Queenstown artist releases new book

3 minutes read
Posted 4 December, 2023

Local author and illustrator, Laura Shallcrass, has just released her latest children’s book, Here is Hare. It’s the fourth children’s book for Shallcrass and is an introductory search-and-find board book for little ones, featuring an array of animals including a Kunekune.

Shallcrass grew up in Wellington and is now based in Queenstown after trying out a few places in Aotearoa and abroad. She spent a few winters in America and Canada, and lived in Hawke’s Bay and Auckland previously. Her family settled here in 2010, which is when she started her career in children’s books – prior to this she was working in graphic design. She enjoyed drawing growing up, but “never felt good enough” to study art, so decided to look at design.

“I decided right at the last minute that I was going to go to design school and managed to pull that together and ended up majoring in illustration, which I really love,” Shallcrass says. “After graduating I did a whole lot of other jobs, graphic design stuff and working in shops. When my oldest son was born, I had a bit of time to play around with art a little more and ended up having a few exhibitions locally in Queenstown and a few wider, throughout the country. All through this, I was getting into illustration as a career, but it was really challenging. I kind of ended up in it through exhibiting fine art stuff.”

It was around the time of the Christchurch earthquake when Shallcrass noticed a lot of families moving to Queenstown and kids who were upset about “this really awful thing that had just dramatically altered their lives.” She’s quite passionate about mental health, having dealt with her own struggles with anxiety, so wanted to write a book about mental health, using some of the tools she’d learnt about in her life – to pass them down.

In 2020, her first book was released, Hare & Ruru, which went really well, winning some awards and receiving positive feedback. It follows the story of a Hare, who struggles to find quiet even in peaceful places and goes on a journey to find a solution to this. It was aimed at anyone suffering from noises, anxiety or loud feelings. Her first three books have been translated into te reo Māori and German, and are all illustrated children’s books, but the latest edition is aimed at a younger demographic.

“It was a pretty huge experience, which was really, really cool. I ended up going on to write two more books in that series, featuring Hare as the main character in all of them. After doing a few more of those books, I think that the trilogy is complete – there’s three books, Hare & Ruru, What Colour is the Sky?, and last year we did Hare & Kunekune’s Moonlight Mission. I kind of feel like Hare is this complete character now, they started off as this sweet little anxious being and now I feel like they’re a complete, fully formed Hare and I feel ready to leave it there with those ones.”

Shallcrass has had lots of feedback that people would like to see a book for little kids from her. Many are drawn to her beautiful illustration style, which she prides herself on the time and effort that she puts into presentation, so it was a natural progression to create something for younger ones. She says people are sometimes hesitant to give her books to smaller children for fear of damage.
“I’ve had quite a lot of feedback from customers that they’d love a board book – something a wee bit more durable for the most enthusiastic readers and the young age bracket. So that’s where this book came from – it’s all the same characters from the previous three books, but it’s very much a pared back story. It’s really simple, a bit of a peak-a-boo story, looking for all the individual animals – a search-and-find.”

Shallcrass’ illustrations have been inspired by the flora and fauna in our region. She describes the ferns and trees in the area, rocks, the Arrow River, lupins and colourscapes as influences. She also loves the semi-rural backdrop of Gibbston Valley with its expansive sky.

Here is Hare and Laura Shallcrass’ other works can be found at laurashallcrass.co.nz



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