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A Construction of Cranes

A children’s book ideal for young crane families has just been launched, called a Construction of Cranes, written by Margaret Robson Kett.

A children’s book ideal for young crane families has just been launched.

After 40 years of buying, reading aloud and recommending picture books to children and families in libraries, Margaret Robson Kett moved into inner city Melbourne to start a new freelance writing and editing life.  “Level with my 16th floor window, just four car lanes across, the cab of a tower crane stood at the corner of the building’s skeleton. I noticed that children, like me, looked up from the street, or across from their balcony or window, to see the hook lowering at the end of a cable like a giant fishing line to a waiting truck.”

In an editing class at RMIT, Kett had the good luck to meet Caitlin Ziegler, a graphic designer and fabulous collage artist who draws, cuts, pastes and can fold a paper crane. Caitlin was born in Tasmania, jumping the ditch early to live and work in Melbourne. Together they enrolled in the subject Writing for Children, and the daily crane watching became a picture book manuscript.

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Kett says, “A lot of staring out of the window became legitimate research, and trying to work out how cranes worked, and how they seemed to ‘grow’ with the building. I could find plenty in the neighbourhood to write about. When a building right next door to mine was finished and I was able to spend a day watching the crane being dismantled, the simple rhyming text was finally polished to perfection.”

A friend recommended finding the crane community on Instagram, and Margaret and Caitlin began following #lookingupatcranes on Twitter – a great way to see pictures from construction sites all around the world. One operator who became interested in the project ended up giving technical advice on the final illustrations.

Caitlin used a range of both traditional and digital illustration and collage techniques for the book. “Discarded building plans from a skip even made their way into it,” she says. The title A Construction of Cranes takes its name from the collective noun for the birds, as well as the machines.

The book was launched in May this year and can be ordered online at

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