Dogasaurus

Published by Scholastic Australia, 2017

Back in 2015 our family was sitting down for dinner when my partner said: “Dogasaurus! How’s that for a book?”

“It’s been done, surely…” But I ducked into the studio to check. It hadn’t been ‘done’ – not as a book at least.

Back at the table, I picked my partner’s brains. “So there’s an egg…”

My partner: “and it hatches, and out pops a little dinosaur…”

Me: “But it finds itself in a litter of puppies…”

Our son: “And so it’s brought up with the other puppies…”

Me: “And it THINKS it’s a dog! A FARM dog!”

etc.

A few weeks later I had a very rough storyboard, about a little dinosaur called Rex who thinks he is a dog. Here are a couple of pages:

My lovely agent Clare Forster from Curtis Brown liked it and, after a bit of to-and-fro, Dogasaurus had a contract – with Scholastic Australia. Hooray!

I worked up the storyboard a bit more. I had Rex go to live in town:

He wasn’t happy in town of course…

We moved onto roughs, and I drew and drew, keeping it loose. Here Rex is stuck indoors in town pining to go out.

But there was a problem. Several months in, I was doing all this work but something wasn’t right with the story and my drawings weren’t developing. ‘Dogasaurus’ was starting to get away from me. I felt myself holding back on the illustration, unsure on style and characters and afraid to work anything up too much. And the more the publishing team and I tried to tweak the text and pacing, the more complex and unwieldy the book became.

So, a year after signing, I completely rewrote the book: removing a few settings, adding a rainforest setting, simplifying the story, getting rid of the ‘real’ dog, scratching the town scenes, binning all the adult characters and changing the narration from first to third person. To the surprise of my publisher, I re-submitted a completely new storyboard (I wouldn’t recommend this as any kind of strategy).

Fortunately the Scholastic team liked the new version… We moved the date back and I got going on the roughs. Again.

Here are the front endpapers, rough and final:

The final illustrations for my favourite internal spread, where Rex is starting to grow just that bit too fast:

And an illustration (and joke) that we managed managed to retain from that long-gone initial storyboard, where Rex ‘takes care’ of the chickens:

Lastly, here’s a little illo we never got to use. I always mourn these illustrations slightly, but there was no where to put it. Poor little Dogasaurus…

Dogasaurus is published by Scholastic Australia, and is on sale at most bookshops in Australia, and online here.