback and engagement, I wasn’t earning money and I think I fell into a bit of a slump of feeling low and thinking about my identity without my career and what made me, me. Subconsciously this story came out. At the time I didn’t see any connection but on reflection I think there was a bit of me in Fitzy Fox trying to work out who I was.
How was the experience working with the illustrator? Did the text change at all?
It was at a drawing class in Edinburgh that I was introduced to artist and teacher Jennifer Bruce. Initially, I asked Jennifer to tutor me in drawing so that I could create some illustrations of Fitzy Fox myself to help turn my story into Christmas presents for my nieces and nephews. Later when I returned to Melbourne and was looking for a professional illustrator, I immediately thought of Jennifer. Working with Jennifer was the most exciting part of this journey. Seeing the process of her initial sketches develop into the finished artwork was just so exciting. We worked together from two different sides of the world, which is quite fitting given the story is set both in Melbourne and the United Kingdom.
The text didn’t change very much except that initially in Jennifer’s sketches, Fitzy was walking on all four paws and then as after long discussions with the editors, he ended up walking on two legs so a few little phrases had to change here and there. I love that Jennifer Bruce has brought Fitzy Fox to life and I am so excited for her because this is her first picture book and her talent is immense.
What are the lessons that you would like children to glean from Who is Fitzy Fox?
Drawing on my teaching background, I created Who is Fitzy Fox? to help children understand the uniqueness of each individual and the importance of valuing one another for who we are. It is also about having the courage to face your worries and being willing to go to extraordinary lengths to learn about yourself.
I wrote Who is Fitzy Fox? because after years of working with children as a primary school teacher, I came to realise that one of the most powerful ways of connecting with children is through story. Illustrated picture books start conversations and these are often conversations that wouldn’t normally be had.
In my first year of teaching, chasing my tail, I randomly picked up Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree from the library thinking it could be good to start a lesson about visual literacy. Well, when I asked the students if anyone could make personal connections to the story, I was completely amazed. One boy who had barely uttered a word for weeks put his hand up and said “Some days I feel like nothing good is ever going to happen to me but then usually it’s not as bad as it seems; just like in, The Red Tree." Something in the story allowed him to express something that not even he realised about himself. I wanted to write a story that might start an important conversation like that.
Three fun facts about Amelia:
More information about the book and the book's creation, as well teacher's notes and heaps of fun activities, can be found at fitzyfox.com
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