It was a dark and stormy night…

...but the Orange launch of The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear on 3 August 2017 was a lush affair. The teeming rain and freezing weather did not deter the eager guests who packed into Botanica Flora in Lords Place. The team at the bespoke florist did an incredible job of adorning the venue with floral installations and the walls were lined with stunning framed original artwork from Heather Vallance. Short work was made of the generous spread and local wine from Canowindra’s Rosnay Organic before Dirt Lane President, Mark Macleod, welcomed the audience and congratulated author, Margrete Lamond, and illustrator, Heather Vallance, on their superb creation.

Mark spoke with his usual warmth and verve, before acclaimed illustrator Freya Blackwood officially launched the book. Freya shared how proud she was to have been invited to speak, and noted the culmination of firsts that marked the occasion: being the first launch of the first publication of Dirt Lane Press, which was also the first book that fine artist Heather Vallance has illustrated.

Later, the artist herself brought tears to many an eye during her heartfelt speech, where she shared the highs and lows of her journey into narrative illustration. There was clearly a mutual appreciation and understanding between author and artist who were equally moved by this milestone: it had been a long and mysterious road … no, dirt lane … to get there!

Further highlights included being treated to some beautifully babbling and brook-like (but no doubt profane) Norwegian from Margrete Lamond, who spoke a few words of her native tongue in celebration of the gloriously penned endpapers of the book, and of the story’s roots in Norwegian folklore. Any guests familiar with Norwegian were likely blushing.

The winning line of the night was Margrete’s observation that everyone can relate to the story’s protagonist, Bear, and to a lesser extent, Fox. But Margrete warned future readers that if they felt an affinity for the villains of the piece, Rooster or Hare then they’ve “got a problem.” Noted.

The speeches were closed with thanks to the many generous Dirt Lane Press supporters, including the Kickstart Campaign Pledgers, the Orange Regional Arts Foundation and the Orange City Council. Heather, Margrete and Freya were presented with stunning bouquets from Botanica Flora before heading to the signing table where books practically flew off the table.

The Beecroft, Sydney launch on 12 August 2017 was equally successful, being the final event for Love Your Bookshop Day at The Children’s Bookshop Beecroft. Paul and Beth were wonderful hosts, refilling champagne glasses and connecting like-minded people in the crowd.

Paul Macdonald donned some furry fox ears for the occasion, “These ears? Tacky. This book? Not tacky. This is quality.” Something that we have come to expect from all of those involved in the production of the book. Highlights included Mark Macleod blaming The Children’s Bookshop for diminishing his savings over the years through their pitch-perfect book partnering, and his shared excitement over the prospect of a publishing house operating outside of the major cities.

Margrete Lamond shared with us the long historical tradition of retelling folk and fairy tales and treated us to a powerful reading from the book. Margrete also discussed the neuroscience behind these challenging stories and explained why they are so important and formative for young readers. As Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Many notable figures from the Sydney literary community were in attendance, including appearances from Bronwyn Bancroft, Libby Gleeson, Chris Nielsen, Cathie Tasker, Lesley Gibbs and Debra Tidball.

Questions from the audience included, ‘What’s next for Dirt Lane?’

Well may you ask…

Watch this space.

It may not be an easy stroll… but a dirt lane always rewards.

You will not be disappointed.