Thursday, 5 January 2017

Wicked Rose

Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. That's Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.

The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist. 

Wicked Rose: Post 5

Wicked Rose is another of my picture books; this time published in 1992. It is one of those texts that is not intended for very young children. I used to find it effective when read aloud to kids of ten or eleven who could appreciate the joke and who usually had enough background reading to understand it was a story of the wild colonial days and thus, not to be taken too seriously. 

The rhyming tale begins (if I remember correctly, as I don't have a copy hands) with the words... 
She was lovely as a baby and a beauty as a girl
Her eyes were sparkling sapphires and her hair, red glossy curls
Her smile could melt an iceberg and she was a loyal wife...
But lovely Rose was wicked: she'd been wicked all her life.

   The story details how baby lovely Rose bit the doctor on the thumb and chased him out the door, and continues through her three marriages (using a kidnapped priest) and the deaths of two of her husbands during their criminal activities. Lovely Rose weeps sincerely for her husbands, while compelling the unfortunate priest to read the service. They had a little daughter, whom they christened Nasty Nell, and taught her wrong from right at once... and bad from good as well! Rose marries Tim-- a cattle thief at last, complete with chiming wedding bells, stolen from the church of course, by little Nasty Nell. 
    The story concludes with the newly-made family heading off to more adventures.
    The three of them are happy now. It's widely understood that only one thing worries them--the fear of turning good!
   Thus we get through a doctor attack, a gaol-break, three marriages, a birth, two funerals and much mayhem in the space of a thirty-two page picture book.
    The book was illustrated in a blend of purple and orange which I thought then, and still think, is a brilliant combination. The pictures are full of vigor and there are all kinds of witty touches. 
    Come to think of it, there were quite a few purple and orange or yellow books about in the early 1990s. Rose stares out of the cover just a little to the reader's left shoulder which is wonderfully unsettling.
    This was one of the few cases where I asked for a small change in a picture, and that change was graciously granted. I hope I thanked the illustrator!, but I can't remember. As far as I recall we never had any direct contact. The picture in question showed Nasty Nell in her crib with a parrot and a bottle and I was pretty sure Wicked Rose would not use a baby bottle. She'd probably have no problem feeding the baby on the run and in fact would have found it amusing to shock whoever she was robbing at the time. The illustrator put in a raffish teddy bear instead.
    I have always had an affection for this book, but the cover reflects why it is very much a child of its times. Can you imagine a picture book showing an armed woman on the cover being let loose in 2017? No. Didn't think so. Nevertheless, it did amuse a great many young and not-so-young readers in the '90s, and Rose, for all her wicked ways, did have her own moral code.
   And no, she was not based on me or on any of my ancestors. I'm unsure where she came from. I think she just popped into my head one day, flashed a dazzling grin, and said, Have I gotta story for you!  

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