Book People: Renee Treml

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Hi! This is ChickPea here. Taking over from mummy on this Book People interview because … well … I love the Sherlock Bones books and I knew I would do a better job of asking Renee Treml the questions. If you like graphic novels, laughing and taxidermy … you should really read Sherlock Bones. They are mystery books for readers from seven years old.

‘Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery’

by Renee Treml

Buy from Apple Books.

‘Sherlock Bones and the Sea Creature Feature’

by Renee Treml

Buy from Apple Books.

Click on ‘Buy from Booktopia’ when shopping online in Australia to #supportaustralian. Apple, Amazon and Book Depository options for overseas & eBook purchases. Purchase in store from your local independent bookstore where possible #supportlocal.


ChickPea Asks the Questions…


1.       Where did the idea for the Sherlock Bones series come from?

The idea for Sherlock Bones came from an exhibit of tawny frogmouth skeletons on display at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane. The skeletons looked so goofy and mischievous – I started sketching them waking up at night and playing with all the exhibits. One night, I woke with the name ‘Sherlock Bones’ in my head and I realised I had a mystery-solving character on my hands.

Renee Treml | Image Supplied

2.       Why did you choose to put these particular museum characters in the books?

I knew Sherlock Bones would be lonely in the museum at night, so I created two friends for him. The first is Watts, she is a silent and stuffed parrot. I absolutely love taxidermic bird specimens, with their closed eyes and identification tags, and Watts is the perfect companion for this quirky main character. Sherlock bounces lots of ideas off her and he can carry her everywhere he goes.

His second friend is Grace, a brash and sassy raccoon. She is always challenging Sherlock’s sensibilities. Where I grew up in America, wild raccoons are often trouble-makers – getting into your garbage or stealing food from your campsite – and Grace is no different.

‘Taxidermied Birds with Closed Eyes’ | Image Credit: Renee Treml

3.       Do you do the illustrations or the words first, or does it all get done at once? And how do you decide what parts the pictures will say?

The sketches of the characters always come first – it helps me figure out everyone’s personality. Then I start writing the story, but mainly through conversations between the characters and notes about the action or setting. Deciding which pictures to include with the words is the hardest part. So, for the next draft, I sketch out a mock-up of the entire book in an A5 notebook. This is where the words and the pictures finally come together and I can see where things are working (or not). A lot of editing happens at this stage.

4.       Why did you choose for Grace to like chocolate and donuts?

Grace is based on one of my best friends in America. This friend has a distinctive southern accent and loves (loves!) chocolate and donuts. It was fun to give Grace some of her personality and traits. The funny thing is, my friend hasn’t read the book yet and she still doesn’t know.

Image Credit: Renee Treml

5.       Is there going to be more Sherlock Bones?

I hope so because I’ve already drafted out the third mystery and I love the new character and exhibit. (CHICKPEA: I AM VERY VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS).

6.       If the Sherlock Bones characters jumped out of your book what character would you be best friends with?

For the newest Sherlock Bones, I think I would get along with Nivlac really well. He has a dry sense of humour, is wickedly smart and a bit cynical. I reckon he’d be a lot of fun to join for a coffee.

7.       Do you like chocolate and donuts like Grace?

Is that a real question? Of course!!! I love dark chocolate and have a shelf dedicated to it on my refrigerator door. Unless they are freshly-made still-hot donuts, I’d almost always choose dark chocolate.

8.       You always write books about animals – do you have a favourite animal?

Every morning over brekkie, my son asks me what my favourite animal is for that day. My most recent favourites have included a toucan, sloth, octopus and wombat.

9.       What is your greatest fear?

I can’t imagine a world where I couldn’t write, illustrate or read. I love being able to imagine and create things.

10.    Have you got any advice for young readers and writers?

Write and illustrate about things that interest you. If you are passionate about what you’re writing and illustrating, then it will show in your words and pictures.

What Mummy Has to Say About Renee Treml

I have admired Renee Treml’s distinctive artwork for many years now, having first spied it on LaLa Land products. I have thought a number of times how Treml and the much-missed author/illustrator Narelle Oliver would have liked each other – they shared a love of Australian wildlife and wilderness and would have fawned over each others techniques – Narelle’s mastery with linocutting, Renne with her scratchboard and watercolours.

Treml’s board books featuring wombats, sheep, puggles and owls are my go to baby gifts and I’ve read her latest picture book ‘Roo Knows Blue’ more times than I can count to my kindergarten class – perfect for colour recognition and in an Australian context.

The Sherlock Bones series has captivated ChickPea more than most books, and she is quite the discerning reader – often turning up her nose at books I KNOW she would like. She was so excited to meet Renee Treml when she was in Brisbane some time ago now to promote the first Sherlock Bones book and she particularly loved watching Treml draw the dead museum exhibit characters from the book.

ChickPea has collected ‘dead things’ for as long as I can remember and is still waiting for Shirley to take her to the taxidermy department at the Qld Museum. ChickPea has a dead, flattened-by-car, headless Blue tongue lizard in a bowl in her bedroom, Narelle Oliver’s taxidermied fox skin (complete with nose and whiskers) adorns her bed and she has a box of dead skinks, butterflies, a cow jawbone and a half a turtle shell. When her pet stick insects die there will be no burial, I’m sure they will be just be added to the box.

She takes her collection very seriously, as evidenced by an unfortunate incident with a four-year-old and one of her treasured dead butterflies a while back. She has never quite forgiven said four-year-old (despite his dimples) and the ‘incident’ is unable to be spoken about without tears.

I drew the line when my grandmother gave her a plastic bag with a dead Rainbow Lorikeet in it a few years ago. Nan had let this rainbow lorikeet ‘dry out’ in her back garden for some weeks before delivering it to ChickPea. I let her keep it for a few weeks but the smell emanating from this carcass eventually did me in and I tossed it. I must have recounted this tale online somewhere recently because Renee Treml sent ChickPea a package through our local independent bookstore, Where the Wild Things Are, last week.

She unwrapped very adorable character badges and a HAND FELTED TAXIDERMIED RAINBOW LORIKEET.

She carried her Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus) around in her pocket for a week and then, wanting to show her friends at school but wanting them to understand how special it was, she has now put it in a glass box and labelled it.

The kidlit world has some truly remarkable people in it. It really does. When ChickPea is working in museums I’m sure she will still have her Renee Treml felted Trichoglossus moluccanus with her – a much better option than the horrid (probably diseased!) dead one in her cupboard.

Thank you Renee. So much.

More Books By Renee Treml

‘Sherlock Bones and and the Natural History Mystery’

Buy from Apple Books.

‘Sherlock Bones and the Sea Creature Feature’

Buy from Apple Books.

‘Ten Sleepy Sheep’

‘Sleep Tight, Platypup’

‘One Very Tired Wombat’

Buy from Apple Books.

‘Roo Knows Blue’

‘Wombat Big, Puggle Small’

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