Skye always wanted to be an entomologist. Her unusual childhood pets included ‘Fluffy’ the tarantula and ‘Woodstock’ a giant burrowing roach that blows kisses and has starred in video clips.
She followed her dream and studied bug science as well as food science. Now, as Australia’s first farmer of edible insects, and a future foods pioneer, Skye and her trailblazing team, teach people that insects are an eco-friendly, and delicious, food alternative.
Most of all, Skye loves inspiring the next generation to follow their passion to achieve their career dreams.
The Aussie STEM Stars series celebrates Australia’s leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. To celebrate the new release, Skye’s online shop, Circle Harvest, is offering a book and edible bugs bundle. I’ve tried all the delicious products in the pack except one …
It’s 80 years since the horrific WWII battles along Papua New Guinea’s Kokoda Track. In 2002 I hiked the track to research a YA novel (yet to be published). An unexpected outcome of the trip was the publication of my first picture book, Photographs in the Mud. It’s 17 years since Fremantle Press published this story, told from both Australian and Japanese perspectives. It has also been published in Japanese.
In the latest edition of ‘The Open Book,’ you can read more about this book’s journey. I’m grateful to Fremantle Press for keeping this title in print for 17 years!
More details here and via other blogposts on my website.
The heart of a school is the library, and when schools invest in dedicated library staff, literacy flourishes.
Last week, I saw the difference that great librarians make, not just in fostering a love of literacy, but also in the well-being of a whole school community. Colleen Wright and her enthusiastic library team at Bunbury Catholic College go above and beyond to make their library an exciting, safe and welcoming space. And not just for students. They love welcoming authors and illustrators.
Visiting the BCC library feels like being a rock star. There are giant book cover posters and cleverly curated displays extending the themes, character details, and setting of stories. The last time I was there, the team built a huge lighthouse – with a working light!
This time my visit focused on The Dog with Seven Names, a novel the Year Eight students are reading. This wartime story, set in the Pilbara, is told anthropomorphically through the eyes of a small dog, separated from its owner. During the novel, it’s given seven different names; Princess, Dog, Flynn, Engel, Pooch, Genji, and Florence. Colleen’s library team created an amazing display for each. Some are shown below.
Other library displays included dogs in literature and information about anthropomorphism. There were dress-up your dog images for students to contribute to, student-made newspaper articles based on events in the story, a brilliant ‘make an alternative cover’ activity, and a competition to guess which dog belongs to which teacher. I’ll post more about these great extension ideas soon.
As if all this wasn’t enough, we had a morning tea with students who’d read a certain number of books, and one of the students, Jess, crafted a beautiful necklace for me. It’s based on the cover image with a small dog and a separate aeroplane tag. I Iove it.
Thank you Bunbury Catholic College for a fabulous visit and for all the great things you do to inspire a love of reading in your students. You are literacy superstars.
Dogs and Reading are two things I love. The fantastic Story Dogs program combines both. Story Dogs help young readers at risk. Their mission is: To make reading fun for children, so they become confident lifelong readers. When children read to a dog, the outcomes are amazing! How wonderful that the non-judgemental nature of dogs can help make this magic happen.
The Story Dogs’ mantra that No child should be left behind in literacy has always resonated deeply with me. I’ve wanted to sign up with Harry for years, but volunteers need to turn up every week. Even in Covid times, I travel a lot for work, so I’m excited to announce that I am now the proud sponsor of … Buttercup and Sally.
Sally and beautiful Buttercup will be visiting the Year Two class at Parklands School in Albany every Tuesday. Part of the sponsorship funds Buttercup’s bright orange jacket and I was invited to forward a logo. I didn’t have a logo, so have adapted an image from my other website, Animals who Talk. Seeing it on Buttercup as she moved between young readers last week was the most wonderful feeling.
Story Dogs say that when children read in a non-judgemental setting, the children’s focus improves, their literacy skills increase and their confidence soars. The accepting, loving nature of dogs gives this program its magic and helps children relax, open up, try harder and have fun while reading to a friendly, calm dog.
I’m so proud to be a Story Dogs sponsor. Maybe you’d like to get involved as well …
Thank you Jen McRae, Kathryn Le Gay Brereton, Joanna Thiel, Sally Thomas, Carly Talbot, and Buttercup for your wonderful facilitating.
Dianne Wolfer’s Light series is a standout historical book series for kids … The Last Light Horse is a fantastic conclusion to the series and a heartfelt look at an unsung hero … With an educational focus and breathtaking illustrations, this is one inspiring story of courage and sacrifice, perfect for fans of Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse.
Thank you Better Readings. Here is a link to the full review plus a pre-ordering link. The Last Light Horse will be released April 1st 2022. In the meantime, you can find out more about this special horse on my website, under The Real Sandy tab.
How lovely to see Light Horse Boy back in The West Australian newspaper’s ED! lift out.
For those who’ve been following the WWI story, it’s now Week Seven and Jim has been evacuated from battle with terrible wounds. Back in Melbourne, his sister, Alice, and Jim’s mate, Chook are desperate to hear news of him. Meanwhile, Jim’s unable to write and is haunted by scenes of battle, and the last glimpse of his beloved horse, Break
Light Horse Boy was published in 2013 by Fremantle Press. It won the 2014 WA Premier’s Award was a CBCA Honour Book. It’s the second title in my ‘Light series’. I didn’t know then that it was going to be a part of a series. In the Lamplight followed in 2018, exploring the story from nurse Rose’s perspective, linking to the Suffragette Movement and life in Harefield, UK during WWI. And in a fortnight The Last Light Horse will be published sharing the story of Sandy, the only horse of 136,000 Australian Walers to return. More about that title soon. In the meantime, I’ve loved reading Letters to the Editor and hearing from young readers and their teachers who are enjoying the serialisation.
Today we farewell Don Watson, the son of Lighthouse Girl, Fay.
Don will be sadly missed. He and his family have been part of my ‘Light series’ writing journey from the beginning and we have shared many wonderful moments since.
In 2005, after reading a newspaper article written by Ron Crittall about WWI troops gathering in Albany in 1914, I became curious about Fay Howe, the Breaksea Island lighthouse keeper’s daughter. A paragraph in the article mentioned Fay relaying final messages for the soldiers, then later receiving postcards from them thanking her. They were addressed to, ‘The little girl on Breaksea Island’.
I wanted to find out more. The article mentioned ‘Perth man, Don Watson’ so I began searching phone listings. After several wary replies to my question, ‘Are you related to a Breaksea Island lighthouse keeper?’, eventually I found the right D. Watson. Don and his lovely wife, Peg, invited me to lunch and so began our friendship and shared Lighthouse Girl journey.
Although the WWI postcards have been lost to history, Fay’s son, Don, remembered reading those beautiful embroidered postcards as a child and was able to tell me about the messages. Since then we have seen Fay become a giant.
And her story has also been adapted for stage, commemorated in song, gifted to a Prime Minister, inspired a TV documentary and two US podcasts, as well as countless library displays, school shows and Book Week costumes.
Fay’s son was a generous, family-oriented man who volunteered with many organisations. Knowing Don and his extended family has been a great honour. May he now rest in peace with Fay and all those long ago soldiers.
Have you noticed people wearing purple poppies on February 24th or purple poppies beside their traditional red ones on Remembrance Day?
Purple poppies commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of animals during wartime, and funds raised by sales of the pins helps The Australian War Animal memorial Organisation (AWAMO) establish memorials, train PTSD support dogs and care for retired animals that have served their country.
Thousands of horses, dogs and pigeons have accompanied Australian servicemen and women into battle while animal mascots including wallabies, cockatoos, cats and dogs have brought comfort to troops far from home.
Dear Lockdowners, many authors have free activities, book-trailers, and fun information on their websites, along with teaching notes and downloadables. Earlier this year the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators WA (SCBWI) compiled a resources page that will keep you busy for hours.
Author, Nadia King‘s lovely Pippa likes to dress up as the flying doctor.
And there’s more … Earlier this year, the team from CBCA WA created library holiday presentations, and for a limited time, they will all be online. There are eight sessions by WA creatives for different age groups. Here’s mine and here are the short introductions to all eight. I hope you enjoy them and fingers crossed for a short lockdown…
This interview has led me to network with worldwide groups of lighthouse aficionados, all passionate about preserving lighthouse histories and also passionate about sharing fascinating stories about individual keepers. The lights shine on.
In 1918-1919, nurses risked their lives to care for vulnerable patients. Their dedication was a major inspiration for my writing process. I tried to imagine their stoicism and fear. It’s estimated that a third of the world’s population became infected by the Spanish Flu and that over 50 million people died.
Today, around the world, medical staff are again risking their lives, this time to save people suffering from Covid-19. At the time of writing, over 1 million people have died from coronavirus with more than 50 million people infected.
Images from WWI hospitals helped bring my fictitious characters to life. I wonder what future creative responses will be inspired by the current images of healthcare workers in P2 masks, gloves and body gowns.
Lest we forget; not only the brave nurses of the past, but also the selfless dedication of our current medical heroes.
I am so pleased that this translation was able to go ahead during this challenging time, and hope that many new readers will enjoy the story of a small dog in north-western Australia during WWII.
Thank you, Min Zha for your translation. I wish I could speak/read Chinese so that I could enjoy your words! Thank you also Zhuang Yuan for editing and steering little dog on her exciting new adventure. I love the cute cover image (full jacket below) and feel sure that Princess, Elsie, and all the other characters would too.
The team at Wild Dingo Press has been busy creating a wonderful website dedicated to the new Aussie STEM Star series. It’s designed for young readers and adults with information about each book, clips, and interviews with the authors and of course details about the inspirational STEM Stars themselves. Check it out here.
Often we don’t realise how important an educator has been in our life until years later. Today is International Literacy Day and I’d like to give a special shout-out to Colleen and her fabulous library team at Bunbury Catholic College. Not only do they create amazing displays that inspire young readers and make visiting authors feel like celebrities… they also support less fortunate students. BCC staff and students recently raised $450 to support Room to Read, an organisation that helps support worldwide reading and literacy. Congratulation Bunbury Catholic College for modeling kindness during this challenging time.
When I was little I loved jigsaws. I was good at Maths until Year 5. Then we moved overseas and I missed a few important things, like short division. When we returned I was in high school. My new teacher was a brilliant mathematician but couldn’t fathom my inability to get things the first time (I’d been put in the top maths class). It wasn’t until long after leaving school that I learned there was an actual purpose to memorising algebraic formula, things like sine and cosine were used in the real world!
Biology was way more interesting to me. Who remembers The Web of Life textbook? I loved that book. It was a brick and I carried it one and a half kilometres to and from school for years. The Web of Life was full of interesting charts and images that related to the world around me. I loved the title too.
Munjed’s story is part of the Aussie STEM Stars series, celebrating Australian experts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. His work has made Australia a world-leader in osseointegration. Unlike me, Munjed excels in both biology and algebra! Being part of the Aussie STEM Stars series has helped me reassess the importance of STEM subjects (even maths). I’ve loved reading about Georgia Fear Ware‘s fascinating work with reptiles and cane toads as well as learning more about amazing Fiona Wood. I hope readers of all ages will enjoy this terrific new series.
My first picture book, Photographs in the Mud is set in PNG in 1942. It was inspired by an old tree stump and a true story I heard whilst hiking the Kokoda Track in 2002. Photographs in the Mud follows two fictitious soldiers into battle; one Australian and one Japanese. Jack and Hoshi meet in battle on Mission Ridge, the site of ferocious WWII combat. The men slide down the mountain away from the fighting, lying together in a ditch. Away from the horror, they share a moment of common humanity.
In real life, the surviving soldier never forgets the eyes of the other man, and today on VP Day, I’m remembering these two men from opposing armies who found a moment of peace in a jungle far from home.
Photographs in the Mud was inspired by this true story. It was published in 2005 and has been in print continuously for the past 15 years. After Lighthouse Girl, it’s the most ‘clicked on’ title on my website and I’m delighted to still find Photographs in the Mud in school libraries across Australia. This little picture book was shortlisted for several awards and published in Japanese as, “Nimai No Shashin” (Two Photographs). Photographs in the Mud was also used as an international peace reference and became the subject of a paper published by Professor Jim Martin (Sydney Uni) focusing on ‘Genre, ideology and intertextuality’. In 2009, Kokichi Nishimura‘s full life story, The Bone Man of Kokoda was published by Charles Happell.
After all the hard work that goes into the creation of a book, it’s wonderful for an author (and illustrator, Brian Harrison-Lever) when a title stays in print for so long. Thank you Fremantle Press for keeping this story of hope and common humanity alive.
More photographs of my ten-day Kokoda trek and teaching notes can be found here. Lest we Forget.
I’ve been reading some great new releases, many featuring animals.
I’m almost finished Dog Boy which I’m loving, and I also loved The Dog Runner. Virginia Woolf’s Flush has long been on my list so that might be my next dog choice. In the meantime, there’s a new post over at my other website, Animals Who Talk about Laura Jean McKay’s latest book, The Animals in that Country. It’s an amazing and thought-provoking read, set in Australia, about communicating with animals during a pandemic!
After Dog Boy, and before Flush, I think I’ll be setting off in a new direction (another pandemic but no animals) with Daniel Defoe’s, A Journal of the Plague Year, setin 1665. Back to the future.
Elaine’s Goldfields Girl explores the amazing and true story of Clara Saunders, one of two women on the Coolgardie Goldfields during the 1890s. There are many parallels between Clara and Fay Catherine Howe, the Breaksea Island lighthouse keeper’s daughter who signaled to departing soldiers in 1914. Both were strong, resilient young women who faced daily challenges simply to find food and fresh water to drink. Fictitious Rose (In the Lamplight) was also a brave teenager, having to overcome her shyness to develop nursing skills and help wounded Australians in her English village.
Elaine and I are similar in our approach to writing; we’re attracted to the same kind of characters and both love weaving historical mini-stories into our fiction. Things like Paddy Hannan‘s gold nugget gift to Clara, Jimmy the Wallaby and the Harefield Flag. In this podcast we talk about different ways we research, from scanning microfiche, travelling to remote settings, finding lost diaries and sleuthing animal mascots to visions of Elaine haunting the Battye Library We also share writing tips for other writers who are passionate about historical fiction.
Thank you to Fremantle Press and the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund for creating this wonderful podcast series. Follow the link for more conversations.
We hope you enjoy our conversation with talented poet and writer, Rebecca Higgie.
Refugees bring wisdom, skills and fresh perspectives to our ‘Lucky Country’.
Saturday June 20th is World Refugee Day. For the past eight months I’ve been researching the life of Dr Munjed Al Muderis, the world-renowned surgeon whose fascination for robotics, his dedication and glass-half-full attitude has led Australia to become the world leader for pioneering osseointegration surgery. Munjed Al Muderis – From refugee to surgical inventor will be published by Wild Dingo Press on September 1st 2020. A sneak cover peek is below.
According to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”.
After refusing to mutilate the ears of army deserters in Iraq, Munjed fled for his life with one possession, the medical book Last’s Anatomy. He survived an horrendous voyage in a rickety, overcrowded boat, arrived at Christmas Island and was taken to Curtin Detention Centre in north-western Australia. There he suffered ten months of bullying, false accusations and indignities. But Munjed never gave up. He always wanted to make a difference, to help those less fortunate.
Osseintegration is a revolutionary surgical procedure whereby a metal stem is implanted into the bone of a patient’s remaining limb. The stem then connects to a robotic prosthesis, allowing improved sensory experience, greater movement and less pain. The surgery is life-changing for patients. Munjed’s interest in robotics was sparked long ago when he was a child watching Arnie Schwarzenegger as “The terminator“.
Munjed Al Muderis – From refugee to surgical inventor explores Munjed’s journey to Australia and other life-shaping moments from his early years. This book is the third title in the Aussie STEM Stars series. The first three books will be released together. In Book 1 Cristy Burne explores the life of Fiona Wood AM. In Book 2 Claire Saxby explores the life of Dr Georgia Ward-Fear.
Munjed’s skill and compassion has changed the lives of thousands of people across the world. He’s a powerful advocate for Amnesty International, the Red Cross and asylum seekers. Munjed is the current NSW Australian of the Year and has received many other accolades. This inspirational surgeon and humanitarian is one of many refugees who have enriched Australia. On this World Refugee Day let’s all take a moment to acknowledge these contributions and to remember the importance of kindness.