Words | Jess Racklyeft
As the mum of two young kids I’m constantly immersed in wonderful picture books that send us on daily adventures. We travel through time (the Jurassic period is a particular favourite at my house!) and to magical worlds of wondrous people and places.
But it was while reading one particular book for the ninth time that day I decided I wanted to combine a few of these beloved elements with something that also celebrated the hard work of the reader themselves – often a loving parent, family member or carer.
Mothers, parents and carers have many jobs that are overlooked. At times I have felt defined only as ‘Mum’. I wanted to remind myself – and readers – that we each care, love and hug in our own particular way.
There’s Only One Mum Like You is one of the first books I have created as author-illustrator. I’m used to working with someone else’s words and building a visual world around the text, so it was intimidating, initially, to be faced with a blank page. But Anna Walker shared with me that she begins her author-illustrator books with an image in mind, which made much more sense to me as an illustrator. It freed my mind to experiment with doodles and concepts on the page and in that way the story began to come together.
The chance to be both author and illustrator really means that the book is your oyster! I thought of each page as a scene or movie set – from deep underwater, to the jungle canopy, to tobogganing downhill at sunset. The horizontal dimensions of the book also gave me a lot of freedom to build some fun rotated scenes to show super long snippets of sky – including letting pigs fly!
There’s Only One Mum Like You presented the perfect chance to illustrate all my favourite animals from over the globe, and to express some of the many jobs parents have that can get overlooked – from wrapping sore thumbs (or, in this case, tentacles) to making playground rides (there’s often a downward-dog-turned-slide happening on my back!), and protecting your kids from harm even before they are ‘hatched’.
Jess Racklyeft is an artist and author of picture books, as well as creator of paintings, prints, pins and other papery projects. She worked in publishing sales for many years but now works full time as an illustrator. Recent awards include CBCA Notable Picture Book of the Year two years running. She lives in Melbourne with her young family, old dog and rather energetic