Wombat Books Blog

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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.

 

foxandmoonbeanmed

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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Getting to Know Katrina Roe and Gemma

Gemma Gets the Jitters comes out this July. In preparation, Wombats Books interviewed author Katrina Roe.

Katrina Roe website1. Gemma is very afraid of heights. Have you ever gotten the jitters about something?

Like Gemma, I also had a fear of heights. Growing up in the Riverina, on the Hay plains, I didn't come across mountains or tall buildings until my first trip to the Blue Mountains for a school excision in Year 5. We were all bundled onto the Scenic Railway and the Scenic Skyway, an experience that I found both thrilling and terrifying. Mostly terrifying. Again, on a school camp in Year 9, I remember being forced to climb to the top of an extremely high rope wall. Many frightened tears were shed at the top of that climbing frame, as I was not allowed to come down until I went over the top. I found this experience upsetting and humiliating, and it wasn't until a friend offered to help that I actually made it over. This experience did nothing to cure me of my fear of heights!

2. Marty is very helpful with Gemma’s anxiety. Why do you think it’s important to have supportive family and friends when dealing with anxiety?

For those who live with anxiety, supportive family and friends can make all the difference. Being pushed or forced to do something you don't want to do only increases the feelings of powerlessness and loss of control that come with anxiety. Having someone come alongside you to guide you through a difficult challenge can be very empowering. In my final years of school, I met some adventurous friends who loved to go bushwalking, canyoning and abseiling. I abseiled a number of times with these friends. While I always found it terrifying to go over the top, it was so much easier when I had an calm and reassuring person to guide me through it step by step. I remember being amazed at how much safer, calmer and confident I felt with that supportive presence.

3. How do you think kids can overcome their anxieties?

The first step is to acknowledge your fears and to want to overcome them. Even kids need to understand that they can choose whether they control their fears or whether they will let their fears control them. Parents can help by sharing times that they have overcome their fears, or by modelling positive self-talk. It's amazing how often a small act of support - such as offering a night-light to a child who is scared of the dark - can help children to feel more at ease in a challenging situation. Small repetitive rituals can also provide comfort to kids, such as a bedtime prayer for a child who is scared of nightmares. When an anxiety is more intense, the 'stepladder approach' (outlined by Collett Smart in the Notes section of the book) of taking small steps towards a long-term goal can be helpful.

4. Why do you think this book is important for children to read? Do you think a lot of kids would relate to Gemma’s jitters?gemmagetsthejittersmed

It is pretty normal for small children to experience anxiety in challenging situations. Common childhood fears include things like dogs, heights, big crowds, the dark, having nightmares, being alone in a room, deep water, getting lost, going to the doctor, having vaccinations, scary movies, speaking in public, or losing Mum or Dad. Children are constantly being warned of the dangers around them, whether that be roads, strangers, hot things, or bodies of water. And they are also learning how to behave in various social situations. So it is quite normal for children to experience some anxiety in relation to their environment and their interactions with others. Most children will grow out of these anxieties as they find ways to exert more control over their world.

It's natural for children to try to avoid situations that make them feel anxious. But avoidance won't help them overcome their fears. It's important for children to learn that, with time and practice, they can choose to overcome their fears, rather than allowing their fears to control their behaviour. This book also shows that by being a supportive friend, they can help each other be braver. It's also empowering for kids to see Gemma expressing her creativity through her passion for photography.

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