Throughout 2016, I began each week with a ‘Monday Meet the Author’ tweet. (A few illustrators snuck onto the list, too.) Here is a round-up of the Australian children’s book writers and illustrators, chosen at random, who featured in 2016’s Monday morning tweets. (Hyperlinked names link to authors’ websites.)
Leigh Hobbs is the current Australian Children’s Laureate. (You can discover more about this role and learn about previous laureates here.) As one of his 2016 duties, Hobbs addressed the audience at the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) conference in Sydney. His talk stressed the importance of a library in a child’s life. In a library, said Hobbs, a child is ‘free from the competitiveness of assessment and ranking’.
- Graeme Base (whose wonderful book Animalia celebrated its 30th anniversary during 2016)
- Michael Wagner
- Michael Gerard Bauer
- Tania McCartney
Tania McCartney is the founder of Kids’ Book Review and The 52-Week Illustration Challenge (first held in 2014). Her lifelong immersion in words and pictures is evident in her latest book, Australia Illustrated, published in late 2016 by EK Books. The finely drawn illustrations reflect McCartney’s interpretation of the iconic and the idiosyncratic in Australian culture.
While most ‘Monday Meet the Author’ tweets featured contemporary writers, those who built the foundations of Australian children’s literature were not forgotten. Mary Grant Bruce (1878‒1958) will be remembered by many 20th century child readers for the 15 novels in her Billabong Books series, published between 1910 and 1942. The first book in the series, A Little Bush Maid, is still available from HarperCollins and an audio version is available from Bolinda.
AustLit is Australia’s premier resource for connecting with the nation’s literature. One of the research projects undertaken by AustLit in recent years has been the representation of ‘World War I in Australian Literary Culture’. Part of that project drew together some pivotal children’s books that reflected war experiences – at home and abroad. The list includes three of Mary Grant Bruce’s Billabong Books along with Ethel Turner’s Cub trilogy. (Further AustLit research projects concentrating on children’s and young adult literature can be found via the Research Projects and Collaborations link.
Jeannie Baker’s remarkable collages gave shape to a new book in 2016 – Circle, published by Walker Books Australia. In a YouTube video, Baker talks about her picture book making process, and about the migratory bird, the bar-tailed godwit, that inspired Circle. A travelling Circle exhibition, giving visitors an ‘up-close’ encounter with the detail and texture of Baker’s collages, runs until May 2018 in various cities around Australia. Details here.
Ambelin Kwaymullina is an ‘Aboriginal writer and illustrator from the Palyku people’ of the Pilbara region. She says that most of her picture books ‘are a type of story that Aboriginal people call “teaching stories”’; they contain messages about ‘how to live in the world’. In 2016, Viking published Kwaymullina’s Dream Little One, Dream, a bedtime story that follows the day’s rhythms in the natural world.
Susanne Gervay’s 2014 picture book, Elephants Have Wings, with illustrations by Anna Pignataro (see August listing below), is based on the parable of ‘The Blind Men and the Elephant’ and explores questions surrounding ‘What is truth?’ The book blends elements from the spiritual traditions of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Sufism, extending into a Judeo-Christian ethos. Gervay and Pignataro’s joint Elephants Have Wings presentation at the 2016 CBCA conference was so intoxicating that on-site copies of the book sold out after their talk in less than ten minutes. There are some excellent Elephants Have Wings resources (including a page-by-page study guide) on Gervay’s website and you can see how the book’s cover developed in this YouTube clip.
Jen Storer is one of those authors (Allison Tait, see September listing below, is another) who share their creative ‘secrets’ with anyone who wants to listen and learn. Storer’s blog is filled with reflections on, and hints to enhance, the writing life. You will get a feel for her style by reading her 30 December 2016 blog in which she announces the upcoming ‘launcheroony’ of her next book .
With an abundance of quality children’s fiction available, it can be easy to overlook information books and non-fiction titles for children. One author with a gift for communicating ‘facts’ is Carole Wilkinson. Wilkinson has written several titles for Black Dog Books‘ (an imprint of Walker Books Australia) Drum series, a collection that uses ‘first-person accounts and non-fiction to bring history roaring to life’. The most recent of Wilkinson’s books in the series is Atmospheric, an exploration of climate change science. Atmospheric won the 2016 Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature, Non-Fiction.
James Foley has a bit of a thing for Vikings ‒ he’s written The Last Viking and The Last Viking Returns – but, in his latest book, Brobot (published by Fremantle Press), he’s turned his attention to robotics. Enter Sally Tinker, ‘the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve’. You’ll find a free sample of Brobot, (in which Sally builds a ‘better brother’) here.
Emily Rodda has been writing children’s books for over 30 years and she has regularly won CBCA awards, as well as KOALA and YABBA Awards (voted for by children). Many of Rodda’s books take the form of series fiction, her first being the Rowan series, published from 1993 to 2003. But Rodda’s best-known series is the tripartite Deltora Quest collection. The first series (comprising eight books) was published in 2000, the second came out in 2002, and the third in 2003‒2004. There is also a related, standalone title, Tales of Deltora, published in 2005. Scholastic Australia is now publishing Rodda’s new Star of Deltora series.
The year’s ‘Monday Meet the Author’ tweets closed with an acknowledgement of two deaths in 2016: illustrator Kim Gamble (1952–2016) and author/illustrator Narelle Oliver (1960–2016).
Kim Gamble collaborated with a raft of Australian children’s book authors, perhaps most notably with Anna and Barbara Fienberg on the Tashi series and with Anna Fienberg on the Minton series. Both series are published by Allen & Unwin.
Over the course of her career, Narelle Oliver’s picture books were shortlisted for various premiers’ literary awards, and for the Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature and the CBCA’s Picture Book of the Year Award. Scholastic Australia has Oliver’s book Cecil scheduled for publication in mid-2017.
The CBCA’s Reading Time journal has published both Anna Fienberg’s tribute to Kim Gamble and Robyn Sheahan-Bright’s speech for Narelle Oliver (delivered at the memorial for Oliver at the State Library of Queensland).
Links and Sources
You can find many more authors and illustrators on my ‘Australian Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Pinterest board.
For further resources about Australian children’s book writers and illustrators, see:
- Australian Children’s Laureate
- Children’s Book Council of Australia
- Reading Time
- National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators: Australia East/New Zealand and Australia West
- Australian Society of Authors and, in particular, the ASA’s illustrators’ showcase website, The Style File.