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Lockdown sucks but we have some fun news – Muki And Pickles!

  • by KitKi Tong

Kia ora,

Well the news here in NZ wasn’t quite what we wanted to hear regarding moving down alert levels but at least we have great news...*nervous grin emoji* *drum roll*

The much awaited children’s book Muki and Pickles by Ross Murray is here! 


Beatnik caught up with the Mt Maunganui based artist happily enjoying the freedoms of level 2 (keep going Auckland!)

Describe your recent experience of lockdown with your family?
We’re a family of introverts so we’ve had a really nice time. Our kids enjoy home learning and I find it easy working from home. We’ve done plenty of walking and biking and enjoyed the peace and quiet of empty streets.

What was the journey like creating the characters Muki and Pickles? (Is Muki the favourite?) Are they based on anyone/anything in particular?
The characters are a mash-up of the different personalities of my two daughters. Ella is a voracious reader; Millie loves making stuff and going on adventures. Conversely, Ella can be quite outgoing whereas Millie is very introspective. In terms of the physical characters, Ella was really into rabbits at the time. She drew them religiously! I took some of her ideas and developed them. Our favourite TV show at the time was Yo Gabba Gabba, and I think this had a visual influence on the character design. The name “Muki” was a mis-spelled version of the word “monkey” that Ella wrote when she was little. And “Pickles” was one of Millie’s many nicknames when she was a baby.

The story of Muki and Pickles; how did this come about? (or were the characters developed beforehand?)
We were on holiday in the Coromandel and going for a lot of bush walks. On the trail were a number of rogue peach trees and the story kind of developed from there. Our family - my wife, especially - are big on foraging. There’s so much food out there that people don’t even notice, let alone eat!

How long did it take to illustrate and write this story? Was it over a long period or done in a short burst?
I actually started on Muki and Pickles about five years ago! It’s a project I’ve worked on very slowly and intermittently in between other things. Needless to say it’s very exciting to now be able to release it into the wild.


What do you absolutely love about this book?
I love the gentle, meandering pace of it. Also how it’s kind of obsessed with food. Those greedy bunnies are a very accurate reflection of our family.

With your incredible international portfolio of work, what drew you to a niche independent publisher like Beatnik?
My first picture book was published in North America only and I liked the idea of making a book that New Zealanders could get their hands on. I’ve admired Beatnik since they started publishing. They’ve got a wonderful diversity to their catalogue which aligns with my approach to making stuff. The fact that Muki and Pickles is a celebration of both food and books made it a perfect fit.

Is it true that you make a mean Upside-Down Peach Cake?
Surprisingly, yes! I’m very good at eating but not so much at baking. Millie and my wife, Kate, are the experts in the kitchen, but our family Upside-Down Peach Cake recipe is so simple that even I can make it.

Do you have any words of encouragement for any budding artists/illustrators/designers starting out?
Draw what you love! Seriously - follow your interests, you never know where they might take you.

And on that lovely note I will say goodbye.

Rachel has a box of copies we can send out safely now. So order your very own copy of Muki and Pickles and test out that recipe for Upside-Down Peach Cake, then send us pics!

Nga mihi,
Sally & the team.


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