A year for an ox
Between sips of decaffeinated coffee, Sarah Brennan can't stop laughing. After every sentence or phrase she utters, even while talking about her new book, The Tale of Oswald Ox, the Hong Kong-based Australian author giggles.
One might mistake this for nervous laughter at first, but as Brennan talks candidly about her life and writing you realise she isn't nervous at all. She just loves to laugh. And not only does she love to laugh, she loves to make her young readers laugh too.
'The most important thing about writing children's stories is to tickle their funny bone,' she says. 'I like switching kids on. Once you've got a child laughing they're receptive and you can teach them a lot. It's also a good idea to educate them along the way, as long as they don't know it.'
You certainly won't realise you're being 'educated' when you read The Tale of Oswald Ox.
The story is a Dr Seuss-like riddle about a retired old ox named Oswald, who spends his days 'chewing cud' in a busy farm on the mainland. Patient, honest and highly intelligent, Oswald exhibits all the characteristics of someone born in the Year of the Ox.
When sacks of food go missing, the farmer's grouchy wife accuses Oswald and vows to chop off his head. The food, of course, wasn't really stolen by Oswald. If you pay close attention to the illustrations, you will be able to guess who has been stealing the food from the very first page.
'There's a little secret going on in every page ... a secondary story,' Brennan says, before exclaiming, 'Don't you dare give away the ending!'
Brennan, a 'boring lawyer' turned writer who sometimes talks to her daughters in verse, says she had lots of fun looking for rhyming words.
'I love words, I love playing with words. I especially love verse. I love the fact that you have to make it rhyme while making it sound natural. I've got this tiny glitch in my brain where every time I start writing a story for children it falls into verse naturally. I can't seem to think in any other way!'
Brennan says cheekily she finds similarities between Oswald and another well-known Year of the Ox baby, Barack Obama, who the book is dedicated to.
So is she sending a copy to the White House? 'Why not?' Brennan says, giggling. 'Oswald is very much like Barack Obama. Calm, dignified and saving the world in the end!'
Children 'aged 5-105' are invited to hear Sarah Brennan read from her new book and purchase a signed copy tomorrow from 1.30-2.30pm at Bookazine, Prince's Building, Central. Tel: 252 5021
Young Post is giving away four signed copies of the book! E-mail email@example.com with 'Oswald Ox' in the header and include your address