Lorette Broekstra always loved drawing as a child and, after having her own kids, the freelance illustrator decided to try her hand at writing a picture book.
‘We were at the library and in bookshops all the time and I saw there was a gap in the market for really young kids – there's not anymore,’ she laughs. ‘But there wasn't much for really young children that had a story to it rather than just being an alphabet book.’
With that in mind, Lorette wrote her first book, Baby Bear goes to the Zoo.
‘I wrote the first one about my daughter's teddy bear, because she used to take that with her everywhere and it was really great to be able to write something personal for my daughter.’
The book was a hit.
‘It won an award and sold over 200,000 copies. It got translated into a few different languages. So, I ended up doing five books in that series.’
Lorette still creates her own books, as well as illustrating books for other authors and mentoring and running workshops for people who want to learn how to write a picture book.
‘I've had quite a few students that have gone on to be prolific authors and illustrators and win awards.’
Often those keen to learn are parents or grandparents who have read countless picture books and think they could do better. Inevitably, they are surprised at how much is involved.
‘They look deceptively simple,’ Lorette says.
‘I usually say it's a bigger job than you think, and the planning is really important because every single page and every single word is important. You have to engage people so that they want to actually turn the page and see what's happening next.
Lorette finds the biggest challenge is the design.
‘Once you've got the text, you've got to plan out how it's going to look. There's usually 32 pages in a picture book and I can do draft after draft of storyboards before I get it to a point where I'm really happy to start drawing the finished art work.’
For the past five years, Lorette has also been running a workshop at Flemington Neighbourhood House where the regular participants work on a book together and then publish their own copies to give away as presents.
‘One has ended up making one for each of her grandchildren. I think she's done about seven books on her own now and the improvement over the years is unbelievable.
Lorette is currently working on a digital course, From Idea to Published Picture , to help people write and self-publish their own picture book, to share the buzz she gets from seeing people reading and enjoying a book they have created.
‘Sometimes people send me photographs of their kids reading my books and that's the best feeling.’Loretta Broekstra
Reviewed 03 April 2023