NLA book cover with blue tongue


For the last 2 years I have been working a picture book with the National Library of Australia. ‘Hello!’ my first full colour picture book in many years is out this month.This 68 page book is designed to be a fantastic resource for classroom teacher. It provides a brief (2 x double page spreads) into 12 cultural groups from multicultural Australia. The cultural groups cover 3 Indigenous groups and the 9 of most commonly spoken languages in Australia after English. The process of creating this book was longer than normal. partly due to the high number of illustrations and page length of this book. The main reason for the length of time given to this book is the research and checking of facts and authenticity. The wonderful publishing team at the National Library ensured that all of the material for each of the cultural groups was checked by representatives from these communites.

From an illustration perspective, I had an opportunity to create watercolour and pencil illustration in a style that was quite different from my normal illustration work in my books with Nick Falk (Saurus Street, Billy is a Dragon, Samurai vs Ninja and How to Stop an Alien Invasion with Shakespeare)


Below is the first review that I have scene for the book, it is from the book review blog, The bottom shelf 


Tony Flowers

NLA Publishing, 2016

68pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Look at your school population.  Are all the children native English speakers?  Or is there a mix of languages almost as diverse as the children themselves?  In my Collection Policy for the school I was recently working in under the heading Purpose and Role of the Collection I included the clause “provide a wide range of materials on all levels of difficulty, with a diversity of appeal and the presentation of different points of view including those that reflect the lives of students in relation to their culture, ethnicity, language, religion and beliefs, community and family structure, sexual orientation and any other consideration” and this new publication from the National Library of Australia fits the language aspect of this perfectly.

Superbly illustrated in cartoon style by Tony Flowers and presented in a clear uncomplicated layout, we meet twelve Australian children, each of whom speaks a different language including Kala Lagaw Ya from Badu Island in the Torres Strait; Kaurna from Tarntanya in Adelaide; and Murrinhpatha from Wadeye in the Northern Territory as well as the more common languages of Italian, Thai, Korean, Greek , Vietnamese, Japanese, Indonesian, and Chinese.  Even the Lebanese version of Arabic is included and there is a pronunciation guide at the back of the book to assist the reader but which have been dovetailed to meet needs rather than being a linguistic reference.

Each child has two double spreads so as well as introducing the reader to the word for ‘hello’ in each language, each then shares a little of their life including favourite foods, special days, costumes, musical instruments, games and activities and how to count to ten and each of these is then highlighted at the back of the book with photos available in the NLA.

As much as the children I was working with last year loved to practise and share their new skills in English, their faces always lit up when they discovered a resource written in their own language or which was about their own country.  They were so happy to see something familiar amongst the unfamiliar and loved to show it to their friends and then take it home to share with their families.  So this wonderful resource is sure to strike a chord with so many of those in our care.  Apart from the familiarity it also demonstrates that we acknowledge and value their origins by having resources for them available.  Seeing yourself in a book is such an affirmation of who you are.

There are so many opportunities within the Australian Curriculum and within the calendar to investigate and celebrate the origins of the children in our classes that this book could be in use all year.  There are comprehensive teaching notes which include how to make some of the items featured by the children   but I can envisage it being a pivotal text for this year’s Book Week theme – Australia: Story Country.  Make it model for the children to tell their story by producing a poster and display for the library to be hung in honour of their country’s national day.  This was one of the most popular displays that attracted so much interest from parents and teachers as much as from the students.  They really valued the recognition.

Make Harmony Day  every day!

This entry was posted on March 21, 2016, in Belonging, Identity, Inclusivity, Non fiction, Picture Book, Review, Teaching Resource.


Writing with Picture in Taipei

International Conference on Childhood and Visual Texts in/of Asia 2015
2015年 亞洲童年與視覺文本 研討會
Date: November 14, 2015 (Saturday)
3:10pm- 4:20pm
Venue: Zhishan Building, National Taipei University of Education

I will be heading to Taiwan to deliver a talk at the on the weekend. My talk “Writing with Pictures: The Silly world of ‘Samurai vs Ninja’ will be looking at the visual literacy approach and research behind my Samurai vs Ninja series.
Samurai vs Ninja Book covers and images
I will discuss both the theatrical and practical application of visual literacy skills.
This will be done through the applied visual literacy techniques used in my latest book series, ‘Samurai vs Ninja’.

This is an early reader series set in the Edo period of Japanese history. Illustrated with black and white images, the visual story telling using a mixture of narrative styles, including standard in-text illustrations, margin illustrations and comic book format.
sample research SvN Little Pig 3

In Samurai vs Ninja I have assimilating visual element from traditional and pop culture aspect of Japan. Rather than approaching the design using western stereotype characters for japan. I have research the work through woodblock prints, photographs and museum visits. The resulting illustrations reference culture, geographical location and environmental elements. Creating a rich setting for the comedic stories of Samurai vs Ninja to unfold.

sample research SvN Little Pig compositional line for web

These conferences are made possible though the generous support of the sponsors,
Conference sponsors:
Feng Zikai Chinese Children’s Picture Book Award Executive Committee; National Taipei University of Education; Ministry of Science and Technology
Travel grant: Faculty of Art and Design, University of Canberra

Monkey in Samurai vs Ninja

It is always fun when drawing a book if you can thread some of your life long influences into the work. I had such an opportunity in the Samurai vs Ninja series.
Monkey slide 1 small
As a young boy growing up one of my favourite television shows was ‘Monkey’. Which was shown on ABC in the afternoon after school. Also known as ‘Monkey Magic’ and ‘Saiyūki’.

I loved this show so much I decided that it would be a great addition to the Samurai vs Ninja book. It may seem a little odd to people, to pay homage to a traditional Chinese story (Journey to the West) in a book set in Japan. Of course, anyone who knows the series will know that it was a Japanese production.

So each of the first 3 books has a character in it. Book 1 has Monkey, book 2 has Pigsy and book 3 has Sandy. They all turn up together in book 4 with Tripitaka.

School Talk images book week 2015

Every year I am lucky enough to spend time talking at schools around the country. No time is more frantic than around Children’s Book Week. In my sessions I invite story suggestions from the children and we visually create stories and characters to populate them with.

I thought it might be fun looking at a few of the crazy characters that I have created with students. These images are digitally enhanced ink sketches that I draw into a sketch book after talks. I keep these for my own interest and as a record of the crazy ideas that have been created.

School Talk Octo Plata Pigypus

This first images is the combination of an octopus, a platypus and a pig. Before I created this image I draw all three creatures and discussed what elements are iconic for each.
School Talk Lava Dog

The next is Lava dog. The students suggested this character as a side kick of lolly pop man. But as I just like drawing dog, I haven’t included lollypop man.

The last image is a Mercat. The students in this instance suggested a fish and a cat. I have based the cat on my only cat ‘Daisy’.

School talks Mercat

12 top tips for public speaking and school talk

Public speaking and school talks are a part of promoting yourself when your are involved in the Children’s publishing market. It was the subject of some discussion at a SCBWI meeting in Canberra last night. The talented Susanne Gervay was sharing some insight on the state of Australian publishing when the topic came up.

Rosville PS 11APRIL13

As a regular speaker at events for children, I think I might have some tips for those looking to launch a career in publishing.

Here are 12 things I hope you find useful,

  1. Get use to talking in public. I’m sure that my first talks were terrible. I wasn’t comfortable doing it. I just forced my to go and do it. So get out an practice. You don’t need an event, try alternative, i.e Rotrum (http://www.rostrum.com.au). Am always striving to improve my public speaking. Having presented so many times with my author friend, Nick Falk, I have learnt heaps from him. Mainly about being loud!
  1. Not everyone is funny or at least not every who thinks that they are is. You don’t have to be a comedian to be a great kids book talker. If you lack the confidence to start, may consider professional help. Not a psychiatrist, but a Stand up comedy course or and acting class. If nothing else, tips on how to use a microphone would be helpful. I would personally benefit from some microphone lessons
  1. Know your audience and what they want. Unless they ask in question time. Kids generally don’t want to know about your journey to become an Author or illustrator. They want to know about your books and character. Typically they will ask you where your ideas come from, how long does it take to write (or draw) a book, What’s your favourite book (either yours or someone else), how much money do you make, are you married, how old are you…etc.
  1. Bring your books to life. Don’t just hold up the book and flash the cover to the adoring crowd. Read a section, but read with passion. If you’re an illustrator and your comfortable drawing in public, draw for them. Nothing will have the audience in the palm of your hand like a quick drawing. Don’t draw if you think it will take a long time to complete. No body wants to see your back for 1/2 an hour while you create a masterpiece. With that, practice drawing and be aware that you will block out the view from some of the audience. I try to move around a bit so people can see what is happening. It is also different drawing on whiteboards or with paper clipped vertical. Personally I normally draw on a table or desk, not leaning against the wall and not at the scale that is required to entertain an audience
  1. Engage with the audience. If you do the same talk over and over you will start to sound like a robot. Allow time for the audience to guide you on what they want to know. Ask them questions and be fearless in your answers. I generally run with the concept they can ask anything. I normally try and give a honest answer. If I am uncomfortable answering, I make up an obvious lie. i.e. how much do you earn? Answer: 5 billion dollars a drawing. I try never to do this if I can help it.
  1. Set up and prepare. Make sure that your are not hungry, not needing to go to the loo, not distracted trying to find props (if you have them) and generally relaxed as much as possible. The 5 (or 6) ‘P’, always remember that prior preparation prevents (piss) poor performance.
  1. Talk for less time than you have. In a 45minute talk, I only plan 30 minutes of talking and 15minutes of Questions and Answer.
  1. Be flexible. You may have expected to talk for an hour, but for reasons beyond anyone control; you now have ½ an hour. Or you have ½ an hour extra. If you know your stuff, you can chop and change as needed.
  1. Don’t rely technological support. Power point is boring, if using it keep it short and make it highly relevant (an excellent example I saw of this was one of Sarah Davis’s illustration talks on character design). Have a plan B, what will you do if there is a power failure, your computer is stolen or the bulb in the light pro bursts?
  1. Commit, when you read, Commit it and the audience will respond. If you are going to try for funny, commit to it or it will fall flat, if you are going to demonstrate something, Commit to the activity.
  1. It’s O.K. to make mistake, either in talking, reading, drawing juggling chainsaws (maybe not the chain saws). It shows your human that all. I spend a great amount of time explaining the benefits or getting in wrong in my talks, the working through ideas that are rubbish or sketches that a appalling. This is an important message for kids. As author and illustrators we don’t just sit down and get it right first go.
  1. Lastly, You are there to inform and engage with the audience, you are not an entertainer, a sideshow act or a circus clown. You can still have loads of fun and clown around. But you are there talking about stories and there for the benefit to the kids.

I hope that these are useful tips and that I will see you around talking about your books soon.

If your interested in me coming at talking at your school (to see a demonstration of the above mentioned tips). I am represented in Sydney by The Children’s Bookshop Speakers Agency, http://thechildrensbookshopspeakersagency.com.au

and in Brisbane and other parts of Australia by Speakers Ink


General enquires can be emailed directly to me at tony@flowersink.com.au

Madam Boar

This character appears in” Samurai vs Ninja book 3: Day if the Dreadful Undead”.This is Madam Boar.

I thought it would interest some people to see the basic steps to get get this image ready for print.

Madam boar layers smf

This image appear (as at stage 3) on page 62 of the book. I have spent a little extra time creating stage 4 (above) to demonstrate the difference black and white and colour.

For the technical minded readers, this image was coloured in photoshop. I created a layer for all on the black line work. The line work was originally hand inked and then scanned. This layer had a clear background. Then by creating a second layer underneath this, I digitally painted the colour where it was needed. The reason I apply the colour in this way, is if you try and colour the layer with the line work you will end up with white pixel specks where lines join or your ink work is a bit rough. Not such an issue if you create the line work digitally. In the past I would have added the colour by guiding the cursor with my mouse. I have recently brought a wacom Intuos pro, pen and touch tablet. I have used these for this image.

If you have any question please put in the comment section or email me.

Samurai vs Ninja Kamizumo Game

When looking for extra activities for Samurai vs Ninja, I came across the game Kamizumo.

Kamizumo is a Japanese ‘paper wrestling’ game. Paper figures are place them on the Kamizumo paper ring. You tap your figures on the edge of the paper ring, the first figure knock over of out looses the round.

I have been hard at work on my first ever Kamizumo game. But before I start work on characters from the stories. I thought it would be fun to battle it out with Nick Falk. So the first characters are Nick and myself. If this proves popular, I plan to add other characters (Buta-sama, Kingyo-Sama, Skinny fish, Little pig, Sumo san, Mighty Fish).

Below is the character sheet, Print in landscape and set the scale to auto adjust to the page size.

Kamizumo character sheet Tony and Nick 200 dpi

and here is the ring. When you print it, it should automatically print in the centre of the paper. Just fold the paper edge under the ring to give a little extra spring. You can also place the ring on to a large book to add bounce.

Kamizumo Board 200dpi

Have fun!