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.

Dreaming with Emma Middleton

 Wombat Books catches up with Emma Middleton about her latest picture book, The Dream Bird.

emma middleton 1. Congratulations on such a visually stunning book. Did it turn out how you imagined?

Yes, the illustrations did turn out how I imagined. The story has a classic feel to me, so I wanted to emulate this style in the illustrations. One of the things that excited me about illustrating the story was the transitions between fantasy and reality. I wanted to create layered illustrations where you could almost see reality merging into the fantastical world.

 2. What’s your favourite thing about children’s books?

Gosh, there are so many, I adore children’s books! I think story is one of the most powerful tools that is essential to us in a compassionate society. Children learn, empathise and are entertained by story and it offers a real opportunity to plant seeds of inspiration. The combination of words and illustrations is magical. I particularly love it when the visual narrative is left to tell elements of the story, so the young child can be an active participant in the decoding of the narrative.

3. What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?

The best thing about being an illustrator is having the opportunity to give a child beautiful pictures to absorb and enjoy.Dream Bird finalhigh text5 32

4. What book are you currently reading?

To be honest I always have a few picture book under my bed, but I have just recently started The Shepherd’s Hut.

5. Did you have trouble sleeping when you were a kid? Were there any crazy techniques you tried to get to sleep? i.e. was milk and cookies a fav?

I do remember having milk with honey, but I was actually one of those strange children who often asked to go to bed. Now I realise how lucky my parents were regarding bedtime.

6. On what adventure would you like the Dream Bird to take you?

I would love to go on a tropical underwater adventure. Hopefully the Dream Bird can hold her breath!

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Dreaming with Aleesah Darlison

Wombat Books catches up with Aleesah Darlison about her latest picture book, The Dream Bird.

Darlison Mar15 0291. Did you have trouble falling asleep when you were kid? What crazy techniques did you try to make yourself sleepy?
Sometimes I would have trouble going to sleep as a child and I know that my own children have all had trouble sleeping from time to time, especially when they were very young. Who wants to go to bed when everyone else is having fun? As an adult, I often have trouble going to sleep. We’ve tried lots of insomnia cures in our house, such as: walking clockwise around a table ten times, counting sheep, counting backwards from 100, drinking hot milk, having a hot shower and meditation/breathing exercises.

2. What’s the best dream you can remember?
Oh, there have been so many good ones! Usually, the best ones are when I’ve written a story in my dream and I’m then able to wake up, remember it and write it down before it’s lost.

3. What’s your favourite place that George visits in The Dream Bird?Dream Bird finalhigh text5 24
Probably where George leaps along mountain ranges beside snow leopards. Emma Middleton’s illustration of the snow leopard is particularly striking, although I love all of her illustrations in the book. She has done such a marvellous job of bringing the story to life visually and recreating the images I had in my mind for George’s dreams. I’m guessing that child readers will prefer the kingdoms made of lollies the most!

4. Dreams are thoughts; thoughts are dreams. What’s your opinion on this?
There’s definitely an element of truth in that statement, although I think the thoughts can be so deeply buried in our sub-conscious that we don’t realise that they’re important. And if the thought plays out in our dreams, we might dismiss it as being fanciful or irrelevant because it ‘was just a dream’. Perhaps it’s time we all took more notice of our dreams!

5. Sum up The Dream Bird in 5 words.
Evocative. Sumptuous. Relatable. Dreamy. Surprising.

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Meet Young Illustrator: June

juneJune is 9 years old and one of the young Aussie illustrators featured in Yay! It's Library Day. 

1. Tell us about your illustration for Yay! It's Library Day?

I got my inspiration from reading books with my family. I really like the illustrations by Anna Walker - I like how she uses different techniques to make her images. For my illustration I used paint, wash tape, pencils and textas. I even used a toothbrush to spray the paint!

2. What do you love about libraries?

There are so many stories from all round the world.

3. What is your favourite book?

Dork Diaries (Rachel Renee Russell), Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, Ruby Redfort (Lauren Child) and Bad Dad (David Walliams). I also like comic books like The Lumber Janes.

4. If you were sucked into a book, where would you want to visit? Or who?

Definitely Narnia to meet the Susan, Peter, Lucy, Edmond, Mr Tumnus and Prince Caspian. Id also like to visit Hogwarts in Harry Potter and meet everybody - even Voldemort!

June's illustration will be featured on Page 3 of Yay! It's Library Day. To see the full version, you can get your copy here.


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The Thing

Kate and the Thing 10 6

Wombat Books talks to Heidi Cooper Smith about her debut picture book, Kate and the Thing.

What is the Thing?

The Thing hovers between our reality and imagination. He’s a blank canvas, a big comforting pillow and a shield from the unknown but, above all, the Thing is a friend who shows up in your time of need.

Do you wish you had the Thing when you started school? 

I think the worst thing about being new, in any situation, is the self-consciousness you experience being alone and that feeling everyone is somehow judging you for it. The Thing is big and protective, but gentle and soft – so yes, I would have liked the Thing to have shown up to lend me courage when I started school.

What does the Thing get up to when you're not looking?Kate and the Thing 10 12

The Thing is always present and watching protectively for as long as you need him to be. When he isn’t in your thoughts, he’s on the lookout for a new friend who might be desperate for company and reassurance. He has been known to wake for sneaky midnight feasts of cupcakes with whipped cream.

Can you remember your first day at school?

I remember my first day at preschool above any other – we were joined with a Year One class and told we had to play silently at the front of the classroom so as not to disturb the big kids, which on reflection seems very strange. I felt like they were all looking at me – it was terrifying!

Where did the idea for the Thing come from?

Staring at a big white blank canvas, being afraid to make the first mark. Thinking that a blank canvas is like a fresh start - scary, but full of promise and endless possibility. My mind turned to picture books, as it often does, and the idea of the Thing began to form in my mind...


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Author Interview: Aleesah Darlison

OUP Darlison Mar15 0291. What prompted you to sit down and write the story of Fox and Moonbeam?

I’d have to say that this story sprang, unbidden, from my imagination. The first line, ‘Gerard Fox wound clocks for the Queen’, simply popped into my head one day. The story and the characters soon followed.


2. What was it like to see Narelda Joy bring your story to life with her beautiful illustrations?

It was very exciting seeing Narelda’s artwork come through. Even in those early draft stages I knew that what she was creating with her many and varied layers and the complexity and beauty of her illustrations would result in something special. Each page in Fox and Moonbeam is lavishly illustrated and beautifully detailed. There’s so much for both young and older readers to discover in these pages.


3. What’s the best thing about being an author?

Being able to dream and be creative. Using your imagination. Making the magical happen. Bringing a stylish, handsome fox to life and allowing him to have an incredible friendship with a white rabbit who also happens to be a world-famous ballerina.



4. Why did you choose a fox as your main character? Most people are pretty afraid of foxes, but we can’t help but love Gerard Fox.

Are people afraid of foxes? I’ve always utterly adored them, but then I do tend to see animals in a different light to others and I try to bring that out in my stories. Every animal is unique. Perhaps foxes are just misunderstood and have been given a bad rap all these years. Of course, Gerard Fox is handsome, kind and humble – maybe that’s why he’s so irresistible. He’s incredibly talented but his shyness forces him to live in the shadows. Moonbeam helps Fox find the courage to step into the light.


5. What book are you reading at the moment?

Billionaire Boy by David Walliams. I love him. I mean, I love his sense of humour!

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Illustrator Interview: Narelda Joy

NareldaJoy.jpg1. What three words best describe your illustration style?

Detailed, Textured, Soft colours (sorry that's four!)

2. What excites you about drawing for children’s books?
I love being able to create an imaginary world that draws the reader in to become a real place for them. Illustrating children’s books takes me to my happy place, where I feel like I’m making a difference, and creating a little bit of magic.

3. What made you want to bring to life the story of Fox and Moonbeam?

I think it’s important to send positive, encouraging messages to children. Fox and Moonbeam have a wonderful, supportive friendship, both have found a purpose to their life and have followed their passion. I’m a great believer in following one’s passion. I adore animals so that’s a big factor in choosing it too. I also love historical costuming and did lots of research on the Victorian era from clothing to clocks, gas lamps, and theatre lighting.

4. How will you celebrate your first published book with Wombat Books?

I’ll be launching Fox and Moonbeam at a Children’s Book Council of Australia Sub-Branch event in the Blue Mountains of NSW on Saturday 23rd September. We are having a Forest Forage where children can come on a treasure hunt, following the paw prints, and explore all about animals in Springwood Library. I’ll be running a workshop on the day and signing books. I am very excited!


You can get your copy of Fox and Moonbeam here.

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Polar bears and whirlpools with Emily Larkin

LarkinEmily1) When did the idea of The Whirlpool first come to you?

 In 2012 I was part-way through a creative writing course at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and wrote the first version of The Whirlpool as an assignment. The class challenged me to consider how words and pictures work together to create meaning. I wanted to tell a story featuring an animal protagonist who had a lot of humanity - and the image of a polar bear cub came to me. I wrote the initial concept rationale with one column for text, and another for descriptions of the illustrations I had in mind. Writing in this way meant I could pair lines with images in a way that made sense to me. I loved my uni course and learnt a lot, and was encouraged by my teacher, Dean Jacobs, to seek publication. 


2) What’s the significance of the whirlpool in the story?

 The whirlpool symbolises a torrent of overwhelming emotions. Whirlpools move in cycles, representing that individuals sometimes feel trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts. In the course of the story, the polar bear cub escapes the whirlpool's influence and is buoyed by hope.


3) Describe a time when you felt like your emotions were a whirlpool.

 I think most people, at one point or another, feel overwhelmed, sad, lonely or worried. When I was about 5, my wonderful mum gave me a magic rose quartz necklace that would help me to feel calm and happy, because she knew I was a worrier. I had this necklace for years and wore it everyday. And then I lost it over at a friend's house, during a long game of hide-and-seek. I don't remember the necklace falling off, but I remember touching my neck and realising it was bare. I went back to the house, trying to remember and search all of my bizarre, half-squashed hiding places... but it was nowhere to be found. Losing the magic stone felt like losing a friend and I was very sad. But I knew that without the stone, I'd be alright. I'd learnt that the real magic was believing that even if I felt overwhelmed sometimes, I would find peace again. 


4) Why do you think this book is important for children to read? Do you think a lot of kids would relate to The Whirlpool?

 I hope that The Whirlpool resonates with children and adults. Like the polar bear cub in my story, kids often feel intensely because they're always discovering, and so much is new to them. For example, a kid might laugh at a joke an adult's heard a thousand times like it's the funniest thing in the world - or feel like a rainy day has lasted forever. I think it's important for kids to know that it's okay to feel a range of emotions. It's okay to feel lonely, sad or uncertain - but these times don't have to last. 


  5) How does it feel to be a first-time Australian author? Can we be on the lookout for more books to come?

 It feels surreal, because I've always wanted to be a published author. I love stories because they offer new insights and help me interpret the world and people around me. Stories challenge me, and make me think and feel - and the chance to share something is exciting. I love reading and writing and want to always do both. Please, be on the lookout! I have more stories to tell. 

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Join Katrina Roe for a special reading of "Same"

Join Katrina Roe for a special reading of "Same"


23 Jan 2016

What time:

11:00 AM - 11:30 AM


Balmain Library
Balmain Town Hall, 370 Darling St
Balmain, NSW, Australia

Event Details:

Join Katrina Roe for a special storytime reading of her beautiful picture book 'Same'. For ages 3-5 years. Bookings - online or call 9367 9211

More information:

When Uncle Charlie comes to visit, Ivy keeps her distance. He seems different from other people she knows. Can Uncle Charlie find a way to show her that he is not so different after all?

Saturday 23 January 2016

Balmain Library
For ages 3-5 years
Bookings - online or call 9367 9211

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A Book That Keeps Giving: Mustara

A Book That Keeps Giving: Mustara

Thanks to Wombat Books, an award-winning classic has returned to our shelves, in a new paperback edition. Shortlisted for the Patricia Wrightson Prize back in the 2007 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and a CBCA Notable Book, Mustara tells an explorer story of the Australian desert.

“I wanted to write a story that portrayed the history and culture of the Afghan camel drivers, camels, and explorers in 1875,” said the author, Rosanne Hawke. “I was inspired by explorer stories when I was young, as well as my life in Pakistan and the United Emirates, my Afghan friends, and the Marree Camel Cup!”

Every day Mustara and Taj look out onto a sea of yellow-red dust and stones. The sand rolls and shifts. Taj’s father says it is like the waves of the ocean and the spinifex bushes are little boats blown about by the wind.

Taj longs to take his young camel into the desert to explore, but like a storm in the ocean, the desert can turn wild. Taj and Mustara must prove their strength and courage.

Here’s what a few people have said about this much-loved book:

“A work of art, claimed James Joyce, must have unity, harmony and radiance. This book has all three.” — Maurice Saxby

“Mustara shows that friendship, trust, and a good camel can overcome even the pitiless outback. Highly recommended.”— Adelaide’s Child

“Ingpen’s illustrations create a sense of the vast desert beyond Hawke’s words: the book is both alien and very Australian.” – The Age

ROSANNE HAWKE was an aid worker in the Middle East for ten years, and has been kissed by a camel. Her books include Taj and the Great Camel Trek, winner of the 2012 Adelaide Festival Children’s Award; Soraya the Storyteller, shortlisted for the 2005 CBCA Awards; and Zenna Dare.

ROBERT INGPEN has been a leading Australian illustrator for over forty years, and was the first Australian to win the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal for illustration, in 1968.

Mustara is available in all good bookstores or online at www.wombatbooks.com.au

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Have a very alliterated Christmas with Wombat Books!

Have a very alliterated Christmas with Wombat Books!

The traditional Christmas story has been told and re-told for nearly two thousand years – but never quite like this. Poet Cameron Semmens’s quirky and alliterated re-telling of it in Star! Stable! Savior! brings a totally fresh perspective on the ancient Christmas story.

Originally published in 2007 under the title The Story of The Star, The Stable and The Saviour, the book sold out after only a few years. Now it’s back with a fresh, punchy new title.

Here’s what a few people have said about this much-loved book:
“This book became a regular Christmas tree tradition with our family… hubby's favourite and the kids love it.” – Dee Kaylock

“This unique take on the Christmas Story is a family favourite in our household. Sensational Semmens!” – Gabrielle Sinclair-Youth.

“Forget the kids! It was me who loved this in our house. OK the kids did too!” – Sally Smith

Cameron, the author, says of Star! Stable! Saviour!: “I’ve performed this story around Australia, at many carols and Christmas events, and it never ceases to raise a smile and provoke a comment. It’s my hope that everyone can see, in some way, the awe and wonder from the traditional Christmas story – it’s a strange, thought-provoking story that I thought deserved a strange, thought-provoking re-telling – hence the mega-alliteration!”

This book surely is a great gift this Christmas – for all the kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. So buy a small stack and you’ll be set for the whole family this year!

Cameron Semmens is a poet, entertainer and poetry educator. He’s published 16 books across a number of genres, all poetry-based. He’s passionate about engaging readers and listeners with fresh words and fresh perspectives.

For more information or to purchase the book click here. 

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Wombat Books talks to Debra Tidball about Mental Illness

Wombat Books talks to Debra Tidball about Mental Illness

Q: Could you tell me first about how you became a writer and in particular a children’s author?

A: As a social worker I discovered that I found a special pleasure in the writing aspects of my work – thinking through issues and crafting my thoughts as words into reports, letters etc. Then when having my own children I developed a deepened appreciation for the special beauty and power of picture books, so I started dabbling with this form of writing and undertook a Masters degree in Children’s Literature, and haven’t looked back since.

Q: Could you tell me about how your particular book works through young kids and their experiences with dementia in their relatives/older friends?

A: “When I See Grandma” gives different scenarios that show both with words and pictures (including a subtext) how children can connect with an aging (and in this case, unresponsive- apparently ‘sleeping’) grandparent through everyday experiences that children enjoy.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to teach children about dementia and the effects it can have on those who are close to the person affected?

A: Watching the decline of someone you love, or being towed around to unfamiliar places to visit people who seem unresponsive can be confusing and overwhelming for young children. Sensing that their parents are also overwhelmed themselves and grieving can heighten feelings of being out of control. It’s important for children to have a framework for understanding what is happening in their family and be given tools to feel that they have some mastery over events.

Q: What do you hope children learn from the book?

A: That despite how things might seem at one point in time, older people have a rich history and they have a lot to share.

That they can connect with others across generational differences and despite barriers of age and incapacity.

Q: Have you been affected by the presence of dementia in your life i.e. a relative or a friend close to you? What about this experience changed or affected you?

A: My mother had early onset dementia and ended up moving into a low care, then high care aged facility. My children and I continued to visit her and it is these experiences that have formed the basis of the book.

Q:  Do you think that from this experience you realised the importance of learning about dementia from an early age? If not, what was the inspiration behind writing the book?

A: My inspiration was to encourage all people who are affected by having someone with dementia in their life to see beyond the illness to the person, and to think laterally about how to connect despite apparent barriers. It is especially for young children and their parents who visit aged care facilities, but I hope that it will also speak to all who have contact with the ageing in our society.

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Book Week with popular children's author, Aleesah Darlison

Book Week with popular children's author, Aleesah Darlison
Celebrate Book Week 2015 with award-winning children’s author, Aleesah Darlison, at Mosman Library!
Aleesah will talk about the inspiration behind her brand new picture book, Spider Iggy, and will discuss some of her other popular books. She will talk about the amazing animal characters in her stories and use puppets, soft toys and crowd involvement as she reads Spider Iggy and other stories. Colouring-in pages and giveaways will be included.
When: Monday 24 August, 4 – 5pm. 
Where: Mosman Library, 605 Military Rd, Mosman NSW 2088
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Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Hari

Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Hari

Meet Hari

Age: 9

School: Camberwell Grammar School

What are your interests? I have been interested in drawing from a very young age. I like to draw cartoons, landscapes and characters from books I enjoyed reading.  Drawing the scene from Zoo ball interested me because of this. Apart from drawing, I also like reading and playing the Violin. I love travelling and enjoy learning about different cultures.

Tell us a little bit about your illustration? I chose to draw the illustration on page 10 which shows the Kangaroo kicking the ball over the fence. I tried to make the ball look distinctive and bright as the ball is an important part of the story book. I enjoyed entering this competition and drawing the picture, as I like drawing animals and cartoons. I wanted the picture to grab the attention of young readers.

Why did you enter? I found out about the competition through my school and received encouragement to participate. I was excited by the chance to illustrate a part of this book and share my love of drawing for small children.  

Any other comments? I am grateful to wombat books for the opportunity to be involved in this book.

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Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Macy

Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Macy

Meet Macy

Age: 13

School: Adelaide High School

Macy hoto on 05 07 2015 at 202

Tell us a little bit about your illustration? The page I drew was page 4-5 of Zoo Ball. I was given a line which my illustration was to be paired with. Page 4-5 was about an amazing animal, native to Australia… The kangaroo! The way I went about it was to capture the liveliness of the kangaroo and the joy that it brings to children. My cartoon had to be filled with joy and colour so that children reading the book would want to look at it again and again. I used water colours and pen to create this effect. It turned out as vivid and eye-catching. I particularly liked how your eye is drawn to the pops of colour that don’t clash and work well together. 

Why did you enter? As a small child I used to spend long amounts of time in a space our family called “up top.” Every month my parents would supply me with big sheets of drawing paper, and even as a toddler I knew that I loved art. I loved the feel of a pen in my hand and paper under my fingers. As I grew, I read more children’s books and I saw the pages filled with colour and it gave me new ideas for my drawing. Sometimes the only thing I had to occupy myself was my drawing. When I heard there was a chance of being featured as an illustrator I knew that this was a chance I could not miss. A chance to be published in a book that would potentially reach lots of children and inspire them to draw was why this competition was a could-not-miss chance!

What are your interests? As a small child I grew up with art by my side, (obviously), the other thing I enjoyed and found pleasure in was participating in sports, such as running, track, field, badminton, netball, touch rugby and football. I have represented my state three times. I enjoy doing short runs around my neighbourhood, (next to a beautiful river near my house) as it keeps me fit and healthy. My other hobbies include: cycling, reading, dancing, singing, walking and shopping!  All of these things play a big part in my life keeping me happy and that is why I keep them in my life.

What inspires you?My inspiration came from an artist called “Hannakin.” (A local Australian artist.) Whilst searching round a market in Adelaide I saw this amazing little store entitled “Hannakin.”  It was filled with perfect little tokens and hand-drawn cards. The drawings were such a new idea to me. I realized in my little artist brain that I could potentially turn this style into one of my own. As soon as I got home I jumped straight to my desk, my little drawing space, my pen felt so naturally free as I traced a new kind of drawing style. The characters seemed so perfect and my small sketches grew from tiny ideas to a big thought out piece of art and became unique in a quirky way until they were my own designs. And this inspiration came from a little stall in the centre of Adelaide.

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Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Tayla

Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Tayla

Meet Tayla

Age: 12

School: All Saints Anglican School

What are your interests? My hobbies include art, running, playing guitar, singing and hanging with my friends.

Tell us a bit about your illustration? I drew this picture with watercolour pencils while looking through lots and lots of photos of cartoon animals where I got my inspiration. I started off with a rough sketch and spent many hours perfecting it. The thing that I liked about this competition was the interesting subject that we had to draw. The book uses lots of different animals and I loved using different variations of colour to brighten the picture.

Why did you enter? I entered this competition because I love art and especially drawing animals. I thought it would be a great opportunity to get a picture that I created printed into a fun and exciting book for children.

Any last words? I really look forward to seeing my picture in this amazing book. I feel privileged to be involved, so thank you.

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Meet Zoo Ball Cover Winner: Alyssa

Meet Zoo Ball Cover Winner: Alyssa
Meet Alyssa

Age: 14

School: Presbyterian Ladies' College

What are your interests? My hobbies include sketching animals, painting flowers and nature, drawing anime characters, playing the piano and oboe, playing tennis and baking desserts. I love going on holidays, hanging out with my family and friends, Japanese culture, Alaskan malamutes and huskies, home decor and funny stories.

Tell us a bit about your illustration? First I sketched out my idea which would complement the text. I wanted the upset zoo keeper to be in the centre of the page, with a few observers surrounding him and the monkeys in the background. I felt that a simple illustration would be more effective. After refining my sketch, I traced the outline using a black fine liner and coloured using watercolour paint.

Why did you enter? I chose to enter this competition because I thought that it would be very exciting and special to have my own illustration in a published book. The opportunity to contribute to a picture storybook does not come around often.

Alyssa has received the cover illustration award and will be offered the opportunity to complete the cover illustrator. Well done Alyssa.

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Author Interview: Katrina Roe

Author Interview: Katrina Roe

Katrina Roe is the author of Marty's Nut Free Party, shortlisted for the 2013 Speech Pathology Award and Emily Eases her Wheezes a Notable book in the 2015 CBCA awards.

She’s also a radio announcer at Hope 103.2 in Sydney, a mum of 3 girls and wife of 1!!!
Her next book, Same, is a true story about her beloved brother, Charlie, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.


1) What was your favourite children’s book when you were a kid?

The book I read the most when I was a kid was I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman. It was about a super brainy, talented nonchalant kid called Rudy Miller, who found it hard to fit in on a summer holiday camp. He was kinda cool, but also distant and somehow alienated from the other kids. I sometimes wonder what I related to in the character – perhaps the fact that he didn’t quite fit in, or that he was far away from home, missing his parents (I knew I would be going off to boarding school soon). Either way, it made me laugh and I read it 7 or 8 times in Year 5 and 6

2) What’s your favourite book as an adult?

I don’t have a favourite, but recently I enjoyed The Rosie Project… like everyone else. It has everything: an awkward, unlikely romance, (is there any other kind?) fascinating characters and lots of laughs. From the classics, I love Pride and Prejudice, but I’m also a bit obsessed with Jane Eyre. I love her passionate speeches and her fiery nature. (“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart!” Sigh. I even named my newborn baby, Bronte, because I love it so much.

3) What are you reading now?

Right now I am reading Out of my Mind by Sharon M. Draper. It’s about a very bright young girl with cerebral palsy and her frustration at not being able to express herself. I’m sure I’m partly enjoying this book because it’s helping me understand what life has been like for my older brother, who also has cerebral palsy, but it’s also just a great read. It’s a serious book, but humorous too and deeply touching. I’d recommend it for adults and children over ten.

4) What inspires you to write for children?

A few months ago I walked into the living room to see my 8 year old daughter engrossed in the last pages of a book, tears streaming down her face. She was reading The Kensington Reptilarium by N.J.Gemmell. In the last pages of the book, the children’s father, who has been Missing in Action returns from a prisoner-of-war camp, so thin and exhausted they can barely recognize him. Suddenly my daughter glimpsed what it must have been like for my own Dad when his father finally returned home after almost five years in a POW camp. I love that a good story can create that kind of deep empathy and understanding in children, while they’re learning and being entertained.

5) What do you consider your biggest achievement?

I think this new book, Same, is about to become my biggest achievement. I’m really proud of it, although I can’t take any credit for it, as the story was a gift from my brother. I love it because it’s true and it was such a lovely moment in my life. I hope it will help people confront their feelings and fears about people with disabilities and that it will empower more people to be brave in their interactions. If I never write another book for as long as I live, I will be glad that I wrote this one. And Jemima’s illustrations are stunning.

Same is now for sale here

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An interview with Katrina Roe

An interview with Katrina Roe

Katrina is the author of Marty's Nut Free Party, shortlisted for the 2013 Speech Pathology Award and the upcoming Emily Eases her Wheezes.


I am Katrina Roe, a radio announcer at Hope 103.2 in Sydney, a children's picture book author, a mum of 2 and a wife of 1!!!

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

The first stories I ever had published were in the Carrathool Public School newsletter, but before I had started school. I used to dictate them to my mum and she would send them in! One of the earliest stories that I still have a copy of was called My Trip in a Pink Bubble. It was an adventurous story with a journey to a strange land, a wicked witch, a narrow escape and of course, a happy ending. I still have a copy of that book, including my illustrations. I also had a poem called Summer is Here! that was published in The Land newspaper when I was about six years old. My mum was continually sending my poems and stories in to anyone that would publish them!

Question 2: What was your first book published?
The first book I had published was Marty's Nut-Free Party in 2012 with Wombat Books. Before that I had contributed to a couple of anthologies and I wrote a novel that was shortlisted for an award, but sadly, is still sitting in my bottom drawer.

Question 3: What is your favourite part about being an author?
I love every aspect of it. I love those first moments when the seed of an idea germinates in your head. I love reading out the early drafts to my writers' group and hearing all their suggestions. I love the moment when I pop it in the post box with all the excitement and anticipation and possibility that goes along with that. I even don't mind rejection letters as they make me feel that I am one step closer to success! I still tremble when a new contract appears and I love seeing those very first storyboards or roughs when the book starts to take shape. The moment the first copy of the book arrives on your doorstep is exhilarating and I love the fun and excitement of a book launch. But the very best moment is when you look up from a reading and see 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 little pairs of eyes all glued to the page, hanging on every word you're saying and waiting expectantly to see what happens next!

Question 4: What is the hardest part about being an author?
I find it hard to work alone and even more difficult to work at home, where there are so many distractions and always lots of mess! It's also hard to make it financially viable. One day I would really love to have my own studio or office to write in, where the walls would be filled with my favourite books, there would be just a kettle and a stash of tea, and preferably a beautiful view of ocean, rivers or bush! Sigh! Even just a laptop would be a bonus!

Question 5: What do you do for fun?
I love travelling and outdoorsy adventures like bushwalking and kayaking although I don't get much time for any of those things at the moment! I also just really appreciate spending time with close friends, preferably somewhere scenic. Right now I am on the 40th birthday party circuit, which has meant lots of silliness with old friends. Yay!

Question 6: How do you test out your stories? Or who do you test them on?
I usually read them to my kids and husband first, then I take them to my writers' group. Once I've got them to an acceptable level, then I ask a few trusted friends what they think.

Question 7: What was your favourite children's book when you were a kid?
If I'm really honest, my favourite was a Golden Book called Hunkydory. I also loved The Magic Faraway Tree stories, The Wishing Chair series and the Famous Five. When I got into later primary I devoured Gordon Korman books and my favourite was I Want to Go Home. It was about a smarty-pants loner who spends his entire holiday trying to escape from summer camp.

Question 8: What is your favourite children's book now?
It's really hard to narrow it down to just one. My favourite picture books are Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon and Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley by Aaron Blabey, which both celebrate the absolute blessing and miracle it is to find a true friend.

Question 9: What writing genre do you like to do the most?
I like to write picture books the most, but I would also love to write a novel one day.

Question 10: What is your favourite way/time to read?
My favourite way to read grown-up books is on holidays, either at my parents' place in the country or at a beach house. It's the only time I get a chance to really demolish a book in a couple of days. However, my eight year old is a voracious reader now and we are tackling some really interesting stuff together, so I thoroughly enjoy the time we spend reading together each night. Sometimes I find myself sneakily skipping ahead to see what happens while she's cleaning her teeth.

Question 11: What book are you reading right now?
I most recently finished The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith and am now starting on a new re-write of Jane Austen's Emma also by Alexander McCall Smith. With my eight year old, I'm reading Morris Gleitzman's Blabber Mouth and Sticky Beak, which we are loving! My 3 year old only reads Nick Bland's The Wrong Book (over and over and over again!) so I also read that most nights.


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When I See Grandma wins CALEB Award (Children's) 2014!

When I See Grandma wins CALEB Award (Children's) 2014!

When I See Grandma, by Debra Tidball has just won the CALEB Award 2014 in the Children's Category. This is the second time this book has been acknowledged as outstanding as it was also shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Awards 2014.

The book is a delightful insight into the transforming power of children and love to enjoy with your kids, grandkids or great-grandkids.

Two children visit their unresponsive grandmother in an aged care home and ‘brighten her dreams’ as the reader gains an insight into Grandma’s past, linking her past to the present. The bleakness of the setting is transformed by the children’s vitality that brightens the lives of the residents. And the children make memories they will treasure forever whilst helping Grandma remember.

“This beautiful book delicately points to the foundations of healthy grieving by showing practical demonstrations of love and focussing on creating and sharing memories. When I see Grandma is not only delightful to read, but a valuable resource for every home,” said Liz Mann, Bereavement Counsellor.

Congratulations also to winners under our Even Before Publishing imprint:

Nick Hawkes - The Celtic Stone (Fiction)
David Malcolm Bennett - From Ashes to Glory (Non Fiction)
Carol Preston - Suzannah's Gold (Bookseller's Choice Award)

When I See Grandma is available from all good bookstores, your local library or buy online now.


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Guest Reviewer: Dimity Powell reviews Without Me

Guest Reviewer: Dimity Powell reviews Without Me

WITHOUT ME Kayleen West
Remember those days in your childhood when you felt the undeniable urge to shed the shackles of family constraint and run away? I do. I spent long hours planning my departure, organising provisions, and packing essentials, which were every doll and stuffed animal I owned.

I can't remember the various motivations for my wanting to leave and of course most attempts failed, stalled inexplicably under the apricot tree en-route to 'not sure where'.

Many kids experience this kind of emotional quandary as they navigate their way through difficult life situations; bewildering social expectations and consolidation of their own unique identities. In short, it's part of growing up.

Kayleen West's picture book, Without Me, captures this crossroad period in a small boy's life as he plans to leave his family believing they no longer love him. He packs his bags along with his resolve and then just as he sets off, begins to revaluate his situation.

West creates an accumulative checklist for our would-be-runaway using the passing of minutes, a nice numerical inclusion for young readers whilst establishing a sense of order and reason. Our nameless protagonist soon realises that every member of his family relies on him and values him at some level, whether for food, comfort, play, or simply companionship. After just ten minutes, his desire to leave wanes and he discovers that his true worth lies within being part of his family with them, not away from them.

Love and belonging often evolve from a sense of need and acceptance but this equation is not always apparent to little people or easy for them to comprehend. West's sharply coloured illustrations and light-hearted narrative helps them make the connection whilst delivering a far reaching reminder that it is not always kids who want to run away from the realities of the world.

Suitable for 4 – 7 year olds.

Wombat Books 2013

Reviewed by Dimity Powell

For this and more reviews by Dimity Powell visit: http://dimswritestuff.blogspot.com.au/ 

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