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Josh Pyke & Ronojoy Ghosh on ‘Family Tree’

Singer–songwriter and children’s book author Josh Pyke celebrates Australia’s diverse and multicultural society in his latest picture book Family Tree (Scholastic, January) with illustrations by Ronojoy Ghosh. Reviewer Romi Sharp said the book offers a ‘deeply poignant and lyrical narrative’ that is a ‘celebration of life, belonging, diversity and collective strength’. She speaks to Pyke and Ghosh.

Congratulations on your heartfelt story Family Tree—which has also been chosen for the 2022 ALIA National Simultaneous Storytime! What do you hope your young audience will glean from their Family Tree reading experience? 

I hope kids and parents alike get the message that families look different, no two are the same. But, I think it’s still every family’s goal to create roots that are strong enough to support new branches, and that’s really the core message—we all leave the nest at some point to start our own lives, which may look nothing like those of our parents, but strong roots allow us to stay connected to our past, while embracing the changing landscape of the future. 

The book is a bustling celebration of our multicultural, diverse and unique Australia, with connections spread across the world—all encapsulated by the symbolic tree. Josh, what was your inspiration and why was it important for you to write this story?  

The inspiration for the book comes from my kids. My wife and her family came to Australia as refugees in 1980 from Vietnam, and my children share that cultural background with my own, which is largely British, American and European. There’s so much to enjoy and embrace when you have access to a multicultural community, and that’s something I wanted to celebrate. Looking at me, a white guy, you wouldn’t expect my family tree to stretch so far across the world, but it does, and that idea is something I wanted to explore. 

The beautiful text and eye-catching illustrations come together so organically. What was the collaborative process like between author and illustrator? 

Ronojoy just ‘got it’ straight away. We actually met up at a local pub and discussed the project, and he showed me some early sketches, and it was clear that the text was in good hands. From that initial meeting of minds, I really believe in letting the illustrator express their own story through their art, so there was pretty minimal involvement from me! 

Ronojoy, how did you draw upon your own experiences to create the artwork for Family Tree? Can you tell us a bit about your illustration process? 

Josh’s words had a big impact on me and triggered beautiful memories and even transported me into the life experiences of different families. 

As I go about my daily life, glimpses of my surroundings stay with me. And some of those are memories from my childhood. I tend to mix my personal experiences and stories with places I have seen, loved or travelled to. Every illustration in the book is based on some experience or memory I have mixed with Josh’s emotions as he has expressed them through words. 

What does family mean to you, Ronojoy?

My family is my safe space and they mean everything to me. My wife inspires me with her talent and empathy. My son makes me laugh with his wit and creativity. And my dog reminds me to take joy in the small things in life. 

Read Romi Sharp’s review of Family Tree here.


Category: Features Interview Junior