Liam Butler interviews author of Teddy One-Eye
o editor, Liam
Liam Butler interviews Gavin Bishop NZ author of Teddy One-Eye
Scary, funny, heart-warming and magical, this story of love and loss by one of our best-loved writers and illustrators for children is written with great fondness for the delights of childhood.
A special part of Teddy One Eye is its Southland setting. What do you think are the features of Southland that make it such a special part of New Zealand?
For me it is the landscape. Standing anywhere south of Gore you get the feeling that there is nothing between you and Antarctica. The skies are huge - often filled with threatening clouds. When the rains come they almost nail you to the footpath and the regular afternoon westerlies used to arrive just as I was about to bike home from school. There is a feeling that the rest of New Zealand is somewhere else. As a teenager living in Southland, I ached to go North. As soon as I could, I did, but when I left Invercargill I took large suitcase of memories that stayed under my bed for many years. But recently, now I am getting older, I open it more and more often hoping to meet up with friends and family that have long since gone. Writing Teddy One-Eye is another attempt to come to terms with my past.
The Teddy in the story is cared for by several generations of the same family. Pride of family traditions are often not publically celebrated. Apart from cheese rolls and swedes what else does Southland celebrate better than those living farther north?
Well, for those with a taste for them,
muttonbirds. They are a culinary challenge, strongly
flavoured, with a lot of salt and fat. We had a kete dropped
off at our place by whanau who went to the muttonbird
islands every year. My mother used to boil them first before
roasting them in an oven dish lined with kindling to lift
the birds up out of the fat that dripped off them as they
For those that want something a little less exciting, girdle scones are always a winner. Eat them fresh straight from the girdle, or fry them the next day and gobble them up with golden syrup or homemade raspberry jam. And again, for the sweet teeth, white sugar rolled in a damp leaf of iceberg lettuce offers a texture that is hard to describe.
of the story you share the story a lady with a memory loss
living well in the community. Do you think that today's
society is as accommodating for people managing memory
I am not sure. We tend to pressure the elderly into leaving their homes when with a bit of help they could stay at home, filling in their days in their own surroundings. Mrs Partridge in my book is forgetful. She may be showing early signs of dementia but she is still okay. Whether she gets worse, we never find out. But if her forgetfulness became severe dementia I hope there was someone to give her a hand.
Teddy One-Eye is skilfully crafted so that children can see life through the Teddy's one eye whist adults can reflect on the life and times that the book is set in. What kind of research did you do to help you with the writing process?
Most of the stories in Teddy One-Eye are based on memories of my childhood. Where historical details needed to be accurate, such as the Tangiwai disaster or the Royal Visit of 1953, I did some research. The words spoken by Sid Holland the Prime Minister, announcing the train wreck on Christmas Day are taken verbatim from radio archives available on the internet. The newspaper clippings describing some aspects of the Queen's journey through New Zealand came from the Southland Times. But, more than anything I did not want this book to become a history book. It is novel largely set in the past. And it is a story about the dilemma of a toy with a specific role, who like an actor in search of a play, can't always find the right set of characters to act with or a stage to play on.
Teddy One-eye has a rough and tumble life. He is dragged around, chewed on, loses an eye and is often left outside at night. But his many patches show how much he is loved. Teddy One-Eye's special powers lead him to some curious situations and exciting adventures.
Advanced praise for Teddy One Eye:
"The best book ever written" -Paige Butler
To Win a copy of this book CLICK HERE Competition Closes 17th October 2014. Open to NZ residents only.