Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It started with a little duck

 (my photo of a Leunig cartoon)

There's one thing in our house that is traditional as Christmas.  Every year (well as long as they've been available) we make sure we receive the Sydney Morning Herald's free Michael Leunig calendar.  And before they were around, I used to rip out the little cartoons from the paper/magazines and stick them up on the fridge or at my desk or wherever I wanted to be reminded of the simpler way of looking at things.  There have been a few of Leunig's books hanging around the house for as long as I can remember as well.

So when an opportunity to listen to him speak about his lovely, big, new book I did not hesitate to buy a ticket.  He appeared at Palace Cinemas thanks to Penguin and to Shearers Bookshop in Leichhardt on Monday night and spoke to a cinema full of loving admirers (well I guess they were admirers, why else would they be there?).
(my photo of Leunig book)
Michael Leunig is a lovely man.  

He is in 70's (I only found this out by looking up his biography as I thought he might be in his 50's!), and was wonderfully bumbling in his humbleness and had an endearing way of expressing his innocence and at the same time his disappointment in the world around him.  He thought he might be starting to "sprout wings which are slowly helping him float and back away from the craziness of the world" - or something like that.  He also said that even though we have so much more information these days we are losing our wisdom.  Can't argue with that.  

Michael Leunig is a wise man.

You might not agree with all his views in his cartoons but you can't argue with his honesty and authenticity.  And every time I've opened this bedside book, I've had a chuckle.  Michael (yes we are on first name basis now of course) explained how the little duck came about when he started out working for a daily newspaper who put the pressure on him to produce a political cartoon every day.  He struggled to find anything to put in this space at first and that's when the duck appeared to show him the way.  And it has helped him ever since.  Apparently its an ancient symbol of guidance which can appear unexpectantly. 
(he drew me my own little duck!)

He tells a story of a mural he was asked to add his duck to in a famous gallery in Australia. His name was added to the plaque next to the painting. When it was on show he happened to be there when an elderly visitor from New York was visiting.  The man saw his name there and told him his name was also Leunig.  It turned out that he was a relative that Michael was totally unaware of as he had never investigated his family history before.  This led him to finding about his heritage and the legend of the duck in European folklore.  Apparently it appears in Hansel and Gretel to carry them across a lake when they were escaping from the old witch.

You gotta love a duck.

*This was not a sponsored post, I just like to support our local bookshop and am an admirer of Michael Leunig.  I paid for my ticket and bought his new book myself. 

P.S. A much more professional review of this night has been written by Jane at Shearers here.

**I'm joining Essentially Jess for IBOT.


  1. I have always liked his cartoons. Thanks for telling the story of the duck, very interesting.

  2. This is such a lovely story. I didn't know any of that about the Leunig duck, or the folklore duck. I now find ducks more interesting than I did before! It's always so great - and a relief - when you meet your heroes in person and they are as awesome as you hope they are :) xx

  3. As someone with a duck on her blog, I think I kinda love Michael now too! :)

  4. Thanks for letting me know about this author! I'll check his work out, always love new stuff.

  5. I want to hunt down this book. Rachel x

  6. What an interesting story , I enjoy his cartoons too . MY MIL used to cut out his cartoons, she might like his book too.


I love your comments. Keep 'em comin'! [All comments are moderated but all opinions are welcome.]