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The Galah and Oolah the Lizard, an Australian Folktale

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

G is for the Galah and Oolah the Lizard

G is for the Galah and Oolah the Lizard

The FairyTale Alphabet Book

As a background for this story, I have to tell how it all began. If you an old friend, you probably know I’ve written and illustrated a children’s alphabet book using fairy tales and folk tales from around the world as prompts for the letters of the alphabet. Some years ago I started it as a thesis project for my illustration degree. The whole project transformed and morphed many times before I was done. Now I am planning a series with several more folktales and fairytales from around the world for each letter of the alphabet.

Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.

— Stephen King

Global Fairytales

After doing R is for Red Riding Hood and J is for Jack in the Beanstalk, I thought I was going to have trouble finding fairy tales for all 26 letters if I stuck to the typical English and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. And that’s when it hit me to be more global. Why not research fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world? This added to my work but in the end, it became very satisfying. I was thinking of doing the Gingerbread man story for the letter “G” when I came across this folktale from Australia. I hope you like it as much as I did.

Value Sketch for the illustration

Value Sketch for the illustration

The Galah and Oolah the Lizard, An Australian Folktale

Oolah the lizard often lay sunning himself on a rock, but one day, tired of this, he took out his boomerangs and began to practice throwing them. These boomerangs are curved and return to the thrower. As he was practicing Galah came up and stood near watching the boomerangs returning.

Oolah was proud to have the gay Galah watch his skill, and he gave the bubberah boomerang an extra twist, as he threw it with all his might. This time Oolah missed catching it and it hit the Galah on the top of her head, taking both feathers and skin clean off. The Galah was very mad and flew about, stopping every few minutes to knock her head on the ground like a mad bird. Frightened, Oolah noticed that blood was flowing from the Galah's head, so he glided away to hide under a bindeah bush (a thorny bush). But the Galah saw him. Without stopping the hideous noise she was making, but, still shrieking, she followed Oolah. When she reached the bindeah bush she rushed at Oolah, seized him with her beak, rolled him on the bush until every bindeah had made a hole in his skin. Then she rubbed his skin with her own bleeding head. "Now then," she said, "you Oolah shall carry bindeahs on you always, and the stain of my blood."

"And you," said Oolah, as he hissed with pain from the tingling of the prickles, "shall be a bald-headed bird as long as I am a red prickly lizard."

So to this day, underneath the Galah's crest you can always find the bald patch, which the boomerang of Oolah made. And in the country of the Galahs are lizards colored reddish-brown, and covered with spikes like bindeah bush thorns.

Color Composition for the illustration

Color Composition for the illustration

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”

— Willie Nelson

Collage Illustrations

I didn’t want my book to be just one more “A is for Apple” alphabet book and since I love fairy tales, why not use them instead? After deciding that I was told I should use my collage method instead of the usual watercolor illustrations that I had originally desired. The collage took much longer but in the end, it made for a very unique book.

I hope you enjoy my process here showing the start with thumbnail sketches, then value sketch, color composition and finally, the collage.

Finished collage as it appears in The FairyTale Alphabet Book, FairyTales and Folk Tales from Around the World

Finished collage as it appears in The FairyTale Alphabet Book, FairyTales and Folk Tales from Around the World

Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find several versions of The Galah and Oolah the Lizard.

My book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World, was self-published last year with Lulu.com because Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) refused to allow illustrations that spanned the central gutter of the page. They demanded at least a half-inch margin around the outside, which I could have done, and a half-inch margin through the center margin, which would destroy the look and cohesiveness of the double-page illustrations. I had to find a different publisher who would allow the illustrations the way I wanted them. KDP obviously does not understand illustrated children’s picture books.

Fairy Tales vs Folk Tales

I included this legend in my book but it isn’t purely a fairy tale. There is no magic involved or "little" fairy people. Should a folk tale be included in a fairy tale book? I thought so in that the lizard and the galah are speaking to each other and that is “magic” to me.

Final Thoughts

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. Lately, I’ve been doing some research to begin another one. There were so many stories I had to pass over with the first book because there was just not enough room or letters in the alphabet. I may end up with a series of alphabet books. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Comments

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 14, 2020:

Australian folktale is interesting I came across many tales this one is different

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 10, 2020:

DreamerMeg,

It was new to me too when I first read it but felt it just had to be in my fairy tale book. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 10, 2020:

Marie Flint,

I agree. It seemed a sad tale if it weren't for the colorful bird and spiky lizard in nature. I think a lot of the old Greek myths are like that. They try to explain something in nature with an absurd and tragic tale. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on February 10, 2020:

Great story. That's a new one to me.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on February 10, 2020:

Folk legends to explain why something is the way it is are quite enjoyable. This one, while somewhat gruesome (but not nearly so much as many of Grimm's tales), exemplifies the culture of Australia.

This one was new to me, and I did enjoy it's simplicity along with learning a little something about the fauna of Australia.

Nice job!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 09, 2020:

Linda Crampton,

I'm tickled you liked this story. I did a lot of research to find just the right stories from all over the world. I had never heard this one before either but was happy to include it. I'm glad you like my work. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 09, 2020:

Linda Lum,

I'm so glad you like the series and aren't tired of it yet. I did self publish so if you really want a copy you can get it from Lulu.com. Unfortunately, it isn't available from Amazon. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 09, 2020:

What an interesting story. I've never heard of it before. Your collage is a lovely illustration that matches the story very well.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on February 09, 2020:

Denise, I love this series. The concept of sharing stories from other cultures is so imaginative, and your method of illustrating is something I have not seen anyone else do. I sure hope you find a publisher. I'm ready to buy a copy!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 09, 2020:

Donna Rayne,

Thanks. I'm so happy when people like my work. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Donna Rayne from Greenwood, In on February 09, 2020:

Denise! Bravo hun! You are creative and fun and took me on an adventure that I didn't want it to end. Great job and can't wait to read more! You are so very talented, a gift from God!

Blessings always,

Donna Rayne

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 09, 2020:

William Kovacic,

I'm so happy to bring stories you have never heard before. I feel like an educator. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 09, 2020:

Lorna Lamon,

Thank you so much. I'm glad you liked the illustrations. We just had an art reception for a show I judged and so some of my collage work was hanging too, and people seemed really appreciative. They thought it was unique and unusual. I have such fun doing it but it takes a long time. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 09, 2020:

Oh, Bill, your bravo means more to me than you could know. Yes, I tried. I sent query letters out to 23 children's publishers who were listed as interested in this type of book. I also sent samples but none were interested enough to get back to me. Several said I needed an agent, which I cannot afford at this time so I gave up and self-published. I may have given up too soon seeing that Dr. Seuss was turned down by 28 publishers before the 29th took a chance on him... but still. I don't have endless postage for that kind of thing. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 09, 2020:

Liz Westwood,

Thank you. I'm glad you like the illustrations. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 09, 2020:

Eric Dierker,

I hope I'm not wearing anyone out with all the letters of the alphabet here. I felt like it was so much work and I needed to share it. I'm glad you like them. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 09, 2020:

John Hansen,

Since I've never seen the galah or lizard, I'm happy you think I captured them. I only had photos to reference but I thought the story was charming. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on February 09, 2020:

I never heard this one before, and of course, the artwork is fantastic.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 09, 2020:

Did you ever try to find a publisher for this? It just seems like such a great book for children of all ages. There may not be much of a market among publishers for fiction like I write, but I have to believe a book like this would find interest somewhere.

My way of saying BRAVO!

Lorna Lamon on February 09, 2020:

Another wonderful tale Denise which brought back memories of living in Australia. Galah's were frequent visitors to our garden - such beautiful birds. Wonderful illustrations - captivating as always..

Liz Westwood from UK on February 08, 2020:

I had not come across this tale before. You have retold it well and the illustrations are very appropriate.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 08, 2020:

I sure like your art and great stories to go with them.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 08, 2020:

I love that you included their Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime tale in your book. The collage illustrations look great too. Nice work.