Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Friday 25 September 2020

Now and Then … and Then Again

Fiona Levings reflects on the inspiration and historical perspectives inspired by her own home and captured so evocatively in her recent picture book, Now and Then. A fascinating examination of the history of a home, set in Margate, Tasmania.

I never expected to write a picture book about my house. 

Cover of Now and Then by Fiona Levings.

We moved to Margate about ten years ago. The little house, sitting in the bush by a creek, had won us over instantly. We knew from the construction that it was built in the early 20th century but that was about it. Its history was a mystery - and with a new baby and busy lives, it was fixing to stay that way.

But the house had other ideas. 

Four years ago a car parked in our drive and an older gentleman came to the door. A stranger; he introduced himself as Doug and told me that he used to live in my house. He had dropped by to visit the place where he grew up. Could he take a look around?

Doug grew up in the 1940’s and he had many memories of life at that time. Standing on the front verandah of the house he pointed at the window to the right of the front door, smiled, and said “that was my room.”  Turning to look I spied my son Jem’s room through the window to the left and in that instant I saw the spread of a picture book: a room occupied by a modern child on the left and one belonging to a child eighty years ago, on the right. It was now and it was then.

The page spread that started it all.

I think most creative people would be familiar with that particular species of idea that won’t go away. Now and Then insisted on existence. With Doug’s permission, and having picked his mind further, the parallels and contrasts between his Margate life eighty years ago and that of Jem’s modern world had to be captured. Two boys, who live in the same house, go to the same school and play in the same creek in a little town near the end of the earth. It is one the smallest pieces of history I can imagine and yet, it works. Taking it into the classroom has been a joy as kids explore the illustrations to discover for themselves the ways our world has changed over time – and the ways that people have stayed the same.

Generations of kids have lived in our house and played in its creek. The world may have changed a lot over that time
but some things can still be relied on.

And, you know, a few weeks after the book came out another car appeared in my driveway and another stranger, this time a lady, got out. Her name was Lynne and it turns out that she, too, grew up in this house, about fifty years ago. And what did she ask about first?  

“Is the creek still there?”

Doug and Jem at the launch of Now and Then at Petrarch's, Launceston (December, 2019).


Fiona Levings is a Tasmanian-based author and illustrator of children’s picture books. Now and Then, published by Forty South Publishing, was listed as a notable book in the 2020 CBCA Book Awards. Copies are available in bookstores or online at www.fortysouth.com.au.

Web:  http://fionalevings.blogspot.com/ 

FB:  https://www.facebook.com/themoonbowmaker 

IG:  https://www.instagram.com/themoonbowmaker/ 

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