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.

Talking science and the autism spectrum with Kathy Hoopmann and Josie Montano

kathyjosieauthorpicIs there a personal story behind this book?

We met in 1999 at the Ipswich Writers Festival and have been friends ever since. We have both written extensively on Autism Spectrum Disorders (Asperger Syndrome) and publish in other genres as well (Josie also writes as Josie Santomauro). We had thought about working together, but once Kathy moved back to Australia five minutes away from Josie, it felt like an omen! Over coffee, we came up with the concept of the Secret Science Society and had a blast creating a bunch of quirky, lovable rascals who get up to all sorts of mischief, whether they mean to or not. With our combined understanding of mental and developmental diagnoses that have a lot of letters (ASD, GAD, ADHD), we hope that the book will delight, entertain and educate our readers.

Many kids and YA books deal with mental health these days. Why do you think it's become a common theme to explore?

Awareness of mental health in our society has been raised significantly over the years. There are non-fiction books on various topics available, although mostly for an older audience. As children and youth especially suffer from mental health issues, it is vital they have access to literature that is aimed at them. A great example from our book is Kiki, who has anxiety. Readers may be able to see themselves on the page and relate, realising they are not alone and that others out there experience life like they do. That's a huge step for many. Often the greatest quandry for those with mental health issues is that they feel noone could possibly understand what they're going through and can see no way out of their dilemma. However, seeing that Kiki is capalable of stretching herself and contributing will show them she is valued for who she is.

Why did you choose to focus on a character with ADHD?zanesecretscience

We didn't set out to write it that way originally. We threw a bunch of very diverse children together and stood back to see what happened (for any teachers out there gasping in horror at our lack of planning, rest assured we did have a plan; we just weren't rigid in how it played out). The best part of writing is allowing your characters to come alive and do what they want. Zane quickly took over and because he was such an endearing and interesting character, we let him dominate.

One of the main themes of this book is putting aside differences to work together. How can we do that in our everyday lives?

Listen to each other. It's that simple. Throw away preconceived ideas and take a moment to step into someone else's shoes. Once you know where a person is coming from and why, it's so much easier to accept them for who they are and enjoy what they have to offer. You never know what amazing friendships can emerge from that.

secret science societys spectacular experiment small72Do you think there is still a long way to go with educating kids about good mental health?

There are many great books/programs available already that can offer support. The issue at the moment is providing a conduit for that information to reach those who need it. Parents, teachers, health professionals and the government all have their part to play in accessing resources and promoting good mental health.

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Once ... We Chatted with Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth minWhat prompted you to write Once?

I am an oral storyteller as well as an author, and some of my favourite stories to tell are those told to me by my grandmother when I was a little girl. My great-great-grandmother was Scottish and grew up on the Black Isle in the Highlands of Scotland. Her name was Ellen Mackenzie and one of the stories she told was about a famous curse cast against the Mackenzies of Seaforth by a warlock called the Brahan Seer. The warlock predicted the fall of the house of Seaforth, and many years later the curse came to pass.

Whenever I told any of my grandmother's stories, I used to introduce it by saying 'my grandmother's grandmother grew up in the shadow of a cursed castle in the Highlands of Scotland. When she came to Australia she brought only one small chest, but her head was filled with the stories her grandmother had once told her. She told them to her granddaughter who told them to me, and now I shall tell you ...'

One day I was saying this to a room full of children, and a little girl put up her hand and asked me if my grandmother had ever gone back to her grandmother's home - the cursed castle in Scotland - and I said, 'yes, but not till she was quite an old lady.' The little girl asked why she waited so long, and I said, 'well, when my grandmother was young, the world was at war. It was a very dark time, and she could not travel wherever she wanted.'

As I spoke, I felt the idea spark inside me. I wrote the words down after my storytelling session had finished, and over the next few days I built it into the book you can read now.

What do you think the most inspirational thing is about your ancestors?

They were very brave and resourceful. None of them had an easy life, but they all worked hard and did the best they could, and built lives filled with love and joy and purpose.

How do you believe your ancestors influence you still today?

I remember their stories, and think how difficult life must have been for them. I try hard to be as strong, courageous and resilient as they were, no matter what happens in my own life.

Why do you think it’s important to listen to the stories of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents?

They have learned so much and have so much wisdom to bequeath. I feel it's very important that we learn from history, and try not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

What story do you remember the most that one of your forbearers told you?Once Digital ARC

The story of my great-great-grandmother Ellen Mackenzie has always been very important to me. She and her sister grew up in a loving family, but her parents both died when she was still just a girl, and her uncle inherited everything. He sent Ellen and her sister Jane out to Australia by themselves, and they had very little money or help. I've often imagined what that would be like - how lonely and frightened they must have been, and how strange Australia must have seemed in comparison to the Scottish Highlands, and how much strength it must have taken to rebuild your life from nothing ... and yet also how exciting and adventurous it must have been too!

Once takes us from a sailing ship to bush fires to a world at war. Do you feel a connection to these moments of our history?

Yes, indeed. My ancestors lived through those dangerous, difficult years. They loved and feared and suffered and prevailed, and because of their courage and determination, I now live in this beautiful, peaceful country. I am reaping the rewards of what they sowed. I have tried to honour their memories and their stories in this book.

How can we learn to listen to the stories of our past?

I think learning to listen is one of the most important life lessons. Everyone has a story to tell. By sharing our stories, we connect with other people. We come to understand their hurts and their hardships, and we feel a kinship with them. Stories link us to other humans, both those that came before us and those who follow us. Telling our own story is a crucial way to understand our own lives, and to grow towards compassion and empathy.

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Meet Our New Publishing Assistant: Bec

Bec FoleyBec is a recent QUT graduate who was born and raised in Mackay. She loved books, reading, and writing all through school, especially when they provided an opportunity to escape into fantastical other worlds. She’s very excited to join the team! Bec is hunting for a wonderful fantasy to add to the Wombat Books publishing list.

What book made you want to get into publishing?
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I really wanted to get involved with the creative process of something that’s both engaging at the surface level, but contains interesting ideas, and uses mythology and history to construct something unique.

What’s your favourite thing about publishing for children?
Broadening horizons and opening people’s minds to new possibilities.

What are you most excited about working on at Wombat Books?
I’m excited with collaborating with authors on things they’re passionate about - really bringing the book’s strengths to the fore, so that the reader loves the book just as much as we do.

What do you think makes a great children’s fantasy?
Especially for children’s fantasy, specifics of worldbuilding matter less than high concept and consistency. I also love to see a strong use of theme tying everything together.

What would you like to see in the submissions portal for you to read?
I’m a big fan of three-dimensional female protagonists. I think the things that connect the reader to the character are often character flaws, so I love to see authors who aren’t afraid to work with imperfection. Everybody loves an underdog!

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International Book Giving Day

By Debra Tidball, Author of When I See Grandma

book boOn International Book Giving Day I like to use the opportunity to take books into places that aren't usually considered child-friendly.

Book Giving Day has, at its core, the desire to increase children’s access to and enthusiasm for books. It’s about encouraging people to give a book to a child or leave a book where a child might pick it up and read it. You can follow how other people are celebrating book giving day by checking out their website and following their blog. You’ll also find a long list of people throughout the world who are getting behind this initiative, including Australia’s very own Andy Griffiths, Mem Fox and Jackie French.

My picture book, When I See Grandma, is written to encourage families with young children to visit their elderly friends and relatives in aged-care homes. The book shows young children interacting with elderly residents, and even reading books together! And although a resident may seem unresponsive, the children's presence brings a warmth and vitality that transcend consciousness.

That's why on International Book Giving Day, I gift picture books to aged-care homes in the hope that children will be able to share the books with residents. As well as to have something to enjoy when waiting for their grown-ups, who sometimes have jobs to do which can make the visit feel p-r-o-l-o-n-g-e-d for a young child

As February 14th is also Valentine’s Day, I’ve bundled my book gift into a bouquet. Gifting the books is my way of simultaneously honouring: 1. the spirit of When I See Grandma, 2. my mother, to whom the book is dedicated, and 3. International Book Giving Day.

How are you going to be involved?

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Meet Young Illustrator: Alex

20180201 101338Alex is 12 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?

My illustration is about when they explore the deep and see something strange in a cave.

2. What do you love about libraries?

How they have so many interesting stories that you can read most of the time without being disturbed.

3. What is your favourite book?

My favourite book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

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

I would like to visit Vattle School from Ender's Game because it has a really cool anti-gravity battling chamber.

Alex's illustration will be featured on Page 7 of Yay! It's Library Day. To see the full version, you can get your copy here.

 

alexY

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Meet Young Illustrator: Emily

Emily is 12 years old and one of the young Aussie illustrators featured in Yay! It's Library Day. Emily Chester

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

I thought it would be cool to draw a family interacting with each other and reading stories. I also liked the idea of drawing the bookshelves.

2. What do you love about libraries?

How every book has a different story.

3. What is your favourite book?

I don’t have a fav book as there’s too many good ones to choose from.

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

It’s a tough choice between Narnia and the Treehouse in the Treehouse series!

 

Emily's illustration will be featured on Page 26 of Yay! It's Library Day. To see the full version, you can get your copy here.

 

emily chester image

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