Wombat Books Blog

Wombat Books blog is the place to keep up to date with all the goings-on in the world of Aussie kid's books.

Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Ashley

Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Ashley

Age: 11
School: Pymble Ladies' College

Tell us a bit about your illustration? I drew my entry with pencils for both outlining and colouring. I read the story, particularly for the page, and stated the animals required for the page. I made sure to put them in my picture. I liked drawing the animals and the amount of space I left for the text.

Why did you enter the Zoo Ball Challenge? I love to draw and I really want to be a book illustrator or a cartoonist/animator. That's why I entered this competition.

What are your interests? My favourite hobby is drawing. I draw on paper, canvas, laptops and tablets. I also like to do crafts such as knitting, sewing and other art projects. I enjoy reading and playing games on consoles and tablets. That is where I get my drawing inspirations from. I do Ballet and Gymnastic and I also play Cello and Euphonium for my school's orchestra and band.

Ashley

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Reading aloud to your child

When I (Lynne Stringer) was about seven years old the teacher in my class started to read aloud from Charlotte’s Web by EB White. It was my first encounter with this classic, and I fell in love with it instantly. I’m not sure if that was just because of White’s brilliant prose, either. I think my teacher also played a part in it.

When she read the book, she really read it. It was clear she was familiar with it. The ‘voice’ of each character in the story had a different sound. She would change the way she spoke when reading the dialogue of different characters and was expressive in the way she read it. It felt like we were seeing the story unfold in front of us, rather than hearing someone read aloud.

Unfortunately, before she finished the book, this teacher left the school. A substitute teacher took her place. She read aloud the next chapter of Charlotte’s Web. I remember it as well as if it was yesterday. It was an appalling change! It was clear this new woman wasn’t much of a reader. The book went from being something magical to being something dull simply because of the lack of expression and interest she put into reading it. I could tell that she took no joy in what she was doing and that feeling was passed onto the class.

If you are reading to children I commiserate with you if reading is not something that you are fond of doing. That makes it difficult for you. I’m fortunate that I enjoy it and am enthusiastic about it. But I know it can be a chore for some, but the more effort you put into it, the more your child will get out of it.

Try reading the book before you sit down with your child so you know what happens and where it goes. Then try and think about how you would say the lines of dialogue if you were in that conversation yourself. We all speak differently depending on what we are saying and who we are talking to, and it will help keep your child engaged if you try and put that in your voice.

Does a character in the book seem old and crotchety? Try and make them sound that way. Does one seem prim and proper? Is there some way you can express that? Try and imagine it as a movie and how it might play out. This may help you as you try to express it to your child.

As many children’s books are now being made into movies you may wonder if it serves any purpose to do this, but nothing will beat the pleasure your child gets from experiencing the book with you, especially if you try and bring the characters to life for them. It may be something that stays with them forever.

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An interview with Aleesah Darlison

An interview with Aleesah Darlison

Hi, I’m Aleesah Darlison. I write picture books and novels for children. Being an author is the best job in the world. I love it!

Question 1: What was the first story you ever wrote and has it been published?

At the start of my career, I wrote lots of stories and many of them will never be published because they missed the mark. However, one of the first stories I did have published was There’s Magic at Pa’s. It appeared in a magazine called Little Ears, which was edited by Di Bates.

Question 2: What was your first book published?

A picture book called Puggle’s Problem, which was published by Wombat Books.

Question 3: What is your favourite part about being an author?

Being able to create characters and stories from ideas that come from inside my imagination then sharing them with other people.

Question 4:What is the hardest part about being an author?

Managing writing time with marketing time and family time. There’s never enough hours in the day.

Question 5: What do you do for fun?

Spend time with my family. Go to restaurants and eat yummy food. Make myself go to the gym for some ‘me’ time and some exercise.

Question 6: How do you test out your stories? Or who do you test them on?

By reading them out aloud, creating dummy books, sometimes reading them to my children, and running them by my agent or editor. Professional, third-party feedback is always the most valuable.

Question 7: What was your favourite children’s book when you were a kid?

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Question 8: What is your favourite children’s book now?

I’m loving my new picture book, Little Meerkat, at the moment. It’s published by Wombat Books and illustrated by Shannon Melville who is doing an AWESOME job.

Question 9: Have you ever travelled overseas as an author?

Yes, I was a guest speaker at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival in 2011 and in 2012 I returned to Hong Kong to conduct school visits. I’m looking at going back there in 2014 and possibly also Singapore. Of course, I’m always willing to consider invitations from other countries, too…

Question 10: Have you met anyone even more famous than you that was exciting?

When I was first starting out as an author, I always got extremely nervous meeting well-known authors. My palms would get sweaty, my throat would constrict and I’d have trouble talking. I just admired those authors so much and thought I would never, ever be as famous or as successful as they were. Thank goodness my nerves and my confidence have improved and luckily I’ve enjoyed my own small successes so I’m not so bad anymore.

Question 11: What writing genre do you like to do the most?

That’s hard to say. I love writing picture books that feature animals and I love writing fantasy adventure for older children. It’s all good fun.

Question 12: What do you consider your biggest achievement?

Achieving publication and creating a career out of what I love doing most in the world.

Question 13: Where do you see the future of children’s books (ebooks/apps/print)?

I hope paper books are going to stick around for a long time to come, but with the way technology is going and how kids interact with the digital world, I think we will start to view and read more and more books on-screen.

Question 14: What is your favourite time to read?

Anytime is a good time to escape into a book. I’d read all day if I could. When I was a kid I used to get in trouble for reading so much.

Question 15: What book are you reading right now?

The Power of One (children’s version) by Bryce Courtenay.

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An interview with Michelle Worthington

An interview with Michelle Worthington

My name is Michelle Worthington and I am a published Australian author. The stories I write are like the stories I used to read when I was little and they have what may now be seen as an old fashioned feel, but they have a timeless message. My goal is to be a successful Australian author known for classically elegant and compassionate stories for young children.

Question 1: What was your first book published?

The Bedtime Band was published in 2011 by Wombat Books, illustrated by Sandra Temple. It is based on a poem I wrote when I was in Grade 5 about what the animals get up to while we are asleep

Question 2: What is the hardest part about being an author?

Being a busy Mum of two boys and working full time, I don't get a lot of time to sit still. But I write in little pockets of time during the day or at night when the boys have gone to bed. I don't have a very good memory so when I get an idea, I need to write it down straight away.

Question 3: What was your favourite children’s book when you were a kid?

I love Australian authors because I think they write with a unique humour and empathy that is very rare in modern writing. Australian picture books had their golden age in the 1970's when I was growing up. Mem Fox's Possum Magic illustrated by multi award winning artist Julie Vivas, David Cox's Tin Lizzie were the staples of my bookshelves. Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen and Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French.

Question 4: What writing genre do you like to do the most?

Picture Books are my favourite and they always will be because they are the beginning of a child’s reading journey and foster a love of books.

Question 5: What do you consider your biggest achievement?

My two sons and how smart and independent they are. 

Question 6: Where do you see the future of children’s books (ebooks/apps/print)?

It doesn’t really matter if kids are reading paper books, ebooks or book apps, as long as they are reading.  Authors need to learn to adapt if they want to share their stories with modern children.

Question 7: What is your favourite way/time to read?

I always read a book to go to sleep at night and I have taught my boys to do the same.

Question 8: What book are you reading right now?

I am currently reading the Spooks Series by Joseph Delaney with my oldest son. I like reading what he reads so we can talk about it and share ideas.

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An interview with Dawn Meredith

An interview with Dawn Meredith

Hi, I’m Dawn! I love robots and gadgets, cartoons and dragons and enjoy hanging out with our animals. I teach kids of all ages, just one at a time, to read & write and have loads of fun doing it! I have lots and lots of goofy ideas banging around in my head, waiting to jump out onto my computer screen. If only I had five pairs of hands! Or had five clones of me…

Question 1: What was your first book published?

Donald Bradman for the Livewires series in 2000

Question 2: What is your favourite part about being an author?

Hearing kids talk about my books and the characters they love. It still makes me tingle all over!

Question 3: What is the hardest part about being an author?

Working at writing, when you’d rather be watching Ben Ten Alien Force

Question 4: What do you do for fun?

Hang out with our dogs, chooks & cat, watch cartoons, do art, make stuff, go bushwalking with our horse and grow magnificent flowers in our garden.

Question 5: How do you test out your stories? Or who do you test them on?

I have test readers. Some are kids, some are adults. My ‘first’ test readers read the raw stuff, as it comes, and give me feedback pretty much straight away. Other test readers often read a whole manuscript, up to 100,000 words!

Question 6: What was your favourite children’s book when you were a kid?

Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ series, but I also loved the classics, such as Black Beauty, Robinson Crusoe, Heidi and Alice in Wonderland and Little House on the Prairie.

Question 7: What is your favourite children’s book now?

Probably Cornelia Funke’s Reckless

Question 8: Have you ever travelled overseas as an author?

Yes, I travelled to Cornwall in England, the rough sea coast of pirates and smugglers to write a novel for teens set there.

Question 9: What writing genre do you like to do the most?

I like fiction and non-fiction, but love fantasy and sci-fi the best.

Question 10: What do you consider your biggest achievement?

Finishing four full length novels

Question 11: Where do you see the future of children’s books (ebooks/apps/print)?

I think there will always be people like me who love the smell, feel and look of a real book in their hands, so I’m not worried about e-publishing taking over. One of my books, The Anything Shop, is both print and ebook. So is my new release of my first book, Sir Donald Bradman.

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The YA reading revolution

Reading seems to be an ‘in’ thing for young adults at the moment. It’s easy to see even when I look in a department store. YA books are usually clearly displayed. Many of them are being made into movies. That’s another thing that tells you how big reading is at the moment. Movie moguls don’t waste money on products that don’t sell.

We should rejoice that young adults are enjoying the reading experience so much. It’s great to see that it’s ‘cool’ and I hope it continues.

However, I have noticed a tone of concern with some parents who have approached me about the YA books that we publish. A couple of times lately parents have said, ‘What’s in this book? Is there bad language? Is there any sex?’

I have heard this concern expressed by a number of people in the industry as well. When it comes to YA books, restraint in these areas seems to have gone out the window. There doesn’t seem to be any hesitation in loading these books with all kinds of explicit content and putting them into the eager hands of teenagers.

Some may say that teens already familiar with all these things, so we shouldn’t hesitate to put it in to keep it ‘real’, but does that mean it should be this way? Were teens so educated in these things before we provided them in books? I don’t know, but my conversations with parents have made it clear that some of them, at least, want some restraint shown.

For the record, the books we publish keep a firm moral compass when it comes to these things. Any content that is included in our books will not be explicit. If you would like more information on the content of any of our titles, especially those for young adults, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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An interview with Dr Joe

I am Dr Joe, scientist, author, edutainer. This means I go about trying to get children (and teachers) to understand how to create knowledge through science. I have a lifelong passion for philosophy (particularly epistemology) science (as a social phenomenon) and fantasy, having written award winning fantasy for the Living Greyhawk campaign setting. I enjoy spending time with my wife and family, attending church, and in challenging people in what they think and in what they think about what they think. I also play flute. 

Question 1: What was the first story you ever wrote and has it been published?

The X-or story, based off a dream I had when I was 8, and it's taken over 30 years to write down. One day, we will publish, but not yet.

Question 2: What was your first book published?

The Tae'anaryn. My sci fi story Arrendrallendriania came out first, as a self published book, but I don't really count that since I learnt everything I learnt about writing by working with the talented staff and authors at Wombat Books, who published The Tae'anaryn.

Question 3: What is your favourite part about being an author?

Disappearing into a fantasy world of my own creation.

Question 4: What is the hardest part about being an author?

Being avid enough to love it, but not established enough to give up my day job.

Question 5: What do you do for fun?

I write.

Question 6: How do you test out your stories? Or who do you test them on?

I read them to my children, and sometimes to select fans.

Question 7: What was your favourite children's book when you were a kid?

The stories my Dad made up at bedtime. Trumps all.

Question 8: What is your favourite children's book now?

The Tae'anaryn. I would have loved that book as a child!

Question 9: Have you ever travelled overseas as an author?

No. The internet is as far as I'd like to travel outside Australia, at least at this point in my life.

Question 10: Have you met anyone even more famous than you that was exciting?

Yes. Small children are often more enthusiastic to see me than they are to see themselves. Hang on, is that what you meant? Did I misunderstand that question? (adjusts microphone nervously).

Question 11: What writing genre do you like to do the most?

I know it may not show, but science fantasy. That's science fiction that's too unbelievable to be merely enhanced reality, yet given such plausible theory as to be almost? scientific.

Question 12: What do you consider your biggest achievement?

Marrying Samantha

Question 13: Where do you see the future of children's books (ebooks/apps/print)?

Books. We love paper, and turning pages. That'll never go completely out of style!

Question 14: What is your favourite way/time to read?

On a computer

Question 15: What book are you reading right now?

Motive Games, a good read!

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