Posted by: francesthomas | June 21, 2011

On Being A Happy Bunny – Malachy Doyle

 

 

       The Dragontongue blog is a year old this week, so it’s nice to be able to celebrate with a guest blogger. Malachy Doyle lived in Wales for many years, and his books include the Tir Na nOg winning Georgie, Granny Sarah and the Last Red Kite,  and The Dancing Tiger  

 

Back in 2005, I came across an old Swedish proverb:
‘Fear less, hope more,
Whine less, breathe more,
Talk less, say more,
Hate less, love more
And all good things will be yours.’

I really liked both what it was saying and how it was saying it, and decided to play around the concept, with young children in mind, to see if I could come up with a picture book. 

I originally called it ‘Eat less, breathe more’ and here’s some of the lines I considered (and rejected!) along the way:
‘Be bossy less, listen more,
Shrivel up less, dance more,
Couch potato less, read more…’

But it didn’t have the rhythm I wanted.  I wanted it to sing.

So I tried rhyme:
‘Take less, make more,
Scare less, dare more…’

but that was too limiting. 

Then I noticed that a lot of the lines I’d come up with were starting with the same letter, so I decided to see how that would work.  Some that didn’t make the cut were:
‘Whine less, whistle more,
Hate less, hug more,
Pout less, paint more,
Boo-hoo less, beam more,
Zoom less, zig-zag more…’

But I found lots I did like.  And it tripped off the tongue well. 

I tried it out on people, and it seemed to strike a chord.  I gave copies to my writers group, meeting that month in my house in Aberdyfi, and one of them (well known to Dragontongue) told me some time later ‘It’s pinned up on my fridge, I read it every morning, try to live it every day, and my life’s improved no end!’   Or something like that. 

Then my daughter asked if she could have it read it at her wedding – a proud moment for a proud papa.
A friend, recently passed away, asked for it to be read at her memorial service. 

It took two years for The Happy Book to find a publisher, and another four to get it out there, but Caroline Uff’s illustrations are joyful, colourful, warm and vibrant.

 

And I’m a Happy Bunny.

                            posted by Frances Thomas  for Malachy Doyle


Responses

  1. What a lovely story! And you live in Aberdyfi?! *dreamy sigh* I’m ever-so slightly jealous and need a copy of your happy book to make me content with where I am.

  2. That friend with a fridge was me, and it’s true, it was an inspirational poem, Malachy! The way you describe its gestation demonstrates, too, how tough it is sometimes to produce a piece of work which, when finished, seems as effortless as this! And the fact that it has taken so long to publication is also salutary…. meaning that persistence as well as quality is required even for a writer as accomplished as yourself! Thank you for an inspirational post!

    [Funnily enough I was re-reading Who Is Jess Flood?” last night!]

  3. Used to live in Aberdyfi, Wendy. Swopped it, three years ago, for somewhere even better – a little island off the edge of Donegal.
    Thanks, David. Persistence is definitely a key for me – if I truly believe in a story, I never give up on it, keep coming back to it, and keep looking for opportunities for it to make its way into print.
    Mind you I’ve surprised even myself by the fact that currently I have five picture books due for first publication next year – originally written in 2010, 2005, 2003, 1998 and all the way back in 1995.

    • “Somewhere even better”! Blimey. No wonder you’re writing happy books. (said the bitter and slightly homesick woman)

  4. Thanks Malachy. I used the proverb as the basis of a poetry lesson with my Y5/6 class today. One of my girls wrote: Sleep less, shop more.

    • Brilliant, Paul! Strangely, I just this week came across a version in a book called Tail Feathers from Mother Goose – the Opie Rhyme Book, which goes:
      Eat less, breathe more,
      Talk less, think more,
      Ride less, walk more,
      Clothe less, bathe more,
      Worry less, give more,
      Preach less, practise more.
      Iona Opie says it was sent to her many decades ago by ‘a maiden lady in West Bromwich who had lived by it all her life and did not want it to be lost.’


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