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.

Author Interview: Aleesah Darlison

Aleesah Darlison Pic1. What prompted you to sit down and right 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.

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4. Why’d 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 and it becomes 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!

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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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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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