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.

Connecting Friends Oceans Apart

By Robert Vescio 

jackandmiamed2Do you have a friend who has moved away? A long-distance friendship can be tough to maintain. Luckily, technology is breaking down barriers for staying connected and keeping the friendship thriving, even if you’re oceans apart.

I wrote a picture book that touches on key issues of friendship and loss. Jack and Mia is an enchanting and tender tale about a special friendship (rich in imagination) that survives distance by finding creative ways to stay connected.

Jack and Mia do everything together. They stick together like paper and glue. Then one day Mia’s family moves away – not to another suburb but to another country on the other side of the world. This is a story that will resonate with children who are about to move or have moved and miss their friends.

Unlike other picture books about this subject, Jack and Mia illustrates how today kids are finding it easier to keep in touch with friends and loved ones who live far away. Growing up, I had friends that moved half-the-world away – common for working parents and military families – and the only way to connect with them was to write or call. Today, technology is changing the way we stay connected. Everything you need is in the palm of your hands.

There are lots of ways to maintain a long distance friendship. Picking up the phone sounds obvious, but international rates are expensive, limiting your connection time with your friends back home. A better way of connecting, without exhausting your funds, is using a Wi-Fi connection, allowing you to keep regular contact. This option enables you to download apps to help you feel close to your friends despite the distance.

Skype makes it simple to share experiences with family and friends for free. You can call, message, video and share things all in one convenient place. In fact, Skype has become so popular that people use ‘Skyping’ as a verb to connect with people.

Using social media is a simple way of staying in touch i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest just to name a few. They are all user-friendly and just happen to be fun and interesting as well.

Sending emails are a great way to keep in touch. This way you can keep a record of your conversations and revisit them at any time you like. Children can draw pictures and send photos too.

But of course, not everyone embraces high tech gadgets. Technology may not suit everyone. Some people prefer the human touch – a hug, for instance. So you can always plan a trip. This is great for making memories and reliving old ones in person. This may seem like an expensive option, but a once a year visit will make a huge difference and help keep your friendship alive.

And, of course, there is nothing more personal than posting a hand written letter. This is a cherished way of keeping letters from that someone special and looking back on them. It’s also helpful to know that they are always on their mind.

Jack and Mia (illustrated by Claire Richards and published by Wombat Books) is a warm and entertaining tale about the power of a child’s imagination and to keep a friendship long and strong, regardless of distance. Available to purchase now through all good bookstores and Wombat Books.

Robert Vescio is a published children’s author. His picture books include, Barnaby and the Lost Treasure of Bunnyville (Big Sky Publishing), Marlo Can Fly (Wombat Books) listed on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge for 2015, No Matter Who We’re With (IP Kidz). He has more picture books due out in 2016 and 2017. Many of his short stories have been published in anthologies such as Packed Lunch, Short and Twisted, Charms Vol 1 and The School Magazine NSW. He has also won awards for his children’s writing including First Place in the 2012 Marshall Allan Hill Children’s Writing Competition and Highly Commended in the 2011 Marshall Allan Hill Children’s Writing Competition.

Robert enjoys visiting schools. His aim is to enthuse and inspire children to read and write and leave them bursting with imaginative ideas. For more information visit: www.robertvescio.com or www.facebook.com/RobertVescioAuthor

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You Are Not Alone

Reading to your grandparent   

By Debra Tidball

bedI read an article recently about reading to your grandchildren and I thought, why not turn the tables? In my book, When I See Grandma, a young girl visits her grandmother in a nursing home and reads her a story. It's a wonderful way for children to connect across generations, sharing things that they love.


Why read to your grandparent?

  1. Grandparents are just big kids with wrinkles - they love a good story as much as anyone.

  2. Grandparent’s brains are stuffed full of information from all their years of experience and this can make them tired – they’d love you to read to them. 

  3. Grandparent’s brains are amazing – they may be stuffed full, but there’s always room for more!

  4. Hearing you read will bring back fun memories stacked away in those brains – it will make them feel young.

  5. Sharing a good book makes everyone feel good.


How to read your grandparent:

Choose a book that you love. One that you want to read over and over and over again.

If you don't get the words right it doesn't matter. You can even use the pictures of the book to make up your own story.

Your grandparent will love the time sharing with you whether you read, remember or make up the words. It will become their special memory.

If your grandparent finds it hard to concentrate or communicate, even if they seem to be asleep, they will love to listen to the tone of your voice and they will understand the joy and love you have in sharing a special story.


For parents:

Some grandparents are intimately involved in the lives of their grandchildren. Some provide child care while the parent is at work. Some offer a warm lap and cuddle often. Others are shut away from regular contact due to illness or incapacity or distance. But everyone benefits from this simple way to foster inter-generational sharing. 

Children will have a sense of pride and achievement in reading to their grandparent. Help them choose books that they are familiar with and love - their grandparent will pick up on the love.

Can you find a book that your parent read to you as a child? Sharing the love you shared with your parent provides a bridge for connection between your child and your parent. The Harry the Dirty Dog series is having a resonance - this was one of my childhood favourites. It's also a great way to introduce the classics - my mum read me the poems of AA Milne and I grew up loving stories from Winnie the Pooh and the 100 Acre Wood. It had a special resonance as she was English.

Why not try a Wombat Book's title?

And for inspiration, read this article here. 

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Tom Topp and the Great Adventure Swap

Australian Kids are on Topp of Reading

TomToppSmallWhat do flying prawns, an inflatable dolphin and a cheese volcano have in common?

Author Lisa Limbrick has published a book she hopes will help address poor literacy by encouraging the enjoyment of reading at a young age. 

“I try to write books that capture the imagination of readers,” said Lisa. “Not every child automatically enjoys reading, but reading is an essential skill for life. Hopefully my book will encourage more children to read, and the book’s themes will also appeal to parents.” 

Tom Topp and the Great Adventure Swap will take you on a hilarious adventure, especially when life doesn’t turn out as planned! 

“The book is light-hearted and fun, but at the same time focuses on friendship, forgiveness and the fact that things don’t always turn out the way you’d like, and that’s okay!” said Lisa. 

Lisa Limbrick began writing children's stories several years ago. She completed a PhD in education and has a passion for encouraging children not only to read well, but to love reading. Her children's books are full of bright, colourful imagery, designed to capture the imagination of the most reluctant reader. 

Tom Topp and the Great Adventure Swap is available in all good bookstores or online at www.wombatbooks.com.au.

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Ten Questions with Deborah Kelly

DKellyBWHi! I’m Deborah Kelly.

I grew up in New Zealand but have lived in lots of places including Japan, Scotland and, of course, Australia. I live with my husband and two kids in NSW.

I have written several picture books for children including The Bouncing Ball, Jam for Nana, Dinosaur Disco (Random House) and the soon to be released Me and You (Penguin Viking). I also have a picture book coming out in 2017 with EK books. I have written books for Macmillan Education, including Sam’s Great Invention and Don’t Sweat It. My short stories for children are included in Random House’s Stories for Boys and Stories for Girls anthologies.

This year Wombat Books published my first chapter book Ruby Wishfingers: Skydancer’s Escape, which has been beautifully illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom. The second and third books in the series will be published this year also, Ruby Wishfingers: Toad-ally Magic and Ruby Wishfingers: Hide and Seek. Two more Ruby Wishfingers books are also scheduled for next year. I hope that kids will have as much fun reading the Ruby Wishfingers books as I had writing them!

I regularly visit schools, festivals and libraries to share my books with children and chat about writing. For me it is one of the greatest things about being a children’s author!


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

My first attempt at writing a children’s picture book was cringe worthy. Without going into too much detail, it involved a ladybug with a bad case of wind. I’m very thankful it never made it to publication!

2) What is your favourite part about being an author?

There are so many things I love about being an author. Working in my pyjamas. Drinking copious amounts of tea. Getting lost for hours in my own imagination. Seeing my characters brought to life by illustrators. Getting to work with talented, dedicated people in the publishing industry who are passionate about what they do. Being part of a community of inspiring, creative people. Being able to visit lots of great schools, libraries and festivals to share my books with kids. It’s an absolute honour and a privilege to be able to speak directly to children, all over the world, through my books.

3) What do you do for fun?

I love spending time with my family and friends and just being silly with my kids. I love bushwalking and swimming. And I read a lot! I am also a dedicated yogi. I couldn’t imagine life without my daily yoga practice!

4) How do you test out your stories? Or who do you test them on?

I always let a manuscript have a ‘cooling off’ period before showing it to family or friends. If I get a good response from them and I still like it a month or so later, I might think about submitting it to a publisher.

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


There were too many to count! I still have my childhood copies of The House that Sailed Away by Pat Hutchins and The World Around the Corner by Maurice Gee—two books that I adored as a child!

6) Have you ever travelled overseas as an author?

I spent four years living and working overseas and I’ve been to lots of countries as a backpacker! I’m yet to experience travelling as an author on tour—but I think it would be great fun!

7) Have you met anyone even more famous than you that was exciting?

I said hi to Bob Geldof when I was working at a train station in Scotland! He was there for the Make Poverty History concert. I’ve also met Jeanette Winterson, Dame Kirri Te Kanawa and Jenny Morris. I’ve met loads of amazing authors and illustrators, far too many to count and all of them much more famous than me!

8) What writing do you like to do the most?

I love being in the ‘flow’—those wonderful moments where I’m just watching the story play out in my mind. I write it all down as fast as I can and worry about editing it later!

9) Where do you see the future of children’s books?

I certainly prefer print books over anything electronic. So do most people I know. I think this is especially true of children—particularly toddlers who are very tactile creatures!

10) What is your favourite way/time to read?

Snuggled up in bed on a rainy evening, when the kids are asleep and the house is blissfully quiet!

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Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Alexander

alex lauSMALLAge: 10

School: Camberwell Grammar School

What are your interests? I love reading and drawing. My favourite book series at the moment is Harry Potter. I also like drawing comics. My latest comics book is based on my favourite game: Minecraft.

Tell us about your illustration? I was invited to enter the competition with a number of other boys in the school by our deputy principal. I drew my illustration with colour pencil and crayons. I like it because I think it looks vivid and interesting.

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Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Hailey

Meet Hailey

Hailey smallAge: 9

School: Kalbar State School QLD

Why did you enter the competition? Twice a term my Mum and I run an after school book club and my mum told me. We have read a few of Aleesah Darlison's books.

What are your interests? I love to draw, I play the flute and I absolutely love to read.

Tell us a little bit about yourself? I have 4 friends called Emily, Lucy, Leah and Charlotte. I have a dog called Eva Rose. I am in year 5 and my favourite colour is pink.  

Snippet of Hailey's Zoo Ball Illustration

Hailey image


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Zoo Ball: A Children's Book Created by Children

9781925139433 SThe Zoo Ball Challenge provided aspiring young illustrators an opportunity to be published in a professionally-produced children's book and gain an introduction into the world of illustrating.

Zoo Ball is the latest picture book from award-winning children’s author, Aleesah Darlison. It follows Ned and his ball’s journey through a zoo as it bounces from tiger to toucan and tapir too – as well as many other favourite animals.

Young illustrators from all around Australia sent in their entries to Wombat Books and the winning students were chosen by a popularity vote.

Isabelle, a Zoo Ball Challenge winner, is thrilled about what this opportunity will mean for her. “I entered the Zoo Ball Challenge following Aleesah Darlison’s visit to our primary school at the beginning of 2014,” she said. “Aleesah was really passionate about her writing and I am really passionate about my drawing. I thought immediately that this was the challenge for me.”

Other young Zoo Ball artists are now budding illustrators because of this competition. “I loved the feel of a pen in my hand and paper under my fingers,” said Macy, a fellow Zoo Ball winner. “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. When I heard there was a chance of being featured as an illustrator I knew that this was a chance I could not miss.”

Zoo Ball is officially out today. You can buy your copy here. 

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Read to Me! Please.

Read to Me! Please.

International Read to Me Day is tomorrow and to celebrate, our authors and illustrators share why reading to children is special to them.


Aleesah Darlisonauthor of Spider Iggy, Zoo Ball, Little Good Wolf, Little Meerkat and many more. 

"There’s something truly magical about books and sharing them with the ones you love. I have four children and we’ve always read to them from a very early age. My youngest is 20 months old, and even at this age, he looks forward to the books-before-bedtime routine – it’s become an important part of his day. His favourite books are Maisy, Spot, The Very Busy Spider and anything with animals in it."

IMG 2113


Katrina Roe, author of Same, Marty's Nut Free Party and Emily Eases her Wheezes. 

"Reading to a child is like being wrapped in a warm, snuggly blanket while a thunderstorm rages outside.  They will feel and experience many things - awe, wonder, delight, maybe even fear - but all in the safest, warmest place to be - snuggled into your lap.  Then when the book snaps shut, and you find yourself back in the real world, you will hear a little voice call out, 'Again!  Please, again!"


Deborah Kelly, author of Ruby Wishfingers: Skydancer's Escape. 

"When we read to a child we share so much more than the story, itself. We share our time, our undivided attention and a unique perspective on the world around us."


Debra Tidball, author of When I See Grandma. 

"The powerful effect of reading to a child stays with them forever. Not just in terms of literacy and learning, but of the intangibles like the emotional bonds and connections with others across time and space, of shared language and experience. This is why I am a supporter of International Read To Me Day."


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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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The Ordinary Becomes the Extraordinary

The Ordinary Becomes the Extraordinary

‘And what’s to stop me killing you all?’ The frost giant took a step back and sneered. ‘All I see is a dwarf, a pony and seven children, none of whom is even remotely capable of resisting the might of Uller Princekiller.’ 

Forget magical sorcerers and superhero powers, ordinary and average children are the saviours in this new fantasy. 

‘I wanted to write a fantasy adventure about ordinary children who don’t have any special powers,’ said author, Anne Hamilton. ‘Kids who don’t wield magic and can’t whip up a spell to get them out of trouble. Children who feel as awkward and left out as the average kid does today.’

For centuries, the people of Auberon have awaited the coming of ‘the Days’, the champions of prophecy who will defeat the Armies of Night and stop the rising of the Dark Sleeper. Everyone has been expecting mighty warriors, impossibly wise sages or artful magicians. No one is expecting seven children. What could seven ordinary children possibly do that no one else can? 

‘Daystar made me want to follow Prince Ansey, Fern and the white fox to save the world,’ said Rosanne Hawke, award-winning author of The Messenger Bird and Shahana: Through My Eyes. ‘Young readers will find wisdom and strength when they join this exciting adventure, written in Anne Hamilton’s inimitable story style with hidden meanings to discover. If you liked Narnia, you will enjoy Daystar.’

Daystar is making ordinary children into extraordinary heroes. 

Anne Hamilton is the multi-award winning author of Many-Coloured Realm and 13 other books. She is a former mathematics teacher who now works for a national radio network. For twenty years she coordinated Camp Narnia, an annual event for upper primary students.

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

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Spider Iggy Winners have been announced!

Thank you to everyone who entered our Wombat Books Spider Iggy Colouring In Competition. We saw some great and colourful entries! 

A special congratulations to our winning entries:

Sophie Roussos 

Age: 8



Ireland Macpherson

Age: 6



Siena Mcgiveron 

Age: 5


To learn more about Spider Iggy click here!

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Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Skye

Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Skye

Age: 10
School: William Carey Christian School

What do you like best about your illustration? I liked that the lion was flicking the ball

Why did you enter the Zoo Ball Challenge? Because I love drawing and I like books

Tell us a bit about yourself? I like drawing, reading, dancing and singing. My favourite movie is Pride and Prejudice. My favourite food is chocolate. My favourite song is Ugly Heart & Dear Future Husband

Anything else you think you would like to say? I'm really glad my picture was put in the book =)



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Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Evan

Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Evan

Age: 10

School: Camberwell Grammar School.

What are your interests? My hobbies are drawing, reading, playing video games, programming and riding my bike. I like Sonic the Hedgehog; Five Night’s at Freddy’s (it’s a game, for those of you who don’t know); robots and Japanese food. My favourite book series is the Middle School Series and my favourite movie is Big Hero 6.

Tell us a bit about your entry? I began with a couple of drafts and I worked my way to my final copy. At first I used pencil and then I inked it and coloured it in. I liked the way I drew it because it looked cartoonish yet still a little realistic.

Any last words? I hope you like my drawing and I can’t wait to read this book! :) 

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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.


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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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Heather Gallagher talks about Happy Pants and Mental Health

Heather Gallagher talks about Happy Pants and Mental Health
1. Could you tell me about how your particular book works through young kids and their experiences with mental illness in their relatives/older friends?
Happy Pants – Why is Mummy so sad? was conceived to give children an insight into post-natal depression. The idea was to provide an ‘everyboy’ character who kids can relate to and show how he grapples to understand his Mum’s depression. My experience with other mothers suffering Post Natal Depression was that they tried to hide it from their kids – not cry in front of them, etc – but kids instinctively know something is not right. The idea with Happy Pants was to provide reassurance that the child is not the only one in this situation and that things will improve with time.
2. Why do you think it’s important to teach children about mental illness and the effects it can have on those who are close to the person affected?
Mental illness is a huge issue in our society and yet there remains stigma. The only way to break down the stigma is to keep talking about it – it’s also really helpful when high profile celebrities like Buddy Franklin come out about their experiences. The chances of a child being effected by someone with a mental illness or going on to suffer one themselves are great. To my mind, it’s better to be forewarned. If we educate our children about mental illness, they will be more likely to seek help early and hopefully more empathetic to others who might be suffering.
3. What do you hope children learn from your book?
I like to think my book works on a couple of levels. Obviously, it is specifically aimed at children whose mothers are suffering from PND and I hope in this respect it will provide a sense of recognition and comfort. But I’ve been told by other readers that the book can also work to explain to a child about a mother suffering from another kind of illness or even to just let kids know that even Mums have their bad patches.
4. Have you been affected by the presence of mental illness in your life i.e. a relative or a friend close to you? What about this experience changed or affected you?
I suffered post-natal depression after the births of both my children and have suffered from more general depression on and off throughout my life. My PND actually connected me with some wonderful women (also suffering) who have become enduring friends. I think one of the elements of depression is that you are in a state of perpetual existential angst – what am I here for, what’s it all about, etc? For me, and many of my friends, the depression actually acted to firm up a resolve to take a different life path. It crystalized my passion for writing and I actually wrote Happy Pants while recovering from a bout of depression. 
5. Do you think that from this experience you realised the importance of learning about mental illness from an early age? If not, what was the inspiration behind writing the book?
I grew up in an age where people talked about ‘loony bins’. Mental illness was not talked about. Looking back, I think I was probably depressed when I was doing my HSC but it would never have occurred to me to call it that or to think to ask for help. I think kids are much more aware these days and most schools have wellbeing counsellors, anti-bullying initiatives and other programs in place to support mental health.   
I think talking about mental illness with kids can be compared to talking about sex. The sooner you can feasibly introduce it so it’s just a normal part of life, the better. Kids are really young (usually) when their Mum is suffering from post-natal depression so I guess this was part of my motivation. To create a tool for parents and teachers to discuss this subject which has probably been bothering the child but they haven’t got the language to talk about it. 
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Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Sarah

Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Sarah

First name: Sarah
Age: 17
School: Open Training and Education Network (OTEN)

What are your interests? I like drawing, watching movies, cooking, dancing, playing the piano, and bike riding.

Tell us a bit about your illustration? At the time of the Zooball challenge I was experimenting with drawing on the computer so I decided to attempt creating a drawing with it for the challenge. Although it was not quite the quality I wanted I felt it conveyed the essence of that scene in the story. I felt it adequately showed how Ned was feeling as he watched his ball sailing into the lion’s cage, and I also thought it created a sense of anticipation.

Why did you enter? The reason I entered the Zooball challenge was because I was curious to see how well I would do, and the thought of getting a drawing published was exciting.

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Meet Zoo Ball Challenge Winner: Isabelle

Meet Isabelle 


Age: 11
School: Maria Regina Catholic Primary School
What are your interests? I love to draw or paint whatever comes to mind on any given day; using chalk, charcoal pencils, watercolour pencils and acrylic paints. Listening to pop music and singing are a very big part of my day. I also enjoy playing soccer and tennis. Being part of a team keeps me fit and I get to spend more time with my friends.
Tell us a bit about your illustration? I researched each animal included in the page spread and on the back cover to make sure I captured their true expression and personality. Secondly, I figured out where the ball needed to be placed on the page and designed the characters around it. Finally, I carefully drew the animals in the foreground and left the background till last, placing them in their zoo environment and making the ball look as though it was bouncing from animal to animal each in their separate enclosures. I really loved designing the pelican on the back cover because the ball was scooped up in its bill throughout the story. I thought this would be super challenging to illustrate, but I was really happy with the outcome. 
Why did you enter? I entered the “Zoo Ball” challenge following Aleesah Darlison’s visit to our primary school at the beginning of 2014. She wasisabellewise really passionate about her writing and I am really passionate about my drawing. I thought immediately that this was the challenge for me! I entered 5 illustrations which took me three months to complete, and then kept my fingers crossed. I wished and thought how cool it would be to see one of my drawings in print for my family and I to enjoy forever.
Any wise words? I would like to say that if you find something that you really love, go ahead and do it. You never know when opportunities like this might come your way. Take them with both hands, be brave, and do your best!
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